Personalities

Meet Kristin Ohmstede of Kristin Ohmstede Jewelry and Her Whimsically Literal Jewelry Designs

Los Angeles, Calif. Jan. 4, 2021. Kristin Ohmstede’s idyllic childhood in Texas was joyful, eclectic, and full of happy days riding horses and playing with the sheep and bunnies her parents adopted for her personal petting zoo. It sounds like a farm, though Ohmstede insists it wasn’t, but her own unique childhood utopia did inspire her present-day eponymous Kristin Ohmstede Fine Art Jewelry line.

“I grew up on a normal street with a giant yard, but my parents were real free spirited,” she says. “I had mallard ducks in the backyard. My mom was unconventional and super fun.”

Education & Training

At university, Ohmstede studied art, design, and textiles and snagged a post working with a Parisian clothing designer. She took more design classes at Central Saint Martin’s, in London, and eventually moved to Los Angeles, where she took jewelry-design classes at Otis College of Art and Design. It was there her lightbulb moment occurred, and all of her fashion and design education, fashion work experience, and charming and worldly upbringing (Ohmstede’s mom took her to Europe several times) paved the way for the whimsical, cosmopolitan, and animal-inspired aesthetic now evident in her eponymous jewelry line. Her very first creation? A wide-eye bird, a version of which is in the collection today.

Signature Style

“My style is whimsical, playful, poetic, and personified by animals in motion,” she continues. “Birds, bunnies, and ponies are the primary animals I feature, while diagonal stripes in ​champlevé​ enamel is another signature design element. The love and connection between people and animals is my DNA.”

Not surprisingly, some specific horses from her life have a home in her body of work, given that the horse was her second design.

Inspiration

“When I started riding, I got into Andalusians and lived in Madrid for a year and a half,” she says. “I bought a horse named Iman in Seville and took him home to Austin and learned dressage on him. He was the horse of my life! I ended up losing him to colic after six years. Afterwards, I bought three colts in the Netherlands as a way of healing. The horse you see cantering in my collection is one of those foals, Formel Eins.”

Still, Ohmstede’s charmed life inspired her to add clouds and bows to the design mix. For sure, her charmed life and influences built a foundation for this lighthearted signature style, which applies a whimsical eye to literal symbols.

What’s Next?

What’s next? Likely dogs—a Russell Terrier, to be exact. “If I were not in L.A., I would have a dog—I see one in my future,” she notes.

Ohmstede sketches designs for master craftsmen to bring to life. Many components, such as French wires on earrings, are custom made. Pieces are both cast and fabricated, the latter from gold bars. All jewelry is made in Los Angeles in 18k gold (though some hair jewels are executed in silver). Diamonds add a hard-to-beat level of sparkle while vibrant colored gems like sapphires and tourmalines “add an aspect of joy and whimsy,” says the artist. Retail prices for her work start at $850.

Earrings in 18k yellow gold with French wires and 0.0035 ct. t.w.–0.025 ct. t.w. diamonds by Kristin Ohmstede, $1,250 apiece; email ko@kristinohmstede.com for purchase

Earrings in 18k yellow gold with French wires and 0.0035 ct. t.w.–0.025 ct. t.w. diamonds by Kristin Ohmstede, $1,250 apiece; email ko@kristinohmstede.com for purchase

Rainbow collection Bird, Bunny, and Pony pendant necklaces in 18k yellow gold with champlevé enamel stripes and 0.03 ct. t.w. diamonds on a 14k yellow gold chain by Kristin Ohmstede; retail prices start at $3,100; email ko@kristinohmstede.com for purchase

Rainbow collection Bird, Bunny, and Pony pendant necklaces in 18k yellow gold with champlevé ​enamel​ stripes and 0.03 ct. t.w. diamonds on a 14k yellow gold chain by Kristin Ohmstede; retail prices start at $3,100; email ko@kristinohmstede.com for purchase

Signet ring in 18k yellow gold with white champlevé enamel and 0.28 ct. t.w. diamonds by Kristin Ohmstede; $8,495, email ko@kristinohmstede.com for purchase

Signet ring in 18k yellow gold with white champlevé​ enamel and 0.28 ct. t.w. diamonds by Kristin Ohmstede; $8,495, email ko@kristinohmstede.com for purchase

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Personalities

This Is What a Gemstone Dealer’s Daughter’s Engagement Ring Looks Like (Hint: Diamonds Only Play a Supporting Role)

New York City. Sept. 18, 2020. Rachel Dery, the daughter of Roger and Ginger Dery of Roger Dery Gem Design, organizers of retailer trips to East Africa, and the founders of nonprofit Gem Legacy, got engaged in June. To the surprise of probably no one, she is engaged to a gem cutter. What is fascinating about her engagement is how she met her beau, Björn, and, of course, which colored stone is set in her engagement ring. We’ll start with the story of the guy.

Eleven years ago, Roger Dery met an American geologist friend at a hotel in Arusha, Tanzania, for cappuccinos and to talk stones. Sitting across from them were two other men, both of whom spoke English and happened to be in the gem business as well. One of those men was Sune Merisheki. The men chatted and went their separate ways.

Over the next 10 days, Dery ran into Merisheki two more times. Dery learned that he was a tanzanite miner and had a family. Dery bought gems from him a few times over the next 11 years but stayed in touch.

On a 2013 trip to Arusha, Dery had dinner at the Merisheki home, where he met Sune’s son Björn, who was in high school. Dery spent the evening getting to know Sune and his wife, Pia, learning that they had a big heart for helping less-fortunate families in Tanzania. Björn spent most of his time doing homework.

Rachel had taken several trips to East Africa with her parents, but she didn’t meet Björn until a trip in 2018. He was home from school and, at his dad’s request, agreed to chauffeur the Derys around.

Rachel recalls their first meeting: “My dad sent me to go stand at this fuel station and look for a younger version of Sune.” Björn’s mother had given him Rachel’s cell phone number in advance of their meeting. They met and hit it off. Six months later they decided to date, long distance.

“My 94-year-old grandmother said, ‘How can you date someone from another continent?’” Rachel says, laughing. The answer: Talk. “That is your quality time and makes the time you are together in person more precious.”

Rachel learned that Björn was a gem cutter, like her dad, and had learned to cut by attending Gem Legacy’s cutting school in Arusha. Björn graduated three years ago and is now one of the school’s trainers.

“The ongoing joke is that this was an arranged marriage,” says Rachel.

It was not, but the couple learned they had more in common than just gems. They have a shared value of living a life of service to others, and that whatever is given is for the purpose of giving back and sharing with others.

“His dream is to go around to churches in east Africa and make sure they have Bibles,” she says. “My dream is what Gem Legacy is doing.” (Rachel is employed by her dad and handles marketing and communications for Roger Dery Gem Design and Gem Legacy.)

So, after spending a lot of virtual time connecting, Rachel was dead set on returning to Tanzania. “I had to get back to Arusha for that date!” she says of their first actual live get-together as a couple.

Rachel and her parents eventually returned to East Africa. While at their hotel, Roger got the shock of a lifetime when Björn asked him if he could take his daughter out for coffee.

“I wasn’t prepared for that,” says Dery. “I didn’t realize he had an interest in my daughter, though it didn’t bother me because I knew how they lived their lives.”

Over the next two years, the pair took turns spending time in Tanzania and in Michigan, where the Derys reside.

Two weeks after this year’s Tucson gems shows, Rachel flew back to Tanzania, intending to stay five weeks. Then the Coronavirus made landfall in the U.S. with hurricane-like force. Rachel’s trip kept getting extended because of borders closing. She spent a lot of time meeting with miners and learning about their needs. On June 13, Rachel learned that Björn had a specific request of his own. Would Rachel marry him?

Roger knew it was coming. “He knew all along I approved,” he says. Covid-19 interfered with cultural traditions; normally, Björn, Roger, and Sune would have had an in-person meeting with a village elder to cement a formal marriage proposal, but that wasn’t possible.

Instead, the Merisheki family (Björn, Pia, Sune, and a sister named Linda) planned an elaborate trip to make the proposal special.

The family told Rachel they had to drive five hours to the edge of the Usambara Mountains, where Pia was born, to talk to a neighbor about a boundary line dispute. “His dad owns land there and I was not thinking he was going to propose,” says Rachel.

When they reached a certain scenic point, Björn’s sister, the self-appointed family photographer, insisted the group stop for a break and take in the scenery. “It was so in character for her, so I didn’t think anything of it,” Rachel continues. But things got weird quickly when Sune, Pia, and Linda were all holding cameras pointed at Rachel. A lightbulb moment transpired and Björn dropped to one knee. He was proposing! “I started crying,” says Rachel.

Tears of joy, mind you, over the moment and the ring: a 6.32 ct. cushion-cut tanzanite that Björn cut from rough and heated himself. “He did such a good job,” Rachel adds. The gem is flanked by diamond side stones and set in rhodium-plated silver, which is commonly used in jewelry in that part of the world.

Most important to Rachel was the symbolism of the stone. The gem was from Björn’s home country and the place where her parents had established roots through their gem-cutting business. Her dad had a hand in Björn’s stone-cutting education, and Sune, Björn’s dad, was a tanzanite miner.

Roger and Ginger received a call at home shortly afterwards. “It was an emotional, intimate moment of celebration,” says Roger.

And while planning a live wedding is tricky now, Roger is confident about one aspect of the union: the ring. “That tanzanite looks like I cut it.”

The ring: a 6.32 ct. cushion-cut tanzanite that Björn cut from rough and heated himself.

The ring: a 6.32 ct. cushion-cut tanzanite that Björn cut from rough and heated himself.

Rachel Dery being proposed to by gem-cutter fiancé Björn Merisheki

Rachel Dery being proposed to by gem-cutter fiancé Björn Merisheki

The happy couple, Rachel Dery and fiancé Björn Merisheki

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Personalities

Elisabetta Molina of Garavelli on the Pandemic Lockdown, Ponies, and Direct-to-Consumer Sales

Valenza, Italy. Sept. 16, 2020. Elisabetta Molina of Garavelli didn’t participate in the recently held Vicenzaoro VOICE fair, Sept. 12–14, but she connected with JH to let us know how the brand passed the time and to discuss future plans. Below, she shares highlights of her quarantine experience in Italy and news of how the brand will commemorate a centennial.

On her lockdown experience in Italy

The feeling was strange, like at the beginning of the summer holidays: at first you feel lost, with nothing to do, but you know this state is just for a short time. Then, sleeping, cleaning—putting every angle of the house in order—gardening. The pandemic period probably allowed us to have the beautiful flowers we did in the late spring and summer!

I have a daughter who teaches pony riding to kids; she took home 10 ponies during the lockdown! So we raised fences and organized for vacationers to ride ponies. They really helped to keep the spring grass down!

We are also working since the lockdown to strengthen our social media and prepare a brand-new website with e-commerce. Consumers will be able to choose if they want to purchase online or to visit the Garavelli retailer nearest to them. We are working closely to our retailers to offer the best possible service for fans.

On the Garavelli Centennial

Last year I started to write a book with my aunt, who is a historian, an expert in the history of jewelry, and of course, the history of Valenza. I spent lots of time doing research in our archives, looking at old family photos, and exchanging long phone calls with our elderly relatives to learn of their memories. I am very excited about this book that we will present in 2021! It is not only the history of our company, but the history of our family and the jewelry in Valenza, from the end of the 19th Century till now, with a vision of the future years. The book will be available in 2021.

On Stateside Sales

My U.S. customers are really brave and strong. Everyone was virtually always in contact to their customers during the lockdown, and since they reopened they could serve very well their clientele. We had a very nice collection in the U.S. this past summer and the result has been good. In the fall we will support them with a new collection that will arrive in the U.S. soon.

On Christmas Sales in Italy and the U.S.

Who knows what sales will be like! I hope we will be able to recover the rest of the year, but for sure we are working very hard for 2021, when we hope we will be able to celebrate with our clients. Personally, I think it might be a strong season since consumers want to please themselves and move past the current situation.

A bracelet in 18k yellow gold with diamonds from the Drago collection by Garavelli


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Personalities

You Know About Sierra Leone’s Diamond Diggers, But Do You Know About Its Diamond Divers?

New York City. Sept. 15, 2020. It was 2007 when Laurent Cartier the student was backpacking through Sierra Leone and heard about the diamond divers of the Sewa River. While not specifically interested in diamonds at that time—he was getting his master’s degree in Geological and Earth Sciences from the University of Basel, Switzerland—his curiosity was piqued. He stayed in touch with new friends who knew of the diamond divers of the Sewa River and in April 2019 returned to the country once ravaged by civil war.

artisanal and small-scale mining

Diamond divers in Sierra Leone in the short film “The Divers of Sewa” by Laurent Cartier and Justin Badenhorst

By this time, Cartier had earned his doctorate in Philosophy and Geosciences and a Fellowship of Gem-A gemology diploma, as well as firmly establishing himself in the international gemology community as a project manager for the Swiss Gemological Institute, or SSEF. Cartier returned to Sierra Leone with a South African photographer named Justin Badenhorst and a goal: to film these artisanal diamond divers and share their story—a human side to the diamond industry. The pair unveiled “The Divers of Sewa,” a nine-minute 21-second short film that debuted earlier this year during the Tucson gem shows and at the Münich Inhorgenta fair.

“I became aware that there were a few thousand diamond divers worldwide—some in Brazil, Ghana, and Angola as well—and I thought that’s a pretty small number compared to artisanal diamond miners,” he says.

Umaru and Ibrahim on a canoe with recovered gravel from the Sewa river.

Diamond divers Umaru and Ibrahim on a canoe with recovered gravel from the Sewa river.

Cartier, his wife, and the photographer stayed six days to film and get to know the divers. What they learned was fascinating. The divers (Cartier met 10) doubled as farmers for most of the year, diving only from January to May; the rainy season is from May to November. The men work in teams, diving upwards of 10 meters, or nearly 33 feet, at a time for an hour, filling up buckets of gravel from the bottom of the river. A tube attached to a compressor on a canoe pumps air into the diver’s mouth. The river bottom is cold, with zero visibility. Back on land, they dump the buckets and sift through in search of diamonds.

“There is a tradition of looking for diamonds there,” says Cartier. “Their fathers have done the same, looking for ways to feed their families.”

The divers know what to look for, including a certain type of gravel—a remnant of an older riverbed. “There are places in the river where minerals get concentrated,” Cartier adds. During the search, a feeling of excitement overwhelms. Will they find something?

Diamond divers Dauda and Ibrahim working on a canoe on the river.

Diamond divers Dauda and Ibrahim working on a canoe on the river.

They didn’t during Cartier’s stay, but hope was ever present. “It might take weeks to find a few small diamonds,” he says. “A gold miner has better options to find a little bit of gold every day.”

And when the divers do find stones—some have found diamonds upwards of 50 carats in weight—the payday can be healthy. Divers routinely sell to local supporters who fund their efforts by way of daily food, a salary, paying for equipment and canoe rental, or government fees; it depends on the agreement negotiated. Once a payment is made to a diver, saving that money or spending it wisely can be difficult. Most divers don’t have bank accounts, and entire villages can be dependent on them once they find out. While touring a village where the divers lived, Cartier saw a Mercedes Jeep owned by a diver who had found a sizable stone. Two years after selling his find and acquiring the vehicle, the owner could no longer afford petrol to drive it.

And do diamond buyers—consumers and jewelry store owners—ever hear about these special diamonds or sell them with the story of where they came from? Not that Cartier knows.

Diamond divers sifting through gravel on the river.

Diamond divers sifting through gravel on the river.

“These goods can go anywhere, but they should be tracked outside of having a Kimberly Process certificate,” he says. “It’s pretty sad, actually; with stories like this, industry could move the needle a little bit to inspire demand. People tend to forget that there are humans behind these stones. At all the sustainability conferences that take place in industry, how many bring an artisanal miner to talk? These men are proud of the work they do.”

Patricia Syvrud of the Minerals, Materials and Society program at the University of Delaware saw the film and was understandably impressed. Syvrud is a well-known participant in sustainability discussions industrywide and knows the struggles in educating buyers about supply chains.

Diamond divers in Sierra Leone shot in the short film "The Divers of Sewa" by Laurent Cartier and Justin Badenhorst

Diamond divers in Sierra Leone in the short film “The Divers of Sewa” by Laurent Cartier and Justin Badenhorst

“Having people not understand the lives upstream in the supply chain is not unique to the diamond industry,” she says. “There are so many misconceptions about the artisanal and small-scale mining industry, that it means illegal activity and conflict diamonds. It doesn’t! To these divers, diamonds are so incredibly important to their lives.”

And while the film doesn’t necessarily issue a call to action, it should firmly implant a human image of whom you are helping when you buy diamonds. The stones found by the divers of Sewa may get sucked into the bigger supply chain and sold anonymously, without their rich backstory, but these stories are important to share because they are part of the larger responsible sourcing landscape.

“This movie should be running on a loop in retail stores!” says Syvrud. “It’s powerful.”


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