The 6,000-plus people who follow Theresa Kaz on Instagram would probably find it hard to believe that she officially launched her fine jewelry line less than a year ago. Even though her designs have the polish and specificity of a more established brand, it was actually just last September when Kaz decided to ready her eponymous line for prime time. The first step? A successful debut at JA New York.
The Bergen County, New Jersey-based designer made a strong first impression in JA NY’s New Designer Gallery earlier this week. Armed with a Nespresso machine, flawless makeup (seriously, her eyelashes are exquisite), and fresh-from-the-bench samples of her work, it was hard not to linger over her collection and its many compelling color stories. Her Luminous collection is perhaps the most striking, with its glistening baguettes fanned out like peacock feathers around center stones of moonstone, labradorite, mother-of-pearl, and rose quartz.
Luminous necklace with labradorite surrounded by diamonds and tapered aquamarine, sapphire, iolite, and tanzanite baguettes in 18k yellow gold, $3,400
Luminous ring with moonstone surrounded by diamonds and tapered aquamarine, sapphire, iolite, tanzanite, blue topaz, and rose quartz baguettes in 18k white gold, $2,530
Luminous earrings with rose quartz surrounded by diamonds and tapered iolite baguettes in 18k white gold, $6,800
Luminous is defined by a sunburst design with baguettes that radiate out from the center, with a dash of Art Deco geometry (think of the Chrysler Building). “I actually had a client tell me that she wears her Luminous earrings whenever it’s a cloudy or rainy day. She said to me, ‘They just make me happy.’ It’s one of the biggest compliments I’ve received so far as a designer. The jewelry you wear can become an extension of your style and mood, and I find that inspiring.”
Eight years ago, a jewelry designer friend of Kaz’s husband hired her to handle the sales and marketing end of her business. Kaz had taken some time off to care for her two boys; before that she had been working as a political aide. “I told her I had no experience, but she said I’m hiring you for your personality,” says Kaz. “I absolutely fell in love with the industry and every aspect of it. After we parted ways, I started doing custom work for friends and family. More and more requests came in, and that’s what lead me to put a collection together.”
But a new designer is only as good as the production team that brings her ideas to life. “I literally went to the Tucson gem show for three years, just networking with people,” says Kaz. “I tried out production managers locally in New York, but they didn’t deliver the quality I was looking for.”
Kaz recently hooked up with a prominent stone manufacture that has the gemstones she wants custom-cut in Jaipur, India. “My samples come in right on budget and completely on point as far interpretation of style,” says Kaz.
Which frees up plenty of mental space—a designer needs time to find inspiration in the world around her so that she can start to dream of potential new collections.
But with more than 60 pieces already produced and ready to show, Kaz is in a great position to partner with retailers, perhaps customizing existing designs to their color and scale specifications.
“When it comes to designing, I go into kaleidoscope mode,” says Kaz. “I’m already envisioning different patterns and stone combinations and have so many ideas percolating. I’d like to introduce 10 new styles this summer and maybe 10 to 15 every season going forward.”
But for now, she’s living in the moment. “I’d really like to work with small, independently owned mom-and-pop stores, those who really know their customers. I hope they’ll see my collection as ‘classic with a twist’ and appreciate it. I’d like it to do well from the start and grow from there. I’m interested in keeping my business sustainable and maintaining meaningful relationships with my retailers.”
Kaz’s moxie and marketing savvy—rare qualities in a creative—make her a dream partner for trunk shows and other traffic-driving initiatives. And any retailer who works with Kaz also stands to enjoy the benefits of the designer’s side hustle. Because it’s almost bathing suit season. Just sayin’.
A few more highlights from Kaz’s debut collection are below.
Supernova convertible sunburst drop earrings with moonstone and tapered tanzanite baguettes, diamonds, and Paraiaba quartz drops in 18k yellow gold, $4,350
Supernova convertible sunburst earrings with chrysoprase and tapered green tourmaline baguettes, diamonds, and chrysocolla drops in 18k yellow gold, $4,620
Kites collection earrings with chrysoprase and diamonds in 18k yellow gold, $1,430
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