No obvious clues indicate that Single Stone’s jewels are made in Los Angeles, a place known for designers who specialize in colorful, cutesy or overtly blingy collections. There is nothing trendy about Single Stone. Sure, it offers covetable initial pendants and plaque charms that can be engraved with initials. But all the pieces, even the smaller ones, feel substantial and have an old-world charm. Nevertheless, they are indeed manufactured in the City of Angels, in its thriving downtown jewelry district, by master craftsmen using antique tools and old hand-cut diamonds. Many have oxidized gold details that make them look like Victorian designs.
Single Stone reveals its Western roots in one respect: the pioneering spirit of the couple behind it, Ari and Corina Madilian, who both came to jewelry from different professions. During the 1980s, Ari was in the real estate business, working in downtown Los Angeles with other members of his family, all of whom had emigrated from Turkey. Many of those renting office space from him were jewelers, so his friends began asking him for help finding engagement rings. In the course of doing these favors, Ari fell in love with gems and decided to change careers. He started out dealing in modern diamonds but soon found himself drawn to the character of old stones.
“There was little interest in antique diamonds at the time,” says Corina, “but Ari didn’t care.” He made a business out of finding antique diamonds to replace missing stones in old pieces. He also restored vintage jewels, working with contacts he developed in the field. Ari called his company Single Stone. This is not a reference to jewelry, as you might expect, but a tribute to his father, the name of whose clothing company in Turkey, Tektas, a proper name that sounds like the two Turkish words tek and tash combined in a phrase that translates as “single stone.”
When Ari and Corina fell in love and decided to make a life together, she left her job as a vice president in fashion retail, which involved lots of travel, and joined Single Stone. She rented a booth in one of the jewelry exchanges, shifting the business to direct-to-consumer retail. “I missed the interaction with clients, so I basically set up shop,” says Corina. Dealing directly with customers, she learned how they wanted vintage jewelry tweaked. Drawing on this information, in 2004 Ari and Corina launched the Single Stone collection of jewels inspired by the vintage designs in their inventory.
At first, the line consisted largely of platinum engagement rings with filigree details. Corina decided to add more yellow gold in 2006, after they opened a boutique near their home in San Marino. “I redesigned my platinum engagement ring in gold and loved it,” she explains. “People really weren’t wearing that much yellow gold at the time, but I believed it felt fresh and different and people would come around.” She was right — the new sunshine-yellow pieces attracted a whole new clientele.
Today, the Single Stone engagement ring collection has hundreds of designs to choose from, mainly in yellow gold but in platinum as well. The styles are imbued with the spirit of the Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco eras. According to Corina, “the Art Deco-inspired designs, with their clean geometry, have been the most popular lately.”
All the rings feature antique diamond center stones. “The gems are more than a hundred years old and have an artistry that follows the line of the original rough diamond more closely than the standard geometric patterns modern diamond shapes are cut into,” Corina explains. “They also are generally not bright white D-color diamonds, but have a warmth in the color that I prefer.” The Madilians are so fond of these warmer-hued stones that they have created some very minimalist designs to better showcase their beauty.
In addition to the engagement rings, Ari and Corina have begun making yellow gold pieces accented with diamonds set in oxidized gold. One of the first of these was the chain-link Club bracelet. “It took off right away,” says Corina. This success led to the creation of an entire collection of chain-link bracelets and necklaces and pendants. Some pieces pay tribute to classic designs of the past, like acrostic necklaces adorned with a series of pavé-diamond hearts set with different gems the first letter of whose names spell out a word — diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire and turquoise, for instance, betokening dearest.
Although each piece is different, all comprise gold and diamonds, enabling them to coordinate and be layered together. “The concept of being able to wear the jewels daily and together is in fact the cornerstone of the way all the jewelry is conceived,” Corina notes. It’s an easy-breezy attitude that is perhaps the most Southern Californian characteristic of the Single Stone collection.
Single Stone’s Talking Points
Corina Madilian explains some of their most notable pieces