A little girl stands on her tippy-toes, peering into the jewelry box as her mother sorts through her baubles and gems. Rings, bracelets, necklaces and brooches—some are heirlooms, others were purchased on vacations, and a few were tied up in a silk bow for a birthday or anniversary.
They might all be different, but each one has a story. Jewelry designer Kiersten Elizabeth’s creativity thrives off of the long-lasting nature of fine pieces and the stories they tell.
“To me, it’s like the living time capsule of being able to grab that piece out of your jewelry box in the morning and wear that memory,” the GIA graduate gemologist says.
Specializing in custom pieces to mark special occasions, the Charleston, South Carolina-based designer’s attention to detail has made her a popular choice for customers looking to create a one-of-a-kind piece that can one day be handed down to their children. Now, she’s making her way into the Dallas market and is eager to add her colorful creations into new treasure boxes.
“For me, the best thing is working directly with private clients,” Elizabeth says. “They like my design sense, and they know that I’m going to do something that’s going to be high-end and it’s going to be completely catered to them.”
Elizabeth’s first career was a high-powered job in health care IT, but she found a creative outlet in designing her own jewelry as she could never find pieces to her liking. Her jewelry always caught the eyes of her colleagues, who complimented her designs or even asked her to make custom engagement rings. She was honored to be tasked with such an important project, and after more than a decade she asked herself, why don’t I do this legitimately?
Six years ago, she launched Kiersten Elizabeth Fine Jewelry and has released a number of collections, inspired by the romantic whimsy of Paris, London and Great Abaco in the Bahamas and the decorative details in the Edwardian, art deco and art nouveau eras. But her greatest joy is working alongside clients to turn what’s trapped in their imagination into a tangible piece of wearable, custom jewelry. It all begins with a consultation, where Elizabeth asks about their lifestyle, the occasion and why particular gemstones are so important to them to ensure that she makes a beautiful but functional piece of jewelry.
“I’m sketching while we’re chatting and talking,” she says. “I feel like my designs are developed by the story as I learn more about them; it becomes very clear in my mind what they should have or what it should be.”
For example, for a couple living on the West Coast, Elizabeth recently completed a bracelet with 80 carats of aquamarine, diamonds and sapphires. At the end, she worked secretly with the husband to add a love note on the inside of the bracelet.
Elizabeth believes that both the admirer and the wearer of the jewelry should be able to enjoy a piece, hence her attention to all angles of jewelry—especially ring profiles. “It’s what they’re looking at every time when they’re typing on their computer, when they’re driving,” she notes. “It’s rarely an aspect that’s done well. I just think it’s such a shame because that person is the person who sees it all the time, and it should be beautiful for them, too.”
Elizabeth has also developed a bevy of contacts in the business, thanks to regular sourcing trips, allowing her access to quality gemstones such as fine opal, Alexandrite, Colombian emeralds, Burmese rubies and Ceylon sapphires. A lot of her pieces are colorful and explore different gemstones from around the world. They can be purchased online as well as in select stores.
Looking into her own jewelry box, Elizabeth cherishes moments with her two daughters as she tells them the stories of each piece, from her own creations to her grandmother’s cameo ring. Every single one is filled with memories and stories.
“Nothing more than jewelry, especially when it’s something from a long time ago, helps you point to a period of time,” Elizabeth says. “It’s that kind of living memory that you keep with you and you pull out and you wear.” *
Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at christianalilly.com.