(PRESS RELEASE) NEW YORK — The Natural Diamond Council (NDC) and celebrated jewelry designer, Lorraine Schwartz announce the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative with $1 million dollars of diamond credit dedicated to supporting emerging Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) jewelry designers.
Both the NDC and Lorraine Schwartz are committed to a more equitable future for the fine jewelry industry and the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative will provide opportunities, remove barriers to entry, and offer unparalleled access to industry education and resources.
The program will promote inclusivity with a goal to serve as many BIPOC designers, with an interest in furthering their diamond jewelry business, as possible. A well-appointed selection committee including Lorraine Schwartz; NDC CEO, David Kellie; Fashion Director of Vanity Fair, Nicole Chapoteau; and Celebrity Stylist and Designer, Jason Rembert will review and approve designer applications until the $1 million diamond credit runs out. Honorary advisors Pharrell, Kelly Rowland, and Tina Knowles will also lend their expert opinions at various stages of the program.
Lorraine Schwartz stated, “It is past time for our industry to be more supportive and share the magic of diamonds with a larger, more diverse group of jewelers. Helping BIPOC designers, and more specifically the underrepresented Black designer community, gain entry to diamond vendors and credit financing as well as expand their businesses is a necessary step in the process towards a more equitable industry. This program is another opportunity for me to give back to those communities that have embraced me and have been a wonderful part of my journey as a designer over the last 20 years.”
Without a previous history with suppliers, or references in the industry, it can be notoriously challenging to purchase diamonds as an emerging designer with little resources. The Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative aims to help BIPOC designers establish credit in their own names and understand the process of diamond financing along with consignment and memo terms. The program will offer mentorship and $20,000 credit to each designer and stand as a guarantor with the diamond suppliers. Once credit and relationships are established, the designers will have access to the NDC and Lorraine Schwartz’s partners along with their wide networks and resources.
“Creativity and innovation are the forces that drive our industry forward and in order for that to happen, we need more diverse viewpoints,” said David Kellie, CEO, NDC. “This initiative is designed to support emerging BIPOC designers by giving them access to the diamond jewelry industry, which has traditionally been limited, and fostering their ingenuity and successes. We know that more diversity is needed in our field, and that this will benefit the designers and the industry as a whole.”
The Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative’s ultimate goal is to advance inclusivity, expand the number of BIPOC diamond jewelry businesses, and help those already established to expand. Designers will participate in mentorship and education sessions, new marketing opportunities, and gain supply chain and production know-how and resources. Pricing strategy advice and diamond tutorials will also be provided. NDC will promote the designers and their stories on owned channels, a resource for many in the industry.
Designers will be encouraged to utilize a variety of diamonds including those of differing colors and sizes, in order to celebrate the uniqueness of natural diamonds. Designers who do not presently work with diamonds are encouraged to apply.
Applications can be found at naturaldiamonds.com as of January 25, 2021. The initiative will be on a first come, first serve basis.
Constance Polamalu, Birthright Foundry
Founder/CEO of Birthright Foundry, Constance Polamalu is an American Samoan woman and first-generation jewelry designer based in Annapolis Maryland. Her work in the jewelry industry has taken her all across the United States, as well as to Italy, China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Switzerland and Canada.
The Samoan oratory culture running through her veins makes her a natural storyteller. Constance considers her first language to be English, her second to be Jewelry and all her designs to be stories written in metal. As a new mother ignited by the turmoil of 2020, she decided to step outside of her duties at Zachary’s Jewelers as Chief Operating Officer and founded a new jewelry brand dedicated to preserving and resurrecting culturally significant stories.
Dorian Webb, Dorian Webb
Dorian Webb founded her eponymous company while studying architecture at Yale University. Inspired by the artistry of Venetian glassblowing, she designed a collection of handcrafted jewelry using Murano glass and semiprecious gems. The success of the jewelry led Dorian to expand the collection to include vibrantly colored chandeliers featuring Murano glass and gemstones. Neiman Marcus was the first retailer to carry her designs, and other, high end retailers in United States, Canada and Japan and museums and galleries quickly followed.
Dorian has garnered numerous awards for her work; at her first trade show, The NY International Gift Fair, she won the Artisan’s Award. In 2019 she was the recipient of the Madam CJ Walker Entrepreneur Award and was selected for a solo exhibition at Thelma Harris Art Gallery. Most recently, Dorian was a finalist in the 2021 THENEXTNOW international competition for emerging jewelry designers.
After moving from Manhattan to Oakland, CA Dorian analyzed the Company’s goals and business model. In order to successfully compete in a rapidly changing marketplace, she decided to focus future growth efforts on direct-to-consumer, online sales.
A desire to support her community led Dorian to work with low-income women of color to gain access to the resources necessary to start a business. A need to contribute to positive societal change is also evidenced by Dorian’s work that often features conversation inspiring pieces, and by her donating a portion of jewelry sales to impactful organizations. Driven by her entrepreneurial and activist spirit, Dorian also launched Uplift, a project that created pop-up stores in empty spaces in downtown Oakland, CA for African American businesses, artisans, and artists. An avid reader, Dorian writes a monthly column for a local magazine– another medium Dorian uses to share her perspective. Dorian is currently at work on a coffee table book that demonstrates the existence and importance of an influential, polyrhythmic African American design aesthetic, and showcases often overlooked Black artists and designers.
Jameel Mohammed, KHIRY
KHIRY Founder Jameel Mohammed began a career in design at age 16, interning for Nicole Miller, and Narciso Rodriguez, while still in high school at Phillips Exeter Academy. In 2013 he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania to begin a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. When a necklace he designed caught the eye of the COO and Fashion Director of Barneys New York in 2014, he decided to focus on jewelry design and accepted an internship at the company where he learned the ins and outs of merchandising and retail buying. In 2016 he founded KHIRY, an Afrofuturist Luxury Brand. KHIRY employs the conventions of luxury fashion to make pointed statements about the value of black life and culture. KHIRY’s polished and sculptural demi-fine jewelry is crafted in Gold Vermeil and Sterling Silver with natural embellishments of semi-precious stones and handwoven leather to embody the strength, beauty, power, and romance of the African Diaspora.
Lisette Scott, Jam+Rico
Growing up, Lisette was always influenced by her culture. With immigrant grandparents from both islands of Jamaica and Puerto Rico, she was always curious about their upbringing and traditions that were formed from their homeland. The most prominent inspirations were food and music in her home. A little salsa and reggae with a mix of arroz con pollo, pastelles, jerk and curry were favorites and loves within her home. Once she was older and able to travel to both islands, the fascination and love of her heritage grew even stronger. The colors, carnivals, art, beaches and language all inspired Lisette to create and design. That’s when she knew she needed to design to bring herself closer to a the cultural connection of my ancestors. Lisette created Jam + Rico (Jamaica and Puerto Rico) to dive deeper into her love of designing and the Caribbean.
Malyia McNaughton, Made by Malyia
Made by Malyia is a jewelry and lifestyle brand founded in 2014 by Malyia McNaughton, a self-taught designer based in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up the youngest of five kids, Malyia was fashion obsessed at a young age and often reinvented her style. After graduating from The Florida State University, she seized opportunities to work with NYC’s leading fashion brands.
Made By Malyia began with a search for the perfect body chain for an upcoming music festival. After the search turned up empty, Malyia relied on her creativity to design her own. Due to the overwhelming requests from friends and strangers interested in their very own body chain, she took to Etsy and listed the design. Upon realizing she had discovered her true passion, she quit her 9-to-5 as a fashion buyer to pursue her dreams full time.
Malyia often draws inspiration from the architecture and pulse of her hometown, New York City. African culture, indigenous tribal adornment, and nature have also inspired her collections. Since the brand’s debut, MBM has landed partnerships and features with the world’s largest brands.
Malyia serves proudly on Black in Jewelry Coalition board of directors, the first international non-profit membership association dedicated to the inclusion and advancement of Black professionals within the gem, jewelry, and watch industry.
Marvin Linares, Marvin Douglas Jewelry
At 27 years old, in an industry where he was not welcomed with open arms, Marvin has worked twice as hard to gain industry knowledge and credibility. He was introduced to jewelry by his grandmother who stumbled across the industry in the 80’s, and through the business was able to bring his family to the United States from El Salvador.
“Jewelry is the reason I was born in this country, I always wanted to be a part of the world, but lacked the resources” Marvin says. He gained specific training by working in sales for Tiffany & Co. and as a Jewelry Specialist for Dover Street Market Los Angeles but most experience has been gained through his persistence to learn backed by his curiosity and creative nature.
Marvin was raised in Palmdale, CA., a small desert city in the Antelope Valley. “Coming from a place like that with not much to do, all of your focus goes into perfecting your craft and making your dreams a reality,” Marvin says. Marvin Douglas Jewelry is an extension of himself, the physical embodiment of culture and creativity, in an industry previously reserved for the inherently privileged. The intention is simple – to explore Latin heritage and experience through fine jewelry, with designs intended to combine a youthful spirit with traditional craftsmanship.
Marvin Douglas Jewelry has been worn on Grammy red carpets, Vogue Mexico, Playboy, Super Bowl Half-time performances, and many more. Humbled by these opportunities, Marvin believes his greatest triumphs are making his family proud.