There is a particular feeling a woman gets when donning an exceptionally crafted piece of jewelry: empowerment. Armed with a bold necklace, bracelet, or ring she is ready to take on the day’s challenges. It is this sense of power and strength that Vania Leles, London-based founder of VanLeles Diamonds, weaves into the new limited edition Makeda collection.
Inspired by Nefertiti, Yaa Asantewaa, the warrior queen Amina, and the collection’s namesake Makeda—a woman who became the Queen of Sheba and ultimately helped transform Ethiopia into a nation—the nine bold designs in this line reflect the valiant lives of these African heroines. Delicate 18-karat yellow gold bars come together with a dash of diamonds for a collection that is both daring and elegant.
“I was sitting in the workshop one day, watching the craftsman shave the remains of gold from some other jewellery he was making,” recalls designer Vania Leles, who worked for Graff Diamonds, De Beers, and in the jewelry department at Sotheby’s before founding her own brand. “These thin gold bars were falling and making these very scintillating noises. I asked if I could keep a few bars to bring to London. I loved the way they looked and thought perhaps I could make jewellery with them and needed time to think and to be inspired.
“Just by playing with these thin gold bars I sketched our first two pieces: a wide bib necklace and a matching cuff made entirely with these gold bars. My craftsman then suggested we tumble them in diamonds—just like you do with washing machines—a technique never before done in gold jewellery.” When asked what drew her to using gold so dominantly in the new line, Vania said she wanted “to be able to use the gold in its primitive form: in bars. The effect we were able to achieve during polishing of these thin gold bars will blow people away, and I love it.”
Despite their robust size, the pieces are lightweight and their movement mimics the flow of fabric. The Makeda collection is still in the works, but the finished line will include one choker, two bracelets, a pair of kite chandelier earrings, two bib necklaces, studs, earring climbers, and a dramatic headband.
Designs from VanLeles are presently available through 1stdibs. The Makeda collection will become available to clients in Europe this fall, and later through Neiman Marcus in the U.S. Keep an eye out for the choker and kite chandelier earrings—Vania’s favorites.