Lana Fertelmeister

One-time clothing designer Lana Fertelmeister launched her jewelry business six years ago after unsuccessful attempts to find chic, affordable styles. She commissioned a jeweler to make a pair of earrings—her signature Upside Down hoops—of her own design, which got noticed by admirers.

“Traditional [jewelry] vendors didn’t speak to me or my girlfriends,” she explained to JCK during a recent trunk show at Neiman Marcus in King of Prussia, Pa. “[My friends and I] were the people paying $200 for jeans and $1,000 for purses, and we wanted to buy jewelry to finish our looks.”

Fertelmeister, who isn’t a bench jeweler, continues to call on others to craft pieces in her home base of Chicago. Signature styles feature a sleek 1970s flair with mirror finishes, tricolor gold, and diamond or emerald accents. She calls the look uncomplicated and “universally pretty.” Another goal: not to send customers into sticker shock with prices, thus she uses only 14k gold (a pair of her hoops starts at just $165). “Many designers are turning to silver or semiprecious [stones], but all of our jewelry is subtle and minimalist—but still with a big look for a good price point,” she says.

Inspiration comes from loved ones, her cultural heritage, and favorite places. Examples include a nameplate necklace bearing the name of her fiancé, Rob, and the White Nights collection, which heralds her Russian roots. Pieces from the Luck N’ Love collection reflect her appreciation for working with her beau and her father, Naum, who serve as her president of business development and vice president, respectively. Fertelmeister’s Miami collection, with its diamond-cut metal surfaces, honors her favorite vacation spot and celebrates that city’s cosmopolitan women.

Fertelmeister spurns celebrity requests for gratis jewelry, sending invoices instead of the gifts many seek. “We don’t give out freebies,” she says, with paying clients like Cameron Diaz in mind. Fertelmeister has already accumulated 150 accounts (without exhibiting at trade shows) and still has plenty of ambition. “I am building the House of Lana,” she says. “The difference between me and the amazing houses like Cartier that I admire is time.”