THE TALK: The Power of a Jewel

Less consumerist aspirations and more emotional values: this is the future of jewelry according to Karma El Khalil, the New York-based fine jewelry designer who, thanks to her singular style, has made her signature a favorite among Hollywood’s elite

In one of your latest photos on Instagram, you wear the Armor ring as a sign of protection and fortitude... Is the power of a jewel as a talisman growing in this delicate historical period?
The onset of the pandemic and quarantine brought about a resurgence of talismanic jewelry. Symbolic and sacred jewelry gave its wearers a sense of protection in the face of the shock, fear and loss of control that the unknown had brought into our lives. Throughout the Black Lives Matter movement I’ve experienced a different sentiment. This is a time for listening and recognizing, and for being involved and active in the support and fight for justice. This is not a moment to shield ourselves from what is happening in our streets, at the hands of law enforcement and from the institutionalized racial injustice in our country. It’s time to show up and take responsibility for the change that we want to see. In terms of jewelry I’ve experienced this period as a moment during which I am not inclined to wear my armor rings and protective pieces — I am much more interested in being open and vulnerable. 

What are your feelings about the situation we are all facing right now?
The situation that America is facing right now began in 1619. The Black Lives Matter movement and today’s protests are the culmination of a system built on oppression, racial and economic inequality and injustice. Tragically, it took murder and police violence to be recorded on video and broadcast for a vast number of people to start paying attention and choose to act. Since the death of George Floyd we have seen some positive legal reforms and promises for change, but I do not want to delude myself into foolish optimism. We must continue to fight for a better world —I personally don’t believe that anything else is more important and urgent.

It seems to be that social commitment and respect for the environment are becoming important issues also in the world of jewelry, what do you think about it?
Environmental and social impact need to be a part of every company’s mission. I also believe that the increase in the changes that we are seeing are due to consumers holding brands accountable. Social media has become a powerful tool for transparency, raising consumer and employee issues, and dialogue that provokes awareness and responsibility.

Let’s talk about your brand… How has your business changed during this period?
One of the highlights of my life as a jewelry designer is working and communicating with my clients during shows and launch parties. The one-on-one connection is very meaningful to me because it allows me to know my clients better and to be able to speak about my jewelry and answer questions. Quarantine has taken that valued experience and aspect of my business away. Furthermore, I have had to stop all production because of the lock down. After that initial shock, I found that in order to prepare for the changing demands of the market I had to exercise creativity, adaptability and positivity. As I learned to practice being in the moment in my personal life, I also chose to let go of trying to figure out what my business will look like tomorrow. I’ve given myself the resources and space to adapt to the specific demands of the consumer by slowing things down and reprioritizing. The buying patterns are changing continuously and we need to be resourceful and adaptable. Right now, most of my sales have moved to online and by appointment at stores. 

Which of your jewels would you recommend buying for next summer, which will be special for everyone...?
I always love body pieces for the summer, like my custom body chains that wrap around one’s chest and back. However, by the time next summer rolls around I think that it will be appropriate to honor ourselves, appreciate our growth and be thankful for the fortitude and courage that we needed to live by during 2020. So I imagine adorning ourselves with jewelry that is celebratory and that makes us feel connected to our higher and grateful selves.

How do you see the future of jewelry?
After loss and hardship people prioritize differently. As such, I imagine that we will become more thoughtful in our purchases. I am hoping that people will buy more responsibly and also out of love versus consumerist aspirations. Also, I’ve always believed in the power of jewelry as an extension of oneself, not an accessory to match an outfit. My desire is that the future of jewelry will become more imbued in the emotional value of jewelry wearing and design.

What about your new projects?
I am looking forward to putting into production the designs I’ve spent the last months designing. I am also working on creating pieces exclusively for a few stores, which I am really excited about.

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