This is the story of how I came to love modern diamond jewelry.
The tale begins with a shameful confession: A few years ago, I accepted a press trip to Couture, the designer fine jewelry trade show in Las Vegas, chiefly because there was an antique jewelry show taking place nearby. I was—and still am—a major vintage enthusiast, and my plan was to briefly show my face at Couture, then hightail it out of there.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the antique show: I fell in love with new natural diamond jewelry.
I had, it turned out, been living in the past jewelry-wise, with no idea of the depth, the range, the power, the sheer creativity of the artists working in diamond jewelry today. I thought dusty old Georgian mine cuts and Victorian rose cuts would always come first for me—and I still do love them—but the explosion of talent I found at Couture really turned my head.
I felt an instant rapport with the Greek designer Nikos Koulis; he has a wicked sense of humor as well as a brilliant way of reinterpreting art deco themes for our era. (It was a mutual admiration society: Last March, Nikos included me in a press trip to Athens, to celebrate his Feelings line, where I fell in love with the city and also with his breathtaking one-off pieces.) Nikos was not the only Greek designer I discovered at the show. I was also instantly enamored with the work of Christina Alexiou, whose trademark soft 18 karat hearts—sometimes edged in diamonds—had my own heart.
“Diamond jewelry designers turned out to be such fun people!”
I swooned over the celestial splendor of Beirut-based Selim Mouzannar’s lush diamond Istanbul stars and enamel diamond-centered Sea Flowers; I gasped in wonder at the way the designer Vram sliced what he calls his Echo ring like the most glamorous succulent imaginary fruit, and studded the sides with round brilliant cut diamonds.
You might think that only antique diamond pieces come with a rich backstory, but these dealers also had stories to tell.
Jean Prounis founded her eponymous company to honor her great grandfather who was a co-proprietor of the Versailles, a celebrated 1940s nightclub. He loved beautiful things, and Jean aims to honor his legacy with her hand-wrought Prounis pieces, employing ancient goldsmithing techniques and using recycled 22-karat gold among other responsibly sourced materials.
And then there was Arman Sarkisyan who, with his wife the fashion designer Louiza Babouryan, quickly became my dear pals. I was gobsmacked by Arman’s 22 karat gold and oxidized silver diamond birds—a duo of mommy and baby—and a single flyer paired with a lapis globe that reflects world peace (Don’t we need this message more than ever?). Now I wear one of these swallows on my finger every day.
Sometimes I was overwhelmed by a dazzling volume of carats, but other times small delicate natural diamond accents made all the difference. At Anthony Lent’s booth, I fell for haunting solid gold moon faces inspired by Victorian children’s book illustrations (Bought one!), and his enchanting 18 karat gold and diamond one-hand band ring, the miniscule hand even sporting its own tiny ring. (Ok, so I bought this too…)
If Lent’s designs have a vintage air (This may be what attracted me in the first place…) the fabulous Brent Neale similarly pays post-modern homage to the past through a free-wheeling pop-art sensibility of the 1960s and the 70s. Her joyful diamond-studded mushroom pendants, unicorn ear studs, and even a cannabis tiara are immensely cheering in these challenging times. However I must admit that I am personally more drawn to her classic flush-set diamond creations. Neale can also take the beautiful stones from something you own but never wear, and collaborate with you in reimagining their star qualities.
Diamond jewelry designers turned out to be such fun people! After that inaugural visit, I have gone to Couture every season. I was devastated when the show was canceled this year. (But onward to spring 2021!)
Oh, to have more than two wrists for bracelets, more than one neck for necklaces! More than two ears, more than ten fingers. My love affair with new diamonds is now deep and profound. And as for what happens in Vegas staying there? Not if you look at diamond bedazzled hands.