It was serendipity that Erika Winters began her journey as a jewelry designer with the gift of her diamond engagement ring. The actress/dancer says aside from a strand of pearls she received when she was 16, she hadn’t given much thought to fine jewelry in her life at the time.
But it was the 1-carat round brilliant diamond ring her husband, Peter, proposed to her with in 2006 that not only melted her heart with the love it embodied, it captivated her imagination as an artist. Drawing from an appreciation of delicate lines and movement in dance and the nuances of lighting — and impact of a grand entrance — in theatre, she was entranced with the stage craft of diamonds in jewelry design.
“The diamond had me at hello,” Winters shares. But she admits there was something not quite right to her about the setting of her engagement ring. “I started drawing the ring I saw for the diamond,” she says, glad her husband, a painter, encouraged her to design a setting she liked. “It’s a sensitive situation, but he saw I was being inspired and supported that. What was important to him was that I had something traditional and beautiful.” Married 10 years now, she says the original ring has morphed into several different designs.
It was this experience that inspired her full immersion in the artistry, meaning, and science of jewelry. Winters attended the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and earned her Graduated Gemologist certification. Erika then proceeded to learn everything she could about fine jewelry through the supply chain, working behind the retail counter, and also serving as a sales rep for antique and designer jewelry. Moreover, she blogs about diamonds and jewelry, and does all of her own jewelry photography.
About three years ago, Winters began designing diamond jewelry privately for colleagues and friends, and was asked by a retailer she knew to design a collection for her store. “I designed 10 styles in three weeks, “ she tells, noting that all of her ideas were in works for years. “I connected with a manufacturer I knew and knocked out the pieces.” It was from this successful experience that she set out to create her own brand.
Her first collection features a number of antique-cut diamonds for which she has an affinity. “All diamonds are time capsules, formed in the earth billions of years ago,” says the self-described diamond geek. “But what I love about old cut diamonds is that they were faceted 100 to 200 years ago, capturing the different lighting and technology of the day. Because they were cut for candlelight, the facets are wider creating a floral pattern that offers more light dispersion. Whereas a modern round brilliant cut has skinnier, more linear facets resulting in greater sparkle.” She says she has clients for both.
While nothing says engaged like a round brilliant diamond Winters is partial to antique cuts and unusual shapes in diamonds she sets in her romantic signature finish in both 18k gold and platinum. Expressing Old World sensibilities in a 21st-century idiom, her unique finish is soft, yet finely textured to evoke vintage jewels worn for decades. She describes the look between a matte and shiny finish, a sheen she says bounces the light in the same way diamonds do.
Her jewelry explores a balance between old and new, timeless beauty and fresh perspective. A penchant for metal and negative space in her designs, Winters loves the juxtaposition between groupings of diamonds or central stone with planes of negative space.
So much of her personality is imbued in her work. “I design from a place of love and have a deep connection to the jewelry I create, especially when I’m working with couples looking for diamond rings. They make me cry, and I fall in love all over again with them in the experience.” That’s the reason she invests so much time and effort in every design, which she produces with her team in Seattle.
“There’s something inherently special about a diamond,” she muses. “It’s from the earth, ancient, the hardest natural substance, made new by design. “A perfect symbol of timelessness, there are not many things in life like that.”