Toronto Jewellery Designer Tamara Kronis Talks Her New Collection & Canadian Mined Diamonds
As the owner of fine jewellery studio Studio1098, Toronto-based designer, chief goldsmith and gemologist Tamara Kronis is known for creating custom pieces along with engagement and wedding rings. Kronis, who is inspired by art deco and nature, recently released her new Eclipse collection for Fall 2015. With her new line officially unveiled, Real Style caught up with Kronis about her artistic style, the challenges of sourcing locally mined diamonds and her experience as a Canadian jewellery designer.
Real Style: You’ve released your new Eclipse jewellery collection for Studio1098. Describe the inspiration behind your latest collection.
Tamara: There are two things. One is that I had pared down to basics last year, and so I wanted something that would have just a little bit of ornamentation. It would be sleek, curvy and flattering, but also be colourful and interesting. I get a lot of my inspiration from nature. Eclipses are rare and they’re beautiful. I had these cabochon gemstones, and I looked at them, and I saw that. That’s a little bit behind what the artist statement is. It’s just the idea that eclipses are natural and rare, and just kind of ethereal.
Real Style: You’re known for incorporating art deco and art nouveau in your pieces. How do you use these artistic styles in your jewellery design?
Tamara: If I sat down to design for myself, I would gravitate toward art nouveau and art deco, because those are periods of art that really speak to me. I love the furniture and the architectural styles. I think there were some really interesting and challenging things done in the 1930s. Largely because, the thing that the 1930s has in common with today is that people had to do more with less, so they tended to be very creative in their design. When it comes to designing for clients, I’m getting direction from whatever direction my clients want to go in and right now there just happens to be a huge demand for vintage inspired jewellery.
A lot of the inspirations that people have are from that art deco and art nouveau period. It just works very nicely that my own natural design direction is one that matches the design direction of my client. The thing that I really like about art nouveau and art deco jewellery (and design in general from those periods) is that they paid a lot of attention to proportions and to lines.
I find that when I’m looking at jewellery on the Internet, when I don’t like something, it’s usually because the proportions are off and I don’t like the direction of a given line. Being inspired by art deco and art nouveau jewellery kind of always reminds me to focus on the proportions and to make sure I get the fundamentals of my jewellery design right.
Real Style: You also have your I Am Canadian! collection, which uses Ontario mined, cut and polished diamonds. What are the challenges of sourcing local diamonds for your jewellery?
Tamara: There’s one ring which I did with Ontario cut, mined and polished diamonds. Most of my Canadian diamonds are mined in Canada and cut overseas. People want to make informed and thoughtful choices about their jewellery. I’ve done a lot of work on my end to make sure that I understand my sourcing and make sure that I know where my stuff comes from. That involves buying mostly from suppliers who are people, as opposed to companies.
In many cases, my suppliers are buying their rough directly from mines. I’ve done a lot of work to try and understand my chain of custody with a lot of my jewellery, and have focused on trying to buy from local businesses instead of big companies.
Real Style: How has the experience been with sourcing locally mined diamonds for your jewellery?
Tamara: I’ve just been steering toward people who I feel have interesting and ethical businesses, and steering away from the ones that I am less enamoured with. I just focus on doing business with companies where if my clients met those people, they would like them and feel proud to support the business that I’m proud to support.
Very few diamonds that are mined here in Canada are cut in Canada at this point. One of the nice things about all diamonds these days is that they cross borders with papers, so all certified diamonds are documented.
We actually have several diamond mines in Canada, and one of the people who is instrumental in discovering them is Eira Thomas. She is a dynamic, amazing, optimistic, spectacular woman. She is actually one of the people that I really admire in my industry.
Real Style: What are some of the biggest challenges of your career as a Canadian jewellery designer?
Tamara: Right now, I think one of the biggest challenges of being a Canadian jewellery designer is that our prices and our fate is largely tied to what is going on with the U.S. dollar. We had a really interesting situation earlier in the year, where the price of gold went down in the United States, but the Canadian dollar exchange rate also went down. So, the net effect of the price of gold in Canada basically stayed the same, so we didn’t get those savings.
I think that’s one of the interesting challenges, we’re so tied to the U.S. economy that some of our input prices are tied, and that’s as an industry. Most of my suppliers are Canadian, but ultimately, they have to buy in U.S. dollars as well.
On the trends side, Canadians are more conservative in their jewellery tastes than they are in the U.S. What’s trendy in the U.S. isn’t necessarily trendy in Canada. We’re just a more conservative market. They’re in turn more conservative than Europe. The real advantage and disadvantage of the Canadian market all rolled up into one is that it is its own market, and so it’s an opportunity for a Canadian jewellery designer. Being Canadian, I understand the Canadian market better than I understand any other jewellery market. I love being Canadian! There are interesting facts about the Canadian jewellery market, but I really love it.
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