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Her jewels create high-wattage red carpet moments, but lately Lorraine Schwartz is focused on inclusivity in her industry.
“I wanted to share my passion with a new generation,” explains the New York-based designer. “This is an industry that tends to be passed on from generation to generation — the grandfather teaches his son, who then passes the knowledge along to his son. I’m a third-generation diamond dealer, yet as a woman I also found challenges. But for the Black community, there are fewer opportunities for mentoring or to break through as a result. I thought I could do something about that.”
Now to help provide those opportunities, Schwartz has partnered with the Natural Diamond Council (NDC) on a plan: the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative, a $1 million program that enables emerging BIPOC designers to access mentorships and $20,000 loans to purchase diamonds. “We’re not giving money away; it’s a loan, and you also have to prove you’re serious about a design career,” Schwartz notes. “But if you’re a designer and you want to upgrade your collection, the hardest thing to do is secure diamonds on consignment if no one knows you, because this is still a handshake business in many ways. Our plan is to enable young designers to have the means while also making the introductions.”
Schwartz’s high-wattage looks have become one of the most anticipated elements of major red carpets, with memorable moments like Beyoncé’s debut at the Academy Awards in 2005 in Schwartz’s diamond-mesh earrings and the spectacular emerald earrings worn by Angelina Jolie at the 2009 Oscars. Her longtime relationship with artists like Pharrell Williams and Kelly Rowland also spurred Schwartz’s interest in finding ways to elevate emerging BIPOC designers. “I’ve been very lucky in the support I’ve received from the Black community, and I didn’t want what I do to be only talk,” Schwartz says. “I just thought, what can I do? This seemed like a way to make a difference. I was willing to put my own money into this, and then I approached the NDC.”
Williams, Rowland and Tina Knowles are serving as honorary advisors to the initiative, while star stylist Jason Rembert, whose clients include John Boyega, Rita Ora and Issa Rae, is joining Schwartz alongside NDC CEO David Kellie and other jewelry experts on the selection committee.
“The NDC has been the best partner; this has been in the works for more than six months, because we want to make sure every step is correct,” Schwartz says. “We want to create meaningful opportunities, but we didn’t want to do this too quickly. You have to be very careful with what you promise.”
Said Kellie in a statement, “Creativity and innovation are the forces that drive our industry forward and in order for that to happen, we need more diverse viewpoints. This initiative is designed to support emerging BIPOC designers by giving them access to the diamond jewelry industry, which has traditionally been limited, and fostering their ingenuity and successes.”
For Schwartz, easily among the red carpet’s most celebrated jewelry designers, the opportunity to pay it forward is one she welcomes. “The industry has had its share of jewelry wars over the years,” she says, “and I hope this will show that we can be united.”
For more information or to apply to the Emerging Designers Diamond Initiative, visit naturaldiamonds.com/eddi.
A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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