Los Angeles-based fine jewelry designer Irene Neuwirth’s career journey inspires us daily. Her lifelong passions for jewelry-making, color, and the ocean fuse to create a vibrant and truly modern collection. Inspired by her mother, a bold painter, Neuwirth has established her eponymous brand as a leading independent fine jewelry company. With her signature palette of stunning colors and unique gemstone cuts, it’s no surprise that Neuwirth was the 2014 winner of the CFDA Awards’ prestigious Swarovski Award for Accessory Design. The sunny California native reminisces about the path that led to her where she is today. -The Stone Set
“I’ve always used jewelry-making as my creative palette. I was stringing beads, doing crazy things with yarn, and mixing interesting colors as a child. I was trying to figure out what exactly to do in terms of a career and jewelry was an instant and natural thing for me to pursue. I fell in love with the processes of wax carving and metalsmithing. My GIA professor taught me everything. I went to a bead store, strung up ten pieces of jewelry, and called up a buyer at Barneys. I overnighted them a package and Barneys was my first account. It was incredible.
I’m inspired by color, traveling the world, and uniting unusual color combinations. I grew up in LA and I’ve always been a sunny person. I love being close to the ocean and all of the accompanying water and color elements. I’m drawn to opals because they look like the bottom of the sea. I like any elements that have dimension and reflect light, like opals, moonstone, and labradorite. I use opals in an unusual way and we have these incredible opal collectors that wait for each new piece. Personally, I have a large collection of opals and I have a hard time letting them go.
I design for the woman who collects my pieces. They buy for themselves and are working women who kick ass. They’re really strong business women and it’s so cool that they’re collecting it on their own. They have a strong sense of themselves and their style. I’ve always liked our Signature Small Teardrop Chandelier Earrings in gold, which I’ve been making for four years. We call them the classic four-drops. People collect them and buy for their friends as gifts. It’s a great starter piece. Also, the long-strand necklaces in rose gold, yellow gold, and white gold in 18 karats. These are the classic hallmark pieces of my line, but a big pendant is more my speed!
The most fulfilling part of running my own company has been learning to be a good boss. I think people are genuinely happy here and no one really leaves. Six people have been with me over eight years. I work with a great team of people. Being able to follow my creative dream is also the best. I’ve really enjoyed learning about the business side of it as well as the creative side. Winning the CFDA Awards this year was one of the most rewarding milestones of my career. The fact that I’m able to have a business that grows every single year is a tremendous feeling.
As for what’s ahead, I’m working a lot with pearls right now. I can’t get enough South Sea pearls and Akoya pearls. And lots of tourmaline. Wait and see!” –Irene Neuwirth
Follow @IreneNeuwirth on Instagram.
Photography by The Stone Set.