Shahla Karimi was adorned in diamonds and real gold since she was two weeks old. Fast forward to 2014 after a highly coveted position working with President Obama, she started her own Brookyln-based jewelry brand rooted in human psychology.
Using recycled gold and conflict-free stones, her namesake label captures the deep seated longing of human beings to embrace and express their memories. With her pieces adorning the hands and ears of fashion’s It girls, such as Gigi Hadid, Lena Dunham, Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung, we catch up with Shahla to discover what makes each piece so special.
Before starting your own business, you previously served as the Director of Merchandising for President Obama. What was that like?
It was the first time I worked at a large company where everyone had a singular goal and no one was too high up to get their hands dirty. All of the labels and agencies I worked at previously were very cut-throat and competitive!
In addition to the company culture, I had a lot of fun treating something previously thought of as “chum” or free swag like an actual brand. I used the best fabrics and American vendors, and collaborated with over 50 top fashion designers to create over 400 products - we raised 40 million dollars from merchandise sales alone - a record still today!
What inspired you to start your own jewelry brand?
Ever since I was 2 weeks old, my parents adorned me with diamonds and real gold bracelets (a little extreme in today’s gold market). I knew from a very early age that I wanted to work in design. I majored in both psychology and design, and started taking classes in metal smithing soon after grad school. I started making jewelry on the side in 2008 with a plan to save enough money to start my own brand, which finally came to fruition in 2014.
I wanted to create jewelry rooted in human psychology. I feel like all good design is thoughtful and with jewelry being such a personal purchase, it should hold meaning. I made a brand promise to honor my customer’s personal journeys and haven’t looked back!
Describe your design aesthetic.
My designs are inspired but minimal, feminine but not fussy.
Can you walk us through the process of designing the perfect wedding ring?
Sometimes my customers know exactly what they want and sometimes they don’t know where to start - these customers are the most fun!
I always start my process by finding more out about the couple - how did they meet, what have the significant moments been, what do they enjoy doing together as a couple? I like to embed a romantic reveal in each piece; it could be a route engraved on the inside of the ring that maps their two hometowns, incorporating a metal or stone of meaning, using a significant number of stones, or drawing design inspiration from a particular place or monument.
Any suggestions for ring buyers?
I recommend NOT buying an engagement ring online - all larger stones (.75 carat+) should be looked at with a loupe in person. Two stones with the same GIA specifications can look drastically different in person - one can “smile” while the other can appear lifeless. Smaller stones are okay to buy online if the diamond specifications are listed - if they are VS+ / G+ you are buying very high quality. I have a guide to diamonds buying here.
What excites you most about what you do?
I like being a part of my client’s love story, whether I am making their engagement or wedding ring or helping them create a piece that holds a special memory like the personalizable sound waves necklaces.
Anything you learned recently that blew your mind away?
Elon Musk has made the case that we are not currently living in base realty, but in a simulation. Now I can’t sleep at night.
When I’m stuck creatively, I… meditate and try to clear my mind instead of looking for inspiration.
One piece of jewelry I never take off? My “destination necklace” - it looks like a version of a bar necklace but it is actually the exact route from my apartment in Brooklyn to my childhood home where my parents still live in Kentucky.
Gold or silver? Gold!
If I could have lunch with anyone? Tom Hanks
Best restaurant in Brooklyn/NYC? Le Turtle
What should we order? The whole chicken
Emoji that best describe me? of course
Photography: Farhat Sikder