If you look around at the diamond jewelry that’s available for purchase today, it’s obvious that a good majority of it is being designed for women, by women. The 1930s through the mid-20th century saw the daring imagination of talents such as Juliet Moutard and Suzanne Belperron, both who started their careers at Boivin and began to compete in the predominately male-dominated world of jewelry (at that time) and win over women with their bold original designs. But it wasn’t until Elsa Peretti, landed on the scene in the 1970s with her Diamonds By The Yard collection for Tiffany & Co. that changed the perception of how women could wear diamonds that were versatile, accessible and looked fabulous for every day—and any occasion.
During the next two decades, new generations of women designers like Angela Cummings, Paloma Picasso, Cathy Waterman, Erica Courtney and, of course Victoire de Castellane—designer for Dior High Jewelry—and Lydia Courteille in France (just to name a few), emerged as leaders in different segments of the market, yet they all had one thing in common: Taking into account modern women’s lifestyles. As women, they understood what other women want to wear and this approach opened up the market for today’s fine female designers.
This new generation loves to work with precious metals and diamonds, no matter if they are polished roughs, rose cuts, newer geometric cuts, brilliant whites or opaque grays with the beauty of natural inclusions or fancy colors. And the price? The wide range of what’s available today not only allows for self-purchases, but suggest it.
Here are some of the independent and emerging designers whose collections revolve, one way or another, around the ultimate in precious gemstones, diamonds:
Jade Trau literally has diamonds in her genes. With a collection bearing her name, she carries on her family heritage as a fifth-generation diamantaire.
Jade’s jewelry evokes her affinity for antique and vintage pieces which she reinvents in styles that are compelling and relevant. She is designing jewelry for woman who loves to buy her own diamonds, especially those who loves to stack and layer, creating a unique style that’s one-of-a-kind.
“My goal is to make pieces that wear so naturally on a woman that it looks and feels like they are part of them,” she says. “Seeing women wearing jewelry that feels authentic to their personal style, and as an extension of who they are, is probably the biggest influence in my designs.”
After 20 years helping out in her family’s business and then launching her own design company, Jade reminds us, “I always tend to look at the diamond first. I allow the nuances of the stone dictate the design of a piece.”
“But I also use functional aspects like, for example, the prongs, and create intricate details that become part of the design. Negative space is also a really important part of my design. I think showing skin between stones gives it a sex appeal and a lightness that makes it feel very wearable without compromising the integrity of the structure of the piece.”
Xiao Wang is another designer whose love for jewelry is also part of her DNA. Her great grandfather was in the mining business and her father is a recycled metal dealer.
As far as her key influences, she explains, “I’m continually inspired by my grandmother who taught me that, as women, we are beautiful, powerful and brilliant in every way. Therefore, I design pieces that are strong and unique, yet also comfortable and wearable. We want to feel good in our jewels and allow them to tap into our inner sparkle.”
Xiao, who is also an actress and a fashion model, predominately favors natural color diamonds in different shades and cuts.
“There’s something so special about colored diamonds. Each is slightly different just like the woman who wears them,” she continues. “I also love rough diamonds that aren’t cut or polished. They are almost like sea glass, subtle and magical at the same time.”
“I get particularly excited by antique cuts like old mine or rose cuts: They have so much character. And I have never met a champagne or yellow old mine cut that I didn’t love,” she adds.
Xiao combines different shades and shapes of natural color and white diamonds. She describes this process “as almost like creating a painting. I like to put them all together into one piece of jewelry that is colorful yet earthy and fun, and asymmetrical but in an understandable way.”
Some of her best-selling styles are her Galaxy rings which she calls power rings. “These are the rings you buy for yourself,” she says.
Eva Zuckerman is the designer behind Eva Fehren, whose collection both is inspired and plays homage to the love for her city—New York. The industrial, architectonic and geometric elements of the iconic Chrysler Building, the crisscrossing of power lines, the patterns in the sidewalks of downtown Manhattan where she was raised all inform her diamond jewelry and precious metal jewelry collections.
Eva’s designs are feminine with an edge that is angular and contemporary rather than sharp and difficult to wear. She’s developed a cult following of A-list celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna and Karolina Kurkova, to name a few.
Like many women designers, Eva begins the design process considering what she would want to wear. “It is important to me that the jewelry feels very modern, unexpected yet wearable,” she says. “If it’s not something I would want to wear every day, I don’t make it. I love the idea of creating pieces that empower the woman who buys them.”
“I love strong geometric shapes and stones that are anything but common,” she says about the diamonds she uses in her collection. “I am drawn to gray diamonds with interesting inclusions, as well as flawless white diamonds with strong, geometric cuts. Portrait cut diamonds are my absolute favorite. There is something so beautiful and slightly rebellious to me about a flat cut diamond.”
“It has been a passion of mine to source and custom cut unusual geometric diamonds,” she continues. “Many of the stones I use are very flat which is so comfortable when they are set into rings because then they sit close the finger. The wearability of these diamonds is key to me, so I never use stones that will sit super high.”
Eva’s affinity for rare cuts and shapes runs deep. “Finding a rare or interesting cut is just as enthralling to me, if not more, than finding a stone with perfect color and clarity,” she adds. “As women designers, we have come to determine that today’s customers want to wear something that they can’t find everywhere else and, of course, reflect her own personality. For me, unique diamonds are a perfect way to express this.”
“I am always looking to walk a fine line between effortless, current and timeless design, but I always want to create pieces with attitude. When a piece I create strikes this perfect balance, I feel that I have done something truly special.”
“Sometimes it’s the subtle revelations that determine who we are,” says Michelle Fantaci, who is the embodiment of this statement. The designer began creating her own pieces at 15 years old, went to study Old World techniques in Florence and then went for a master’s degree in interior design until she realized that her true passion lied in the art and workmanship of jewelry making.
Her delicate pieces of diamond jewelry allow the wearer to feel at home in her own skin. The collection is a balancing act of intricate details, feminine lines, and a raw and refined finish. Her diamond jewelry follows the aesthetic of her entire collection, which she launched with the question, “What would women buy for themselves?” And this is the premise she has been working out since.
She describes her diamond jewelry collection as one that “speaks to a client that is looking for flexibility—a sophisticated yet independent woman who is not beholden to one rigid style category.” Fantaci ads that she started out using mostly step cut and rose-cut diamonds, but has been incorporating more full cuts and appreciating how fiery they can be. “I am drawn to geometric and fancy shapes. With a few exceptions, I use white diamonds.”
She adds, “I design my diamond pieces to have a presence—more than a sprinkling of small diamonds—yet never feel like they are blinged out. I also believe in a healthy irreverence for the very precious materials I am working with so that the collection has a lightness and playfulness.”
Michelle, another New York native, sums up by saying, “One of my goals is always to have fluidity and consistency in my collection. It’s important that I am led by my own aesthetic and vision but that the wearer will cherish my pieces and feeling like they were made just for her.”
Elizabeth Street Jewelry designer Katie Finn was born and raised in New Orleans. Details such as the oxidized texture of wrought iron fences and the rare beauty of a city that is steeped in the past have inspired her collection. Additionally, the contents of her grandmother’s jewelry box have also influenced Katie since the inception of her collection in 2008.
“My grandmother collected and dealt in ancient and estate jewelry and stones,” she says. “My interest in rose cut diamonds stems from the jewelry that I was exposed to through her jewels. These stones have an inherent quality that is both imperfect and uniquely beautiful.”
“The designs I have created are intended to pay homage to these characteristics without attempting to hide any of the intrinsic qualities that make a rose cut stone so distinctive,” says Katie whose collection is handmade in her Los Angeles studio.
Although she’s attracted to older cuts, “I love all sorts of different diamonds,” she adds. “But it really depends what the purpose is: daily wear or engagement. I have a feeling for casual opulence which is understated and brings out the personality of the wearer.”
When asked what sets her apart from the other designers working with diamonds in the market, she answers, “That’s a tough question. The jewelry market has become saturated over the past five years. But I think there are recognizable hand-made details and nuances in my work that renders it distinctly mine. It’s almost like a thumbprint. There are other designers who are the same in this regard—they have a voice and it comes through in the hand of their design.”
When looking at diamonds, Katie explains, “There are a lot of factors in what makes my heart flutter. Sometimes it’s a feeling. I imagine what I’m going to make and get inspired. Or I look at different combinations for colored diamonds. Diamonds come in the most amazing hues and playing with them is a lot of fun.”
She admits “Size does matter sometimes. I will say bigger is better if it’s a really unique stone. There are so many different types of diamonds with which to work. Ultimately I think it ends up being instinctual.”
In describing her collection, Katie believes there should be a thread that ties all the pieces together. “It’s a fine line to try to create something different from the rest of the market without being trendy or gimmicky”, she says. “Each piece should be surprising, alluring, comfortable to wear, sparkly—of course—and hopefully beautiful.”
Beth Bernstein is a writer and the editor/founder of Bejeweledmag.com