Knot Cool: At left, designer Kiel Mead’s “Forget Me Knot” pieces and at right, those from the new “Tiffany Twist” collection from Tiffany & Co. (Photos: UnBeige and ©Tiffany & Co.)
With Mother’s Day approaching, Tiffany & Co. is pushing its new “Tiffany Twist” collection of jewelry “inspired by the time-honored craft of hand-twisting wire.” The real twist? Several pieces in the line bear a striking resemblance to the work of Brooklyn-based designer Kiel Mead, whose “Forget Me Knot” collection of hand-cast rings, earrings, and pendants debuted in 2005.
The Fredonia, New York native came up with the concept for his “Forget Me Knot” ring while a student at Pratt Institute, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial design in 2006. “My design is actually a piece of string that is molded and cast in various materials such as silver and gold,” Mead tells us. “It took some trial and error to get the final product to look like my conceptualization.”
He began work on the design in 2003, and it was first produced in 2005. The Shop at Cooper-Hewitt, the National Design Museum agreed to carry the piece before Mead had even picked up his Pratt diploma. Other early accounts included the Museum of Modern Art Store and New York design emporium The Future Perfect, where Mead worked during college.
The designer continues to experiment with variations on his original design, and has since introduced companion pieces as well as versions in brass, platinum, and colorful powder coats. Along the way, publications ranging from The New York Times and American Craft to Star and In Touch have taken notice. And apparently so did one of the world’s largest jewelry companies.
Tiffany & Co. introduced its “Tiffany Twist” bow pieces earlier this year. The rings, earrings, and pendants (pictured here beside Mead’s designs) are available in 18-karat gold and sterling silver. Among the few discernible differences between the “Tiffany Twist” pieces and Mead’s line are the prices. A “Forget Me Knot” ring in sterling silver retails for $50, while Tiffany offers its version for $225.
This isn’t Mead’s first run-in with products that are very similar to those in his “Forget Me Knot” line. “A few major companies have come extremely close to an exact copy of my ring,” he says. “After contacting them and informing them of my jewelry, they have all stopped.” Tiffany & Co. appears to be the exception. Mead would not comment on the “Tiffany Twist” collection on the record for fear of legal reprisal. Our e-mails and calls to the company, which reported 2010 revenues of $3.1 billion, were not immediately returned.
For Mead, it comes down to ethics. “When considering a concept for a design, the first thing I do is try to determine if the concept is already out in the world. Today’s technology makes it easy to do,” he says. “There is no defense for an individual or a large company to create something strikingly similar to any jewelry designer’s line.”