This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by LIM students with winners of the Accessories Council's 2021 Design Excellence Awards (DEA). Students are enrolled in the College's Introduction to the Fashion Business classes.
Daria creates one-of-a-kind rings, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Ms. de Koning utilizes her metalsmithing skills and gemologist expertise that she acquired through her life of creating jewelry since college, to make each piece a reality.
I had the amazing opportunity to interview Daria de Koning over Zoom, as a part of my Introduction to the Fashion Business course. Daria de Koning won the 2021 Accessories Council Design Excellence Award for the best Fine Jewelry. She won the award for her Green/Navy No. 3 bracelet. After the remote interview we met in person, where I was given the chance to see her breathtaking jewelry firsthand, and I must say, Daria is one of the most kind and encouraging people I’ve ever met. I was excited to ask her all my questions:
Can you share your background in the jewelry field please?
Daria shared that she started metalsmithing when she was eighteen, which led her to the realization that this was the career path for her. Following the metalsmithing classes, Daria attended Washington Univeristy in St. Louis as a graphic design major and then moved on to grad school at the Gemological Institute of America where she studied gemstones. From there, Daria worked with an Italian designer and a Korean designer until she had started a business of her own creating custom engagement rings. This evolved into her current brand.
When did you realize starting a company was your life goal and how did you make that a reality?
Daria responded that because she was already involved in jewelry making and graphic design, she knew what she wanted; but wasn’t entirely sure where to start. She had doubts but forged ahead and created her own website, letterhead, logo, and packaging. From there she started showcasing her jewelry. She had her first event featuring her collection and there Daria made connections with people who were excited by her line. She created a mailing list, and continues to build that, as everywhere she goes, Daria remembers names and connects with her buyers.
What inspires your work with gemstones?
Daria stated that she started with the jewelry basics that everyone used and then found herself gravitating towards minerals and rocks. Daria’s very interested in geology and how gemstones are formed into their shapes and colors. Her biggest professional influence was “Lalique”, the company at the turn of the 1900’s whose specialty was to mix materials like glass, pearls, and gemstones. The brand inspired Daria to mix gemstones of her own and create new textures, using only the best quality gemstones that distinguish themselves from the rest. When she has a vision for a design, Daria works with each piece in her hands instead of sketching the design first on paper. It’s an artistic process.
How long does it take to conceive and create each piece of jewelry?
Daria answered that her process feels like it can sometimes take forever. She is someone that needs to have the product in her hand and see it in order to make design decisions. Sometimes her process can fall right into place rather quickly and other times it can take longer, where she has gemstones that she collected fifteen years ago sitting in trays. Daria’s latest collection “Nomos” is the result of years of collected gemstones and brainstorming.
Let’s talk about your winning design, did you need to go through a couple trial and errors before the bracelet was the perfect product? Can you explain your design process a bit please?
Daria shared that “Green/Navy No. 3” was a big departure for her. She further explained how bracelets are more expensive due to the fact they take more material, gold, and labor, so when she had first started the design certain pieces were originally strung on a necklace. Daria then followed up by taking the pieces apart and asking herself what fit best with each other, leading to her accidentally creating the bracelet reversible. She felt it was perfect!
What do you believe sets your jewelry piece “Green/Navy No. 3” aside from the rest to win the “Fine Jewelry Award '' at the 2021 Design Excellence Awards? How has this impacted your “Nomos” collection as a whole?
Daria believes the bracelet to be the hero piece of the collection as it was bolder than the rest. The bracelet stands out in comparison to the rest of the collection because of the way the stones are placed and the way it moves. Winning the Design Excellence Award has been great for Daria’s PR list and she is thrilled to share it with the world.
What are your hopes for the Daria de Koning collection for the future?
Daria responded that this is something in which the answer changes over the years. Daria stated that being home the past year due to the pandemic was personally enjoyable for her and now wants to take a step back. Instead of shifting all of her energy into growing her business into a “multimillion-dollar company”, Daria wants to spend more time working on art projects and exploring different avenues. Pulling back is something she is loving doing right now. She also adds that this could likely change within the next few months, as a company evolves like a person does.
What is your advice to students looking to become future brand and company owners?
Daria answered that there is no harm in starting your own company however, but it is a lot of work. She explains how the environment today involves extreme multitasking due to all the social media and communication platforms. Having a mailing list, email list, and social media accounts are a very important aspect in expanding your company. Daria says that keeping up with it all can be very challenging, and as a single person you must have a lot of energy and passion in order to start and maintain your own business. Despite all that, Daria encourages others to do it because it is a great experience and you have your whole life ahead of you to make and change directions.
Interviewing designer Daria De Koning was a delightful experience. Learning about her journey and creative process was inspiring. Her passion towards her work and creating connections with customers was invigorating, and I have taken in the importance of trusting yourself artistically. I appreciate this opportunity, and meeting with Daria online as well as in person is something I will never forget!