Jewellery expert and founder of Gemologue, Liza Urla was born in the region of Russia commonly referred to as the Far East. Spending her childhood between South Korea, China and Japan, she then moved to London so study Management, Economics and Finance, consequently entering the corporate world. A true nomad, Liza moved from Austria – when she had been spending some time at the beginning of her career – to New York, once the financial crisis hit Europe. In the city of diamonds, she began grading them and grew fascinated about the mysterious, luxurious world of jewellery, which got deep under her skin and never left, ultimately becoming her career. Still in New York, Liza launched Gemologue – her blog – in 2009, as a result of her desire to share her experiences within the jewellery world with her friends and co-workers in Europe. Despite the initial difficulty of accessing the uber precious pieces she was aiming to make the focus of her platform – ‘even when fashion moved into the digital world, Internet was still a taboo for jewellery designers. They would get scared of being copied, Internet was almost a dirty word for them’ – Liza worked hard to build trust, slowly becoming an insider. After moving back to London, Liza went back to the corporate world for a while, working for British Petroleum – which gave her the chance to travel the world – and she there she began to take street style snaps of her own jewellery and the ones of the women surrounding her. Passionate about photography since a very young age, Liza would take her camera to private events, dinners and galas and document what she was seeing. It didn’t take long for her to realise that her photographs were getting a lot more attention than she would expect, and blogging about jewellery began the first step of a new, very full time, exciting journey.
So, how did your passion for jewellery begin? How did you go from having a very business-driven education to be focusing on jewellery?
All my boyfriends always suffered with me: all I ever wanted to be gifted was jewellery. When I was about ten years olf I had an unlucky year and I lost all my gold jewellery and, as a result of that, my family wouldn’t give me jewellery for about five years. Only when I turned sixteen they noticed I had been good for a while and hadn’t lost anything, so they started giving me beautiful jewellery sets from Chopard and Bulgari. Also, my grandma had the most beautiful collection of stones and my childhood was spent playing with her beautiful necklaces so I’d say that the passion for jewellery has always bee with me.
Do you remember the very first item of jewellery you owned?
I’ve had a lot of jewellery! Coming from a Russian background, the first item given to me probably were my mom’s gold earrings.
What about the first item which meant something special to you?
I love custom jewellery, but I also believe that every piece of jewellery one wears represents something special, an achievement. There is a story behind every single piece and every single item in my jewellery box has a particular meaning to me. We wear clothes to cover up, but we wear jewellery to symbolise something to us, tell a story, remember a memory. I thin that jewellery often means more than a piece of clothing.
When I discovered your blog it was very interesting for me as it was probably the first jewellery blog I had seen: there’s not as many jewellery blogs as there’s fashion blogs out there. Do you find it easier in terms of developing a career in blogging within jewellery rather than fashion as there’s less competition, or would you say it’s even more complex?
I’d say it’s really complicated. I am here now because I’ve been around for a very long time. Many girls email me today asking for advice when people don’t let them photograph jewellery in the boutiques. It’s because they don’t know them! In jewellery, commitment is very important and building trust, which has always been a big part of my jewellery blogging career, in order to gain access. Some of the designers and the pieces I’ve photographed through the years you will never ever see again. Those pieces – either for insurance reasons or because they were one-off – are unique. It’s different from fashion: jewellery is very special, and a lot more expensive, most of the time.
You do focus on jewellery but you also combine it with fashion and you’ve done since the beginning as you started doing street style. How would you describe your style?
My style is comfortable, a little bit sexy, easy going. There’s a lot of blue and white in it. The craziest shapes and cuts entertain me, but the most important thing for me is being comfortable.
What are your favourite brands, both in fashion and jewellery?
I like N21 – especially their jewelled shoes – andAmelia Wickstead’s dresses. I also like vintage clothes a lot. For me, the brands obviously matters but what matters even more are the cut and the fabrics. Speaking of jewellery, it’s never about the brand but about the pieces featured in each collection, which can me over a hundred within the same one. Usually, I choose only certain pieces from a particular collection or various collections from the same designer. I have a visual memory, which helps recognising designers, despite their collections being very different from one another. I never pick one designer, I pick the pieces as it’s the piece that speaks to me rather than the designer. Jewellery is a completely different world from fashion and there’a a lot more to know about it than what most people know. The stories are fascinating too.
What is the project or collaboration you’ve done so far that has given you the greatest satisfaction?
In the last couple of months I’ve been in Barhain, Hong Kong, Paris, so I’ve done a few different things around the world and covering different kinds of jewellery. Just as in fashion – where you have different kinds of it from sportswear to couture – in jewellery there are quite few different kinds – custom fine, for example – and I fee that girls today wear pretty much everything. You might have the most beautiful engagement ring from Bucellati but you would still wear some crazy cheaper jewellery and that’s why I cover fashion jewellery and custom as well as fine and diamonds. I’ve recently reviewed earrings made of fair trade gold, which means that you can source where the gold is made from. It’s very important to understand and ask when you shop for jewellery, so that there’s transparency. You need to read the ingredients. I feel that now many girls care about where their clothes come from, it should be the same with jewellery.
The sustainable trend is a huge one in fashion right now. Is there any kind of equivalent in jewellery? is there any way in which people are raising awareness toward how jewellery is made, how the materials are produced etc?
Yes of course. For example, the fair trade campaign just happened in London – which is not only about jewellery – and I’ve recently come across a designer who recycles jewellery. She basically dismounts old jewellery, takes stones and gold and creates new pieces in a sort of sustainable way. It’s almost like recycling. She is a Georgian designer. I think that the biggest challenge of sustainability in jewellery is that people still don’t understand what pearls and diamonds really are, so taking it into a sustainable context might be bit too complicated. Also, most girls tend to love fashion more than jewellery because how many pieces of jewellery can one afford, really?
I think girls in their 30s develop a more profound relationship with jewellery, they might be the ones to begin a conversation on sustainability with.
Would you be able to name a couple of brand new designers who just started and caught your attention and you think will be very successful in the future?
I run something called Kick Gem and through that I discover emergent designers and showcase their work. They are either very young and still in school or just graduated. One of them right now is definitely Bare, who creates pieces with diamonds floating inside of them: they are transparent pieces of jewellery with liquid inside and the diamonds are immersed in it so that when you move you can see them floating inside. I wore them at the Bulgari gala, they are amazing. Then, the Georgian designer who recycles. Her jewellery starts at £200 and features gold and stones from old jewellery. Her style in vintage, she uses vintage elements in modern designs.
You mentioned that you started the blog in order to share the stories you were experiencing with the designers, the jewellery and the people around you. Was there any other reason for you to launch it? Did you aim to communicate something, start a trend or raise awareness toward the topic?
I’m from an Eastern European background and by traveling in Asia and the Middle East I’ve always been surrounded by people who are fascinated by jewellery and adore it. I would be sitting at dinner with some friends and talk for hours about jewellery. People who are not in love with jewellery are the ones who don’t understand, it but as soon as you do you can’t help but fall in love with it. That was an objective for me to start raising awareness toward these beautiful treasures and share their stories. Plus, there are so many powerful and interesting women who have a special relationship with jewellery who we can learn from, knowing their stories.
Some say that blogging is sort of a career with a deadline. How do you feel about this? Do you plan to evolve your activity in any particular way?
I launched a creative agency called Gem Kreatives, where I consult jewellery designers. Also, I have few different projects happening. Blogging is not only about looking pretty and bloggers are evolving a lot these days. Building a future is all about the knowledge you acquire through blogging and the people you touch every day. Bloggers have this unique access. I have met and collaborated with more than 300 jewellery designers and brands since I started, and I now know how the business works, I understand production, the styles, what people like in different countries and their perception of jewellery. I also run Gem Talks and I quite like peeking into the lives of these very successful women with unique jewellery taste, see how they got where they are and how their jewellery style evolved in the process. I think that the best jewellery collections are private jewellery collections.
Have you very thought of starting your own jewellery line?
I might collaborate with a jewellery designer one day, but I’d probably like to go toward a different direction myself. I always have these crazy manicures so I would like better to start a nail care line, developing my nail polish line or a nail oil. Something else I’d like to do would be a line to clean diamonds properly.
Visit GEMOLOGUE here.
Photography by Julia Flit.
Visit Julia Flit’s Official Website here.
To find our more about Gem Kreatives, click here.
All fashion and accessories belong to Gucci SS16 collection.