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Suzanne Kalan

LA-Based Jewelry Designer Suzanne Kalan Blends Tradition and Innovation

The Los Angeles-based jewelry designer shared with Whitewall how she created a successful jewelry business in the 1980s, what her most recent collection features, and where she recommends visitors to check out while in her home of Los Angeles.

Eliza Jordan

29 February 2024

Los Angeles-based Suzanne Kalan launched her eponymous jewelry label in 1988 after decades of personal memories and professional experiences in the industry. “Growing up, my father owned a jewelry store in Downtown Los Angeles, which served as my first classroom into the world of jewelry,” Kalan recently shared with Whitewall.

Kalan’s father was her guide into what she called “the intricate dance of gemstones and metals.” Under her father’s careful mentorship, she got her first glimpse into the world of jewelry-making, learning the foundation of the business and its manufacturing process, as well as the artisanal elements that go into making each piece.

“This early immersion planted seeds of creativity that eventually blossomed into unique designs, initially just for my sister and me to add a touch of glamour to our outings,” added Kalan.

Suzanne Kalan

Courtesy of Suzanna Kalan.

Since creating those unique designs for personal wear, Kalan has produced an array of eye-catching creations for others. Over time, her “Fireworks” collection became a signature “Kalan” aesthetic—constellations of baguette-cut diamonds across rings, bracelets, earrings, and more. But the foundation of this style is the lemonade that came from the lemons of the 2008 recession. After baguette-cut diamonds fell out of favor, many jewelers were left with various-sized diamonds and little clue how to use them. Kalan repurposed them in a constellation of sorts, aiming to mimic the brilliance of light. Today, “Fireworks” pieces celebrate innovation, transformation, and the limitless potential of creativity.

Suzanne Kalan Jewelry is American-Made, Los Angeles-Based

From her Los Angeles studio, Kalan shared with Whitewall how and why her designs are made in America, what it’s like having her daughter join the business, and where to go while in town for this year’s edition of L.A. Art Week.

WHITEWALL: People choose to establish their own brands for many different reasons. What’s yours?

SUZANNE KALAN: The decision to launch my own brand was born from a blend of necessity and passion. During a quiet, introspective period while expecting my daughter, I found myself yearning for a creative outlet that could also contribute to my family’s well-being. This led to the creation of my first sterling silver line. The journey from that first collection to receiving our initial purchase order was quick, setting the stage for a journey of endless creation that continues to this day.

WW: Your jewelry designs are made by hand in America, which is a testament to your dedication to craftsmanship. How has your production process evolved since founding your label in the ‘80s to meet customer demand, yet remain focused on artisanry?

SK: From the very beginning in the ‘80s, our journey has been marked by a deep respect for artisanal craftsmanship, a value that remains at the heart of our brand even as we’ve adapted to meet the evolving desires of our clients. The most notable shift in our production process has been the seamless integration of modern technology with our cherished traditional handcrafting techniques.

Our creations are still brought to life by hand in America, each piece a testament to the meticulous attention to detail of our artisans. Yet, we’ve embraced tools like CAD software to refine our designs with unprecedented precision and utilized 3D printing for prototyping, ensuring every new design is as close to perfection as possible before it enters production.

We’ve also reimagined our supply chain and production strategies to be more environmentally conscious, minimizing waste and reducing our ecological footprint. This is in direct response to a growing desire among our clientele for sustainable luxury.

Despite these technological advancements, our soul remains in the art of handcraftsmanship. Each piece is still a labor of love, crafted by artisans whose expertise is measured not just in years, but in the legacy of beauty they create. This blend of innovation and tradition ensures that every piece not only meets the high standards of our discerning customers but also carries the unique essence and impeccable quality that Suzanne Kalan is known for.

Suzanne Kalan

Courtesy of Suzanna Kalan.

The Inspiration Behind the Fireworks Collection

WW: Your signature “Fireworks” collection, and this signature aesthetic, is quintessential “Kalan.” How did this design come to be?

SK: My approach to design is deeply rooted in the belief that there’s inherent beauty in the overlooked and unliked. Following the 2008 financial downturn, the jewelry industry, like many others, faced significant challenges. It was during this period that baguette diamonds, once cherished, fell out of favor. This cut was always more difficult to use in most settings. Sizes varied greatly and for this reason, jewelers were always stuck with excess diamonds not knowing where or how to use them.

I have always loved the baguette cut shape and how it captured light. One day, amidst the creative chaos of my studio, I was struck by the sight of scattered baguette diamonds spread across my desk. They reminded me of a burst of light—an explosion of brilliance and energy. It was a moment of inspiration. What if these diamonds were set in a seemingly random, yet meticulously planned, pattern to mimic this very spectacle of light?

This vision wasn’t just about giving the baguette diamond a new lease on life; it was about crafting something truly groundbreaking. The “Fireworks” collection embodies this spirit of innovation, turning the overlooked into a centerpiece of desire. It’s a celebration of creativity’s boundless potential, with each piece holding the power to transform and mesmerize, much like the dazzling display of fireworks in the night sky.

WW: Your daughter, Patile, is also part of the family business, which we see with the brand’s 14K Kalan by Suzanne Kalan,” pieces. How does having her in the business impact it?

SK: Having Patile join the family business has been nothing short of transformative. Her journey into the world of jewelry design was serendipitous, growing organically from her days spent in the studio after school, immersed in gemstones and sketches, inspired by the craft she observed. Despite her initial pursuit of biochemistry, the allure of jewelry design proved irresistible, drawing her back to the familial roots and creative legacy established by our brand.

Incorporating Patile into the business was a decision made with the intent of providing her with a holistic understanding of our operations, from design to production. It wasn’t long before her insights and creativity began to resonate with me, leading to a deep trust and collaborative synergy between us. This partnership culminated in the launch of “Kalan by Suzanne Kalan,” a line that reflects Patile’s unique vision, characterized by 14K gold and a blend of semi-precious stones, offering a fresh and accessible take on our brand’s ethos.

Patile’s influence extends beyond her own collection; her collaboration on our 18K line has infused it with a renewed vibrancy and perspective. The brand’s growth over the past decade is a testament to the strength of our partnership, highlighting the dynamic blend of tradition and innovation that Patile brings to the table. Her involvement has not only enriched our creative process but has also been instrumental in propelling our brand to new heights.

Courtesy of Suzanna Kalan.

WW: Can you tell us a bit about your latest collection or most recent pieces?

SK: Our most recent forays into the world of jewelry design are encapsulated in the “Block-Chain” and “La Fantaisie” collections.

The inception of the “Block-Chain” collection was sparked by my deep admiration for the baguette diamond’s distinct form. Its three-dimensional, elongated rectangular shape captivated me, inspiring the creation of a series of solid and hollow rectangular blocks. These blocks are intricately linked to form chains that echo the modernist flair of Art Deco design. The “Block-Chain” collection stands as a contemporary homage to traditional jewelry, offering a sophisticated choice for those who value exceptional craftsmanship and distinctive designs.

“La Fantaisie,” or “The Fantasy,” takes its cue from the boundless imagination and playful spirit of my granddaughter. This collection is an ode to the lightness and wonder of childhood dreams, realized through delicate, star-like formations crafted from 18K gold. Each piece is embellished with the finest princess-cut diamonds and sapphires, adding a layer of enchantment to the collection’s whimsical charm.

Suzanne Kalan’s Los Angeles Jewelry Studio

WW: What is your studio like in Los Angeles? What fills the space, or sparks inspiration?

SK: Our studio in Los Angeles is a true reflection of my personal style and ethos—minimalist yet brimming with character and creativity.

At the heart of the studio, much like in my home, is a deep appreciation for my Armenian heritage. This cultural reverence is subtly woven into the fabric of our workspace, with artistic tributes that echo the rich history and resilient spirit of Armenia. Among these, modern artworks by Armenian artists grace the walls, not just as decor but as a continuous source of inspiration, reminding us of the depth and narrative that shape our creative vision.

The studio’s design philosophy mirrors the balance between form and function that characterizes our jewelry. Every element within the space is selected for its sleek, contemporary aesthetic as well as its practicality, ensuring an environment that fosters creativity while accommodating the intricate processes of jewelry making. The layout is open and airy, promoting a flow of ideas and ease of collaboration among our team.

Bringing elements of nature into our creative space is essential. Fresh flowers frequently adorn our worktables, offering a splash of color and a touch of tranquility amidst the bustling creativity. Similarly, we incorporate natural elements like crystals, which are not only aesthetically pleasing but also believed to enhance the creative ambiance with their positive energies. One particularly striking piece is an amethyst crystal, thoughtfully placed to purify and uplift the energy of our workspace.

This blend of cultural homage, modern design, and natural beauty creates a studio environment that is not only conducive to creativity but also a testament to the Suzanne Kalan brand’s core values and inspirations.

Suzanne Kalan

Courtesy of Suzanna Kalan.

Suzanne Kalan Shares Her Side of Los Angeles

WW: For those in town for L.A. Art Week, where do you recommend them going to for a great dinner? Any favorite menu items?

SK: I love to cook with my husband and stay home relaxing and casually entertaining friends and family. We also love to have the restaurant experience at home, hiring chefs to come and do all the work while we enjoy the delicious food. One chef we keep calling back is Chef Manos and his brother, a great team.

Craig’s restaurant on Melrose for American/California cuisine. Elevated but comfortable and great food. If we want to relax with a group of friends away from home, the men smoking cigars and drinking good wine, we go to the Glenmark Hotel in Glendale. The rooftop has comfortable seating and great views. We will spend hours enjoying some good tapas-style food.

We also have a weekend home in OC, so while we are there, we like to dine at Oliver’s Osteria in Laguna Beach. Great Italian food. My favorite is the cacio e pepe, but I always request it made with the homemade pasta of the day.

And finally, just recently, Cipriani’s opened in Los Angeles. One of my favorite restaurants. I will be dining there with my husband next week to celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary.

WW: Do you have an upcoming project or collection you’re excited to debut?

SK: One of the collections that’s particularly close to my heart is our forthcoming “Rondelle” collection. This collection is shaping up to be a vibrant celebration of form and color, bringing a fresh perspective to traditional jewelry design with its unique use of rondelle shapes.

Additionally, we’re breathing new life into some of our classic designs by introducing them in ombre colorways. This approach is thrilling because it allows us to play with gradients of color, adding depth and a contemporary twist to beloved pieces. The transition of colors in these designs is not just visually striking but also symbolically rich, representing transitions and transformations.



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Go inside the worlds
of Art, Fashion, Design,
and Lifestyle.