Stepsiblings Kim Burgan and Darin Kunz aren’t related by blood, but the bond forged by their blended family is stronger than diamonds
“The style on this one is called intaglio — it’s an engraving on gemstones,” he says, grabbing a piece out of the glass-top display case of his Uptown office. His eyes sparkle like sapphires as he shares his enthusiasm for the line.
Sure, you could dismiss Kunz’s intensity as the pitch of a salesman, but in person, it doesn’t come across that way. He has a passion for every piece in his office.
And there’s good reason. Jewelry isn’t just a job, or even career, for Kunz; it’s in his bones.
Kunz is not the only one who gets giddy about discovering new jewelers and their dazzling creations; his stepsister and business partner, Kim Burgan, is equally jazzed.
Maybe that’s because their entire family was born of diamonds.
Well, diamonds and wedding rings and even some sterling silver bangles. Kunz’s dad and Burgan’s mom met in a jewelry store in 1974, when their children were young. The parents married less than two years later, uniting their families. With Brady Bunch-like harmony, Kunz and Burgan became stepsiblings in name only — they, along with Kunz’s biological brother David, are as close as if they were related by blood. (In conversation, they drop the “step” entirely most of the time.) They even named their business, Nine-Eighteen, after the anniversary of their parents’ marriage — Sept. 18, 1976.
The senior Kunz opened several jewelry stores with his wife; Kunz even recently served as business development director for his dad’s showroom in the World Trade Center. (Kunz was also co-chair of the DIFFA “Smoking Haute” jacket collection earlier this year.)
“We grew up in the business,” Kunz explains. “We both would walk away from it for years at a time, but we always knew we’d come back. In college, I was even selling engagement rings to my fraternity brothers.”
While both worked in the family stores, opening Nine-Eighteen is the culmination of a lifelong ambition.
“We always dreamed of it as children,” Burgan says, “but we started the high-level ‘what-if’ conversations in October 2010.” They had a soft opening of the business over the holidays late last year, but are only now letting more people know about it.
Nine-Eighteen isn’t a typical jewelry store. For one, it’s not in a retail facility but in a gayborhood high-rise. For another, it doesn’t have the traditional counter and display case separating the client from the product. The setting is more living room than showroom.
In part, they made that decision in order to get people closer to the jewelry, so that they can interact on a more personal level.
“We spent the last year-and-a-half researching different designers who we wanted to do business with,” Kunz says. “We work closely with these people, so some collaboration does go on,” he says.
“They are really open to [customization],” adds Burgan. One line, for instance, can be made in sterling silver, white gold, yellow gold, brass, bronze and rose gold — a wide range of colors, weights and price-points — “everything from a $10,000 ring to a $200 necklace,” Kunz says.
Something else Kunz and Burgan are pleased with is the scope of their men’s lines. They offer more cuff links than many department stores, and are especially proud of a new line of men’s necklaces.
And they are definitely interested in exposing their gay clients to greater choices in jewelry. One set of rings at Nine-Eighteen snake together like a caduceus but also pull apart and can be worn separately — a perfect symbol of unity for same-sex couples looking for unique commitment bands, observes Kunz, who is gay.
“There’s lots of meaning,” in many of their designs, he says.
And if there’s anything Kunz and Burgan understand, it’s the symbolism of how a rung can turn a relationship into a family. After all, their own family owes its entire existence to jewelry, and the bond they have formed is stronger than diamonds.
Nine-Eighteen, 3131 Turtle Creek Blvd., Ste. 915. Clients by appointment Monday–Saturday. 214-252-1918. Nine-Eighteen.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 27, 2012.