Jewelry’s Shining Stars: Spotlighting Today’s Women Designers

In her second book on the topic, Beth Bernstein profiles the lives and careers of 45 visionary creators who have made their mark on the industry.

May 23, 2024  |  Phyllis Schiller
women designed jewelry image

This is your second book about jewelry designers. How did you decide on these 45 women?

I always knew that at the 10-year anniversary of the first book [Jewelry’s Shining Stars], I would do a second book, similar to the first. I kept making a list, and it grew from 25 into 45 [women] designers who could ignite the same type of passion in me again, who challenged the status quo. I wanted it to be a mix of emerging up-and-comers, international designers, some further along in their careers [but] just opening up more accounts in the US, [and] those from different cultures. [Each of them] had a very distinctive point of view, yet as a group, they were changing the course of jewelry and, as I say in the book, shaping its present and future. 

The women designers in the book are visionaries, breaking down boundaries and helping to form the tastes, styles and standards of the self-purchaser, women who have the confidence to buy jewelry for themselves and prefer gifts that connect to the soul and character, and [that relate] to a significant time in their lives. 

How closely do their creative processes and personal relationships with jewelry intertwine with doing this as a full-time career? 

Quite a number of the women started out very young, making jewelry and unexpectedly selling it in their teens to local stores, and then went on to learn techniques and figure out their aesthetics as they went along…. Others in the book had very different careers before making the move into jewelry design. Many of these jewelers had a passion for jewelry from the time they were young, but didn’t know they could make a career out of it and then finally took the plunge. Others had families in the business but went on to try other careers before coming back to what they knew best and what they grew up around, realizing it was part of their DNA.

Emily P. Wheeler 
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Emily P. Wheeler Colorblock necklace with tiger’s eye, howlite, red agate, turquoise, lapis, peridot, amethyst, pink tourmaline, and diamonds (Emily P. Wheeler)

Were there any surprises in learning about these designers and their work?

Yes, it was surprising to me to discover just how many of the designers learned to work at the bench and learned different processes as they continued in their careers, and did so much of the work themselves. I knew about some of them, but to find so many who were true goldsmiths, who could do enameling or engraving and create new techniques based on traditional ones and then turn them into something so relevant for the women of today — yet timeless, so they could go from one generation to the next — was one of the most satisfying and joyful surprises. 

What has changed in the way women jewelry designers make their mark today?

I think there are many more women designers today than 10 years ago, and those in this book are irrepressible and formidable and independent. They have confidence that allows them to try different methods of branding, selling and marketing. There were fearless fledgling women designers in the first book, but they were more tentative and took more time to evolve. Happily, they are all thriving now, and if they hadn’t been in the first book, I would have put them all in this one. But there are definitely more opportunities today for selling and getting their name out there on social media, and having their own websites, trunk shows, pop-ups, different types of experience parties and, yes, traditional stores.

Lauren Rubinski Paulette 
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Lauren Rubinski Paulette necklace in 14-karat yellow gold with diamonds (Lauren Rubinski)

How would you define a “collectible” when it comes to modern jewelry designs?

Pieces that combine art, function and wearability, offering a glimpse into the designer’s distinct aesthetic [and] culture, and how [this] distinguishes and reflects their jewelry designs. No matter the approach, technique or sensibility, all the designers in the book are creating a jewelry legacy for their clients.

Jewelry’s Shining Stars: The Next Generation, 45 Visionary Women Designers by Beth Bernstein is being published in June by ACC Art Books.

Main Image: Brent Neale Stone Friendship cuffs. (Brent Neale)

This article is from the May-June 2024 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.

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