Ask jewelry designer Theresa Kaz what inspired her to focus her new collection on a heart motif, and she’ll tell you that it started with some heart-shape carved opals she’d picked up at a recent Tucson gem show. This got her sketching different design stories that blended hearts with her signature custom-cut tapered baguettes arranged in colorful sunburst-like configurations.
But this would be only part of the story.
Because for Kaz, the collection has come to take on a much deeper meaning, one that didn’t fully reveal itself until earlier this spring when the designer and her family lost their Paramus, N.J., home to a devastating fire.
“I recently wrote in an Instagram caption that I knew this collection was on-trend but could never have imagined how personally connected I would feel to it,” says Kaz.
The house incurred unsustainable structural damage, was demolished, and is currently in the process of being rebuilt. None of the family’s possessions were salvageable. For the last two months, Kaz, her husband, two sons, and their pit bull, Ruxpin, have been living in a temporary apartment.
“We have felt so embraced and supported by our family, the local community, and, of course, my jewelry family,” she says. “In the aftermath of the fire, the outpouring of love and support was so immediate and came in so many different forms. People were bringing us dinners, clothes, and our local police department gave each of our boys a gift card for them to replace some toys.”
Kaz’s colleagues at the Contemporary Jewelry Design Group and Emerald Expositions initiated a GoFundMe page to raise money for the town’s volunteer firefighters who rushed to the scene and ran into the flames to rescue Ruxpin, whom neighbors thought was trapped inside. (Mercifully, like the rest of the family, he was not at home.)
“It still, and I’m sure always will, reduce me to tears to think of all those volunteer firemen leaving their paying jobs—they keep extra fire gear in their trunks for emergencies like this—and rushing into a three-alarm fire,” says Kaz. “And the bravery that absolute strangers are capable of when someone else is in danger.
“I’m grateful no one was home and that no one was hurt. And no amount of appreciation or thanks feels adequate for the firefighters and others who helped us.”
As for the new collection, Kaz says her colored-stone baguettes have always reminded her of rays of light and hope, encapsulating feelings of happiness and optimism. The heart theme now serves to amplify this effect. It also points the powers of perseverance, resiliency, and love.
“At soul depth, I really am my collection,” she says.
Top: You can embrace the new Theresa Kaz collection in full at the Premier show in Las Vegas (booth 2404 at the Las Vegas Convention Center). Heart Burst necklace with pink opal, pink and purple sapphires, amethyst, rhodolite, pink garnet, and pink tourmaline in 18k gold, $3,400.
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