October 11, 2023Now in its third year, the Natural Diamond Council x Lorraine Schwartz Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative (NDC x EDDI) is a well-oiled machine, annually elevating BIPOC designers who might otherwise have remained in the shadows — or been unable to access the precious materials essential to creating a line of fine jewelry. The program, which provides designers with valuable education, opportunities and resources, is partially funded by jeweler to the stars Lorraine Schwartz, who also had a hand in selecting the six talents composing the 2023 cohort.
“The EDDI class of 2023 has surpassed any and all expectations with their passion, creativity and genuine love of the industry,” says Schwartz. “The designers’ support of each other, as well as their gorgeous designs, will help move the industry forward for BIPOC designers as they continue to grow and share their jewelry and knowledge with one another and future fine-jewelry designers.”
The creators profiled below are making their 1stDibs debut on October 11, presenting a precious opportunity to shop the entire 2023 NDC x EDDI range and acquire a handcrafted, diamond-accented piece by a relative unknown — right before the rest of the world discovers them.
Combining gemstones with antique-inspired details like hidden messages and compartments, New York City designer Amina Sorel creates intriguing pieces, such as a locket containing a memento of your loved one known only to you. Describing her craft, Sorel says she is “a firm believer in the magic of travel and adventure, and I infuse that energy into the jewelry I create.” A certified gemologist, she hand selects the finest stones to feature in her designs, like the African blue tourmaline at the center of the Manifest ring. The piece is a highlight from her most recent collection, Love Language, which puts a modern spin on Morse code symbols, with round and baguette diamonds serving as the dots and dashes.
“These pieces allow you to discreetly share secret words of love, affirmation, loss or motivation, to add a layer of personalization and mystery to the jewel,” Sorel explains. The diamond halo around the featured ring spells out the word manifest in code; the center, meanwhile, flips over to reveal the phrase “Dream Big” (spelled out in letters). So, the wearer can choose the message she wants to telegraph to the world on any given day. “Each piece,” says the designer, “is made to beautifully convey the collector’s thoughts, feelings and journey.”
Symoné Currie, Metal x Wire
Formerly an architectural engineer, Symoné Currie saw her participation in NDC x EDDI as a chance to introduce her fine-jewelry line, Metal x Wire. Made of 18-karat gold with thoughtfully placed diamonds, her gender-fluid pieces are intended to push the boundaries of contemporary design, carefully balancing elegance and preciousness with a fiercely modern edge. “When you wear the jewelry, it’s not just adornment. It’s stepping into a realm of confidence and empowerment,” says Currie, who was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica.
One standout piece in her first series, Legacy, is the diamond Legacy bangle. Its stylized wishbone form “symbolizes the transformative power of our deepest desires,” explains the designer. Released in a limited edition, the bracelet can be tailored to your desired fit, furthering what Currie describes as the “celebration of your individuality and the art of crafting your ever-evolving narrative through jewelry.”
Bernard James’s design background stretches back to his high-school days on Manhattan’s Upper West Side — he even staged a fashion show for his senior project. After connecting with a family friend who had worked in fine-jewelry production, James realized that that was were his true passion lay. He worked in the wholesale divisions of such luxury fashion houses as Ferragamo, Versace and Lanvin while studying the trade, officially launching his eponymous line at the start of 2020. “I make jewelry for people who like to explore, whether physically, mentally or emotionally,” says the designer, now based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. James himself often looks to his surroundings for inspiration, always fascinated by the city’s dichotomies and contrasts.
Some of James’s newest pieces capture the delicate forms of flowers seen in well-tended South Brooklyn gardens or neighborhood parks, only his blooms are dressed to the nines in pavé diamonds. The architecture of Gilded Age townhouses and towering skyscrapers are also reflected in his work. James points to the emerald-cut Anatomy pendant as exemplifying his aesthetic. “For the NDC x EDDI collection, I wanted to create pieces that felt classic and timeless, but with a hidden twist,” he says. “The dissected emerald cut is a statement that initially reads uncomplicated, but a second glance allows for a unique detail to be discovered.”
Before delving into jewelry-making, Gwen Beloti was a clothing designer, a discipline that influences the look and feel of her current work. With their textured surfaces and patterns expressed in 14-karat gold and diamonds, the fashion-inspired elements of Beloti’s pieces are “defined and structured yet fluid, the perfect balance,” says the Brooklyn-based designer. She notes, for example, that her Woven Diamond Kite earrings’ baguette pleats and braided border “remind me of how threads are woven together,” adding that “the kite shape isn’t as common as other silhouettes. I knew the piece would stand out — luxurious, yet very much wearable and noticeable in a non-overbearing way.”
Using a mix of diamond cuts allowed Beloti to play with patterns. “There is a touch of what I call ‘prism patterns,’ also known as fluting, in the piece and throughout my collection,” she explains. “These touches, along with the prong setting of the diamonds, add layers of texture. I wanted the client to be able to feel the piece, both literally and figuratively.”
“My goal is to bring a fresh perspective to diamond essentials and to combine modern and unexpected silhouettes that transcend gender norms,” says Rosario Navia, who launched her jewelry line in 2019. A native of Argentina who emigrated to the U.S. as a child, Navia names her collections after strong members of her family, in homage to her Latin heritage. Her Fall 2023 Mara collection is a tribute to her maternal grandmother. “She was my style icon, always impeccably dressed and ahead of the trends.”
Navia’s memory of one of her grandmother’s bracelets inspired the Mara folded link bracelet. This design, she says, epitomizes her “sculptural, diamond-forward design aesthetic” and “distinctive, aspirational yet effortless style.” Both draw from her previous career as a merchandiser in New York City’s fashion industry and her background as a gemologist. “I am in awe of natural precious gemstones and diamonds and love to highlight them in my pieces,” she says.
Before founding her line, Jevela, in 2018, Brooklyn designer Jessenia Landrum trained as a bench jeweler. “I fell in love with jewelry as a medium with my hands first,” she says. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Landrum also has a background in accessories design, which has helped her hone an aesthetic that translates well to the complexities of fine jewelry. Employing motifs inspired by such disparate elements as the ripples that form when you toss a pebble into water and the intricate facade of a Balinese temple, she aims to create jewels that tell stories.
She points to her Celenia ring, elegantly rendered in 14-karat gold and diamonds, as embodying her vision for her fine-jewelry line going forward. “The first ring I ever carved out of wax was a two-part ring very similar to this one,” she says of the design, which is composed of two rings that can be worn together or each on their own. “What I especially love about this piece is that the client can play with the rings, wearing them to their liking or sharing one of the rings with someone. I like creating jewelry that connects people and their experiences as they journey through life.”