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Behind Each Gem: The Lorraine Schwartz Story

Behind Each Gem: The Lorraine Schwartz Story

In the realm of luxury and bespoke jewellery, few names resonate as distinctly as Lorraine Schwartz. A figure synonymous with innovation, resilience, and unparalleled craftsmanship, Schwartz’s journey from a passionate, yet fringe designer to a global icon is not just a story of personal achievement, but also a beacon of inspiration for women entrepreneurs worldwide. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s only fitting to delve into the life and legacy of the couturier, a woman whose brilliance has adorned the likes of icons like Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, and Taylor Swift.

The genesis of a jewellery maven

Lorraine with Pharrell Williams. (Image: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Lorraine’s entry into the world of fine jewellery was marked by destiny and a dash of serendipity. With a legacy steeped in diamond dealing, it was perhaps inevitable that Schwartz would find her calling among the glittering stones that she was hesitant to embrace. Initially aspiring to emulate icons like Barbara Walters or Oprah, Schwartz’s destiny seemed pre-written in the stars, yet it was her unorthodox journey that truly set her apart.

“I never thought I would go into this business,” Lorraine told Vogue, despite the fact that she succeeds two generations of diamond dealers. “When I was at college I was producing big fashion shows and I continued doing that for a while after, but it was always so sporadic, so my parents suggested that I come and help out. I think they meant clerically, but the first thing I did was sell a 10-carat diamond.”

This pivot from the world of fashion to fine jewellery wasn’t just a career change — it was the birth of a new era in jewellery design. Schwartz’s approach melded her innate talent for spotting spectacular stones with a desire to push the boundaries of traditional jewellery, making her a maverick in a sea of conformity​. “I started to create more unique, cool, funky high-end jewellery. Nobody did that at the time,” she added.

Drawing inspiration from her late mother’s chic and innovative style, Schwartz’s designs are and always have been a homage to the woman who shaped her aesthetic sensibilities. Her mother’s ability to mix materials into an effortlessly elegant ensemble greatly influenced Schwartz’s approach to the field. This deep connection to her roots and dedication to crafting stories through gemstones underscore Schwartz’s legacy as a designer and watchmaker.

This combination of flawless stones, childhood inspirations, and avant-garde design soon attracted attention, notably from David Bowie whom Lorraine met through a friend. It was 1994 when Bowie asked her to create an engagement ring – a yellow canary diamond – for his girlfriend, model Iman. This was the first breakthrough in her career.

Dressing the stars

The designer’s work with Bowie also allowed her to become a go-to for celebrity engagement rings, with Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, and Blake Lively all wearing her designs. “The most important piece of jewellery I can make is an engagement ring, The stones have to have the most beautiful proportion, they have to be chic, they have to tell a story,” she added in the interview.

Following her initial spate of recognition, the year 2002 marked a turning point for Schwartz, as Halle Berry’s decision to wear her jewellery on the red carpet catapulted her into the spotlight. This endorsement opened the floodgates to a deluge of celebrity clients, each seeking a piece of Schwartz’s unrivalled craftsmanship. Her creations have since become a staple on red carpets and in the personal collections of icons like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Margot Robbie, and Kim Kardashian. Schwartz’s ability to encapsulate boldness and elegance in her designs has not only made her jewellery desirable, but has also positioned her as a central figure in the luxury fashion narrative, influencing trends and setting the bar high for what it means to wear statement pieces.

Recognition for Lorraine’s contributions to the world of jewellery culminated in her receiving the 2022 GEM Award for Jewelry Style, a prestigious accolade that celebrates her indelible impact on the industry. This award, bestowed by Jewelers of America, isn’t just a nod to her artistic genius, but also recognition of her ability to elevate the stature of fine jewellery and watches on a global scale. Schwartz’s adornment of royalty and A-list celebrities alike has redefined style, turning her pieces into icons of the 21st century. This accolade is a beacon of her legacy and highlights her role in driving consumer demand for fine jewellery, establishing her as a true legend within the luxury sector​.

The genius of her designs

At the heart of Lorraine Schwartz’s empire lies a profound understanding of the intimate connection between a piece of jewellery and its wearer. Her creations are not merely accessories; they are stories woven in diamonds and gold, each piece a testament to her innovative spirit and keen eye for detail. Celebrated for their uniqueness and flair, Schwartz’s designs have revolutionised the concept of high jewellery, making it both a symbol of personal expression and a bastion of avant-garde fashion. Her collections, including the coveted engagement rings and the iconic Against Evil Eye, are imbued with her philosophy of protection, beauty, and individuality. Schwartz’s work, a blend of tradition and rebellion, continues to inspire and captivate, making her not just a designer but a visionary in the truest sense.

At the core of Schwartz’s design ethos is a steadfast commitment to authenticity — a belief that resonates not only in the selection of stones but also in the essence of the wearers. Schwartz champions the genuine, the real, and the true, both in the materials she uses and the personalities she designs for. Her critique of the industry’s turn towards synthetic alternatives and her encouragement for designers to remain true to their unique visions highlight her reverence for the authentic in an age of imitation.

“Lorraine girls are authentic, they’re real, they’re not wearing to impress or show off, they’re wearing because that’s who they are,” added Lorraine in her interview. “Today I feel sorry for young designers who are trying to build their name because a lot of the famous brands are paying celebrities to wear jewellery, which is sad. That’s something we’ve never done. And of course, Instagram and social media has changed the game a lot.” Her advice for emerging designers would be “to stay really true to who you are. You have to find your niche and promote it, and not be jaded by everyone else. Just believe in everything you’re doing and focus.”

A philanthropic heart

Lorraine with Kim Kardashian for an event to raise awareness about Covid-19. (Image: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images)

The New York resident’s heart beats not only for jewellery but also for giving back, showcasing her multifaceted persona that transcends the glittering world of gemstones and stardom. The establishment of the Shulamit Benjamini Sandberg Medical Research Grant is a testament to her deep-seated belief in the power of philanthropy. Named in honour of her late mother, this grant exemplifies Schwartz’s commitment to making a difference beyond the confines of her industry, specifically in the fight against cancer. This initiative, which provides significant financial support for cancer research, underscores Schwartz’s broader vision of a world where luxury and social responsibility go hand in hand, further cementing her status as a philanthropist with a cause​.

See Also

Utilising her friendships with powerful women, Schwartz and Beyoncé collaborated to establish a GIA (Gemological Institute of America) scholarship in 2021, further cementing their significant impact on the jewellery industry. This partnership aimed to open doors for aspiring jewellery designers, offering them the opportunity to gain education and experience in gemology, an area both icons are deeply passionate about. This scholarship is a testament to their committment to fostering new talent and promoting diversity within the gem and jewellery field. It’s a meaningful step towards empowering the next generation of designers and gemologists, reflecting their shared values of excellence, innovation, and inclusivity.

Lorraine Schwartz’s journey from a fledgling designer to a luminary in the world of high jewellery is a compelling narrative of talent, tenacity, and heart. Her legacy, marked by breathtaking designs and a deep commitment to philanthropy, stands as a testament to the power of creativity and compassion. As we celebrate her achievements this Women’s Day, we recognise Lorraine Schwartz not just as a titan of the jewellery industry, but as an icon of female entrepreneurship and empowerment.

(Main image: Stefanie Keegan/Getty Images; featured image: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images Gemological Institute of America) 

Frequently Asked Questions:

How did Lorraine Schwartz get famous? 

After she became the third generation to take over her family’s diamond business, the jewellery designer renamed the company Lorraine Schwartz Diamonds & Fine Jewelry and changed the business model. After her designs were celebrity-endorsed by icons like Bowie, Halle Berry, and Beyonce, Schwartz become one of the foremost accessories designers in the industry. Now her designs are sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman in New York or by appointment in her Manhattan showroom.

Source: Prestige Online

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