If we were betting people, we’d wager that you’ve got at least one of these artists’ pieces in your cases right now. Or that a customer has come in brandishing a paparazzi pic of a beautifully bejeweled actress and asked—pointing to a jaw-dropping pair of diamond earrings, spectacular stack of bangles, or over-the-top oversized cocktail ring—“What do you have that looks like this?” These men and women are the brilliant (and super-stylish) minds behind the most desired designs on the market.
Francesca Amfitheatrof, the first-ever female design director for Tiffany & Co., came to the iconic jewelry house last year with a résumé built to thrill. The jewelry and tabletop designer—who’s a trained jeweler and silversmith with degrees from London’s Royal College of Art and Central St. Martins—has created jewelry and products for Chanel, Fendi, Marni, Alessi, and Asprey & Garrard, among others. Her first foray for Tiffany, the graphic Tiffany T collection, pivoted the brand decisively into more modern terrain. And she’s just getting started.
Yellow gold may be having a moment, but that hasn’t stopped retailers from Neiman Marcus to J.R. Dunn Jewelers from stocking the queen bee of fine silver lines: John Hardy. The 40-year-old brand, which rose to fame by popularizing intricate Balinese silver- smithing techniques, was bought by Guy Bedarida and Damien Dernoncourt in 2007. Since then, Bedarida, John Hardy’s long-time head designer and current creative director, has diversified the collection and with Dernoncourt has invested in branding big time; supermodel du jour Cara Delevingne is the face of its latest campaign.
Before elevating Lucite to luxury wear with his sculptural bangles, former New York club kid Alexis Bittar was hawking vintage and antique pieces at outdoor flea markets in lower Manhattan. Bergdorf Goodman picked up a few street-chic pieces, and the designer’s been on an upward trajectory ever since. Bittar nabbed the CFDA Accessories Designer of the Year Award in 2010; collaborated on collections with Burberry, Jason Wu, and Phillip Lim, among others; and turned first lady Michelle Obama into a die-hard devotee of his statement looks.
Italy’s most famous jewelry designer is also one of the most consistent staple brands in upscale U.S. department stores including Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s—and influential fine jewelry retailers such as London Jewelers, Tivol, and Ben Bridge. Credited with introducing American consumers to fashion-forward Italian styling, Coin’s penchant for feminine, straight-ahead luxury looks that favor high-shine yellow gold, colorless diamonds, and colored gems lend the brand a wide appeal.
At the helm of one of the slickest U.S. brand debuts in the past quarter century is Daniel Caudill: Shinola, the watch, bicycle, and leather goods label that cheekily appropriated the name of an early-20th-century shoe-polish company, bowed in 2013 as a cham- pion of domestic manufacturing (aside from the Swiss-made watch movements, all of its goods are made in America) and the recently bankrupted—and currently revitalizing—city of Detroit, where it’s headquartered. Buffeting the brand’s rich backstory is creative director Caudill’s cool heritage-with-a-twist design sensibilities, which have positioned Shinola for growth in both the high fashion and the mass luxury markets.
Los Angeles–based Erica Courtney creates one of the industry’s most recognizable—and unabashedly feminine—collections. The self-made designer started out embel- lishing sunglasses with rhinestones for local boutiques in Florida, but soon after graduated to working with diamonds. A born marketer, Courtney built her brand by leveraging high-wattage celebrity placements in the media—a practice that’s since been adopted by countless brands.
Former celebrity stylist Jennifer Fisher introduced her covetable collection in 2005 after hunting, to no avail, for a piece of jewelry to celebrate the birth of her son. A decade later, the designer’s fine and gold-plated-brass lines have kick-started more than a few jewelry trends, including the nameplate dog-tag necklace and initial charms (which you may have spotted at J. Crew last summer). Fisher’s pieces have become go-to adornments for stylists and celebrities including Rihanna, J. Lo, and Rita Ora.
His famously brilliant design eye—which favors subdued sleekness—made status items of laptop computers and mobile phones in the 2000s. Now, Apple’s senior vice president of design (and the man Steve Jobs called his “spiritual partner”) is set to disrupt the jewelry business, having masterminded the Apple Watch, the brand’s first wearable device (due in stores this month—including a hotly anticipated 18k gold Edition version). The smartwatch’s luxurious but understated look bears Ive’s distinctive stamp—and bodes well for the tech giant’s much-hyped bid for the luxury market.
Simon G., the ultimate workhorse boutique bridal brand, is stocked in more than 900 doors in the United States and abroad. Founded by Lebanese designer Simon Ghanimian and his wife, Silvia, the collection’s breadth of trend-right styles makes it an easy buy for retailers looking for product that balances superb quality with accessible pricing. The company is a family affair—Simon heads up design for the 33-year-old brand with his son, CEO Zaven Ghanimian.
Stylists and celebrities looking for pieces oozing classic Hollywood glamour call on Neil Lane. The former jewelry salesman, who also designs a bridal collection for Kay Jewelers, is famous for his timeless aesthetics (he’s a huge collector) and drop-dead glamorous diamond looks. This past Oscar night alone he draped Jennifer Lopez, Zoe Saldana, and Sofia Vergara in well over $5 million worth of vintage-glam jewels.
“Nothing is better than nature,” one of designer Kimberly McDonald’s mantras, also speaks to the untamed beauty of her work. Geodes and hunks of gemstones set in their natural shapes populate her collection, which counts Cameron Diaz, Cindy Crawford, and Michelle Obama as loyalists. Since debuting in 2007, the Los Angeles–based brand has also been a model for sustainable mining and manufacturing. Reclaimed gold and recycled diamonds are core materials for the designer, allowing for “creation without destruction.”
Designer Irene Neuwirth brings a beachy, California-girl vibe to her fine jewelry, which in turn is favored by starlets with earthier style setters, including Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, and Jennifer Aniston. The juxtaposition of classic mountings inset with vibrant paraiba tourmaline, turquoise, and opal—as opposed to the usual diamonds, emeralds, and rubies—is boho-chic at its finest. No surprise the collection’s been a favorite with consumers at fashion-forward Barneys New York for more than a decade.
Designer Jennifer Meyer debuted her line of delicate “everyday” jewelry in 2005. It quickly caught fire with consumers suffering from statement jewelry fatigue. Still in growth mode, the collection has set the standard for delicate gold looks and daily-wear initial jewelry. Meyer grew up in Hollywood and is married to actor Tobey Maguire, so her glittering social circle initially made getting the word out easier. But it’s her innate ability to give women what they want, before they know they want it, that’s kept her on top for a decade.
Bridal is never boring in the hands of Todd Reed, who over the last two decades has helped pioneer the popularization of the casual-luxe look in fine jewelry design (think raw diamonds steeped in matte gold). It’s a style that’s been copied so widely, it’s hard to remember a time when it wasn’t ubiquitous. The Boulder, Colo.–based designer, whose collection is stocked in more than 50 stores in the United States alone, was also among the first to embrace recycled metals and ethical manufacturing. Lately, Reed has set his sights on the men’s jewelry arena and has plans to expand his brand of eco-friendly luxury into the ultra high end.
Colorful, raw gemstones are at the heart of designer Kara Ross’ 12-year-old jewelry collection, Kara Ross New York. Beloved by the White House (she designed an exclusive col- lection of jewelry for Michelle Obama to gift foreign dignitaries), Ross has said she lets the rocks inform the look of every piece she creates. The designer, who transitioned into jewelry after a stint selling advertising at Harper’s Bazaar, opened a flagship boutique on Madison Avenue in 2013 that stocks both fine and fashion pieces—including her gem-set clutches and handbags in exotic skins. Its ultra-expensive wares cater to Ross’ social set—including prep school pal Tory Burch—and celebs such as Oprah Winfrey and Demi Moore.
Venerable jewelry and timepiece brand Chopard is as famous for its high-wattage red-carpet moments—Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett are fans—as it is for its elegant watches, which have introduced a host of technical advances in Swiss-made movements over the years. Artistic director and co-president Caroline Scheufele put Chopard’s fine jewelry on the map in 1985 with her Happy Diamonds collection and has kept the 155-year-old brand in the spotlight ever since—including a high-profile and socially progressive initiative with proponents of Fairmined gold.
Famous for her fun, flirty 18k gold bangles and bold use of candy-colored gemstones—which she often mixes and matches in a single piece—Ippolita Rostagno’s Ippolita collection has become a permanent resident inside cases at luxury retailers all over the world, including Harrods, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue. The designer’s aesthetics, which range from bohemian to op art–style graphic, easily translate to a range of price points and embody a free-spiritedness that connects like crazy with modern consumers.
New Yorker Lorraine Schwartz took over her family’s second-generation jewelry business in 1989, remaking it into one of the most sought-after, name-checked collections in Hollywood. Her bold, feminine designs spark trends and inspire imitations on every level of the market. Memorable pieces from the designer include those massive Colombian emerald drop earrings Angelina Jolie wore to the 2009 Academy Awards, Lady Gaga’s and Kim Kardashian’s engagement rings, and just about everything Beyoncé wears.
Designer Stephen Webster, the impish prince of the fine jewelry world, is almost wholly responsible for the rise of gothic glamour on Hollywood’s red carpets over the past decade. His edgy designs, which famously feature creepy-crawly creatures and rock ’n’ roll imagery (his Superstud collection was an ode to punk rock), have made brand devotees of Madonna, Anne Hathaway, and Christina Aguilera, among other celebs. But Webster, who this year earned the GEM Award for design from Jewelers of America, has had a profound influence on a generation of up-and-coming designers eager to take the uptown stigma out of fine jewelry, which promises to be his real legacy.
Few jewelry designers straddle the line between commercial and luxury as nimbly as David Yurman. The Long Island native, who runs his powerhouse brand with his wife and fellow designer, Sybil, established his signature piece—the elegantly twisted cable bracelet—in 1982, and it’s been a versatile through-line in his collections ever since, lending itself to both accessible and over-the-top pieces. His branding savvy is equally legendary. The company’s campaigns, shot by superstar photographer Peter Lindbergh and featuring supermodels including Kate Moss, Kate Upton, and Gisele Bündchen, have reinforced the brand’s casual-luxury vibe since 2000.