In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8th, we’ve decided to shine a spotlight on some of the talented women who have shaped the jewellery design industry over the years. Read on to learn more about this enigmatic designer, her celebrity connections, and her incredible philanthropy!
Lorraine Schwartz sitting amongst some of her pieces. Image: Vogue
Lorraine Schwartz is an American designer of bespoke, high-end jewellery whose name, according to forward.com, is mentioned by celebrities on the red carpet more than any other brand or fashion house. When her mother died from cancer at age 55 in 1989, Lorraine became the third generation to take over her family’s diamond business. In a bold-yet-savvy move, she renamed the company Lorraine Schwartz Diamonds & Fine Jewelry and completely reimagined its business model.
“I started to create more unique, cool, funky high-end jewellery. Nobody did that at the time,” she says.
Influenced by impressionist art, the natural world, and certain fabrics, Schwartz cites her mother as her biggest inspiration to her work.
“My mom was regal, impeccable,” she says. “I got my taste from her. Every time I get stuck on an idea, I think of her and inspiration comes to me.”
“What was so cool about her,” Schwartz continues, “was the way she would wear wood, jade, and raw crystal in a way that looked priceless.”
Schwartz has had countless celebrity clients over the years, including Sofia Vergara, Kim Kardashian West, Heidi Klum, Blake Lively, Sandra Bullock, Octavia Spencer, Elizabeth Taylor, Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Pharell Williams, and many others, but things really took off for the designer in 1994 when David Bowie approached her to purchase a large diamond. The sale ultimately led to Schwartz designing an engagement ring for his then-girlfriend, supermodel Iman.
Schwartz reminisces about how nervous she was going into that meeting. In fact, the designer tripped on a chair and fell directly into Bowie!
“It was a 10-carat canary diamond, and it was a big sale for me,” she says.
Since that fateful connection, she has become a much sought after designer for celebrity engagement rings in particular, and she even styled Monica and Chandler’s wedding for the television show Friends!
Here are a few of her breathtaking bespoke engagement ring creations:
EMERALDS ARE A LORRAINE GIRL’S BEST FRIEND
“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,” says Schwartz.
Of all the stones she works with, Schwartz sees emeralds as her career-defining gems. “There are emeralds that are brighter and more open than others,” she says, “and when you wear them on their own at night they look like green diamonds.”
This is how Angelie Jolie came to steal the show at the 2009 Oscars when she showed up wearing the now-famous emerald drop earrings. The gorgeous earrings featured 115 carats of emeralds and were worth approximately $2.5 million!
Jennifer Hudson is another celebrity who wowed at the 2015 Oscars in Schwartz’s 110-carat emerald earrings, surrounded by yellow and white diamonds.
One last example of Schwartz’s talent with emeralds is the earrings donned by Zoë Kravitz at the 2018 Golden Globes. At over 120 carats of Colombian emeralds, the earrings feature removable black jade outlines so they can be worn a few different ways.
“When I saw her dress I said, “These are the best,” and she fell in love with them and just rocked it,” Schwartz explained in a Vogue interview.
“This is why I do what I do,” she continues. “We’ve never paid a celebrity to wear our jewelry; in fact, most of them are our clients and they buy from us.”
GIVE ‘EM THE EVIL EYE
Against Evil Eye is likely Schwartz’s most iconic and popular line, appealing to celebrities such as Naomi Campbell, Blake Lively, Pharell Williams, and Beyoncé.
Bangles from Schwartz’s 2018 line. Image: The Adventurine
Most cultures have some form of evil eye talisman, and the concept is even mentioned in some Rabbinic texts. Schwartz had always wanted an upscale version for herself, but her searches always turned up pieces made of fake stones or glass. Eventually she decided to make one for herself, opting for topaz inset with diamonds.
“I actually started my jewelry design career with an Against Evil Eye bangle,” Schwartz says. “At the end of 2001 or early 2002 I started making bracelets for myself and a few friends, and people went crazy. I saw Naomi Campbell in France right after I made them and she called the next morning and said, “I need it.””
Against Evil Eye Bracelets. Image: Lorraine Schwartz Instagram
PHILANTHROPY IN MOTION
Schwartz is also a dedicated philanthropist. Inspired by her mother, who died from breast cancer at the age of 55, Lorraine worked with her siblings Ofira and Ilan to create the Shulamit Benjamini Sandberg Medical Research Grant in 2009, in her honour. The grant provides a physician with $250,000 to last three years in support of their cancer research.
On January 25, 2021, Schwartz announced a partnership with The Natural Diamond Council (NDC) that marked the start of their Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative which, according to the initiative’s website, “will provide opportunities, remove barriers to entry, and offer unparalleled access to industry education and resources to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) jewelry designers.”
Applicants will have the opportunity to present their work to a panel of judges including NDC members, fashion directors and stylists, celebrities, and Schwartz herself.
Selected designers will receive opportunities for mentorship and networking, a line of credit, and access to business, sales, marketing, and PR support.
“It is past time for our industry to be more supportive and share the magic of diamonds with a larger, more diverse group of jewelers,” Schwartz says. “Helping BIPOC designers, and more specifically the underrepresented Black designer community, gain entry to diamond vendors and credit financing as well as expand their businesses is a necessary step in the process towards a more equitable industry. This program is another opportunity for me to give back to those communities that have embraced me and have been a wonderful part of my journey as a designer over the last 20 years.”
Here are some Skyjems pieces that evoke Schwartz’s love of colour and sparkle!
Our final post in this series features Cindy Chao, fierce and fearless in her intricate design work.! Read more: Women’s Week Designer Spotlight: Cindy Chao