Whenever Liz Phillips appears in the frame of our shop door, we all get the biggest smiles. Whether she is bringing in another amazing creation of her jewelry or she's just stopped by to share stories of her travels to Jaipur or the Southwest US, we love every minute of it. Liz exudes creativity and positivity and, while we know she's the best, we wanted you all to know as well! So, we sat down with Liz to learn a little bit more about her background, her inspirations, and her love of gems and India.
Where are you from originally? And what brought you to New York?
I was born in England but raised in the Pacific Northwest. After college in New Orleans and then a few years in London I moved to New York to study gemology at the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and it’s basically been home since.
How long have you been designing jewelry, and how did you get started?
I worked for the Japanese jewelry house Mikimoto when I lived in London and that’s when I really started to become deeply fascinated with gems and jewelry. After becoming a Graduate Gemologist, I went on a gemologist’s pilgrimage of sorts to Jaipur, India. I fell in love with the place and vowed to return and design a small collection of fine jewelry, which I did in 2011. I studied bench jewelry at The Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts in San Francisco, but I have never actually studied jewelry design. I’ve always thought of myself more as a gemologist who designs jewelry rather than a “jewelry designer”, to be honest!
Tell us a little about your design process and what inspires you.
As you might expect, the gemstones themselves are at the center of my design process and are my greatest source of inspiration. High concept jewelry design is not my wheelhouse. I love to celebrate the natural colors and extraordinary visual and material properties of colored stones and diamonds in the jewelry I design. I also often give a nod to historical jewelry styles that I particularly love in my collections. My Anthea collection, for example, was partly inspired by 17th century enamel jewelry, many pieces of which you see in the Cheapside Hoard. And my Europa collection is clearly inspired by jewelry from the Art Deco period.
Who are some of some of your favorite jewelry designers, or other artists you admire?
Among designers/jewelers working now I love Harumi Klossowska de Rola, Marc Auclert, Cora Sheibani, Eliane Fattal, De Vera, and Solange Azagury Partridge. But if I’m going to ogle jewels my preference will always be for vintage and antique jewelry. I can’t leave the Diamond District without a quick peek into DK Bressler and Eric Originals and Antiques. Some art I love: Felix Vallotton, Edouard Vuillard, Indian miniature paintings, and still lifes from the Dutch Golden Age, to name a few!
Do you have a favorite piece that you've created?
I love my opal Bombé ring with multicolor sapphires and tsavorite garnet pavé. It took a lot of time to get the design just right, but in the end it came out exactly as I had hoped it would. It’s a very happy ring. People always smile when they try it on!
You travel to Jaipur frequently, what do you love about going to India?
I love everything about spending time in India, really. The people I work with have become almost like family. I love the food, the history, the energy…I find that people who fall in love with India fall in love hard, and I’m definitely one of those people! And in Jaipur the possibilities for a maker/designer are endless because there are so many brilliant craftsmen and artisans of so many different traditions. Anything you can dream up can be made.
What is your favorite room in your home and why? Any favorite objects with a special meaning?
The living room. I love interesting textiles and it has a great old Persian rug, a vintage West African wall hanging, kilim pillows, and block printed cotton curtains that I had made in Jaipur. One of the focal points is a neon green Bollywood poster that I bought for my husband in Mumbai because I thought Amitabh Bachchan looked a bit like him in it!