“I was always creative when I was younger,” says independent jewelry designer Zaven Dedeian at his factory in Burbank, California. “I drew my first sketch at eight years old and showed my dad. He really liked the sketch and decided to craft a piece of jewelry based on my sketch. It was a tiger’s head and it was one of his best sellers at the time, which led to the creation of his successful Jungle collection 20 years ago.”
Like father – like son, Garo Dedeian a master goldsmith with forty years industry experience started making jewelry at the tender age of nineteen. Despite his early interest, Zaven took a detour before rejoining the family trade. “I was into sports,” he says. “I played soccer at a semi pro level, but after a series of injuries I decided to come back and work with my father.” At the age of twenty-one Zaven started his own venture, with the loving support of his father and mother.
Today, Garo works for his son. “We don’t collaborate on design anymore,” says Zaven. “But we do a lot of things here together; I introduced many of the modern jewelry technology – the CAD/CAM, the 3D printer, microscope settings, laser welders… He’s not very familiar with a lot of that stuff.”
That “stuff” is part of what gives Zaven’s jewelry its edge. Never a diamond out of place, every piece is technical perfection. “A human is not going to be able to do anything remotely as precise as a machine,” he says. “There’s no way my hand can make a perfectly symmetrical ring, but we can do that with the CAD/CAM; each piece of jewelry is 3D-printed to insure utmost quality.” (To those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of jewelry manufacturing, a CAD/CAM is a type of computer software and hardware used to design and manufacture products.)
While it’s not uncommon for independent jewelry designers to use modern methods, many artists stress artisanal qualities over technological precision. After all, it’s the handmade aesthetic that sets them apart from larger jewelry conglomerates. Zaven, on the other hand, sees no problem with merging the two. “What sets us apart is that we utilize the technology, but we also incorporate hand finishing into the product,” he says. “We have microscope diamond setting, hand milgrain, and hand engraving. That’s where the beauty of jewelry becomes apparent… When you combine technique with human ingenuity, you create something phenomenal.”
With a passion for technical excellence, perhaps it isn’t a surprise that Zaven chose to incorporate man-made diamonds as well. Born in a thermonuclear reactor, Diamond Foundry diamonds are the product of decades of research and testing. They’re technically refined, but unlike mass produced industrial stones, contain the organic warmth of natural born diamonds. “I like the idea of what Diamond Foundry represent: the conflict-free, cruelty-free and eco-friendly,” he says. “I think that the concept behind it is what initially interested me.”
As for the future, Zaven has some ideas. In terms of the industry, he thinks that “jewelry itself is slowly starting to change course from mass produced goods.” For him, the sky’s the limit. “Right now, I’m catering to a specific audience of engagement rings and fashion jewelry. In the long run, I have a desire to branch out and incorporate jewelry into various industries. The possibilities could be endless!”