New York City. May 5, 2020. Nak Armstrong of the eponymous firm is both returning to his roots and offering up an atypical diffusion line with the debut of his Nakard sterling silver jewelry with black and blue rhodium plating.
When he unveiled the Nak Armstrong brand in 2011, his jewels were a mix of sterling silver and 18k gold, though it didn’t take long for the line to go all gold. He would still make the occasional silver necklace on request.
When he decided to open his own brand boutique in Austin, Texas, where he is based—the opening is tentatively scheduled for mid-June—Armstrong felt the timing and market landscape were ideal to dive deeper into an all silver collection that didn’t scream your typical silver look. Sterling silver enables jewels to be made in bigger profiles at lower price points while retaining a greater inherent value than costume; colored rhodium plating presents a cooler and more memorable aesthetic than plain silver.
As is the case with all Nak Armstrong designs, the “stones are the stars,” says the artist. Featured gems include labradorite, rainbow moonstone, Ethiopian opal, turquoise, chrysoprase, black spinel, white zircon, and a “green onyx looks like emerald,” Armstrong notes.
“I felt like there was this whole area left behind, that silver used to be more important,” he explains in a phone interview. “Everyone was either into gold or costume jewelry; there was a hole in the market. My clients who wanted to make a statement in gold had to spend up to $10,000, so I found another way to offer a bigger look without dumbing down the product.”
Armstrong expanded his silver line by adding more styles and versions of the existing iconic geometry—think half-moons, cushions, and more—that is his design DNA. The result is a lower-price collection (suggested retails start at $250 versus $2,000 in gold) that is contemporary and recognizable. Pieces also layer well with his gold.
“The underpinning was my mosaic look, with an emphasis on repetitive shapes and variety of sizes to create the overall silhouette,” he says. “Nakard is easy for clients to wear all time, and my clients who religiously buy gold are buying this and mixing it together.”
“Nakard is sort of like me taking Nak Armstrong and blowing it up; Nak Armstrong jewelry is a ton of intricate small cuts arranged in a single piece to look like ruffling, flora, or fauna—organic objects. In Nakard, there are bigger stone cuts and bigger gestures of repetitive shapes in a variety of sizes—from small to large—to create pieces that are unusual yet simple in execution. All gems are bezel set, and the stones are cut small and light so finished pieces aren’t too heavy. We got the bezels really fine so we weren’t using a lot of metal.”
Some of Armstrong’s retailers had pieces in the fall of 2019, with sell-through “faster than I could make it,” he says. During the pandemic, the designer built up his own shoppable website and is seeing healthy sales between $1,000 and $1,500. More than 200 SKUs, or individual pieces, are available.
And that Nakard name? It’s Nak’s own middle name. The designer whom most call Nak is actually named David Nakard Armstrong. “My grandfather was from Lebanon and his last name was Nakkad,” says Armstrong. “When he moved to Australia, he changed the spelling of it because people were pronouncing it as ‘naked’. That, and Nakard sounded French to him.”
Worm band in sterling silver with a blue rhodium finish and half-moon-shape black spinel, $250; available online at Nak Armstrong
Riviere Tile necklace in sterling silver with a black rhodium finish and square black labradorite, $1,375; available online at Nak Armstrong
Triple Line earrings in sterling silver with a black rhodium finish and rose-cut, cushion- and half-moon-shape black spinel and Ethiopian opal, $1,875; available online at Nak Armstrong
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