Erica Courtney's candy store of colored gems

Rachel Garrahan meets Erica Courtney, the Los Angeles-based designer who travels the world to discover the most fabulous gemstones.

Erica Courtney

Erica Courtney loves to describe her one-of-a-kind jewels as "drop dead gorgeous" and it's easy to see why her color-rich, ultra-feminine gems have captured the hearts of jewelry lovers for more than 30 years.

Easter Egg opal cocktail ring
Erica Courtney Easter Egg cocktail ring from the Cleopatra collection, set with an 8.52ct crystal opal in a halo basket and 1.62cts of diamonds ($50,000).

The Los Angeles-based designer travels the world to discover the most fabulous candy-colored gemstones, including rich red-pink rubellites, cool-mint tourmalines, and the fiery depths of rare opals. Setting them in highly ornate settings, she succeeds in creating jewelry that is both delicate and fearlessly bold at the same time.

Just back from her latest trip to the gem mines of Vietnam, Erica says her love of color motivates her eternal quest for new stones and color combinations. "Every single gemstone is a one-of-a-kind color in its own way," says the designer, whose jewelry has been worn by the likes of Jessica Alba and Sofia Vergara. "You might not love every purple garnet you see, but you’ll love this one. I believe it's the gemstone that picks you."

Cleopatra Queen of the Nile colored diamond earrings
Erica Courtney Queen of the Nile earrings from the Cleopatra collection, set with 6.11cts of Fancy yellow and orange diamonds ($55,000).

Recent stone discoveries include the neon coloration of rare Mahenge spinel from Tanzania, the magnificent color-changing properties of Turkish Csarite, and the richness of orange spinel. "I love to go to the mines and discover where these beautiful gems actually come from," she explains.

In typical show-stopping style, Erica's Easter Egg ring centers on the luminiscence of a crystal opal set in a basket of intricate gold work and diamonds. It is this level of detail, where no angle, gallery or facet is left untouched, that sets Erica's work apart.

Double Trouble green tourmaline cocktail ring
Erica Courtney Double Trouble cocktail ring set with 11.81cts of blue-green tourmaline framed by 1.73cts of diamonds and 2.60cts of mint tourmaline ($70,000).

Another bold cocktail ring, the whimsically named Double Trouble ring, elegantly dresses the hand in a pair of matching ocean-deep, blue-green tourmalines that are framed by a double diamond pavé frame, mint tourmalines on the sides, and a fully-pavéd milgrain band. 

Stories heard on her travels also provide Erica with inspiration. Her Cleopatra collection was inspired by her trip to the land of the pyramids and its famous queen. A pair of earrings celebrate Cleopatra's power and regal style, with dramatic ovals of desert-sand yellow diamonds contrasting with drops of bezel-set orange diamonds, which move seductively with the wearer.

Rosa opal earrings with purple tourmalines
Erica Courtney Rosa drop earrings set with 9.61cts of opals, 1.83cts of pinkish-purple tourmalines, diamonds and demantoid garnets ($22,400).

The designer shows a more feminine side with her Rosa earrings. The kaleidoscopic qualities of a pair of crystal opals, which share a diverse play of color, are accented with vibrant pinkish-purple tourmalines and grass-green tsavorites.

Whatever her worldly inspiration, Erica Courtney's jewelry is sure to provide a punch of color and an infectious joie de vivre.


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