These 6 Up-and-Coming Artists Will Engage You

EditorsOct 18, 2023

These 6 Up-and-Coming Artists Will Engage You

The Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative’s Class of 2023 shows once again how much the industry stands to gain by embracing diversity.

Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative’s Class of 2023
The six designers who are participating in the third cycle of the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative are, clockwise from top left: Bernard James, Amina Sorel, Rosario Navi (seated), Gwen Beloti, Jessenia Landrum, and Symoné Currie. They are pictured with Natural Diamond Council Managing Director Kristina Buckley Kayel (standing, far right).
In January, Lorraine Schwartz and the Natural Diamond Council announced the names of the designers who comprise the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative’s Class of 2023.

Launched in 2021 amid conversations about the need for more diversity and equity in fine jewelry, EDDI offers $1 million in diamond credit and grants, along with mentorship and exposure, to brands helmed by Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) designers. 

The six designers introduced earlier this year are the third class to participate in the program. They are Gwen Beloti, Rosario Navio, Jessenia Landrum, Bernard James, Symoné Currie, and Amina Sorel.

I had the pleasure of meeting all six of them at the Las Vegas shows earlier this year. It was my longest appointment of my entire Vegas experience, and also my most enjoyable, enlightening, and energizing.

I hope you enjoy meeting them and seeing their jewelry as much as I did.   

Gwen Beloti, Gwen Beloti Collection
Gwen Beloti’s background is in apparel design, which makes perfect sense when you look at the pieces in her eponymous jewelry brand.

She likes to play with the types of textures and patterns normally reserved for fabric, like my personal favorite from her “Woven Escena” collection, a pair of 14-karat framed drop earrings dotted with VS-clarity emerald-cut diamonds.  

They make me think of tweed, which I’ve been embracing this fall as I enter my mid-life preppy era. 

Beloti also focuses on being size inclusive, which you don’t see much of in fine jewelry. Her rings go up to a size 12, and all of her 16-inch necklaces have a 3-inch extender.

She also uses models of different sizes in her campaigns, a needed representation reprieve from Instagram’s endless parade of long, slim fingers on hands that have been Photoshopped nearly into oblivion.

The designer spoke to National Jeweler about why she believes size inclusivity is important for a special feature in the upcoming Retailer Hall of Fame issue, telling Associate Editor Lenore Fedow, “I was a heavier woman up until early adulthood and, even now, my weight still fluctuates. So, I used to have a really hard time finding clothes that fit.

“When I launched my jewelry company, it was important to me that I consider my own personal experience and my background. I know what it felt like to be left out, to not feel like I had options.”

Rosario Navia, Rosario Navia
A native of Argentina, Rosario Navia names her jewelry after the strong women in her life, like her mother, her sister, her grandmothers.

The “Mara” collection is no exception, as Mara is the nickname Navia’s grandfather had for her maternal grandmother, whose collection of  large, sculptural jewelry also inspired the design of the Mara collection. 

Navia launched her fine jewelry line in 2020 and, outside of the strength of women, she said she finds inspiration in the beauty of negative space and asymmetry. 

I’m a fan of both as well, and I think they work particularly well in Navia’s “Link” ring, which is available in 18-karat yellow, white or rose gold, and in her mismatched drop earrings, also available in all three metals.

They’re beautiful pieces that are both wearable and saleable. 

Jessenia Landrum, Jevela
Jessenia Landrum has loved jewelry her entire life, from when she was a little girl in Boston buying the biggest necklace she could afford at Claire’s, to her time at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, when she cut a necklace out of a piece of leather during a mixed-media class.

It wasn’t until she began interning for a jeweler and taking classes at Brooklyn Metal Works that Landrum began seeing jewelry as a potential career path.

She launched Jevela in 2018 with demi-fine jewelry. 

The sleek, mixed metal collections she created through the EDDI program, “Legacy,” “Celenia” and “Baton,” represent her first time working with diamonds. They all were designed to symbolize the journey through life we each experience.  

Landrum heard about the initiative through two friends and fellow designers who were members of the inaugural EDDI class, Lisette Scott and Malyia McNaughton.

But it was a bit of kismet that landed her a spot in the third class.

Landrum said one evening, she was working as a cater waiter at an event at Manhattan’s Gotham Hall for an organization called Teens for Food Justice and Schwartz was among the guests in attendance.

Landrum introduced herself as an aspiring jewelry designer and Schwartz encouraged her to apply to the EDDI program.

She said while she does want to wholesale her line, her ultimate dream is to open her own store, on tony Newberry Street in her hometown.

Bernard James
Brooklyn, New York, native Bernard James has been designing jewelry for nine years. 

Originally, he was drawn to the art form because he assumed that since jewelry was small, designing it would be easy.  

He soon discovered designing on a small scale presented plenty of complications and difficulties, but he also figured out something else about himself—he loves problem-solving.  

Before James became a full-time jewelry designer, he traveled the world and worked long hours in fashion, first as an intern at Ferragamo, then full-time at houses including Versace. He tried to do jewelry on the side, in what little free time he had.

His side hustle/hobby became more of a full-time occupation in 2020 when, like the rest of the world, his traveling came to a halt.

James said he started with men’s jewelry in sterling silver, using diamonds as accent stones until he heard about the EDDI program from a friend of his who was working for Schwartz.

And that’s how “Process” was born, an ultra-modern, unisex collection that you can picture on just about anyone.

Symoné Currie, Metal X Wire
Symoné Currie, the designer behind Metal X Wire, trained to be an architectural engineer and has a love for painting. 

She keeps an easel by her bed to jot down any ideas that come to her in the middle of the night, like the form that serves as the bedrock of her 18-karat gold and diamond “Legacy” collection and weaves its way into the designer’s “Lynx” collection as well. 

To some, the pointy shape looks like an arrow; to me, it looks like the devil’s pitchfork. 

Either way, it’s original and it works.

Currie started in jewelry designing demi-fine pieces but began expanding into fine jewelry in late 2021.

In early 2022, mere months into her fine jewelry journey, she met Natural Diamond Council CEO David Kellie at the JA New York show. He told her about the EDDI program, and she decided to apply. 

Amina Sorel, Amina Sorel Fine Jewelry
Gemological Institute of America graduate gemologist and certified diamond expert Amina Sorel founded her eponymous jewelry brand in 2018, with the goal of inspiring people to express themselves and their joie de vivre via hidden messages. 

And joy is exactly what comes through in the New York City native’s jewels, from her spiral earrings that look perfect to wear while popping champagne on New Year’s Eve, to her gold and diamond bangle Morse code bangle, which can be customized to say whatever the wearer wants. 

Sorel’s been designing jewelry for five years but generally sticks to custom and bespoke pieces. 

After hearing about EDDI from McNaughton and Scott—the same EDDI alumnae who told Landrum about the program—she decided to apply and try her hand at crafting a collection in 18-karat gold with diamonds and colored gemstones.

The results are joyous. 

 Related stories will be right here …

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