For new designers, presenting a debut collection can be both daunting and exciting. And the mixed emotions certainly applied to the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative class of 2023, who had the honor of debuting their first collection with the program at JCK/Luxury, one of the country’s biggest jewelry trade shows. “Part of it was surreal, being that it’s all my designs—it’s what I want to make; it’s what I like to see,” says Amina Sorel, whose background is in bespoke and custom jewelry.
“I knew it was going to be very intense,” Rosario Navia, another class member, recalls. “But the energy that you get when you’re there is amazing and meeting other creatives and people in the industry was super beneficial. Getting feedback on our collections was amazing.”
And now, consumers can officially make these pieces their own with each of the designers’ collections available to shop on trusted retailers like Greenwich St. Jewelers, Marissa Collections starting October 14th and The Jewelry Edit later this fall as well as luxury e-commerce websites like Moda Operandi (available now) and 1st Dibs. 1st Dibs has also donated a grant that will be distributed among the designers to help with design and production and will be carrying a year-long storefront dedicated to each designer.
The EDDI designers were all hand-selected to participate in the program, which provides BIPOC designers access to industry resources, a mentoring program with legendary designers like Lorraine Schwartz, a diamond credit, and of course the opportunity to present their collection at JCK/Luxury.
it was amazing being able to work with suppliers I wouldn’t have even known about if it wasn’t for NDC.
Leading up to the trade show, the designers—with support from their mentors and the Natural Diamond Council’s connections to diamond dealers—put in the hard work, time and dedication needed to create beautiful and cohesive collections… “My mentor [Eva Fehren] has been instrumental in introducing me to someone that I started to work with,” says designer Bernard James. “Plus, it was amazing being able to work with some of the suppliers that I wouldn’t have even known about if it wasn’t for NDC.”
While some of the designers have previously worked with natural diamonds, for others this was a career first. “Once you start working with [natural stones] you have a true appreciation for the industry,” muses Symoné Currie of Metal x Wire. “When you realize this diamond has been here before you and now you get to adorn it, it’s a part of the storytelling.”
Gwen Beloti has a similar sentiment: “Natural is the definition of luxury because I feel like luxury is also synonymous with heirlooms,” she says. “It’s something that you can pass down, something that really has a deep-rooted meaning beyond just the look of the product or the look of the diamond.”
Jessenia Landrum of Jevela is reminded of chemistry class when it comes to learning about natural diamonds. “I really have fallen in love with diamonds,” she says. Landrum, who hopes to take more courses to expand her knowledge to become the diamond expert she wants to be, continues, “The NDC has just… propelled me so forward. I feel like I took the escalator to something that would have taken me two sets of steps and a mountain.”
Even those who have worked with natural diamonds before, like gemologists Sorel and Navia, found a deeper appreciation for them through the program. “It actually allowed me to branch out of my comfort zone and produce something that that I’ve been wanting to do,” says Navia. “I’ve used a lot of precious stones and smaller diamonds, but with the help of NDC, I was able to make this connection very diamond-forward.”
James too was able to design beyond his wildest dreams thanks to the program. A piece that had become one of his biggest labors of love was actually the one that sold first. “It was like seeing one of my babies leave,” he says with a laugh. “So it was very interesting and definitely rewarding. I learned a lot.”
“I felt like I was exposed to things in a different way—in a new way—and learning new processes,” adds James. This makes perfect sense given his collection is called Process, and the sold ring featured three diamonds: a rough, a semi-finished rough cut and a polished stone, reflecting the rough-to-polished process a natural diamond goes through.
The designers put their hearts into their collections, each one inspired by something personal and close to their hearts. “I read this quote that was like ‘our legacy is not what we leave behind, but what we send forward,’” says Landrum. With that in mind, she named pieces of her collection after her beloved family members, cementing that legacy in her collection.
Navia also looked to her ancestry to inspire her collection, naming it “Mara,” a nickname her grandfather used for her grandmother. “A lot of [my grandmother’s] jewelry inspired me,” she says. Her collection is “a more modern take with a lot of diamonds, but I grew up watching her with all her jewelry and we would always like to take it off her and put it on us and so that was a big inspiration for the collection.”
Currie, too, was inspired by her roots when designing her collection, specifically a set of bangles she wore every day of her childhood. “They were super thin and I was in college and I think I slapped it on the table and it broke in half,” she remembers with a laugh. “And I thought, well, I still liked the feeling of that bangle but how would I put my personality in it?” Enter Currie’s collection of substantial bangles, chokers and more. “I am not the daintiest person so it’s a derivative of that experience.”
With these collections released into the world, the designers are excited for what’s next. “Prior to working with the NDC and creating this fine collection, I had a smaller collection that we call The Love Collection,” shares Beloti. “So, I’m currently working on one piece that’s kind of like a part of our Love Collection, but it will be our first fine Love Collection piece.”
Sorel is excited to share more of her Morse and Aura collections, complete with codes and hidden meanings. “You can write anything you want in morse code,” within her pieces or custom make a piece with your Aura colors.
Creating with their customers in mind is of utmost importance to each of the designers, making pieces that will last a lifetime. With NDC’s unparalleled access to diamantaires, cutters, manufacturers, wholesalers and more, these designers are not only able to dream big but to execute those dreams as well. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for these talented creatives and the designs that are sure to become staples in many jewelry collections.