August 26, 2020
Spotlight: New Herff Jones jewelry launch ‘most meaningful’ of Product Manager Jolee Huber’s career
Since Spring 2019, Herff Jones Jewelry Product Manager Jolee Huber has spent her working days researching and developing a new line of class jewelry for high school students.
Now, those new products — including a new product category for the 100-year-old company — are about to drop. And Huber is ecstatic for the day she runs into a student at the mall, a restaurant, or one of her kids’ sporting events, and sees them wearing a class necklace or one of the new ring styles she put so much heart into.
Below, we go behind-the-scenes with Huber to chat about the process and what exactly students can expect to see among the class ring and necklace offerings this year.
Q: The process of launching new products is long and difficult, but also exciting! What were some of your favorite moments over the last year and a half?
A: The consumer research was amazing — just getting to talk with students and parents and see first-hand what is most important to them. I love working with product development and manufacturing to materialize those insights into products that meet our consumers’ needs. And, I’ll never get over the thrill of seeing the first real sample, after many iterations of drawings and 3D models. It’s like finally holding your baby after all those ultrasounds!
Q: Now that the launch is here, what are you looking forward to most?
A: What really struck my heart about the importance of this launch was seeing all that the Class of 2020 went through this year. High school is such a precious and fleeting stage of life — we get one, short, 4-year chance to make the most of it, and then it’s gone forever. The importance of enjoying that time and preserving those memories is so much clearer now. There is no taking it for granted anymore. I want these students to have the right assortment of products available to represent their style and their story.
Q: Speaking of the challenges of 2020. How has this launch differed from other product launches you have been a part of?
A: This product launch is one of the most meaningful I’ve had the privilege to be a part of. We have an amazing team in Indy and Warwick that have come together to make every detail of this launch stay on track, despite all the unexpected challenges we had this year. And to do this in such a historic year — the 100th anniversary of Herff Jones — well, that’s a tribute to generations of HJ employees. Underneath all of that, it is special because this really matters. What we do — recognizing each student’s achievements — really matters, and I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of this.
Q: Ok, let’s talk about the products. What do you love about the new ring styles?
A: When I look at our new ring styles, I almost get emotional. I can still hear the voices of the students and parents we met across the country who talked about what they liked (and didn’t like) about class rings. I remember them talking about their “ideal class jewelry” — what it would look like and what it would mean. They wanted looks that were more sophisticated and modern; something comfortable and easy to wear; a simple design that was striking, but not too big and bulky. They wanted a ring that others would recognize as meaningful and ask what it stood for. Our new ring styles deliver on all of those wishes. They are truly a reflection of today’s students and how they process their own sentimentality and style.
Q: And what about the class necklaces and HJ expressions™?
A: I love the fact that our commemorative necklaces and HJ Expressions™ are like a class ring with no limits! High school is such an incredible time of life that is chock-full of amazing memories, friends, and activities, and HJ Expressions™ let you collect a token of every highlight throughout your entire four years! But, it’s still a nod to a class ring. The center pendant of a Herff Jones commemorative necklace is an authentic class ring base. You won’t find that anywhere else!
Q: What was the goal with the style of the necklaces?
A: Collecting jewelry has been popular since the beginning of time and always will be for its beauty, meaning and material worth, but our necklaces are also on-trend. We’re seeing a lot of layered jewelry, whether that’s chains, bracelets or even rings and earrings. Mixing pieces of different meanings and combining multiple symbols is very much in-line with what we’re seeing in the jewelry space right now.
Our extensive selection of Pridesides has always enabled students to highlight anything they want to on their class ring. In a similar way, HJ Expressions™ allows you to highlight EVERYTHING you want on your necklace, but it can change with you. So, if a student started out in dance as a freshman and then found her passion for theatre as a Sophomore, but by her Junior year she was student council president and homecoming queen, she can add a charm for each of those wonderful memories!
Q: Who were the necklaces designed for? Who do you see wearing these designs?
A: I specifically remember Christopher, a Junior we met in the Atlanta area, who shared with us how much he had grown and changed throughout high school; how his interests and abilities had matured over those few short years. He said that he would love to have a class necklace because he would be able to symbolize all of those memories, accomplishments and activities on one chain and be able to use them as a reminder to himself and to tell the story to others about how far he had come and where he’s going.
So, this collection is for students like Christopher, whose faces lit up when we asked, “OK, so what if you could create your very own commemorative jewelry that would look and mean exactly what you want? AND what if you could add to it over time?”