It seems as if almost every celebrity and Real Housewife is launching her own jewelry line as of late -- and that means the pool for beautiful, well-crafted accessories has become a little murky. If you think it’s difficult to see the shiny gems amid the muck, you’re not mistaken.
Those of us who live in Southern California, however, benefit from a climate that fosters intelligent design. We typically don’t have to deal with seasonal wardrobes; instead we switch things up with accessories. So it’s no wonder a handful of up-and-coming L.A.-based designers are making a splash in the world of jewelry.
They are varied in their aesthetic and understand how some pieces can be layered with everyday wear to subtle effect and how others can completely transform a look.
These artists often work with diamonds and other precious stones, but no matter how high-end the material, the pieces aren’t fussy or intimidating, but versatile and pretty.
Here are four jewelry lines worth a second look. See Pages E4 and E5.
After 20 years of designing black-tie gowns and wedding dresses for well-heeled denizens of Southern California, Irit Ehrlich started to produce jewelry that somehow married a weighty Edwardian feel with a California casual vibe. The result was stacks of stretch bracelets strung with turquoise and tourmaline stones. Ehrlich would mix her own bracelets with diamond bangles on her wrists, a combination that garnered plenty of attention from friends who were attracted to the colorful mash-up of high-end and semi-precious stones.
“My vibe was always to combine old and new, not be traditional or conventional,” says Ehrlich, who began selling her bracelets to friends nine years ago and quickly expanded her materials to include diamonds.
She keeps that heavy Edwardian look in the line by using recycled silver that is oxidized to give the metal a rough patina that is vaguely reminiscent of knight’s armor. The mix of oxidized silver and diamonds, she says, “took on an almost primitive and vintage feel.”
The silver is often combined with rose or full-cut diamonds and occasionally with coins that were salvaged from a Spanish shipwreck -- a signature element of Ehrlich’s line that has attracted celebrities such as Amy Adams, Courteney Cox and Halle Berry.
Irit Designs are sold at Madison and Couture at Fred Segal. Prices range from $2,000 for a silver bracelet or stud earrings to $9,000 for pave diamond bangles or necklace.
Tamar Kelman and Tel Aviv-based Arik Kastan have built a collection based on a love of rose gold whose shade (a warm golden hue rather than the brassier pink that’s popped up in more recent times) recalls the Victorian era. Indeed, their collection is a modern interpretation of the dainty, vintage pieces from that period in history.
Kelman and Kastan collaborate on designs, which are then handmade by Kastan and a small team in Tel Aviv. Many of their pieces include moonstones, garnets, emeralds and diamonds that are set amid filigree and pave. Some pieces reference Parisian Art Deco influences as well as traditional Arabic art. Kelman and Kastan have also started using rough-cut diamonds that make for a fresh take on an engagement ring.
Despite the gold and precious stones in many of the pieces, Arik Kastan jewelry feels like something that trend-conscious L.A. women would be happy to mix with their denim cut-offs and designer handbags.
Arik Kastan jewelry is sold at Satine and Roseark. Prices range from $400 for small earrings to $5,000 for a detailed gold necklace.
Clothing and jewelry designer Michelle Laine has crafted a look best described as hard rock-meets-prehistoric chic. A self-taught silversmith, her pieces are large enough to recall the enormous medallion pendants worn by some rappers, but the materials -- fossils, pyrite and big stones -- make for a natural feel.
Laine started her career with clothing, which she still creates for an eponymous line, a leather-, lace- and velvet-heavy collection of garments carried at rocker-tinged boutiques such as Curve. Four years ago, inspired by a childhood rock collection, she added jewelry to her line. “I’ve actually had a rock collection since I was a kid,” she says. “And one day I looked at a piece of pyrite completely differently and wanted to wear it on my neck, but do it in a way that I’d never seen it done before.”
Laine bases her designs on what might best showcase the rock -- where it might hang on the body in a secure and fashionable manner. For her facets and chains, she finds inspiration in industrial machinery, architecture and, sometimes, scrap metal she sees on the side of the road. “I have combined nuts and bolts or even handles off of an old casserole dish into my jewelry,” Laine says. “I try and turn things that don’t look like they’re supposed to be there into something beautiful and interesting.”
Michelle Laine jewelry is sold at Curve, Beau+Aero and Decades two. Prices range from $310 for a small stone pendant to $895 for a large precious rock pendant.
Suzanne Donegan’s 2-year-old jewelry collection Mannin (named for the parcel of land in Ireland where her grandmother once lived) is a study in the simplicity of classic design.
Trained in art history and decorative arts, Donegan spent several years in the estate jewelry department of Tiffany & Co., where she began to appreciate the traditional details used in antique pieces. She launched her collection in 2009, with pieces that showed her interest in vintage jewelry but were more understated, accessories that were more day-to-night wearable.
“Gold becomes this great canvas,” says Donegan, who uses all recycled 18-karat gold in her line. “There’s something about gold going from hand to hand over time. It’s modern alchemy.”
The line consists of signet rings and square or circular disk pendants that can be worn plain or monogrammed by local craftsmen who also do hand finishes such as a series of cross-hatched etches that give the gold a semi-matte look and textural depth.
Donegan also creates everyday understated items like thin, angular gold bangles and earrings as well as a custom link called the Mannin chain, which was inspired by an old watch chain and has a bit of an industrial feel.
Mannin is sold at Jenni Kayne and Des Kohan. Prices range from $295 for small earrings to $11,500 for the large Mannin chain-link necklace.