Interview with Katie Rose Whiting

• September 18, 2022

We interviewed with Katie Rose, global jewellery acquisition leader at 1st Dibs – the leading on – line market place for curated luxury items. Here she discusses her fascination with symbolism, story telling – and her ability to spontaneously shed jewellery! Read the full interview below:

Q: What was your first jewellery memory?
Going through my mum’s jewellery box! I know this might resonate for many people and there is one particular time that really stands out to me – I must have been about 6 and my sister Alice was 4. Our Mum was away and we were both playing up and driving my dad crazy! He was at his wits end and dramatically said ‘that’s it I’m leaving – you can make your own dinner’ and walked out.

The second he left, I ran upstairs to my mum’s jewellery box and started trying it on. It felt so forbidden because normally, I was only allowed to look in her company. My dad must have only been gone for about 5 minutes, but when he came back upstairs I was all dressed up like the Queen of Sheba!

Q: What would you say is your most treasured piece of jewellery?
I used to work at an independent jeweller in Greenwich that had a workshop downstairs. That really got me inspired to start experimenting with design myself, and when my parents asked me what I wanted for my 21st birthday, we decided that I would make a piece and they would pay for the materials.

I made my self-named ship – the ‘Good Ship Katie Rose’ I wanted to create a ship to represent the voyage of life and the journey I was embarking on. It’s a big chunky statement piece!

Q: Has symbolism in jewellery always intrigued you?
I do wear a lot of symbolic pieces like snakes, coins and knots –I feel a bit protected by them.

It all reflects my character so when I get to 50 or 60 its going to tell the story of the journey through my life.

I spend a lot of time in antique shops and got really obsessed with memento mori jewellery.

I have a really beautiful locket which says ‘in memory of’ on the front and then when you open it up it’s got an old photograph in there – I don’t know who the man is but I wonder about his life and who wore the locket before me. I was very drawn to it – it had an energy about it. When I wear it I like to think about him and imagine who he was – he could have done such amazing things but we’ll never know. It’s one of my favourite possessions.

Q : So what do you think gives jewellery such a unique quality when you receive it as a gift?
It is really personal in that you are wearing it on your body and often its more expensive than a scented candle so you feel valued. Also jewellery is going to last longer than us so it has that message of commitment attached to it. Art work is always a very special gift for the same reasons but jewellery is something that I identify with so much more – it’s like artwork that you can wear so it’s an extension of that sentiment.

Q : Do you think that jewellery has personality traits of its own? What kind of character would it be?
A lot of the jewellery I own I have been drawn to because it has a story and because it has travelled a lot so it does have its own life story to tell so I think it would be some kind of gypsy character who has had to be really resourceful so they hold all these amazing memories.

Q : I love that idea! Would it be male or female?
Probably transgender! I do wear a lot of men’s jewellery or masculine jewellery and I think there’s something really interesting about that – stealing a character trait or if your friend lends you something then your kind of embodying a part of them. I touch my jewellery all the time so it keeps me in touch with who I am that day.

” I wear a lot of symbolic pieces like snakes, coins and knots – I feel a bit protected by them”

Q : Do you tend to buy all your own jewellery now?
Buying my own jewellery feels really empowering and I’ve got a strong sense of what I like. If someone buys me a piece of jewellery now and it’s not really something that I would normally wear, then I’ll keep it and wear it in a different way. My best friend gave me a really fine gold band for my birthday and it’s much finer than what I would usually wear as a ring but it’s so simple that I can put it with anything and pile it up and she is always there – she’s the only person that can choose my jewellery.

Q : If you were going to have a bespoke piece made for you today – what would it be?
I think for my first commission I would have a set of earrings. I’ve got a lot of ear piercings and they remind me of when I was a teenager but I’d like someone to design me a bespoke set that looks really fine – something with precious stones and gold and that I could wear every day and sleep in without worrying about losing it. If I have to take them out they will just get left on the side in a hotel room somewhere – I do tend to shed jewellery.

Q : Do you think in your experience that people are starting to ask sourcing questions?Yes, I have definitely noticed that buyers are becoming more aware of fair trade, recycled metals and ethically sourced stones. It’s a movement which needed to happen. 1st Dibs specializes in exclusive one off pieces which may be antique so are in a way recycled and a lot of the smaller independent designers we work with are starting to focus on ethically sourced materials.

Q : Can you see it being on 1st dibs as a point of sale?
Yes! We are not fast fashion and that’s a great thing.

I think most of our clients still look at style first, then price, and then they look at sustainability. So if your piece has all three, that’s a bonus. Most customers still see sustainability as an added value rather than a priority, but it’s really a conversation that seems to be shifting.

“Buyers are becoming more aware of fair trade, recycled metals and ethically sourced stones. It’s a movement which needed to happen.”

Q : Do you ever start talking to someone because of their jewellery?
All the time – you can tell so much about the person from the jewellery that they wear – like where they have been or if they have inherited those diamond earrings or is that signet ring a part of the family – maybe that has influenced their style. it’s a universal language and an ancient one – the first things we did as humans was paint our bodies and adorn ourselves. There is so much story telling entwined in every piece.

Jewellery helps me to define myself and I use it to express myself every day, it’s a beautiful thing. Ooops my earring has just pinged off – I told you I tend to shed jewellery!

There it is!

Thank you for the interview