Some people work relentlessly toward their dream for years and nothing ever comes to fruition. Others are lucky enough to have it fall into their lap. De Beers Head Designer, Hollie Bonneville Barden, falls somewhere between the two. At 28 years old, she’s the youngest head designer for the company ever—climbing her way up the ladder from a freelance position in four short years. It’s clear that her grasp of designs is far beyond her years—some may even call her a prodigy. But despite her accomplishments she remains remarkably down-to-earth, and spoke with JustLuxe about her first collection for De Beers, women’s emotional connection with jewelry and tips on buying the perfect ring for your sweetheart.
JustLuxe: Can you talk a bit about your background and what lead you to begin working with De Beers?
Hollie Bonneville Barden: My educational background is in Jewelry Design. I received my degree from Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, and less than a year later I was approached by De Beers Diamond Jewellers. They were working on a book chronicling their history as jewelry designers, and a professor from Central St. Martins was kind enough to recommend me to create complementary illustrations for their vast archive of design pieces. After a year of illustrating for De Beers, I had the opportunity to meet with François DeLage, the CEO of De Beers Diamond Jewellers. He believed in my talent and potential, and offered me a design position within company. After a year, I was promoted to Head Designer. It’s been a short and swift journey, but I feel so privileged to have been given such an amazing opportunity so early in my career.
JL: Tell us about the inspiration behind your collections. You’re a remarkable young talent and one of brightest creative minds at the company—does your work come from a personal place or is it something you design with a team?
HBB: I often draw inspiration from nature and its unexpected movements and rhythms. My designs also feature a strong theme of light. One of my favorite design techniques is the employment of openwork. It allows me to play with the idea of how different kinds of light—angles, colors, intensity—can change the look and feel of each individual piece.
JL: Please walk us through your process of designing a new piece for De Beers.
HBB: I start with an abstract idea or theme. I spend a lot of time visiting galleries, working in my sketch book and on mood boards. In the early stages, it’s about exploring my creativity. As my ideas come to life, I interact more with other members of the team, from the workshops in Paris to our diamond sources. In the end, it has to be a team effort.
JL: What is your personal style like? How does that influence your creations, if at all?
HBB: I consider my style to be a balance between classic codes with a contemporary interpretation. A classic with a unique twist. Ultimately, my goal is to always create jewelry that is wearable, that feels natural but also expresses something unique for the wearer. Each piece should be as timeless as the diamonds it showcases.
JL: You’re constantly blending your designs and the long-established De Beers aesthetics. What are some of your favorite pieces from your collection and from the De Beers archives?
HBB: The Aria collection, which launched last year, was the first complete collection that I designed for De Beers. Naturally, it’s a personal favorite of mine. We are also issuing a select few pieces in pink gold just in time for Valentine’s Day, which puts a beautifully elegant spin on the collection. I’ve also always loved the iconic Talisman Collection, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this year. The collection features both rough and cut diamonds, and I’ve always enjoyed that juxtaposition.
JL: How do you hope women will feel when wearing your jewelry?
HBB: My interest in jewelry started at a young age, when I inherited pieces from my great-grandmother’s collection. So as a designer, I’d love nothing more than for the pieces I design to become cherished possessions that are passed down through generations. I want women to feel feminine and elegant—when a woman puts on one of my pieces, my hope is that she feels just as beautiful as the diamond jewelry they’re wearing.
JL: You’ve had an amazingly successful career and have accomplished more than most have at your age; what are some of the most important discoveries you’ve made or lessons you’ve learned through your meteoric rise?
HBB: One of the greatest things I’ve taken away from career is the importance of exploration. I didn’t immediately land on fine jewelry as my passion—I explored other areas of conceptual design as well. I keep a pile of old sketchbooks on my desk at De Beers to remind me of my personal growth as a designer.
JL: What are some of your favorite trends and styles you’re seeing coming up this year?
HBB: Most recently, I’ve been incorporating pink gold into my designs. In addition to the new Aria pieces, we are releasing the Caress ring—which was my first engagement ring I designed for De Beers—in pink gold. The pink gold adds a little extra interest, while the shape of the ring itself is very classic and elegant. I enjoy playing with the balance between introducing a new, modern aesthetic while still staying true to De Beers classic character.
JL: Do you have any tips or suggestions for those looking to buy their significant other a ring this year?
HBB: With so many variables to consider, picking out an engagement ring can be such a daunting task. De Beers offers a unique service called For You, Forever, which makes the selection process easy and interactive. The current trend is for couples to go ring shopping together and For You, Forever allows significant others to be involved. Using the interactive in-store iPad application, couples can fully customize their engagement ring using a variety of filters, such as cut and carat weight, to create a ring that suits their individual tastes and budget. Whether you’re going to a De Beers boutique or not, I find it so valuable to shop with your significant other to truly see if the ring and its wearer are a match. Beyond a diamond’s 4 C’s, one of the most important things is how the ring looks on the hand.