Classic, elegant, and timeless style are the unique trademarks of the top jewelry designers listed below. Many of the famous jewelry designers had humble beginnings but made their name creating styles that captured and enraptured the passions of men of women who love magnificent, high-quality jewelry. Below is a list of 15 famous jewelry designers whose styles have transcended the decades and maintain a strong presence accessorizing women and men around the world with their unique designs of earrings, watches, necklaces, bracelets, and rings.
Mikimoto is a luxury pearl jewelry company. It was established by Mikimoto Kokichi, who is credited with making the first cultured pearl. The first Mikimoto store opened in 1899 in Tokyo, and it later expanded to London, Paris, New York, Bombay, and other major cities, and was the first Japanese jewelry house to gain international fame. Mikimoto jewelry is known for its exquisite pearls and simple, elegant designs, though they make more elaborate pearl jewelry as well. Mikimoto was the official jeweler for the Miss USA pageant from 2003-2008 and for the Miss Universe pageant from 2002-2007.
Bulgari (also spelled Bvlgari) is a Italian luxury brand famous for jewelry, watches, fragrance, and hotels. It was founded by Sotirios Bulgaris, a Greek jeweler who moved to Rome in 1881. The company grew through the 20th century to become an international brand known for their architectural metalwork, often featuring gold links and heavy steel. They are also famous for their colored gemstones and diamonds. One of their most iconic designs is the Serpenti, a collection of jewelry and watches made in the shape of a coiling snake and often decorated with pavé gemstones. The company’s trademark name, BVLGARI, is written in the Latin alphabet.
Elizabeth Taylor was famous for her love of Bulgari jewelry. She had an extensive collection of diamond and gemstone pieces that were custom made for her, including a gold Serpenti bracelet that was designed to look as if it were slithering up her arm. Her personal jewelry was displayed during Bulgari’s 125th anniversary exhibition.
Piaget is a Swiss luxury jewelry brand founded by Georges Piaget in 1874. The brand first became famous for its luxury watch designs, particularly those featuring beautiful enamelling and set with gemstones. During the 20th century, Piaget began making jewelry as well, particularly elaborate diamond and gemstone pieces. Their designs draw on the styles of Old Hollywood as well as natural forms, particularly the signature Piaget Rose collection.
In 2008, Piaget was ranked by The Luxury Group as the 6th most prestigious jewelry brand in the world. Paiget jewelry is often worn by celebrities for red carpets and premiers; actress Scarlett Johansson wore an iconic Piaget emerald choker to the 2015 Academy Awards.
Laurence Graff began his design career in England when he was 15 years old and apprenticed to a professional jeweler. By 1960, he had founded the Graff Diamonds company. By 1962, he had multiple stores open in London’s jeweler’s district. In addition to his elaborate diamond jewelry designs, Graff is known for buying and resetting famous diamonds. Famous diamonds that he has worked with include Wallis Simpson’s Windsor Yellows set, the Wittelsbach diamond (later renamed the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond), and the Lesotho Promise diamond, a rough diamond which was 603 carats when Graff bought it.
Buccellati Holding Italia is an Italian jewelry and watch design company with stores around the world including Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. Buccellati is famous for their elaborate gemstone jewelry, featuring designs reminiscent of the Art Nouveau and Old Hollywood eras. Many of their designs feature animal and insect forms, such as gemstone peacocks and dragonflies made out of pearls. Buccellati collections are often exhibited around the world after they are created and before being auctioned off to buyers. Recent collections include the “Art in Gold, Silver, and Gems” at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in 2000, and the 2010 “Gemstone Cocktail Rings” exhibit, which traveled around the world for an entire year.
Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels was founded by Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law, Samuel Arpels, in Paris during the Art Deco era. Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry is known for its stunning designs and exquisite gemwork. One of their most famous designs is the “Mystery Setting,” patented in 1933, which was so delicately made that the prongs holding stones in place were nearly invisible. Creating a Mystery Setting can require up to 300 hours per piece, and only a few are produced each year. Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry has been worn by style icons including Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Princess Soraya Bakhtiari.
The Société Cartier was founded by French jewelry designer Louis-François Cartier in 1847. Over the next century, the Cartier design house grew to become one of the world’s most prominent jewelers, with locations across the globe, with headquarters in Paris. Cartier is famous for their classic designs featuring expensive gemstones and precious metals. In 1914, Cartier produced their first iconic Panthère brooch, designed in the shape of a panther and covered in pave diamonds and gems. The Panthère became the symbol most associated with the design house, and new Panthère pieces are produced every year.
Cartier jewelry is often commissioned by the world’s royalty for coronations and state occasions, and purchasers have included Wallis Simpson, King Edward VII of England, the Maharaja of Patiala, and Princess Grace of Monaco.
Harry Winston opened the Harry Winston Diamond Corporation in 1932. After his death in 1978, the company continued, eventually becoming the Dominion Diamond Corporation, though the jewelry house itself is still known as Harry Winston. Diamonds are the centerpiece of Harry Winston jewelry, though their pieces use other gemstones, as well. Winston designs are highly sculptural and often considered fine art pieces. In addition to their custom designs, Harry Winston buys and sells famous estate and vintage gemstone jewelry.
The most famous piece ever bought by Harry Winston is the Hope Diamond, which was purchased in 1949 from the estate of Evalyn Walsh McLean, who had purchased it from Cartier. Winston owned the Hope Diamond for ten years before giving it to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where it is still displayed.
Christian Dior is a French luxury goods company named after its founding designer that began designing jewelry in the 1950s. Dior jewelry is designed to complement their other luxury goods, particularly the women’s fashion lines, and the style is typically bold and glamorous. Dior jewelry is known for putting a feminine spin on traditionally masculine designs. Dior is also famous for its collections of rose-themed gemstone jewelry, designed after Christian Dior’s favorite flower.
David Yurman is an American jewelry company founded in 1980 by David and Sybil Yurman in New York City. Their designs are known for being sculptural and architectural, meant both for everyday wear and for more formal eveningwear. The most famous design is the Cable motif, made of wrapped silver, platinum, or gold wire, either left plain or decorated with gemstones. The cable is incorporated into every David Yurman collection in the form of bracelets, cuffs, necklaces, watched, and other pieces. David Yurman designs have been worn by many modern celebrities, including Tina Fey, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Lange, and Bellamy Young.
In 2001, The David and Sybil Yurman Humanitarian and Arts Foundation was established. David Yurman Angel Awards are presented to individuals who give the gift of time and funding to charity and the arts. Recipients include Steven Spielberg, Elton John, and Leonard Slatkin.
Fabergé is a family of Russian jewelry designers most famous for their Fabergé eggs. The company was founded in 1842, when Peter Carl Fabergé became the official goldsmith to the Russian Imperial Court. The Fabergé house created exquisite jewels and objects, including their series of Imperial Easter Eggs. These are designed to resemble Easter eggs and are made out of precious metals, enamel, and lavish gemstones. The Imperial Easter Eggs feature various designs such as abstract patterns, religious and historical scenes, and plants and animals. The original Fabergé eggs were made by Fabergé and his company between 1885 and 1917. Over the course of the 20th century, the name Fabergé was licensed to a number of companies for marketing egg-themed jewelry and decor. It is currently owned by the House of Fabergé, which makes elaborate gemstone jewelry featuring miniature Fabergé eggs.
Current collections are available at Faberge boutiques in New York, London, and other exclusive international retailers.
Chanel is a French luxury fashion house that was founded in 1909 by legendary designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Beginning with Coco’s designs, Chanel jewelry has always embodied a marriage of feminine and masculine styles, designed to compliment both their luxury and ready-to-wear women’s clothing collections. Some of the most iconic Chanel designs include long-strand necklaces of black and white pearls, gemstone brooches, and sculptural diamond jewelry. Chanel jewelry designs have been worn by many actresses, including Marilyn Monroe, Catherine Deneuve, Kiera Knightly, and Zhang Ziyi.
The H. Stern luxury jewelry brand was founded in Brazil in 1945 by Hans Stern, a German immigrant who was later succeeded by his son Roberto Stern. Stern originally specialized in gemstones, but expanded into design-focused jewelry. In 1964, Time Magazine called Hans, “The king of diamonds and colored gems, capable of unveiling the personality hidden in every precious stone.” H. Stern jewelry collections are known for their unique inspiration, and many are created in homage to a single person or cultural event. Inspirations include Anna Bella Geiger, Diane von Fürstenberg, and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland film. H. Stern designs are often worn by celebrities and style icons, including Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Hermès of Paris was founded in 1837 by designer Thierry Hermès. Over the next hundred years, the Hermès company became a worldwide luxury retailer selling upscale luxury goods such as scarves, bags, and fragrances. They began designing and selling jewelry in the 1950s. Hermès jewelry pieces span the spectrum of design, from modern leather and enamel bracelets to gold and diamond bracelets that cost over $100,000 each. Hermès designs have been worn by cultural icons including Grace Kelly and Jane Birkin. The brand is known for rejecting mass production, instead choosing to have their goods handmade at mid-size specialty workshops located in France.
Tiffany & Co. was founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany in New York in 1837. The store was originally called Tiffany, Young & Ellis, but changed its name to Tiffany & Company in the early 1850s when it expanded to locations in Paris and London. The company truly became a design icon during the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods of the early 20th century, when they began selling their famous diamond and platinum solitaire engagement rings. Tiffany is also famous for the lock and key motif, which is featured on bracelets, pendants, earrings, and pins.
Many celebrities and fashion icons have purchased iconic Tiffany jewelry, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Greta Garbo and Elizabeth Taylor. One of the most famous Tiffany jewelry designs was the iconic “Bird on a Rock” – a brooch in which a diamond and gold bird perches on an enormous 128.54 carat yellow diamond.