FIRST DIMERS: Vivian Grimes
Interview and photos on disposable camara by Brynn Wallner
When the p*ndemic hit, I ditched New York for Naples – Florida, not Italy – to stay with my mom. (I wound up living there for half the year and now consider myself a local.) That summer, I was lucky enough to meet Vivian Grimes. She was elegantly dressed, quick-witted, and just so sunny and warm… a true product of the Sunshine state! When we were chatting, I couldn’t help but notice a Rolex on her very toned, tan arms. (She’s always been an athlete, by the way, and within five minutes of us meeting, she was inviting me to a 10 mile bike ride in the Everglades. Gator country!!!) We wound up staying in touch, and this past February, she was generous enough to invite me into her family’s jewelry store so I could hear her story (and learn more about the Rolex, of course).
Let me tell you one thing up front: Vivian is all about the family business. In 2019, she boldly left a successful LA-based VC and marketing career to return to the world of jewelry, following in the footsteps of her father and her father’s father. Her family’s shop, Certified Jewelers, is now also the home of her own jewelry line, Henri Noël. The name ‘Henri’ is that of her Grandfather, and ‘Noël’ comes from the idea of rebirth: as a 3rd generation jeweler, she feels that her family’s practices have found a new life in her. She personally designs all of the Henri Noël pieces, characterized by an understated elegance that can only come from years of experience in the biz. In addition to working on her line, she also assists with daily happenings at Certified Jewelers, coming across an array of estate jewelry and pre-owned watches. A shop girl! As you can imagine, I was thrilled to pick her brain, and you should be thrilled to read this now:
DIMEPIECE: First things first. Tell me about your watch.
VIVIAN GRIMES: It’s a Rolex Datejust mother of pearl white dial set with diamonds on a stainless steel bracelet. It was a gift from my parents.
DP: Have you always been into watches?
VG: Yes! I was never a major geek about them, but I love watches because I’ve been surrounded by them for as long as I can remember. My dad’s always worn watches, my grandfather too… and that trickled down to my brothers loving them. Growing up, my mom always wore this pretty Rolex – a smaller one – so I told my parents that I would love a watch for graduation. They were like, “What?? For elementary school graduation?” [laughs] I was so young then, but I knew what I wanted.
DP: So you got the watch after graduating college, right?
VG: Yeah – it was such a statement piece and I felt it signified a big accomplishment in my life. I was super excited to wear it with me as I entered the work world.
DP: How much of a statement?
VG: Well, as far as watches go, mine is definitely a bit more subtle. It’s mid-sized. It’s not one of those huge watches that could double as a weapon. That’s a lot of stainless steel! If you want someone to feel protected, get them a big watch. It’s more expensive than pepper spray, but it works.
DP: Do you know this from personal experience??
VG: No, no [laughs]. But I am impressed at how sturdy good watches are. I’ve had my Rolex since 2016, and it’s still in mint condition despite years of wear.
DP: So you got the watch as you were entering the workforce... What were you doing?
VG: I was going into Venture Capital.
DP: In New York?
VG: No, in Los Angeles, actually! I moved to LA for my final year of college at USC. I was then recruited to work in VC for beauty brands.
DP: When you started in VC, did you notice other people checking out your watch?
VG: Yes, especially the men – and especially the more high-end investors. You’d be surprised at how many guys were looking down at my wrist. I’m also a huge sneaker person. I’m never wearing heels – probably not great for my arches, but… you can tell they notice shoes right away, too.
DP: Did you notice other women wearing watches, or was it more confined to the boys club?
VG: Oh no, I noticed a lot of women wearing watches, especially because I was wearing one myself. Working in the engagement ring sector now, I always tell women that they’re going to start noticing rings on every other woman that passes them by. Once you have something, you start becoming aware of what everyone else has and you want to educate yourself.
DP: So how did you pivot from Venture Capital to jewelry?
VG: I started doing a little business for my family on the side, liaising and sourcing engagement rings for friends. That quickly gained traction, and all of a sudden I was getting tons of referrals. I was like, “I think this is a thing!” I always knew I wanted to create my own jewelry line, and after 6 months I decided to move back to Florida and start my own business. My friends were like, “Oh, but Naples is such a sleepy town”, or “You’re doing so well in your career! Do you really want to leave it?” But I knew that if I wanted to start making my own product, it’d make the most sense to do it at home, primarily from a cost perspective, but also to be closer to my family. So I moved back in December 2019.
DP: So tell me more about Henri Noël.
VG: I design and create all my pieces in-house here at Certified Jewelers, where we make the castings, reset the diamonds, and produce the final product. When I first started the line, I knew I wanted to create simple pieces for everyday wear. I thought back to my college years, where I did athletics at BC and USC. I loved fashion then, but I was so active… I couldn’t be fully glammed out while running 10 miles a day and shedding pounds of sweat. So I always wore my Diamonds by the Inch necklace – which is what I decided I’d start my line with.
DP: What is ‘Diamonds by the Inch’?
VG: It’s how I measure out the necklace, by the inch. I create it in multiple sizes and sign each one with a 14K diamond crown – that’s my signature. For me, it’s the passing of the crown: from my grandfather to my dad, and now to me. But for others, I say it’s meant to be a constant reminder of your own strength – that you can do it today, that you are powerful.
DP: It’s gorgeous. I love it.
VG: I hear that a lot! I always thought it was funny that something so simple could get that many compliments. But it was always my core – it worked for me on its own while I was running; and when I would go out, I’d layer it with other pieces. And so from there, the next piece I created was the Diamond Drop Station. It’s been doing so well. These are pieces that you didn’t realize you knew you needed. Especially nowadays, when things are becoming more minimal – they’re seen as investment pieces that you’ll get everyday use out of. Just like watches – which you actually have to wear everyday or they’ll just stop.
I first started selling online, and then I went to Instagram, where I’ve really started to create a community and connect with others.
DP: And your friends love the brand, too! I notice they all wear Henri Noël.
VG: My friends have been the biggest support system without me even asking. They wear Henri Noël and are always telling others about it. Look at my arms: I actually have chills saying this! And it doesn’t hurt that they’re all stunning. I couldn’t ask for better models to wear my stuff.
DP: What do you think people are looking for when they invest in jewelry like Henri Noël, or watches?
VG: I’m lucky because I get to see so much circulating here at the store – people constantly coming in to buy and sell jewelry. I learn so much from them, and I’ve realized that they’re looking for that story. Especially when they’re giving the piece as a gift – to simply spark a feel-good moment or to commemorate something bigger, like a graduation – they’re all seeking to create a real memory. It’s more than just an object.