By: Kat Bein By: Kat Bein | January 31, 2023 | Watches & Jewelry Style & Beauty
These pieces by Dorian Webb are currently customizable on Gemist.
If you’re a young designer trying to break into the world of diamonds, it can be a bit tough, but the Natural Diamond Council and jewelry designer Lorraine Schwartz are giving $1 million to talented, up-and-coming BIPOC designers to help them break through the noise and create their own crowns.
The Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative launched in 2021 and recently announced its third class of participating designers.
Amina Sorel of Amina Sorel Fine Jewelry, Bernard James of Bernard James Jewelry, Gwen Beloti of Gwen Beloti Collection, Jessenia Landrum of Jevela, Rosario Navia, and Symoné Currie of Metal x Wire are the latest to join the ranks of the EDDI.
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“We are thrilled to partner with the next inspiring group of jewelry designers as part of the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative,” says Kristina Buckley Kayel, Managing Director of the Natural Diamond Council. “The program continues to evolve and yield transformative outcomes for the designers. We are incredibly proud and committed to provide these designers of color with all the tools and mentorship they need to achieve successful and sustainable businesses.”
Top row from left to right: Bernard James, Amina Sorel, Kristina Buckley Kayel (NDC). Bottom row from left to right: Symoné Currie, Jessenia Landrum, Gwen Beloti, Rosario Navia.
Each designer is given a $20,000 diamond credit to purchase supplies at cost, then they’re given mentorship and further monetary advantages and assistance to create and sell a capsule collection of pieces via an array of high-profile outlets.
Among those outlets is Gemist, a tech-leaning jeweler that allows customers to not only shop the latest designs by groundbreaking jewelers, but actually customize some of their most popular pieces to their exact specifications. Clients can peruse an array of collections, choose their favorite piece, then pick their preferred style, metal, stone and size.
Gemist was founded by Madeline Fraser after she tried to design a custom ring for herself and found the whole process wanting.
“That experience showed me that the custom jewelry process is manual, antiquated and in need of a big refresh,” Fraser writes on the Gemist website. “My background is in growing tech start-ups that solve big problems, so I decided to set out to solve this one. Gemist was born from my desire to let the consumer drive a process that should be custom, personal and leave no stone unturned (pun intended) when it comes to a quality product that won't break the bank.”
Currently, EDDI premiere class members Malyia and Dorian Webb have pieces available for customization and purchase via the Gemist platform. We caught up with Fraser and Kayel of the NDC to learn more about this intriguing program, the Gemist mission and more.
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Tell me more about the Emerging Designer Diamond Initiative. What are its goals, and how are you aiming to achieve them?
Kristina Buckley Kayel: The diamond industry is historically difficult to break into and oftentimes built upon generational relationships. The Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative (EDDI) was created in partnership with designer Lorraine Schwartz, in an effort to remove barriers to entry and offer unparalleled access to industry education and resources to BIPOC jewelry designers so that design innovation may be broadened with new perspectives.
The NDC helps achieve these goals by offering introductions to a network of mentors, providing diamonds via a credit line with direct access to diamantaires, funding for CADs and production, establishing retail partnerships for points of sale such as the Gemist, and more.
How did the partnership with Gemist come about?
Kayel: De Beers, who is a member of the NDC and investor in Gemist, connected us to explore a potential partnership. Madeline was so inspired by the program when seeing the collections and meeting the designers that she reached out. The collaboration evolved organically from there!
Madeline Fraser: We all felt the synergies were very strong for a future partnership, so we’re very happy we were able to make it happen.
This ring, designed by Dorian Webb, is currently customizable via Gemist.
Dorian Webb was the first EDDI designer brought to the Gemist platform. Why was she the perfect designer to launch this initiative?
Fraser: Dorian beautifully represents natural diamonds. Being a part of the EDDI program, we fell in love with her incredible designs, but also with her spirit and voice. Dorian quickly understood Gemist’s mission and the innovation our technology is bringing to the industry. It was a perfect fit from the start!
What’s been the most exciting part of the program so far?
Kayel: It has been so wonderful seeing everyone's beautiful natural diamond pieces come to life throughout their time in the program, and how the creations capture each designer’s heritage and inspirations. The designers are all so incredibly talented, and I'm proud the NDC has been able to support the creation of 12 unique collections—with more to come!
Fraser: We are thrilled to announce that Gemist is now offering our technology solutions to the jewelry industry at-large. This has always been our vision—to innovate the industry through technology—and to me, that meant one day expanding beyond our own jewelry brand and empowering so many other brands to use the innovative solutions we have created.
After working with incredible brands like Dorian Webb, we realized how much more impactful the experiences would be if they were integrated within our brand partners websites, white labeled for their brands at the fingertips of their consumers.
What has the response been?
Fraser: The response has been overwhelmingly positive! We are thrilled to be able to share our technology with such talented designers. Now, that vision will become even more of a reality as we continue to expand our partnerships with gemist.io.
Anything else about this program that you’d like to share?
Kayel: We, along with Lorraine Schwartz, are thrilled to be welcoming the newest class of six designers to the Luxury by JCK Show in Las Vegas this year! It was a great success last year with our second class, and we are excited to see the original collections and perspectives from the new group.
The Emerging Designers Diamond initiative will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis until its $1 million credit runs out. Jewelry designers within the BIPOC community are encouraged to apply at naturaldiamonds.com/eddi.
Learn more about Gemist and shop its customizable collection via gemist.co. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photography by: Courtesy of Gemist; Andrew Werner; Courtesy of Gemist