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Kara Ross: Stone Age

3 minute read
Betsy Kroll

SPEND SOME TIME talking with designer Kara Ross about her jewelry collection, and it’s hard to miss her repeated use of the words light and movement. Just one glance at a table filled with her golf-ball-size rock-crystal-quartz rings and Maltese crosses, and it’s clear that this 40-year-old mother of four likes the kind of jewelry that starts conversations. But don’t be fooled. “They might seem big, but they move,” she says, standing in her sunny, cramped home office that serves as a make-shift showroom.

Although Ross comes across as low-key (jeans, no makeup), she definitely believes in conspicuous jewelry. “You can be dressed in a white T shirt and black pants and have on a fabulous piece of jewelry that makes you feel special, and that can be your statement piece.”

Ross’s jewelry makes a statement, but it’s not because of one signature look. Rather, each piece conveys a unique sensibility that draws on Ross’s love of contemporary art—Mark Rothko’s work is an inspiration—and her travels. A knitted necklace Ross spotted a woman making in Dubrovnik, Croatia, two summers ago, for example, became a gold crochet-like collar.

Ross, a native of Philadelphia, has been passionate about jewelry since she was young. On a family trip to Kenya, she was allowed to select and purchase two green tourmaline stones. It was the beginning of a love affair with stones. Thirteen years ago, Ross began designing custom pieces for private clients but eventually tired of the made-to-order business. “It was a lot of engagement rings, and you can’t be that creative because the customers are usually men and they don’t want to take a risk,” she says. Two years ago, with her kids at school, Ross found herself with the time and drive to create a collection.

Pretty soon she had retailers like Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Stanley Korshak selling the pieces. But the focus has always remained small and special. “The customer enjoys something that is so original. You’re not going to see it coming and going,” says Robert Burke, Bergdorf’s fashion director. “It has a very distinctive point of view.”

Indeed, because of Ross’s affinity for unusual materials like black jet and pink opal (with a smattering of diamonds) and stones she finds in flea markets, the run on any of her designs is frequently just one or two pieces.

It’s the small gestures that reveal Ross’s passion for her craft. At a recent trunk show, the designer took pains to help a curious shopper. The woman left with several pieces—and Ross’s e-mail address. Several days later, when she received a message of gratitude from the customer, Ross was genuinely moved: “I want to see people get pleasure out of the jewelry. It’s more than money to me.”

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