Diamond Week

Inside Zoë Chicco’s Los Angeles Jewelry Studio

She makes pieces Karlie Kloss and Jennifer Lawrence wear every day.

By: Laurel Pantin
Photography: Emily Knecht

Being as extra as we are, naturally we’re drawn towards things bright and sparkly—the bigger and sparklier, generally, the better. But there is something to be said for more subtle pieces, especially when they’re as beautifully designed and wearable as Zoë Chicco’s designs.

If you don’t know her name, you definitely know her work—it adorns the ears, necks, and fingers of the likes of Karlie Kloss, Serena Williams, and Jennifer Lawrence. Chicco basically pioneered the whole subtle, personal jewelry movement, and 18 years after the brand’s launch, she’s still going strong out of her Los Angeles studio. And while diamonds are her favorite stones to work with, she recently launched a collaboration with Gemfields using ethically sourced precious gems, too.

We were lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes peek at her workshop and showroom, and hear how a math teacher got her started in jewelry.

“In high school, I was lucky enough to have an art teacher who was a metalsmith. She sort of took me under her wing and taught me some of the basics, and I fell in love with it. I continued my studies in college and majored in studio art with a concentration in metal smithing. After graduation, I worked as a bench jeweler for several different designers on both coasts, while working on my own designs as well in my spare time. Once I had honed my skills, I went out on my own. I launched my brand 18 years ago, designing and making each piece by hand from a closet in my apartment in San Francisco. That was it—I never looked back.”

“All of my jewelry is still made in-house. As the brand has grown, I’ve added a bunch of bench jewelers to help me, but we still work in our own studio making the collection. That way we have complete control over the materials and the quality control of the jewelry. After the first sample is made, I will wear it around for a bit to see how it feels and make sure it lays right. I always ask the rest of my team for their opinions, too. Often pieces get tweaked, sometimes they get cut, but if we all love the piece, I will add it to the collection."

“I’m a gold girl for sure. In terms of color, I typically gravitate towards yellow around my face (neck and ears), but on my hands and wrists, I love to mix rose, yellow, and white gold. As for stones, the majority of my collection is diamonds (they are my first stone love), but I’ve also introduced turquoise, opals, pearls, and, most recently, emeralds, which has been a fun change, and they’ve played very nicely with the rest of the collection. The reception from our stores and clients has been really great, so I plan to continue to expand those collections.”

“We work with diamond vendors that source conflict-free natural diamonds, which is important to me. I like the diamonds to be white, sparkly, and clean to the eye. They also have to be the right shape. Shape can vary a lot with fancy-cut stones, and the proportion is something I’m very particular about.”

“The first diamonds I bought were really small and round (1.3mm was the first size I used), so while I was excited to be venturing into working with diamonds, the stones themselves weren’t particularly exciting. I found them at a gem show, but now I have several vendors that I know well and trust that I work with in downtown L.A. where our office is. When I started to work with fancy-shaped diamonds, things got a bit more exciting. The first cuts were pears and trillions; the bigger the stones got, the more fun I had creating the jewelry. Last season, we introduced marquis and emerald-cut diamonds.”

“I love the idea of mixing gold colors and stone shapes. My rings are a perfect example of my philosophy; I wear 15 rings every day. Every single day. Five stacked on each ring finger, and the rest stacked on my pinkies. Some are yellow and rose gold, as well as platinum. There are round, princess, marquise, baguette, and radiant-cut diamonds. Anything goes, and I love it all mixed together. The nice thing about fine jewelry is that you can wear it all the time and you don’t have to worry about it turning [a different color]; it can stand the test of time. The pieces I wear every day I rarely take off.”

“I still sketch every design before making it. I keep a running list of ideas in my phone as well, but I always have to do a sketch so I don’t forget what I had in mind.”

“I have pages and pages of designs that were never created. The sketches that I think could work go on to the next phase by finalizing the design and choosing the materials, scale, thickness, stone size, settings, etc. Once I make those choices, we make a sample.”

“I am a very visual person, so what I see inspires me. It could be anything—a pattern, a building, a work of art. It’s generally the little things that speak to me: A ceiling in a Paris apartment where I was showing inspired a recent collection. Another was inspired by the horizon line of a particularly beautiful sunset over the ocean in Hawaii. I tend to gravitate towards clean lines and classic forms in my home, personal style, and jewelry line. I do look to current trends in fashion to inform my designs, but don’t rely on them. Instead, I tend to create what I like and what I can see myself or my friends wearing every day. It is always my goal to make my clients go-to pieces that feel current but transcend trends.”

“Things are definitely moving more towards women buying for themselves. The majority of my clients are self-purchasers, which I think is amazing. I try to offer a lot in a friendly price point for fine jewelry so women feel it’s a good value and are comfortable buying it for themselves. There are always those pieces that you hope that someone will buy you as a gift, but saving for or splurging a little on yourself always feels so good and you know that you are getting something that you really love. That is so personally satisfying.”

“Everyone in the industry is familiar with Gemfields’ reputation. They are the leading supplier of responsibly sourced emeralds, rubies, and amethysts in the world. So I was honored when they reached out to see if I was interested in working with them. One of our goals was to show that emerald pieces can be everyday jewelry too. Some people are afraid of color, but it can be layered in well with your other pieces—it doesn’t have to be a special occasion. I also wanted the collection to still be reflective of my brand; it needed to be able to sit with my current collection in stores and still feel like Zoe Chicco. When I look at the pieces, they feel like the next evolution of some of our signature styles, and the focal point of the larger emerald stones really makes it special. I intentionally created a nice balance between affordable and a bit more aspirational. I’m thrilled with the way the collection came out—the reaction to the pieces has been incredible, and that’s so gratifying to me!”

Part of the series:

Diamond Week