Suzanne Kalan: In conversation with the celebrity jewellery designer

Suzanne Kalan
Suzanne Kalan

As Los Angeles-based Suzanne Kalan gets ready to debut a new diamond baguette cuff at Jewellery Arabia later this month, the celebrity jeweller tells us why gold and diamonds run in the family

By Sujata Assomull

Published: Thu 3 Nov 2016, 10:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 4 Nov 2016, 12:47 AM

When your brand has been featured on the red carpet on celebrities like Katy Perry, Elizabeth Banks and Demi Lovato - and you sell at stores like London's Harrods and Dover Street Market - you know you're doing something right. Los Angeles-based Suzanne Kalan has been designing fine jewellery for almost 30 years, and her designs are only getting better.  
Coming from an Armenian background, Kalan was born in Lebanon and spent some time in Kuwait before moving to Los Angeles, so this Angeleno has a very special connection with the Middle East. She visits Dubai once every six months, and will be here in just a few weeks. And although she's the first to admit that she loves the city, it's not pleasure but business that brings her here. For Kalan has a loyal following of clients in this region. She sells out of S*uce Rocks at Galleria Mall. It has been two years since Kalan first started retailing her brand in the city. "I love the art and culture in Dubai, and found my jewellery line was well received by the region," she says.
Jewellery is in Kalan's blood as her father once owned a jewellery store. "I got very familiar with traditional gold jewellery, but found the designs to be very basic," she reminisces. "I started working on silver because it allowed me to be more creative with my designs. Back then, a retail store placed an order for my line in gold, and I decided to transition to using primarily 18K gold. I found new ways to be creative and have a modern take on traditional jewellery designs." And her father financially contributed to her business too - she bought the stones for her first order by selling a diamond tennis bracelet he had gifted her on her wedding.
While Kalan's use of precious stones in her work is always modern, it also has a distinct design sensibility with a bit of an edge. She is very aware that jewellery is an investment and she ensures all her designs are keepsakes that can be passed on from mother to daughter. Baguette-cut stones are her signature style and her line, Fireworks, features a stunning high- and-low scattered setting of stones. ensuring her designs are conversation starters. Stacking is another concept that is central to the Kalan brand, and while this has become a de rigueur jewellery trend now, the concept of layering has always been a part of Kalan's repertoire. "The key to stacking is working with jewellery colour. Mixing and matching gemstones and diamonds work well in our collection."
Another style that Kalan is known for is the vitrine concept, which is considered an innovation in the industry. "The vitrine design was my original concept. I travel all over the world looking for the best gemstones to use in my line. When I was in Hong Kong, looking through a variety of stones, I placed my hand behind the gemstones, and that's when I got the idea to use clear gemstones to showcase a panel of diamonds. Even today, the vitrine custom-cut continues to be an important design and figures prominently in my Fireworks collection."
It is her unique use of stones, and her striking designs that have given Kalan's brand such resonance in the region. And she is debuting a bespoke diamond cuff at Jewellery Arabia that starts later this month. "I designed that piece with a Middle Eastern audience in mind. I am also designing beautiful statement jewellery sets for my customers and retailers in the region." Of course, her own ties with the region means she has an understanding of the Middle East's love for adornment. "My Lebanese and Armenian ancestry has definitely influenced my designs. Jewellery is very important in Middle Eastern culture. Growing up in Lebanon, there was always an appreciation for beauty, art and unique pieces of work. These ideas have resonated with me and have influenced my designs." 
If you're looking to add one piece of Kalan's to your holiday wish-list, she suggests her stackable rings. She never leaves home without her diamond bangles and wedding rings. "My husband is a diamond setter and he recently updated my ring. It has a beautiful centre stone with baguette diamonds as part of my band. He put a lot of thought into it, and I absolutely love it." Jewellery is important to the entire family. In fact, her daughter Patile decided to get into the business five years ago! Clearly, the glitz factor runs in their blood.

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