Kara Ross: Designer

Kara Ross, who opened her own storefront on Madison Avenue in NYC this past fall, is a designer I was so excited to interview at the Couture show in Las Vegas.

Amy and Kara
Amy and Kara

Kara’s love of gemstones began early in life, when her parents let her buy a tourmaline during a trip to Africa. When she returned home to the States, she designed her own ring, setting the stone in gold with diamonds. What a generous and creative opportunity to give a young woman! Clearly, this sparked a life-long love of stones and design, and I am blown away by her collection.

Most specifically, I was mesmerized by the Pangea ring. First of all, take a look at some images of the ring, and then I’ll tell you all about it.

kara ross pangea ring

kara ross pangea ring top view

kara ross pangea ring side view

Pangea is the land mass on our planet that existed about 300 million years ago, consisting basically of all the Earth’s continents melded together in sort of a puzzle formation. Plate tetonics then spent the next couple hundred million years separating the land into the seven continents that we know today. Here’s a neat visual to show how this happened.

pangea visual

Using this concept, Kara designed this ring as a tribute to the world we live on. Made of 18K gold (in yellow, white or rose), the jagged diamond-encrusted rows, “…reflect the shifting continents beautifully fusing together, and despite the drift all the pieces remain enveloped in one mass, continuing to come together and forming a harmonious whole.” Making each of these rings takes 10-11 weeks, and utilizes the expertise of 7 different craftsmen. Just drilling the hole through the large cabochon “Earth” is incredibly difficult. One little error, and the gem will shatter.

On the sides of the rings, you see a mosaic of hand-cut gemstones with angular pave diamond boarders, “…which represent the cultures and ethnicities of the world all living peacefully together.” The intricacies of these rings, along with their powerful message leaves me breathless — it’s truly a work of art and a labor of love.

This ring is the centerpiece of her Petra collection, which has over 100 pieces. The overriding design element seen across the collection includes jagged zig-zag motifs. Here are a few more pieces from this collection.

kara ross large petra mosaic earring

kara ross petra contour cuff

kara ross petra split pendant

I just adore the juxtaposition of the raw rubellite and the polished amethyst in this last necklace, don’t you?

Kara also has both a fashion jewelry line, Kara by Kara Ross and a sterling silver line. I’ve tried on some of the sterling pieces in various shops, and they’re quite spectacular. Here’s a sterling cuff with black mother-of-pearl and black sapphires.

kara ross wide maze cuff

And this pair of earrings has a modern Art Deco vibe, for sure.

kara ross triple geo arrow drop earrings

Kara has a huge celebrity following, and includes the Obamas among her private clients. She made pieces for them using the wood from a fallen magnolia tree from the White House garden. These coveted pieces were made for the First Lady and are also given as unique gifts to visiting heads of state and other important people. How cool is that?

Made for Michelle Obama
Made for Michelle Obama

I cannot fail to mention Kara’s gem-tastic handbag collection, either, which includes everything from clutches to day bags. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Lizard with hematite and mother-of-pearl inset
Lizard with hematite and mother-of-pearl inset

And because a pop of celadon is hot for spring…

Ostrich with hematite clasp
Ostrich with hematite clasp

I hope that you are as intrigued by this designer as I am. If you want to see some of her things in person, she sells at various retailers across the nation, as well as having her online shopping site. I cannot wait to see what she brings to Couture this spring!!

Monique Pean: Designer

I have this beautifully decorated folder called my “Style File” that sits front and center on my desk. Whenever I see something in a magazine that I love, I rip it out and add it to my file. These are not necessarily items that I can afford or even fit, but they just speak to me. Through this process, I’m really able to see my style direction, and it inspires me each and every time I look through it.

Well about a year ago I saw a pair of earrings (though I can’t even remember in what publication!) that just took my breath away. They were an elongated teardrop of some sort of horn, with the tiniest of diamonds carefully inlaid in each one. I HAD to try them on! So off I went to Barney’s, and voila, there they were, in the Monique Pean case! Yes! They were perfect — they suited my face shape, complemented my coloring, and they were as light as a feather. Had they been in my budget, I would have gone home wearing them. But alas…I am left to just dream about them.

With this experience still fresh in my mind over a year later, imagine how delighted I was to meet this talented designer in person at the Couture show.

monique pean and amy roseveare
Meeting one of my jewelry idols!

Once I started researching Monique, it wasn’t just her incredible designs that drew me to her. In fact, she is “committed to luxury bespoke products that promote social and environmental responsibility.” Her entire line is comprised of sustainable, conflict-free and fair-trade materials. She is active in the No Dirty Gold campaign, as well as various other charities. She explained to me that mining gold releases mercury into the earth. (that’s not good!) And creating just one ring NOT using sustainable materials can create up to 20 tons of waste!! I can’t even wrap my head around that one. One of her main thrusts has been to help people get clean drinking water. Currently, she has made that happen for over 5000 people for the next 20 years. Now if that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is!!

OK, I can go on and on about this highly-awarded designer, who’s line launched in 2006, but I’ll stop there. Let’s get down to the jewels!!

Here is a classic example of how she uses fossilized walrus ivory along with black diamonds to craft a one-of-a-kind statement ring.

monique pean ring
This would work dressed up or down!

And here is a bracelet also made from the fossilized walrus ivory. You can really see how the natural materials have great color variation.

monique pean jewelry
Organically stunning

Not all of her pieces are on the larger scale. She also has many delicate designs as well. I think these opal slice studs would be an amazing addition to my jewelry box! (dreaming again….) She told me that all the opals she uses are hand-chiseled, with no dynamite used.

monique pean
Another item on my lust list

While this necklace is about the same price as a luxury automobile, I’d still choose the necklace! It’s created from diamond slices and slices of fossilized wooly mammoth.

monique pean
Fit for a princess!

It’s no surprise that Monique has a huge celebrity following as well, from Michelle Obama to stars of screen and stage. Here’s Leighton Meester adorned in some lovely earrings by Pean.

leighton meester
I think she’s happy because she’s wearing such pretty earrings

I just love that this jewelry is making such a positive impact on the earth, in addition to making it more gorgeous. I hope to one day own my own piece by Monique, but in the meanwhile, I will keep appreciating the collection and all Monique does for our planet.