By Åse Anderson
Kara Ross' fascination with coloured gemstones shines through in every single piece of jewellery. "Gems are where I draw most of my inspiration," says the New York-based jewellery designer. "When I come across a particularly spectacular stone, the design and texture unravels before my eyes."
A love of unique jewellery and exquisite gemstones was ignited when, as a teenager, Kara designed a ring around a green tourmaline she had brought home from a trip to Africa. Kara then went on to train as a gemmologist with the esteemed Gemmological Institute of America, and began creating jewellery for private clients. She now counts a number of celebrities and high-profile public figures among her loyal band of customers, including Michelle Obama, who has been spotted wearing Kara Ross jewellery on several occasions. The US First Lady has been a regular client since commissioning Kara to create custom-made gifts for visiting heads of state using wood from the Magnolia tree in the White House garden.
Kara set up her eponymous line in 2003, designing fine jewellery that packs a decadently colourful punch. Given her training as a gemmologist, Kara always uses precious or semi-precious stones in their raw, organic form as the starting point for her designs. Her travels around the world are also a rich source of inspiration. "Travel opens up a world of creativity because it exposes me to new and beautiful places and ideas. I am inspired by the people, customs and architecture that I see around me. When I look at a gemstone, I see the influences from places where I have immersed myself."
Kara has won several awards, including the 2014 GEM Award for Design from the Jewelry Information Centre and, two years ago, she opened her first standalone store on Madison Avenue. Not one to rest on her laurels, Kara has also launched a range of colourful handbags and a small selection of bejewelled lobster tabletop decorations.
With a name that translates to “sunken” in Latin, the Cava collection includes the iconic Kara Ross rings featuring her signature inset technique where one gemstone is set within another to create a layered effect. Kara has always loved using different materials such as jet, lava and wood, as well as precious gemstones in their raw organic form. "Some of my first inset pieces were gemstones set into wood. I then began experimenting with setting stones within another stone," she says.
Each gemstone is selected on the basis of its quality and purity before being hand-carved by master gemcutters. "The stones are selected and matched, and then the smaller stone is cut so it fits into the larger stone," explains Kara, adding that the painstaking process means that the gemcutter breaks an average of three stones for each ring that is made.
The Cava collection has recently been expanded to include pendants and earrings, featuring coloured gemstones such as blue topaz, rubies and peridots embedded in a faceted base cut from rock crystal, amethyst, malachite or black onyx. Diamond accents embedded in the corner of the base stone add a luxurious touch and further emphasise the clean, geometric lines of each jewel.