By Marie Feliciano
Award-winning Canadian jewellery designer and painter, Reena Ahluwalia, continues to make her mark in the jewellery world with her customised pieces celebrating the beauty of diamonds.
Born in India, the Toronto-based artist highlights the significance of jewellery – symbolic, physical and conceptual – in every piece that she creates. She is a long-time proponent of responsible diamonds that are sustainable, origin-guaranteed and conflict-free, and strives to adhere to this philosophy in her collections. Ahluwalia’s projects reflect her passion for diamonds. She has won numerous awards, including the coveted De Beers Diamonds-International Award and the Rio Tinto Diamonds Global Design Competition. Ahluwalia describes her work as “powerfully confident, proudly flamboyant” and one that “harmonises well-engineered precision and geometry with fluidity and movement.” Her latest project, the “Coronet by Reena Ahluwalia” line, proves just that. The line’s first collection, Inner Brilliance, has a unique design element – a pointer that points to the true centre of one’s being – one’s inner brilliance. Along with the pointer design element that draws attention to the centre Coronet setting, the jewellery pieces also rotate on a central axis, creating a mesmerising effect.
In an interview with JNA, Ahluwalia talks about her passion for diamonds, her thriving painting career and the millennial consumer.
JNA: Please tell us something about your more recent accomplishments.
Reena Ahluwalia: Last year was a good year for larger-sized fancy colour diamonds and customised jewellery. There were private commissions that I did using natural, fancy colour diamonds. Personally, it was a good year for me since I was able to focus on pieces that tell stories, and that’s my signature style. In any work that I do – be it jewellery design, painting or sculpture – the story behind each project is the starting point for me. It has to be honest, and it must be something that people can understand and relate to.
Interestingly, more millennials bought my paintings last year. That was surprising to me. I learned that people are really interested in stories that connect to them. If it touches them personally, then it becomes their story, and that is what these paintings do.
In 2017, my goal is to better manage my time. I have my jewellery business and my painting business, both of which are time-consuming. I also travel often. I am taking limited projects and making only a few paintings. I am not going to mass-produce anything since I am doing this out of passion and love. With my paintings, I want people to still see every minute detail in every inch and in every millimetre of the canvas 30 years from now.
JNA: What drew you to the jewellery industry?
Ahluwalia: I have always been very analytical and poetic. I love structure. I like to draw and I love constructing things. What interested me the most were things that I could make, which could be personal to people. Jewellery does that.
JNA: When it comes to jewellery design, you often use fine diamonds. Why do you love diamonds so much?
Ahluwalia: Throughout my professional life, I have handled thousands of diamonds. The things that really jump out for me are the attributes of diamonds. For example, some diamonds look brilliant, some look luminous, some look romantic. Those are the qualities that define their personalities. In fact, one of my painting series is based on these attributes. One painting is called ‘Portrait of Luminosity,’ which shows a fancy vivid yellow diamond. Another painting called ‘Glorious,’ meanwhile features a diamond that glows like a golden sun. In both paintings, I did not simply paint a diamond but I am celebrating a luminous and glorious you. I have another painting called ‘Heart of Gold,’ and it is an expression of what’s beautiful in all of us. This is why millennials connect with and relate to my work.
Whatever I do, I make sure that I take my time to create something that I am really proud of, something that is technically well done, and one that I have an emotional connection with.
If you want diamonds to connect with the new generation, you have to build an emotional connection between them. You can do that by celebrating their achievements and milestones. If you make it about them, then you have a winning proposition. If it is just a piece of jewellery that they cannot relate to, then it means nothing to them. This generation is about ‘me.’
JNA: Despite your hectic schedule, you still manage to give talks at seminars, the more recent of which were at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto and the ‘Design Inspirations 2017’ event organised by the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council of India. You also support a number of advocacies.
Ahluwalia: I speak whenever I can contribute my time and insights. I am a professor of jewellery, and if I can be a facilitator in a dialogue, I am happy. To me, it’s all very simple – it must serve people. JNA