Since its debut in January, the Designer Edit program has been a key initiative for national retail chain Zales. After first welcoming collections from emerging jewelers Soko, Shahla Karimi, and Alessi Domenico to its branded jewelry lineup, Zales’ second edition of the Designer Edit features newcomers Nungu Diamonds—a husband-and-wife team based in Africa committed to supporting and empowering local communities—and the California-based designer Dorian Webb.

Webb is a familiar name to many jewelry insiders (and a JCK editor favorite), admired for her unique style and deeply thoughtful approach to design, scale, and materials.

And Zales agrees: “The Dorian Webb collection will particularly emphasize style, storytelling, and more,” says Zales president Kecia Caffie. “We discovered Dorian through our close partnership with the Black In Jewelry Coalition [BIJC]. Last year we partnered with BIJC to find our next new designer from their incredible portfolio of talent. There were many submissions, but Dorian’s was one of the few that stood out among the community of designers for her incredible work.”

14k gold hoops with 0.875 ct. t.w. diamonds, $4,399; Zales x Dorian Webb

 

14k gold crescent pendant with 1 ct. t.w. diamonds, $3,499; Zales x Dorian Webb
 

If you had a chance to meet Webb at the Luxury show (she was an exhibitor in the corridor right outside the entrance to the main floor), you’ll appreciate that her signatures are alive in well in the Zales pieces—this is not a watered-down diffusion line by any means.

“Ironically, this iterative process of designing a collection for Zales also encouraged me to think more about the underpinnings of my designs and what people perceive to be my brand identity,” says the designer. “It is challenging to try to distill who you are and what your brand is about and then move that forward in a focused way that reflects your essence and that also breaks new ground for a new customer.”

Introducing unsung jewelry artists to a mass consumer audience is the heartbeat of the Designer Edit program, which “was created to lift up emerging and established designers while enhancing our shopper’s experience by providing unique styles and design perspectives,” says Caffie.

“Zales continues to attract a range of customers and our goal is to provide styles for everyone at a range of price points,” she adds.

But the price point element was not a hindrance to Webb, who says her design DNA—and vocabulary—is very much reflected in the Zales collection and even refers back to the icons of her previous work.

“Asymmetrical designs attract your eye to key areas and draw you in with their unexpected rhythms,” she explains. “Intentional designs that transition easily from day to night offer a way of starting meaningful conversations. While the metal used in this collection is 14 karat yellow gold instead of our signature 18 karat yellow gold, it still displays diamonds in uplifting and thought-provoking compositions.”

14k gold ring with 0.33 ct. tw. diamonds, $1,299; Zales x Dorian Webb

 

Some Zales associates may face a challenge when it comes to conveying the intricacies of Webb’s point of view. They can use this talking point if they don’t already have a version of it: “I design statement jewelry that highlights the intrinsic beauty of women and that fosters connection and conversation,” says Webb. “Through the design of fine jewelry, I aim to create and support positive interpersonal interactions that lead to story sharing and increased understanding. That is the heart of community-building.”

And if they want to go deeper? Webb says the underlying message she wants to convey with her pieces is this: “We are living during an inflection moment in time. There are so many worlds that are now evolving because of new technologies, access to resources, and shifting perspectives. This is the time to make your mark, to stand on your principles, and to have your voice heard. Now is the time to shape history.”

Which is to say that layering the collection’s bracelets, earrings, and necklaces can create “a tangible reminder not only of the responsibility, but also the incredible opportunity we have both individually and collectively to create positive change with our actions.”

If her jewelry has the power to do that—if any designer’s jewelry can do that—a retailer with Zales’ expansive reach seems like a great place to at least introduce the idea and start a conversation.

 

By: Amy Elliot for JCK Online

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