Cutting loose

September 5, 2022  |  Beth Bernstein
Satomi Kawakita
Meet four independent women designers who are putting their own spin on diamond jewelry for the modern collector. 

Satomi Kawakita

Satomi Kawakita began designing while working as a diamond setter in New York’s Diamond District for eight years. During that time, she became fascinated with alternative cuts and natural colored diamonds. “I loved working with diamonds, as they are very strong, easy to work with, and enduring,” she says.

In 2004, she began to design for herself, as “I couldn’t find anything that I personally wanted in traditional fine jewelry. Once I started creating my own pieces, I realized these jewels could be similar to lucky charms [and] signify different parts of your life.”

Four years later, she officially launched her wholesale line.

“I’m not a big fan of conventional or blingy jewelry,” she says. “Rather, I’m fascinated by the uniqueness of each diamond, and enjoy working with different colors, shades and shapes.” This approach led her to create engagement rings for a new generation of women who were seeking less-common diamonds — stones with character and a soulful attitude.

“Although I design all categories of jewelry, the bulk of my business has become dedicated to bridal: engagement and wedding rings and stackers,” reports Kawakita. “Once our customer purchases an engagement ring from us, they normally come back for wedding and anniversary bands.”

Her most recent pieces are one-of-a-kind rings that she makes from the diverse diamonds she’s collected over the years. These pieces also appeal to clients who want a ring they can wear on any finger. “We have a lot of customers who work in art or design who appreciate craftsmanship and subtleness, [and these] have become our most avid collectors.”

Ananya Malhotra

Ananya Malhotra’s goal has always been to create jewelry that both draws on her Indian heritage and resonates with her customers’ expressive nature — jewels that pick up on their energy and allow them to create styles ranging from elegantly subdued to all-out glamorous.

That’s what her Ananya brand strives to do. Ananya means “unique” in Hindi, and Malhotra believes jewelry is “just one part of a story that can only be completed by its relationship with the wearer. The jewelry is never an end in itself.”

The designer, who divides her time among India, London, and Miami, Florida, has focused her Magnificent Jewels Volume 1 collection on a palette of softly colored diamonds to create a mosaic-like effect. “This proved to be one of my most laborious yet creative tasks — to sort through multiple layouts in order to source the perfect combinations of diamond hues and cuts,” she says. For this collection, she used multiple shapes, including princess, pear, marquise and round.

When Malhotra launched her brand five years ago, she started with two small core groupings and has evolved to five fully formed collections. “The women who collect my jewelry have an appreciation for color [and] understand the complexity of the designs that create the unexpected variations on a theme,” she says. “They embrace the subtle differences in the color of the diamonds from piece to piece, and they aren’t afraid to express themselves through the jewelry they wear. They are confident and independent and wear my pieces with style and grace.”

Nadine Aysoy

Nadine Aysoy was born into the world of diamonds. Her grandfather, PN Ferstenberg, was a sightholder in Antwerp in the mid-1960s and worked closely with De Beers. As children, Aysoy and her two sisters were allowed to clean and count diamonds, and often visited the polishing factory. Her history is replete with celebrity appearances. “I still have pictures of my grandfather with [Italian actress] Gina Lollobrigida, well known as a jewelry collector, who came to buy diamonds in his office,” relates the London-based designer.

But although diamonds are in her genes, she went into banking for 24 years before launching her jewelry collection. She cites her sisters and her “elegant and chic” mom as inspirations for her style.

“I never liked the obvious, and I was always attracted by vintage and antique jewelry,” she elaborates. “[I] watched old movies from Hollywood’s heyday, when women were divinely dressed and bejeweled.”

Despite her affinity for Hollywood glamour, her diamond collection focuses on ease of wear. Her newest line, Catena, is a beautifully crafted play on classic link chains, reimagining them into “comfortable yet indulgently precious and highly tactile jewels.” The illusion setting she uses in this line is part of her signature style; the technique “enhances the perceived size of the diamond within a setting by using different shapes and sizes of diamonds and minimal gold work in between the stones,” she explains. Among the shapes she likes to mix in for that effect are baguette, pear, marquise and brilliant cuts.

She views her collectors as accomplished self-purchasers who have no problem affirming their personal tastes. Aysoy feels fortunate “to have a following of repeat customers and the support of respected retail stores to allow [me] to create more.”

Graziela Kaufman

Graziela Kaufman considers herself lucky to have learned about diamonds from her Italian grandfather, who was a jeweler in Brazil. “He created dazzling pieces by hand,” recalls the founder of the Graziela brand. “He focused on engagement rings and diamond bands. He truly taught me the importance of fine craftsmanship, comfort, and to set diamonds to look their best.”

Still, she admits that it took a while to find her voice when she first began designing. “At the beginning, I created collections to please my retailers and clients. I wanted to design for everyone.”

The turning point came when “I decided to concentrate on my love of diamonds and precious gemstones,” she relates. She began experimenting with settings that would show off diamonds in their totality. One example is her Floating collection, in which the diamonds appear to float on the neck. Last year, she added baguettes and trillions to this line, which had previously focused on rounds.

Kaufman has also experimented with new metals, textures and gemstones — such as tourmaline and aquamarine, which she says enhance the brilliance of the diamonds without competing against them.

“The rich blue-green hues made the diamonds look that much brighter and brilliant,” she remarks. “I also designed my first titanium collection, and we sold out in one day at the Couture show [in 2019]. To be able to use color on the metal was a dream and an alluring contrast to my diamond pieces.”

Colored rhodium came after that and has been a big part of Kaufman’s signatures, as it “achieves a pop of color without the use of a gemstone,” she explains. “They are perfect for the diamond lover who has already exhausted the traditional yellow, white and rose gold or platinum, or just for anyone who wants something fun and contemporary.”

Image: Satomi Kawakita

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Satomi Kawakita Cutting loose

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