Connect: Octavia Elizabeth Jewellery
Residing in Los Angeles, California, Octavia Elizabeth is the creator of Octavia Elizabeth jewellery – a fine jewellery brand that aims to defy the trend for ‘dainty’, with durable designs that withstand the test of time. A Pioneer of the movement that seeks to reverse the exploitation often associated with the gem and metal industries, Octavia is paving the way for brands within the space to follow. This week, we caught up with Octavia to discuss the implications of an industry founded on unethical structures, the joys of her creative process and the symbolic meanings behind her most treasured precious stones.
What inspired your journey into the world of fine jewellery? What was the catalyst that made you realise it was this path that you wanted to take career wise?
Growing up my mother really encouraged each of my siblings and me to be creative. Whether it was drawing, pottery, glass-bead blowing or even basket weaving, she wanted us to use our hands and minds to create. During college I studied marketing and after four years I felt pretty uncreative so I started taking all kinds of art classes on the weekends or in the evenings. That’s where I found out about gold-smithing and bench jewellery.
What are the exploitations that occur within the gem and metal industries? What can brands like yourself do to ensure these unethical practices are phased out?
A lot has changed in this decade, but we can always get better. Buying stones that are United Nations Fair Trade approved is the first step, but you can also go a step further and look where the diamonds are coming from—Canada and Belgium have some of the worlds most beautiful diamonds and the labor laws are strict meaning the labourers are paid a fair wage and have good healthcare. The coloured stone industry and semi-precious stone industry is still pretty murky, but hopefully as transparency is demanded by more jewellers and consumers, that will change as well.
What are your favourite precious stones to work with and what are the meanings behind them?
Diamonds, Emeralds and Rubies. Diamonds are a symbol of purity and can help to bring clarity into bonding relationships—hence why they’ve been used for centuries to signify a committed marriage. Emeralds have amazing energy—they’re probably my favourite. They are known as a stone of success and love. They can help you let go of negativity and create positive actions in your life. Rubies are a symbol of prosperity and passion—they can help improve motivation and instil confidence. Interestingly, rubies were actually more sought after and valuable than diamonds in olden times—royal families would place them in their castles and on themselves to insure good fortune.
What is the story behind the most sentimental piece of jewellery that you own?
I was actually given an art deco diamond bracelet that was my grandmothers a few years ago before I became a goldsmith and designer. It sat in my jewellery box because the style just wasn’t me, but it meant something to me personally so I didn’t part with it. Recently I repurposed all the stones in the bracelet to make a gorgeous diamond infinity band. Now when I look at my fingers, I see both my grandmother and myself coming together.
Describe your creative process when creating a piece of fine jewellery...
I usually start with the stones. I like to draw inspiration from the stone and design off of it’s beauty. Of course, if it is a custom piece I work with the client one-on-one to create something that they’ll hopefully treasure a long time.
Who is your biggest inspiration? Who inspires your greatness?
My biggest creative inspiration is my mother—after all she is the one who encouraged us from the start to be creative. She also helps a lot with the design process and we bounce a lot of ideas off of one another. My dad though is the one I go to for business advice and was the one who encouraged me to be entrepreneurial.