Empowering Design: Inesa Kovalova on Navigating the Jewellery Industry as a Woman

Empowering Design: Inesa Kovalova on Navigating the Jewellery Industry as a Woman

T o celebrate International Women’s Day 2024 at Sotheby's we sat down with jewellery designer Inesa Kovalova to discuss how she navigates working in the field of jewellery as a woman and what it means to be a jewellery collector today.

Coming from an architectural background, Inesa started her career with an internship in Van Cleef and Arpels and went on to work for a number of international fine and high jewellery houses. Art, design and architecture inspired, Inesa's jewels explore the relationships between material, craftsmanship and design. Sotheby’s were privileged to include her work in the November 2022 Geneva Important Jewels auction as part of the Strong & Precious jewellery project which worked with Ukrainian jewelers donating to The Superhumans Center, a charity for victims of war in Ukraine.

International Women’s Day is coming up soon, and I am curious to know what this day means to you?

I truly love the meaning that it is a celebration of female courage and power.

Collaboration and mentorship can be powerful tools for professional growth. Have you had any influential female mentors or collaborators throughout your career? If so, how have they impacted your journey? Can you share any of the advice you were given?

It was equally both male and female mentors among the people that influenced me, sometimes just a conversation can be influential. At a certain moment, a conversation with the art historian Claudine Seroussi Bretagne helped me to clarify and connect my ideas. She shared her expertise so generously and opened the door to the world I was looking for, this hugely impacted my further development as a designer. It was my tutor at that time, a female British jeweler Melanie Eddie, who connected us.

My female friends—designers and artists—are the best collaborators ever. When studying at Central Saint Martin's, we formed a powerful friend group, and we still have a constant exchange of ideas and support each other with projects. I must admit, it also includes a male jeweler.

As you know, we auction many private collections of jewels amassed by female collectors here at Sotheby’s. These collectors generally have a strong eye for design, and know how each piece would be styled and interact with each other. What do you think it means to be a female jewelry collector today? Do you think this has changed over time?

When I think about female collectors, Peggy Guggenheim comes to mind first. I admire collectors with a vision for the future and believe it requires a lot of confidence and courage to follow your senses, both in art and jewels. A female jewelry collector at any time is a strong personality with an authentic sense of style and vision.

Your jewels are sculptural and architectural in design, I’m interested to know what you want women/people to feel when they’re wearing your jewelry? Do you have a specific type of woman who buys your pieces?

I am inspired by modernity. And I wish people to see and feel this sense of time in my jewels. They are both about the past and the future, connected in one point - now. From a more practical point, I definitely want them to feel comfortable and authentic wearing them. I work a lot on weight and materiality to make them a joy to wear and never heavy if wearing for a party, as nowadays we want to be comfortable and authentic. We want to be ourselves and celebrate our choices. As for the type of women, I see the jewellery and art collectors, designers, and creative personalities. It makes me feel that we have shared ideas and a similar sense of beauty.

What advice would you give to any women looking to enter the jewelry design industry?

Follow your vision and trust yourself, be curious and try no matter what. I think it refers to any industry. I am very much driven by curiosity and openness to new experiences and people. Of course, I have doubts and fears and am still learning to cope with them. In the end, bringing my vision to life gives me a huge joy and sense of purpose.

Who are some female jewelry designers to watch right now? And who are some past female jewelry designers that you have admired?

I absolutely love the work of Sarah Ysabel Dyne. I loved following how it has evolved in recent years and am looking forward to what comes next. From the past, it is, of course, Suzanne Belperron. Being ahead of her time, she developed a style that didn’t require a signature. Who else could dream about doing that? This feels so powerful to me. I think Sarah’s pieces are similarly recognizable now.

Representation and diversity are important topics in all industries. How do you think the jewelry industry can better support and elevate women designers? Have you experienced any barriers and how did you overcome them?

For sure, things can always be better. However, we must admit it has become much better in recent decades. Female designers designing for women feel so organic now. I haven’t experienced any gender barriers or maybe just haven’t noticed them. I would love to see more support for designers from different social backgrounds. Precious jewellery is not an easy design category to enter.

International Women's Day is also about celebrating unity and solidarity among women. Can you share a moment of sisterhood or support you've experienced within the jewelry community?

I love the jewelry community, and I am lucky to be surrounded by wonderful women with open hearts. At the start of the war in Ukraine, it was a true moment of support; so many in the jewelry industry supported me and my country, both men and women. And with the support of the jewelry sisterhood, the “Strong and Precious” project was born. By now, it has developed into an art foundation supporting Ukrainian jewelry creators. Women are in many ways more sensitive to others' pain. Being sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, we all can relate and understand each other best.

Jewelry

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