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50 Most Beautiful Chicagoans

Tonia Kim

AGE: 35
OCCUPATION: jewelry designer
HOMETOWN: Middleton, Wisconsin
LIVES IN: Bucktown

Inspired by her father, a surgeon in the small town of Dodgeville, Wisconsin, Tonia Kim says that she had planned to become a doctor from the age of five. She completed the premed track at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and, in 1997, moved to Chicago to work as a research assistant at Rush University Medical Center. But she soon realized that her heart just wasn’t in it. Kim moved to Los Angeles, hopped through a series of jobs, and then came back to Chicago, this time for law school—but a legal career wasn’t the answer, either. With a degree from Chicago-Kent in hand, Kim says she meandered down a few more paths before focusing on jewelry making, a favorite hobby. She started by taking a metal-smithing class at the Evanston Arts Center and then really committed in 2007 when she rented studio space in Bucktown. Today, under her brand’s name, Toki, Kim produces three collections a year, each consisting of 30 to 50 different styles in gold, silver, and stones. “When you work with precious metals, there are so many things you can produce,” says Kim, who married a law school classmate, Josh Kaplan, in 2006. “It’s a job that will always challenge me.”

 

 

Photograph: Maria Ponce

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