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Diamonds in the Buff

Valérie Messika’s jewelry designs lay bare the gemstones’ beauty.

The diamonds in Valérie ­Messika’s imaginative jewelry designs appear to float, with no obvious metal settings to detract from their pure sparkle. “Diamonds are already a creation; I’m only here to put [them] on the skin of a woman,” says Messika. The 39-year-old Parisian jeweler herself dons layers of diamond bracelets, rings, and necklaces comfortably, with a casual elegance, and it makes sense that she would wear them with ease: She was a child when she acquired her adoration for such stones from her father, the long-established diamond dealer André Messika. Today, her signature light and airy creations, including the Maya cuff and Swan ring (shown), are well known in the world of high jewelry.

In contrast to those minimalist works, Messika has fashioned a series of 37 more-lavish diamond designs in honor of her 10th anniversary in business this year. Many of these pieces were unveiled in her elegant boutique on Paris’s Rue Saint-Honoré this summer, along with special designs from the Messika Private Collection, such as a diamond collar with two enormous orange-brown pear-shaped diamond drops—37.5 carats each—that can be worn as earrings. The piece is especially significant: Messika’s father, who started learning the art of diamond cutting five years ago, cut the stones himself. 

Although André’s masterful handwork is behind some of his daughter’s new pieces, her design approach remains her own. Messika eschews traditional prong settings, favoring instead the same less-is-more look (the anniversary examples notwithstanding) that has characterized her brand from its early days, when she debuted Skinny bracelets and necklaces featuring diamonds on a flexible wire. “I try to make the metal settings disappear,” she says. “And the result is what appears like a diamond tattoo.” To develop new ways of setting the diamonds, Messika opened her own in-house workshop at her Paris headquarters this past spring, enabling her to collaborate more closely with her team of master jewelers. “I’m always pushing the craftsmen to use less metal,” she says, “and it requires a lot of experimentation to make these new designs.” 


She also seeks inspiration in her surroundings. Her minimalist style is influenced, she says, by haute couture, such as Yves Saint Laurent’s pure, clean silhouettes; contemporary art; and Parisian street life. So several days each month, she rides off on her scooter and takes photos of the Parisian community and its stylish women. Those images, pegged to her bulletin board, remind her of why she creates and for whom. “I like strong, independent women,” says Messika, “and that spirit and style motivates me and my jewelry.”  

Messika, +, messika.com

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