Her jewellery has been worn by A-list names including Rihanna, Katy Perry and Kate Beckinsale, so it’s no wonder Suzanne Kalan’s dazzling designs are coveted by lots of fashionable women. Kalan’s inimitable style is understated, yet carries a dramatic and elegant presence that is timeless. Her gorgeous collection is currently sold in some of the leading fashion forward retailers, from Harrods and Dover Street Market to LuisaViaRoma. Here, she gives us an insight into her sparkling business.
You use lots of colourful semi-precious and precious stones in striking settings to create your pieces. Do you have any favourite stones?
I love gemstones, and I go through different phases on the colours I like to use for my collections. Right now, I’m very into using emeralds. The colour is elegant and peaceful. I’m also using more pink sapphires lately. I even made a new baguette shaped pink sapphire band and it’s beautiful. The colour resembles happiness to me.
Your iconic “Fireworks” range has been much appreciated. The way the baguette cut diamonds are set in a sort of carefully assembled disarray is beautiful. How did you come up with this style?
I have always been interested in the beauty of things that are slightly imperfect. When I am getting ready to design a new collection, I first start by touching, feeling and playing with the stone I’d like to use. I had a couple of baguette diamonds at my desk, and I started to think of all the traditional ways baguette diamonds have been used in jewellery. I then started to map the baguette diamonds out on my desk and found that scattered settings would make the diamonds more interesting and that’s how I started the “Fireworks” collection. My signature line features baguette diamonds and seemingly scattered settings, and each design is infused with a seesawing duality between symmetry and asymmetry, beautifully manifested in every piece.
You come from a family of jewellers. How much influence did that have on you?
My father owned a jewellery store, and I grew up working with him closely. He taught me a lot about jewellery and design, but most importantly, he taught me how to run a business. My husband is a diamond setter, and together we launched the company in 1988.
Your daughter, Patile, designs the KALAN by Suzanne Kalan line. Tell us about it.
Set in 14-karat gold, the line features an array of handpicked semi-precious gemstones. The designs capture classic and modern themes, as the colourful stones are accented with sapphires and diamonds. The collection is marketed to a younger audience looking for classic and colourful pieces to add to their jewellery collection.
I read that Patile is an Armenian name. Are you of Armenian heritage?
Yes we are of Armenian Lebanese heritage. My daughter’s name means ‘snowflake’ in Armenian. My son’s name is Kami, which means ‘strong wind’ in Armenian. What’s funny is they ended up having the opposite personality. Patile is strong-willed and Kami is softer in nature. Growing up, I lived in Lebanon, Kuwait and Montreal, Canada. Eventually we moved to the US, so we have friends and family all around the world.
Tell us about your best-selling collections.
I’ve been designing fine jewellery for 28 years, and my signature “Fireworks” and “Vitrine” collections have received international recognition for my unique use of the baguette diamond. My “Fireworks” collection features baguette diamonds and seemingly scattered settings, in a way that captures the beauty of controlled chaos. I developed the “Vitrine” concept, custom cutting gemstones flat on the top and bottom in order to reveal a classic diamond panel behind the gemstone. Until today, the “Vitrine” custom-cut continues to be an important design signature and figures prominently in my “Fireworks” collection, with some of the most glamorous and creative pieces showing off an explosion of scattered baguette diamonds behind large topazes and amethysts.
Your jewellery is sold in some of the most luxurious retailers and on e-commerce sites like NET-A-PORTER, Liberty’s, LuisaViaRoma and Harrods. Do you have your own e-commerce site?
For right now, our Suzanne Kalan store is our website: www.suzannekalan.com. We’ve just re-designed it, and you’re able to purchase any of my latest designs there. We also ship internationally.
Are all your pieces made in the USA?
Yes, all our jewellery is handcrafted in our studio in Los Angeles, California.
How has your jewellery been received in the Middle East? Where can we find them in the region?
Our jewellery has been well received by the region. The Middle East has always had a true appreciation for jewellery, art and design. We’ve been showing our pieces at different trade shows for the past several years. Our line is carried at Sauce Rocks, M. Fitaihi and L'AZURDE.
Jewellery designers have become so widespread and the market is very competitive I would imagine. Especially during economic slumps, luxury is always the first to be hit hard. How do you manage to stay on top, desirable and relevant, despite high competition and the economic ups and downs?
The jewellery industry is very competitive. During my time in the business, I have seen different economic slumps and turns. As a jewellery designer, it’s very important to have an original line that features your design signature. Fortunately, my line has grown and has been well-received by the jewellery industry. I worked hard to grow the brand internationally, and once you start being recognised by your designs, you know you can keep going.
What is next for the Suzanne Kalan brand?
I am continuing to expand my signature “Fireworks” collection, with more statement earrings, cuffs and necklaces that feature baguette diamonds. I have also been working on a design I’ve spent the last three and a half years perfecting. Similar to the “Fireworks” line, this upcoming collection plays with the duality of symmetrical and asymmetrical proportions, with beautiful 18K gold, uneven bar pieces strung together to make visually striking necklaces, cuffs and earrings. Some of the pieces are accented with diamonds.
Do you have any useful advice for aspiring jewellery designers?
Take the time to develop your vision and your signature collection. The industry is competitive, so if you want to stand out, you need to have an original line.