Industry / Pearls

Yana Nesper on Pearls, Fashion, and Coming to the U.S. Market


Yana Nesper, the brand, came to be in 2010, but its history goes back further than that.

The jeweler, who was born in Moscow and raised in Ukraine, had a knack for fashion and was trained in classical piano. It wasn’t until marrying her husband, Frank Nesper, that the title of designer came into play.

Frank Nesper joined his father’s company—the eponymous Heinz Nesper, founded in 1970 and now one of Germany’s largest pearl importers—in 1994 and married Yana the same year. As the company grew, the husband-and-wife team came to run the Pforzheim, Germany–based company, with Yana flexing her design talents and Frank sourcing the gems that help her work to shine.

With a steady fan base overseas, Yana Nesper has entered the U.S. market only recently, showcasing at the 2021 Couture show in Las Vegas. The designer talked with JCK about the new market, design inspiration, and working with pearls.

What was your interest in jewelry prior to marrying into the Nesper family, one of Germany’s largest pearl importers? How did you get inspired to design?

I grew up in Ukraine as a daughter of academics. Very early on, I developed a taste for the beautiful things in life and learned from my elegant mother how to combine clothes and jewels. Spending my youth on the shores of the Black Sea, I always had an interest in fashion, music, art, and travel.

As for inspiration, I love fashion. I read and follow many fashion magazines, blogs, and stylish individuals to better understand current trends and the spirit of the time.

Yana Nesper Balthasar pendant
Balthasar necklace in 18k yellow gold with South Sea pearls, €9,000 ($10,450)

What is it that draws you to pearls over any other gemstone? Do you ever imagine working with other gems?

Luckily, we have a vibrant variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of pearls available. I love combining different types of pearls with each other and with white, yellow, rose, or black gold. Many of the designs also include diamonds. The round shape of the pearls usually forms the base of the harmonic and feminine shapes of the jewelry.

I am in a very lucky position where I’m able to select the best pearls from my husband’s high-volume purchases. He spends a significant part of the year in Asia sourcing the most beautiful pearls. Once a year I accompany him, form my own opinion of the market, and get new inspiration.

Yana Nesper Wrap Me bracelet
Wrap Me bracelet in yellow gold with South Sea pearls, €8,000 ($9,240)

You have a successful brand in Germany and have made a recent introduction to the U.S. market—what sort of differences are you seeing in terms of customer style and demand? 

I have a feeling that the timing for entering the U.S. market is absolutely perfect right now, based on positive feedback from U.S. buyers who visited us in the European trade shows such as VicenzaOro. The Yana Nesper brand created a strong fan community, both retailers and end consumers, in Europe. Now, after 10 years of experience and growth in the European market, we’re ready to expand to the U.S. Pearls are so popular recently: Their natural origin and mysterious aura are fascinating.

Yana Nesper akoya pearl Open mind necklace
Open Mind necklace in 18k yellow gold with akoya pearls, €2,400 ($2,790)

Over the last decade or so, we’ve seen pearl jewelry become more cutting edge and high fashion than ever. You manage to bridge the gap between classic and modern, with pieces that are everyday wearable but noticeably fresh. What keeps you inspired? 

I love the connection between jewelry and fashion. Jewelry is an essential part of the look, but it is never isolated—it is just a part of the whole. I love the creative and dazzling atmosphere of fashion weeks. Yana Nesper joined Berlin Fashion Week accompanying an amazing couture designer from Munich, Irene Luft. It was a great experience showing our pearls in an unconventional and sophisticated way (you can see a video of the show here).

Another great passion of mine is fashion photo shoots. I cooperate with fashion stylists, editors, and bloggers to create new and elegant looks with pearls.

Yana Nesper Middle pendant
The Middle pendant in 18k yellow and white gold with South Sea pearl and diamonds, €5,380 ($6,240)

Do you have a favorite collection?

At the moment my favorite piece is my yoga pendant, called the Middle. Inspired by a meditating person in the lotus position, the necklace incorporates a horizontal eight, which stands for infinity, and a heart shape, which represents our energy center. The design is completed with a spotless South Sea Pearl, which symbolizes our mind. I have been practicing yoga for over 10 years. The Middle highlights the physical strength, mental strength, and flexibility that coincides with this Far Eastern tradition.

Yana Nesper Open Mind earrings
Open Mind earrings in 18k yellow gold with akoya pearls, €1,500 ($1,750)

Do you have a favorite type/color of pearl to work with?

I really love all types in combination with each other. But my favorites are white South Sea Pearls combined with yellow gold.

What do you like to do for fun outside of jewelry?

Since my childhood, I have always loved playing piano. I just sit down and play the melodies that come to my mind, starting first with a simple melody and then adding more and more musical “decoration.”

Yana Nesper Love necklace with Tahitian pearl
Love necklace in 18k white gold with Tahitian pearl, €3,200 ($3,700)

What are your hopes or plans for the business as we approach 2022?

I really do hope that people will be more conscious in their buying decisions. Meaningful pieces, individual jewelry with a story to tell, locally produced with love, passion, and responsibility will hopefully play an important role as lifelong treasures.

Conscious consumption would also protect the environment, which is so important for our industry. Pearl cultivation depends on clean and balanced nature.

Yana Nesper Tahitian pearl ring
Ring in black rhodium–plated white gold with Tahitian pearls and 0.2 ct. t.w. diamonds, €1,900 ($2,200)

Top: Jewelry designer Yana Nesper

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By: Brittany Siminitz

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