Designers Cathy and Lara of classic jewelry brand Caterina Jewelry illustrate how they built a jewelry empire with drive, ingenuity and teamwork.
Hi, Cathy and Lara. Tell us a little about yourselves.
Cathy: I was born and raised in France. Growing up, my mother had always been an inspiration for me. Her design concepts for her own jewelry were spectacular, so I would often follow in her footsteps and come up with my own. Years later, I moved to the United States to attend the University of Michigan, where I met Lara. After graduation, I worked in finance, marketing, and fashion, and collaborated with many brands such as BCBG Max Azria, but my heart would always fly back to my love for jewelry design.
Having bonded over our shared passion for jewelry and travel while in college, Lara and I decided to co-found Caterina Jewelry in 2013.
Lara: I grew up in Brisbane, Australia, and was a competitive swimmer from age five. I made the 1988 Olympic swim team and won a gold medal at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, while in high school. Later, I moved to the United States on an athletic scholarship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. After graduation, I lived and worked for various investment banks in New York City for several years before moving back to Australia in 2008.
How did you build a successful jewelry brand?
Projecting and inventing the charm opener fueled the launch of our company. At that time, we were in the process of designing a new line of charm bracelets, and were soon faced with the difficulty of unclasping them, whether to add or remove charms, or to simply remove them at the end of the day. The realization that no tool on the market was effective, even to a very little extent, at opening bracelets propelled us to make a difference in the jewelry industry. More than one year in the making, the Charm Opener®, now a trademark of Caterina Jewelry, has been specifically designed to address the challenges of opening bracelets, and particularly charm bracelets.
It was a pivotal moment for the company. Soon after the launch of the Charm Opener®, we embraced singular, trend-transcending jewelry concepts that would meld the timeless elegance of classic jewelry with the modern aesthetic and high versatility of charm bracelets. The launch of the much-coveted CJ CHARM Collection followed. Refined and boldly feminine, the collection features .925 sterling silver-sculptured bracelets and necklaces boasting snake chains, opulent coin pendants, and clusters of dazzling Swarovski crystals that brightly shine when lifted high up into the light. It’s what actually inspired us to design the MINIMALISTA Collection, which we created to please both minimalistas and maximalistas.
What is the process from the concept stage to physically creating a piece?
I take my inspiration from traditional jewelry shapes and incorporate them into designs that are both modern and innovative. I like to say that we are reinventing classic jewelry pieces. The process usually starts with a rough draft for a collection that we turn into a CAD, or computer-aided design. This helps create a mold that we use to fabricate the first sample. More often than not, this first sample needs revisions and tweaks to achieve visual perfection. Part of the testing process also involves wearing the sample to assess the fitting. Some items turn out just lovely right away, while some take longer to perfect. This was the case with the CJ CHARM Bracelet — we needed numerous revisions that I quite lost count of and over a year to get it right. My inspiration was a watch. I have noticed that women love watches, but don’t wear them so often as they have a cell phone.
How are your designs unique?
Versatility and timeless elegance are the keynotes that distinguish our creations. Expertly crafted from .925 sterling silver of superlative quality, the CJ line reimagines staple jewelry pieces by merging elements of classic and charm jewelry into one-of-a-kind designs. Unique charms inspired by classic jewelry pendants adorn the 3mm and 2mm sterling silver chains, creating spectacular looks that beguile with enchanting femininity. As the charms can be removed or added to, every CJ piece can be personalized to match your style — refined and bursting with color by day, vivid and wildly surprising by night, and sparking wonder and dreams at all times.
The MINIMALISTA Collection features 2mm snake chains ornamented with stylish coin pendants encrusted with Swarovski crystals in luminous colors, all perfectly capturing the essence of minimalist fashion. The stackable style of the pieces, as well as their versatility and sleek detailing, make the MINIMALISTA Collection an absolute must-have for all seasons and occasions — all in all, a fabulous staple that unlocks an abundance of styling possibilities.
Our MINIMALISTA and ALIZEE Collections are currently patent-pending.
Can you describe what the Charm Opener is?
Caterina Jewelry’s patented Charm Opener®, now a trademark of the company, is a groundbreaking solution that efficiently addresses the challenges of unclasping charm bracelets by providing a unique and ingenious mechanism that separates the edges of the clasp with one click. The simplicity of its modus operandi, as well as its user-friendly design and attractive pink color, have brought immense recognition from industry experts and charm bracelet enthusiasts alike, making the Charm Opener® the favorite tool for unclasping charm bracelets on the market. It’s the only tool of its kind to open charm bracelets while on the wrist, and a surefire way to make every woman love her charm bracelet more.
List some attributes that you believe make a designer.
To me, being a designer is an art, and I believe very few people understand the actual designing process. A designer should have an absolute love for jewelry, as well as an enhanced fashion sense and a good eye for jewelry trends. To be always on the lookout for emerging trends, and use your artistic flare to come up with a look that is unique to the brand, are of utmost importance when it comes to jewelry design. An exceedingly-good understanding of metals and gemstones can also make a huge difference when designing a piece as picking the right materials can make every jewelry concept come to life and really express the sensibility of the designer. But I think business acumen is just as important — you need to be able to design jewelry that can be sold, have excellent manual dexterity, and be familiar with computer-aided designs, or CAD, and the process of fabricating molds used for creating an initial sample.
What will we expect from Caterina Jewelry in the future?
We want to continue to add more collections to our line. The new ALIZÉE Collection is coming out this Summer. Taking its inspiration from the technical luxury trend, the open ALIZÉE bangle promises to take the much-coveted charm jewelry concept to a new level. The piece will feature a unique mechanism that is compatible with our assortment of CJ CHARMS, a new line of interchangeable beads embellished with colored pave-set Swarovski crystals that can be changed to personalize its look. The removable CJ CHARMS also provide the convenience of adding or removing charms and pendants to the piece to create one-of-a-kind jewelry stylings, and will be available in a dazzling selection of colors and shapes that capture the individuality of women to perfection. You can add any brand of charms or pendants to the bangle, which makes it even more attractive and intriguing!
Thank you for interviewing with us Cathy and Lara!
Scope out their collection at: http://www.caterinajewelry.com.