To learn more about this award-winning designer and her fascinating creations, CYNTHIA UNNINAYAR caught up with her in New York just before she boarded a plane to Paris to visit one of her private clients.
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To say that Caroline Chartouni is passionate about gemstones would be an understatement. Her creativity and use of colourful stones have garnered her seven prestigious Spectrum Awards in the United States. She is in demand not only for her original one-of-a-kind pieces and limited collections—sold under the Caroline C label— but also for customised jewellery requested by discerning clients around the world.
Caroline credits her passion for colourful jewellery to her upbringing in Paris. “In addition to the beauty and art of the City of Lights, I was exposed to the fashion and jewellery industries at a young age,” she reminisces. As an adult, she initially turned to fashion and designed haute couture for several years before finding her true passion— jewellery design. “While I love fashion and continue to sketch outfits, I ultimately chose jewellery because it is complementary to fashion. It was a natural transition,” she smiles. “Designing jewellery is also a form of art. It is quite a lot like painting, sculpture or music.”
You can see elements of painting, sculpture and music reflected in her pieces, “in the sense that they have a sense of movement and flowing lines, with hints of whimsy to evoke the feeling of a symphony,” she muses. This symphony not only includes a concerto of colour, but also a sonata of sources around the world where she finds the precious gems for both her retail collections and her private clients. “I travel frequently in order to find just the right gems, and even go directly to the mines around the world to find the perfect stones for special custom pieces,” she adds. “We have a wide range of gems in a multitude of sizes, from those used in casual jewellery to very rare gems destined for gemstone collectors and investors.”
Caroline admits that finding special and rare stones is not easy, nor is trying to perfectly match, for example, 10- or 15-carat stones. “But, when I do find a particularly interesting gem, I let its personality dictate the design in order to showcase its unique qualities.” And colour, of course, is one of the gem’s most prominent unique qualities. “I use a lot of colour because it gives depth to design. It can make it soft and subtle or exuberant and bold. Colour expresses—and creates—feelings. When light hits a gemstone, it makes it come alive.”
What are the gems that appeal most to this talented designer? “If I had to choose a single stone, it would be Paraiba tourmaline. I began using it long ago, way before it started gaining worldwide attention. The neon blue colour fascinates both the wearer and the observer. Its strong hues are incomparable and offer infinite design possibilities.” She notes that Paraiba is also the most requested stone for custom pieces.
While Paraiba may be her favourite, Caroline insists that she appreciates all gemstones. “They are the twinkle of Nature’s eye. Each stone has its own soul. It beats to its own rhythm. Its character and charisma are expressed softly, yet vibrantly in a splendid spectrum of colour. It can make the design soft and subtle or exuberant and bold. When light hits a gemstone, it brings the colour to life, enhancing its personality and emotional attachment.”
This “emotional attachment” is an important element in Caroline’s design philosophy. “Every piece I create must pass a ‘love test’,” she explains, “or I won’t let it go.” It’s not enough for her to know that the new owner merely “likes” the meticulously crafted jewel—a jewel that is as beautiful and well made on the back as it is on the front. He or she must feel an emotional attachment to it.
Before Caroline begins a custom design, she spends time with her clients. She not only discusses what they would like, but learns about them, as individuals—their lifestyles, their tastes, their personalities, and why they want the piece. “Is it for a special occasion, or everyday wear, or to say ‘I love you’? Only then can I begin to sketch the design,” she explains. “And, a strong design should never scream, ‘Look at me.’ It should beckon the wearer to explore every nuance, to feel a sense of magic and joy. A perfect piece of jewellery is much more than the mere value of the gemstone or the metal. It must have a distinctive symbolic essence.”
Citrine centre stone ring in 18-karat pink gold accented with rubies and diamonds.
Tanzanite and tsavorite team up in this geometric ring in 18-karat white gold.
Paraiba is one of Caroline’s favourite gems, and this includes the green variety, shown here accented with diamonds and set in 18-karat yellow gold.
A fashion sketch by Caroline Chartouni with her award-winning earrings in 18-karat white gold featuring dangling Paraiba tourmalines, emeralds, tanzanites and diamonds.
This award-winning platinum ring features an 8-carat pink sapphire accented with smaller pink sapphires and diamonds.
Caroline’s most recent Spectrum Award winner is this blue spinel and diamond ring (seen here from above and side-on) in 18-karat white gold. The fashion sketch is by Caroline Chartouni.
Among the unusual gems uncovered by Caroline for her custom clients is this award-winning and rare star sapphire ring set in 18-karat white gold with diamond accents.
Spinels add colour to these award-winning earrings in 18-karat white gold accented with diamonds highlighting a fashion sketch by Caroline Chartouni.
One of Caroline Chartouni’s early Spectrum Award winners is this pair of earrings in rose quartz, 18-karat rose gold and diamonds.
A fashion sketch by Caroline Chartouni with her award-winning earrings in 18-karat white gold featuring Paraiba tourmalines, diamonds and emeralds.
The 18-karat rose gold ring features rubellites and diamonds.