Diamonds are not Kathy Kinev’s best friend, but Burmese rubies are.
After more than 30 years as a jeweler, the Atlanta native has clutched all types of precious stones from pearls and sapphires to emeralds and gemstones.
Burmese rubies, however, have always been her favorite.
“It’s rare and the color doesn’t exist anywhere else,” she says.
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Her expertise in her field has garnered major attention. She has been the winner of the Georgia Jewelers Association’s design contest and the recipient of the American Gem Trade Association’s Spectrum Award for two years in a row.
It’s not just her eye for jewelry that motivates Kinev. While she shares her knowledge with others in her industry here, she’s also found satisfaction in reaching out to others across the globe.
In October 2016, she hopped on a 22-hour flight to Thailand as a docent with Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum. For nearly three weeks, she explored the jewelry terrain, but most importantly for Kinev, she aided underserved communities.
Kinev, along with seven others, taught English to 20 children from Burma, a state that borders Thailand. Most of their parents migrated to Thailand to escape the unrest in their homeland. Once Kinev was given the opportunity to lend a helping hand, she jumped at the chance.
“Improving English in schools in my home country has always been important to me,” says Tip Weniger, a former docent who’s been organizing mission trips to Thailand since 2000. “We felt we really did something. The kids were very respectful and bright. They were all so interested in learning at every second.”
As Kinev spent more time around her students, her appreciation and understanding of other cultures grew. Despite the language barrier, she was blown away by the amount of affection and cooperation they showed each other and her.
“I remember when I tripped going up the stairs, and I stubbed my toe a little bit. The kids were behind me and about three or four of them put their hands on me to make sure I wouldn’t fall,” Kinev recalls. “I was just totally stunned that they would do that. It was incredible. It makes me cry to think about it.”
Her experience was once in a lifetime, and her mentees back home have been beneficiaries of that same kindness.
“Kathy’s really a terrific person. We share an interest in granulation, which is a tricky process, and she’s helped me so much,” says WoodwindSilverstone owner Mike Runzi, who’s known Kinev for about two years. “A lot of what I do would not have been possible without her.”
Kinev has always had an affinity for the shinier things in life. At a young age, she didn’t beg for trips to the toy store. The jewelry shop was where she wanted to be.
“My mom always said that she would take me to Lenox Square. Even though I was a small kid, I would go straight to the jewelry counter,” she recalls.
Kinev would be so impressed by the trinkets that she’d go home and make her own for her friends and family.
She had found the career of her dreams early on.
Three years after graduating from Georgia State University with a bachelor’s degree in jewelry design and silversmithing, she opened the doors to her very own jewelry store — Jewel Creations.
“It was a dream come true. It was unbelievable to be able to do that for yourself,” she says. “Finding the space and building out a store is an incredible thing to do. It was extremely stressful and exciting at the same time.”
Even though Kinev had become a business owner by her early 20s, she needed another challenge. She was an expert at granulation, designing jewelry, and jewelry repair, but gemology — the science of identifying and evaluating gems — was not her strong point.
That’s why she headed back to school for her gemology degree from the Gemological Institute of America.
“I wanted to do that, so I pushed myself further,” she says. “Now I can do everything. There’s value in that. It’s rare.”
But for Kinev, it’s not just about being a jack of all trades and snagging trophies and plaques. It’s about providing a service that leaves customers happy and satisfied. And she’s been able to do just that.
“Kathryn to me is an artist. As a purchaser of her beautiful work, I feel blessed and honored. Her guidance to creating our final pieces turned out perfectly,” gushes Enid Yip-Gibson, who’s been a customer for more than two years.
Kinev has a diverse clientele that ranges from chaps hunting for engagement rings to daughters looking to repurpose their mother’s set of antique earrings.
“I even do work for the grandkids of my original clients,” she reveals.
Kinev has no interest in keeping her sparkling secrets to herself. Sold in Atlanta, New York City, and hopefully Washington, D.C., next, her jewels are her gifts to the community.
“I’m all about taking care of other people,” she says. “I just want to spread more beauty out there.”