Next up in our Meet The Maker series is Yuliya Chorna, an award-winning Canadian Jewelry Designer who celebrates the alternative, showcases the unique, and always delivers truly one-of-a-kind designs. Keep reading to learn more about her design journey, how fashion inspires her, and why she loves rose cut diamonds.
How did you become a designer?
My best friend and I worked for an artist/jewelry maker when we were in high school. We made fun, artsy beaded jewelry for her neighbourhood events - that definitely fueled my passion for jewelry. I also grew up in a family of jewelry lovers - my mom was always talking gemstones with me.
After high school, I went straight to George Brown College for the three-year Jewelry Arts Program. After graduating, I won an entrepreneur award from Made You Look Jewelry Studio which included a few months free rent on a jewelry bench and allowed me to display my pieces in the store. This helped immensely - I got to dip my toes in the industry and learn from other designers. I learned where to get all my supplies, where to find setters, casters, and what my personal design style was.
It took me a while to build up my collection – I did a lot of side jobs until I could stand on my own two feet with just jewelry. I stayed at Made You Look for 10 years and just recently moved to a new studio with a few other designers.
When did you start loving jewelry?
My mom, aunt, and grandma loved jewelry. I was given a gold chain with my initial for my 15th birthday – it’s a tradition in my family. The value and sentimentality of jewelry was embedded into me from an early age.
You are the queen of rose cut diamonds - why do you love them?
I love the history behind the cut – gem cutters made rose cuts before the modern brilliant cut came about. They were meant to be looked at under candlelight – it’s a very romantic and old-world feel.
I also love the subtlety of the cut and how it showcases the beauty of stone. Especially with salt and pepper diamonds – the domed top is like peering through a looking glass and seeing a whole world inside the diamond.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Modern with an old-world charm.
What inspires your designs?
Architecture and travel. When I travel, it frees up space in my mind to think more clearly and creatively. I love seeing different cultures - it’s very inspiring and the design ideas just come flooding in.
Clothing is another deeply rooted inspiration. My mom and I love fashion – she used to create custom clothing for people and we always watched fashion shows together. Before I wanted to be a jewelry designer, I wanted to be a fashion designer. The processes of making clothing and making jewelry are very similar - you consider how the piece will look on the body (or the finger), the color, the shape, the materials, and how to construct the piece to bring your idea to life.
What’s your favorite ring you’ve ever created for Gem breakfast?
Bali Babe (sold) - it was an extension of one of my popular designs topped with a decorative crown. It was hand-carved and the design came to me in a very clear vision. It was exciting to take a risk on a design and have it find the perfect person so quickly.
What’s your design process like from start to finish for a GB ring?
- I source the materials – I prefer to see stones in person if possible. All of my center stones are from Misfit Diamonds.
- I’m often immediately inspired by the stone and have a pretty good idea of what to do with it.
- I do lots of sketches and pick the design I love the most.
- Next, I either hand-carve the design in wax or I work with my CAD designer to create the design together.
- Once the model is finished, the mold is cast in recycled gold locally in Toronto. If I have some leftover gold, I will use that to make a new ring. I do not waste anything.
- Once the model is cast, I clean it up myself – that means sanding, filing, and polishing.
- Once it’s clean and polished, I send the ring to one of my local setters.
- Then I do a final polish and put my maker stamp on the inside of the ring.
You seem to do a lot with claws – how do they factor into your design?
Claws are such a versatile design element – you can add more/less claws, you can point them for a geometric feel or round them for a softer, more textured look. I love how they let the stone shine but also keep it safe. They are an overlooked detail that can add a lot to a design.
What do you love about salt & pepper diamonds? You have so much variety in your designs with them and the stones themselves.
I love that they're all different – each one has a unique character and you know 100% they’re not lab-made or synthetic. S & p stones showcase their origin loud and proud – the inclusions and details that arose from it growing under the earth for millions of years – that’s so beautiful to me. You can be certain no one in the world has the same stone as you – every single one is one-of-a-kind.
My favorite salt and peppers have very defined inclusions and specks – a stone that’s sparkly but has a lot going on – a magical world inside the stone.
What's your favorite ring on Gem Breakfast right now?
Lore – it’s an oval icy rose cut diamond ring with pear shoulders and 6 claws. It’s the perfect, modern edgy design – I love it.
What’s your proudest or most exciting moment in your design career?
Moving to a private studio with my jewelry friends last year. It was a big step to go on our own, leave Made You Look behind, and start anew. It felt very big and permanent.
Our studio’s in downtown Toronto and we’re very close to all our suppliers, casting houses, and gem setters. It means less travelling between places which is great.
More is more, true or false?
True! I love detail, I love big diamonds, I’m not minimalist in any way.
What jewelry do you wear every day?
I wear a pear shaped icy rose cut diamond ring, a band with some rough colored diamonds, and a diamond pinky signet ring with my birthstone in it.
I also wear a round medallion necklace with recycled gold from my grandma’s teeth – she gave me the gold when she got her dentures. It sounds a little gross but it's also very meaningful. Now she has passed and I’m grateful to have a piece of her with me always.
See all Yuliya Chorna designs for Gem Breakfast here!