In the midst of adversity and turmoil, some spirits shine even brighter, defying all odds and creating a legacy that transcends borders. Valeriya Guzema, the founder of Guzema Fine Jewelry, epitomizes the indomitable spirit of a Ukrainian jewel. In a nation gripped by the hardships of an ongoing war, her brand continues to be a beacon of hope and resilience, fearlessly crafting exquisite jewelry in the heart of Ukraine. With determination, Valeriya’s passion for jewelry has become her lifework, leading Guzema Fine Jewelry to stand tall as a testament to the power of creativity and resilience. In an exclusive interview with Only Natural Diamonds, Guzema delves into her inspiring journey to adorn the world with timeless treasures amidst the darkest of times.
Only Natural Diamonds: How did your jewelry journey start?
Valeriya Guzema: I inherited a special passion for jewelry from my grandmother. Although I started my career in journalism, I did not forget about my passion for jewelry. So, while I was working as a TV host at HD Fashion TV channel, I started developing my first designs. I founded my brand in 2016, and my grandfather’s gold teeth became the literal capital for my startup. The big launch was supposed to happen in 2015, but I was robbed, and I had to start from the beginning. Six months later, the story of Guzema Fine Jewelry began. That is what life is about. We do not get redos, but we do get second chances.
An important moment for us was the case when the brand was only a few months old, and our earrings ended up with actress Kim Cattrall. The Ukrainian Vogue wrote about this, and at that moment, I realized that we are in sight and our development is being watched. Then I felt even more motivated to develop and build my ideal Guzema-universe.
OND:The most common gem you use is the natural diamond. What makes natural diamonds important in creating pieces of fine jewelry?
VG: Indeed, today we use only natural diamonds in our collections. For me, each piece of jewelry has energy, depth and meaning. Natural diamonds are gemstones with the most powerful story and energy of the Earth, which no other artificially grown stone can ever fill. Playing with diamonds in jewelry is a special pleasure for me. Today I am passionate about creating an everyday diamond collection, making diamond jewelry fun and playful.
OND:How has the ongoing war in Ukraine affected your ability to do business, and what has had to change in your operations?
VG: Since the beginning of the Great War in Ukraine, not just my business changed; the whole world inside turned upside down, and life changed radically. In the early days, I didn’t even think about work; I was worried about the safety of my loved ones, the safety of my team. First, we transferred one million hryvnias to the Ukrainian army and paid wages to all employees. We stopped our commercial activities as well as production and began volunteering. The focus of my charitable organization, Guzema Foundation, immediately changed. We started helping children’s hospitals and refugees; we were engaged in humanitarian assistance and purchased the necessary ammunition for the guys who were in hot spots.
My special love is the Spadok collection, in which we combined Guzema’s minimalism with Ukrainian traditions.
Only in April could we resume sales in Ukraine and enter the international market. Little has changed in our approaches to work, except that today we are used to working in the new Ukrainian reality with all the risks of missile attacks and power outages. We are in touch with colleagues 24/7 and are always ready to make prompt decisions. My team mostly keeps working remotely from Ukraine. Nevertheless, we strategically focus on developing the brand in foreign markets now. I want Guzema to be fully present in the US market, as well as in Europe. Today we have a clear strategy and plans for the future. We do not stop for a moment, despite all the difficulties that have come our way.
Since the outbreak of hostilities, we have released several collections that have resonated with our customers. My special love is the Spadok collection, in which we combined Guzema’s minimalism with Ukrainian traditions. It is essential today to reveal to the world the uniqueness of our culture, its deep roots, and its authenticity. The pixel shape of these products also refers to the pixel pattern of the military uniform of Ukrainian fighters and reminds us that there is a war going on in Ukraine, and the struggle for independence continues.
OND:Are you still making your jewelry in Ukraine?
VG: Yes, our production was—and remains—in Kyiv to this day. I’m proud of the fact we make our products in Ukraine. No matter how difficult it is to work during power outages and constant threats of missile strikes, we’ll continue to work in Kyiv.
OND:What would you like people outside of Ukraine to know about the ongoing war?
VG: The most important thing that I want the world to remember is that the war has not yet ended, and our brave Ukrainian people have been waging a daily bloody struggle for independence, freedom and a bright future not only for our country but for the entire world society. Our struggle is incredibly difficult, and we need support, both financial and military, as well as informational. Everyone around is tired of talking about the war and wants to change the agenda, but just imagine what would happen if the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that they were tired and stopped doing their job. Every day it becomes more and more difficult to raise funds, but we do not give up. Our charitable collections help us in this, the profits from the sale of which we transfer to volunteer needs. For example, First Kady Olena Zelenska, actress Milla Jovovich and Roberta Metsola, head of the European Parliament, have jewelry from our Freedom collection. But we understand that we can not stop for a minute.
“When I created my first collection, it was hard to imagine that this adventure would turn into a business. And the next thing I know, my passion for jewelry has become my lifework,”
Remarkably, despite the challenging backdrop of an ongoing war, Guzema Fine Jewelry and its visionary CEO remain committed to growing the jewelry business in Ukraine. The brand’s tenacity is evident in its recent opening of a second boutique in the heart of Kyiv, showcasing its unwavering belief in its nation’s potential. It’s no surprise that the jewelry house has won the heart of Ukraine’s First Lady, with her being frequently spotted adorned in Guzema Fine Jewelry.
Valeriya Guzema’s work has been recognized with honors like being named “Thought Leader” at the Elle Style Awards in 2020 and securing a place in the prestigious Top 30 Under 30 lists by Kyiv Post and Forbes, as well as being the Ambassador of the International Assembly of Women Entrepreneurs. Valeriya’s heartwarming dedication to her Guzema Foundation speaks volumes. The foundation’s support of the Ukrainian army, hospitals and refugees during times of crisis shows the brand’s commitment to being a force for good in the world.
In the world of jewelry, Valeriya Guzema has undoubtedly left an indelible mark. Her designs speak a language of elegance and timelessness, while her charitable endeavors and commitment to her country and its people reflect the compassionate soul behind the brand.