The world of diamonds may be dazzling, but it’s also serious business. Yet somehow, for 25-year-old Ashna Mehta, the industry is anything but daunting. “I have always thought about designing, since I grew up in a house where diamonds were always a topic of conversation, and my mother is an incredibly talented designer,” says the young entrepreneur, who, as an heiress to Indian-Belgian company Rosy Blue, comes from a legacy of diamonds, and first started the journey by designing pieces for herself. In fact, one of her fondest—and earliest—memories related to the line takes us back to her childhood, when her grandfather Dilip Mehta celebrated earning Belgium’s highest civilian honor, ‘Baron’, by taking her along to his office and asking her to pick a stone she’d like to wear once she completed school. “I chose a fancy intense yellow cushion cut diamond, and then set it onto a simple ring with a halo of brilliant cut diamonds around it. This was the first piece of jewelry I had the freedom to create and design by myself. The ring evokes the fond memory of that day in my grandfather’s office, the feeling of pride of what he has built, as well as motivation to continue and create my own legacy.”
Ashna Mehta at work on a special piece for Nicki Minaj. Photo: Courtesy Ashna Mehta
Like a true Gen Z-er, Mehta’s creations are influenced by her travels—New York and Dubai are on top of the inspo list—along with pop culture, hip-hop, and her lifelong love for sports. So it was only natural for her pieces to make their way into the world she identifies best with. This year, Mehta’s creativity earned her a spot on a global platform, aka the Instagram account of Nicki Minaj. ICYMI, the much-loved rapper recently dropped a series of pictures and videos of herself iced out in a sparkling ‘Barbie’ necklace, which comes from Mehta’s workshop. Styled with a lilac crop top + skirt set by Marc Jacobs, matching fluffy bomber, hot pink heels and a cotton candy hairdo, Minaj’s newest jewelry find is all about making a big statement. “I love Nicki’s music. She’s remarkably talented and someone I have dreamt of wearing my jewelry,” Mehta shares with us. “I spoke to Rushka Bergman (Minaj’s creative director), and we discussed collaborations, and things I should design for my jewelry line, and I was inspired by her and Nicki’s music to make a Barbie necklace.”
Bringing together 104 diamonds—that’s 60+ carats, all VVS—in 18k white gold with bright pink enamel, this isn’t your average neckpiece. “It was very important to get the right measurement of the stones. Each diamond was hand picked as per my design, and it took hours to create, as all the colors and clarity had to match, so the final setting would look unified and radiant.” Now, with her big jewelry debut done and dusted, Ashna Mehta only plans to go bigger and brighter. Below, excerpts from Vogue Arabia’s chat with the budding designer.
Your relationship with jewelry is an old one. How did you first gain an interest in this line of designing?
I am constantly inspired by moments in history, galleries, and museums. During my first year in college, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw a show about Indian jewels from the Al-Thani collection, and this shifted my perspective. Seeing objects, such as a Mughal era flask from the 17th century, altered my perception of what was possible. The flask is made of the most beautiful crystal, but embedded on its surface are rubies and emeralds that have the most intricate settings.
You’ve been designing jewelry for years with your mother. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from her?
There are so many lessons I could mention. My mother, Payal Mehta, the haute couture jewelry designer of Payal New York, is the most organized woman I have ever known. She has taught me the importance of being detailed with each facet of the design process from start to finish. She taught me about different types of colored stones such as the rare padparadscha from Sri Lanka, and about different shapes and phenomena available like cabochons and chatoyancy.
She is so particular when choosing colored gemstones like rubies or emeralds for her pieces, because the colored stone industry is much less regulated than the diamond industry. In fact, 80% of colored stone mines are artisanal, and often include a lot of horrific human rights violations. Learning about the injustices involved in the colored gemstone world inspired me to improve conditions for miners through my family’s CSR initiatives. My mother and I have worked together on policy development with the United Nations Global Compact for child labour exploitation in mines around the world, and we will continue to ethically source all the stones we use while building a sustainable supply chain.
How would you say your aesthetic is different from that of others, or even from your own family’s?
I would say my aesthetic is modern and timeless. I like playing with certain classic elements like white gold and diamonds, and pairing them with bright colored enamel. The designs of my family’s pieces are more delicate and dainty in comparison, but there are several things I will carry on as a jeweler that I share with my family, such as a focus on sustainability, ethical sourcing, and using top quality stones.
Tell us a little bit about your sports-themed jewelry line—what inspired that? What elements did you bring in to get that look?
I grew up in New York playing sports my whole life. I find sports to be a unifier, a place where political and economic differences are set aside. They create freedom, camaraderie, and they bring out the best in people.
We’re launching in the near future, but the birth of the line came from a custom piece my friend Iman asked me to make for her. After making her earrings, I started making different variations of the piece, and landed on what will be my debut line. To get the right look, I use orange sapphire to represent the basketball and white gold for the shape of the hoop. The net is made out of delicate 18k gold chains and the backboard, which is my favorite part, using different materials, from lapis lazuli to rhodolite. I love the juxtaposition of the sturdy backboard against the fragile and precious net.
Ashna Mehta’s jewelry pieces take inspiration from the city of New York and her love for sports. Photo: Courtesy Ashna Mehta
You’ve got Nicki Minaj on your list of clients now. Which other celebrities would you like to see wearing your pieces one day?
Artists like Rihanna and actors like Angelina Jolie would be incredible. For my sports line, it would be really fulfilling to design one-of-a-kind pieces for professional athletes and their families. It would be a special way to celebrate their time at the height of their careers.
Jewelry can be so personal. How do you go about customizing pieces for different people? What are the key factors you like to keep in mind?
Everyone is different, so each piece is unique and bespoke for the specific individual. Jewelry designing is like dreaming, but when you actually create, there are so many techniques you have to think about. This makes the process exciting. When designing, I have to consider what materials to use, how to source the materials, how to make it work, what exact measurements are needed, how to set the piece, how it will fall, and then finally, how it will look best.
From what we’ve seen so far, your jewelry is quirky, fun and young. Is that a reflection of your personal style? Who is the ideal ‘Ashna Mehta’ woman?
Yes, I would say that’s a good description of my personal style at times. I would say my style is like a multifaceted diamond… I can be elegant and sophisticated, or fun and young. I love having an array of colors in my collection of diamonds. Inspired by their hues, I express myself based on the mood that their tones and saturation bring out. The ideal Ashna Mehta woman is particular about quality. My pieces are not gender based though, and I’m drawn to people with styles that go beyond stereotypes and conventional thinking.
In your opinion, what are three pieces of jewelry every woman should own, and why?
I love statement rings because they speak for themselves. You don’t need to wear anything else when you wear a large ring. Next, I would say everyone should have a solitaire necklace, it is an essential staple and can be layered easily for a contemporary feel. Lastly, I would say diamond stud earrings because they can be worn day to night, anytime and anywhere.