Suzanne Kalan — widely known in the jewelry world for her use of baguette-cut diamonds — has designed her first-ever black sapphire collection. Black sapphire has several mystical attributes: it’s said to help the wearer believe in their intuition, and it’s a grounding stone that protects the body and our energy. Kalan launched this unisex jewelry collection to bring a bit of this protection and confidence to her clients’ lives. The collection features her signature Fireworks setting and baguette-cut stones, and will stack and layer perfectly with other pieces. Kalan speaks to us about launching her collection, her inspiration, and the new collection.
How did you start Suzanne Kalan and what made you want to become a jewelry designer?
I used to work for my father at his store until I got married to my husband and had Patile. Patile was a very well-behaved baby and slept soundly so I decided to fill up my spare time by crafting jewelry for myself and my sister. As time went by it seemed that whenever we wore the pieces the compliments were en masse.
One particular day when I was out shopping, the store owner asked me where my pieces of jewelry were from; he was in fact referring to my personal designs that I happened to be wearing that day. That same store owner asked if I would make a small collection for him to sell at his shop. This was my very first order and in essence where it all began. I immediately set to work on it at any given time Patile was sleeping.
My next order was for a large department store and this took me from the original $300 order to a $25,000 order. For a few years, department stores made up all my orders. The first real hurdle was having to meet the demands of the orders. My husband and I were young and had just started our careers; we had a baby to take care of.
To fund the first order, I had to sell the bracelet my father gave me for my wedding. My husband went to his manufacturing work during the day—he and his brother manufactured fine jewelry— and when he got home helped me make the jewelry I had orders on. At some point, his brother and my brother would join us to help complete the orders on time. Within a matter of time, the level of orders exploded, so my husband decided to join me full time, get an office for our business, and hire employees. I have to say that my husband supported me in every decision I made and backed me up completely.
You are quite famous for your use of baguette-cut diamonds. How did that become your signature style and can you tell us a bit about the Fireworks setting you pioneered?
In my opinion, baguette-cut diamonds are contemporary, yet timeless, which makes them wearable. We receive inquiries daily from couples who want a non-traditional wedding band or set. I wanted to add a contemporary feel to traditional, old-fashioned settings and so began scattering baguette diamonds and gemstones, so they appeared uneven and asymmetrical.
Do you feel as though imitation is a form of flattery or does it bother you that other jewelry designers have mimicked your designs?
Both. To an extent, it’s of course a form of flattery, however, when large and well-known brands start copying my designs — with no acknowledgment — it can become very frustrating. Thankfully, I have so much loyalty and support surrounding me from customers, retailers, and journalists that it never comes unnoticed.
This is your first-ever black sapphire collection. What made you decide on black sapphire and do the stones have any particular meaning?
I’ve been deliberating on a black sapphire collection for a few years now. Initially, I saw it as a way to incorporate pieces into the 18K gold collection that men could also wear, which is something that I’ve been asked to consider doing for many years now. This idea was then supported by my retailers who had rapidly seen the increase in demand and the trend in black jewelry. I decided to combine these two elements and integrate them with my unique use of baguettes and differing shades of colored sapphires to form the black sapphire collection.
Do you have a favorite piece in the black sapphire collection?
I have two favorites. The black sapphire tennis bracelet as it’s easy to wear and include with other pieces as part of a stack, and also the black sapphire tennis necklace as I just love the drama it creates around the neck.
What does your personal, daily jewelry consist of?
I have two staple pieces I wear on a daily basis which I then add to depending on what I’m wearing and the time of day. These are a white gold diamond baguette tennis bracelet and a white gold 36-inch baguette tennis necklace. I love them both and feel they encapsulate everything we do.
Who or what inspires you to create your timeless and unique designs?
I’ve lived in many areas of the world where jewelry was a big part of the differing cultures. I guess I’m now subconsciously aware of jewelry styles and pick-up inspiration whenever I travel. I didn’t want to recreate traditional, unattainable pieces I wanted to create something of high quality, that would last the customer forever, but that wasn’t too outrageously priced. I keep this at the forefront of my mind when I’m creating; I always consider the audience and how I can make my designs as unique and wearable as possible.
Does your line have a specific message that you want to share with the world?
Loyalty, kindness, and communication are critical elements to consider when enduring the ups and downs that life throws at you. That and of course the power and elegance that a baguette diamond or gemstone can bring to an outfit.
Your jewelry has been seen on many A-listers. Have you had a pinch-me moment since starting your line?
There have been two that really stand out. The first was about eight years ago when Net-a-Porter approached me and requested we start a partnership. It was a dream come true; they’re the leading fashion platform in the world. More recently, last autumn, when I launched my first ever stand-alone boutique within Harrods. In the past, if I were to visit London, a trip to Harrods would be at the top of my list — it’s the most recognized luxury department store across the globe. I now have my name amongst that and it’s a privilege in every sense of the word and very definitely a pinch-me moment.
How has this last year and the COVID-19 pandemic affected your company and your mindset?
It’s been fundamental that we’ve adjusted to the differing circumstances and be constantly open to evolving with the times. I always want to stay true to myself, my values, and my beliefs, but you cannot be rigid. The one thing that has really stood out to me is the significance of communication and the importance the reputation of the brand holds. A strong online presence is also crucial. This has definitely grown substantially, in the last year, within the jewelry industry. Gone are the days when a customer would request to see a piece in person. We’ve realized that if visuals are good enough the pieces can sell themselves. This has been fundamental not just in terms of retail sales but with our key buyers too. As trade shows came to a halt many looked to a platform called JOOR where our pieces could be viewed virtually.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.