California culture usually brings two distinct vibes to mind: the easy, breezy beach life and full-on red carpet glam. But don’t be fooled—the West Coast has an incredibly diverse jewelry ecosystem, which is why we’re spotlighting six standout designers who are currently topping our ever-growing wish list. From the avant-garde to the classical and everything in between, Los Angeles’ jewelry scene has become one of the world’s most exciting hubs for contemporary heirlooms-in-the-making.
Mixed Metal Mania
Originally from the East Coast, Nancy Newberg relocated West to attend Otis College of Art and Design and then debuted her eponymous line in 2011. Modern, edgy and endlessly chic, her designs incorporate handmade chain links, blackened metal details and touches like scalloped edges or coiled gold. This interplay of hard and soft creates a collection that acts as modern day armor for the fashion-forward woman. But her secret weapon? Dots of diamonds that make their way into nearly every piece.
“I incorporate natural diamonds into all of my designs,” Nancy explains. “They give the collection depth and beauty, which allows me to create pieces that have a strong signature style unique to my brand.” Her Modern Love bridal collection is no exception, using diamonds to create parallel lines and architectural interest. “A diamond engagement ring is probably the most important piece of jewelry someone will ever own,” she says. “As a designer it’s an honor to create something beautiful that symbolizes love and commitment. I enjoy working with natural diamonds to create special pieces. It’s this process that brings me as much joy as it does for its owner.”
A Los Angeleno through and through, Lizzie Mandler has been making bits and baubles since she was 16. She took her love for her accessories to the next level by studying metalsmithing for six years, both at home and abroad in Florence, Italy, before returning to L.A. to start her own line in 2012. Her style—geometric, modern and effortless—came naturally, quickly turning into a classic collection worn by the likes of Rihanna, Madonna, Beyonce and Victoria Beckham.
“The heart and soul of my company, or the reason I am in the business, is that at a very young age I realized the sentimental power jewelry could have,” Lizzie explains. “We had a tradition in our family of a diamond necklace that was passed down from my mom, to my sister and eventually to me. I looked forward to receiving that necklace, to joining the line of women in my family through this symbolic right of passage—and it was all centered around an Elsa Peretti Single Diamonds by the yard necklace. When I dove deeper into the world of jewelry I realized that jewelry has the unique ability to be completely timeless, and time specific. It endures generation after generation, yet with each wearer it’s given a new life. It became very clear to me that I wanted to create pieces that would come to carry the weight that the Peretti necklace has for me, and in order to do this I needed to work with materials that would last forever, like natural diamonds.”
With 30 years of designing under his belt and a mantle full of awards, Arman Sarkisyan has nothing left to prove. But that hasn’t stopped him from constantly pushing the limits of his own imagination, challenging himself to hone his craft even further. Each mini masterpiece in his collection, full of charming details like delicate engravings and hand-hammered metals, evokes both a bygone time and a completely couture approach to fine jewelry. One-of-a-kind lockets are a signature, as are earrings, bangles and rings adorned with romantic motifs like swallows, snakes and starbursts.
“I’m attracted to different gemstones by the way that they emit light, and nothing compares to the brilliance of a diamond,” says Arman. “I love the juxtaposition of diamonds against darker metals, so I often set them in blackened silver and 22 karat gold. The combination creates a very heirloom-like feel, reminiscent of jewelry from the Byzantine era, which is one of my biggest sources of inspiration.”
Designer Baylee Zwart, once a staffer at Glamour and Allure magazines in New York, found her true calling when she moved to Guatemala to work for a fair-trade non-profit with local artisans. Inspired to study metalworking, many of her collection’s most successful pieces were designed there, now crafted completely by hand in Los Angeles by master artisans. Characterized by a restrained approach to luxury and glamour, her signature collections combine a love for French Art Deco and Ancient civilizations—think: amulets, coin-inspired charms and Roman silhouettes on bold signet rings. Her coveted custom engagement rings feature a selection of rare-cut, unusual, high quality diamonds, and each piece sold benefits ocean-related organizations.
“I find it so incredibly beautiful that we have the opportunity to wear something that the earth created naturally over thousands of years,” says Baylee. “I enjoy white diamonds especially, their combination of strength, beauty and lack of color makes them something that clients will never tire of nor will the trends of the market. And I know that the diamond our clients receive is as beautiful now as it will be in a generation to come.”
While Andrea Fohrman’s jewels may evoke the most laid-back Cali vibrations of the bunch, her celestial-inspired creations have a look uniquely hers. Her most-wanted Phases of the Moon and Elements collections combine a bit of the mystical and bit of the astrological, elevating everyday motifs like crescents, lightning bolts and stars into fashion-forward layering magic. Many pieces are customizable, allowing the wearer to add initials or special dates into the design. These special keepsakes are often dotted with diamonds, enhancing the look of the vivid enamel and saturated gemstones that work their way into rainbow-centric creations.
“I love working with all types of gemstones, but nothing compares to adding diamond details to my collections,” says Andrea. “No other stone accomplishes the look, sparkle and feel achieved when diamonds are part of the mix! I especially love pairing them with vivid enamel—the diamonds achieve the “starry” effect that makes perfect sense with my celestial-themed pieces.”