Houston Jewelry Designer Emily Armenta on Modern-Day Medieval Elegance

You should be able to see the Spanish influence in Emily Armenta’s jewelry. But you should also be able to feel it. The Texas-based designer is influenced, more than anything, by the work of 20th-century Spanish poet-playwright Federico García Lorca and his idea of duende: “a power and not a behavior…the struggle that one must endure to create something of greatness.” Armenta has been creating her own totems of greatness for more than a decade—ornate oxidized silver and 18k gold pieces set with diamonds and richly colored gemstones. We can’t promise they’ll help you find your duende, but perhaps they’ll inspire you to try.

 18k gold, oxidized silver, and diamond Old World earrings

Age: 42

Number of years in the biz: 11

Number of employees you oversee: There are just under 100 in the company, but I directly oversee an executive team of five.

Family and pets: My husband, Art; my daughter, Ridley; my son, Art Jr.; and an 18-year-old cat, Cezar


Describe your personal style: Rugged and refined, bohemian chic

First piece you ever designed: A pair of gypsy side hoop earrings with beautiful jewels cascading down

The single piece of jewelry you’re most proud of: The wedding ring I designed for my sister, Tracy

Best piece of advice you ever received: “Your only limitation is your imagination and anything is possible if you want it bad enough.”

Old World ring with boulder opal mosaic

Worst piece of advice: Early on I was told to outsource all of our production to another country.

First job ever: At age 7, I went door to door selling my mother’s jewelry.

How did you get started designing jewelry? As a child I collected antique crystals and sketched ­jewelry in my mom’s art room in our house.

If you weren’t designing jewelry, what would you be doing? A journalist creating documentary films on social issues

Armenta’s stack

Favorite (or current favorite) gemstones: Australian opals filled with so many vibrant colors

How you’d describe your newest collection: Medieval elegance and the exploration of new materials

Jewelry you’re wearing right now: Jewelry that is ­layered up, with stack bangles, woven bracelets, ­chain-link bracelets, huggie cuffs, and leather wrap bracelets, and gold and black diamond hoop earrings.

Lennon: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
John Lennon

Five items on your desk right now: A special sketch pencil my mom gave me; my leather sketchbook my mom gave me; miscellaneous gemstones; a book on medieval art and a book on Alexander McQueen; and handbag prototypes

Five songs on your playlist: John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “Watching the Wheels”; “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess; Schindler’s List theme by John Williams; and “Por Una Cabeza” by Carlos Gardel

Exercise regimen: As often as possible; I like to mix it up with cardio, weights, yoga, and Pilates.

What did you have for breakfast? Oatmeal, coffee, and water

Guilty pleasure: Desserts

Drink (daytime/evening): Water by day, wine by night

First website you check every day (not your own!): Pinterest and Business of Fashion

Wireimage/Getty Images
Audrey Tautou

Scent: I lost my ability to smell as a young girl.

How do you unwind? Designing in my studio on a cloudy, rainy day

Favorite thing to do in Houston? Enjoying a ­beautiful dinner with my husband and close friends, sharing a delicious bottle of wine

Superstitious? Ghosts, my chair facing east, and no mirrors facing an entrance

Book you’re reading: Mastering the Rockefeller Habits

Book you’ve been meaning to get to: Leaving Van Gogh by Carol Wallace

One Lorca work everyone should read: Llanto por la muerte de Ignacio Sánchez Mejías (Weeping for the Death of Ignacio Sánchez Mejías)

Preferred news source: Squawk Box on CNBC

Favorite movie: Life Is Beautiful

Who would play you in your life story? Audrey Tautou

Personal motto: “Never, never, never give up.”

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