Worn by established figures like Blake Lively, Penelope Cruz, Kate Moss, Mindy Kaling and more, it may come as a surprise that the fine jewelry designer Ara Vartanian began his career in design later in life. Vartanian pursued an education in economics and thereafter built his financial career on Wall Street.
Ultimately, Vartanian decided to pivot in order to find fulfillment in a creative career of fine jewelry design. We caught up with Vartanian at the Couture Show at Wynn Las Vegas to discuss his background, what motivates him and his creative career success.
Q: How is it that you got into jewelry design?
A: After working in the financial industry, I went back to Brazil to join the family in jewelry making. My father was a stone dealer and my mother was a jewelry designer. I grew up in this business.
Q: Can you discuss the most difficult point in your artistic journey and how you overcame it?
A: Most difficult was the beginning, having self confidence. Coming from the financial industry [and] not having gone to design school. My [measure for success came from] my clients [which were initially] my friends and family.
Q: What were some of your most challenging pieces to create?
A: In the early 2000’s I was creating pieces with very large stones, very large cuts. When doing gold with large stones the challenge was for it to be comfortable.
Q: How did you foster your individual design style to set your pieces apart from others?
A: The way my mother designs, she looks at a lot of references [from] classic and vintage jewelry. When breaking the rhythm of how my mother designed, she was very successful in her space, and breaking that pattern was challenging. When I saw the market had an acceptance [of my designs], I slowly gained confidence.
The light [at the end of the tunnel] quickly started to shine more and more….My way is the stone first then design around it. The way I design, I totally design for myself, which could be [a double-edged sword] because you design and then wait for the market to see if there is acceptance or not.
I always try to challenge myself with large stones. I create a double finger ring for a larger stone, it is a challenge because it may not be what the market is looking for but it is something I am proposing. As long as I’m doing what I love I am happy with that.
Q: You have a very impressive clientele base of high profile figures like Madonna, Blake Lively, Alicia Keys and others of the like. Can you recall the first time an individual of such stature showed interest in your designs?
A: One of my first clients was actually Celine Dion back in 2002 when I was entering my first point of sale. I had a [retailer] meeting and I left my pieces there overnight. They called me and asked for my pieces for three more days because Celine Dion wanted to see the pieces. She kept five to six pieces.
Q: Can you explain the inverted diamond?
A: When my father was a stone dealer I was always very involved in diamonds and precious stones as I was working as a wholesaler. I remember once when I was working with a stone, I thought it was unfair [to only traditionally position it upright].
The [table, crown and girdle of the] stone [create] the lower center of gravity so it is close to the body. With the tip up, this creates a sense of dangerousness because that tip is sharp and one of the hardest stones [is a] diamond.
It can cut. It can hurt so turning it upside down creates such a different message. I was always intrigued by it so I started creating it very early on. There is also the opportunity to be beautiful in a different way.
Q: The Conscious Mining Program is something you are very passionate about. How does the program prioritize the local Brazilian economy and social issues in the region your materials are sourced from?
A: When brands like mine and many others are asking questions—where the stones come from—we teach consumers to ask questions and for the buyers to ask for providence and to go see with their own eyes if they can. This can create a cleaner and more responsible industry.
The independent jewelers can make the difference. If we independents unite to ask the questions, that is the force to drive the industry to change. We don’t have shareholders.
It is my company. I can ask for myself without reporting to shareholders. We have brands like Fernando Jorge and [others who have] also joined. This is why I say the future is brilliant.
Photography by: Courtesy of Ara Vartanian