Lauren Wolf discovered her love for casting found objects while learning the art of metalsmithing in the mountains of Mexico. Today, Lauren Wolf Jewelry is best known for creating unusual engagement rings using ethically-mined, rare colored diamonds and can be found in over sixty boutiques nationwide.
Produced in California, with roots in New York City–where the brand was born and based for eight years– Lauren Wolf Jewelry often incorporates seemingly contradictory elements in order to produce designs that are at once primitive and sophisticated, edgy and elegant, classic and unconventional.
Upon relocating to the Bay Area in 2011, Lauren opened her first retail location, ESQUELETO. In 2015, ESQUELETO launched a Southern California outpost in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.
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Learn more about the boss lady behind the bling...
I always loved making art, but I chose to major in Advertising with a minor in Anthropology at University. At my school, students weren’t able to take Art classes unless they were working towards an art degree, so as soon as I graduated I headed down to San Miguel de Allende to study silversmithing at the Sterling Quest School.
Tell us more about this magical-sounding jewelry school in the mountains of Mexico.
A friend of mine had such a lovely experience at the Sterling Quest school in San Miguel, she recommended going to study with Billy, the teacher there. I always loved jewelry and was pretty adamant about working in a three dimensional capacity, so it seemed like the perfect fit. During my time in Mexico, I was really inspired by the process behind the craft, and my career sort of followed from there. I went on to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology and started working and living in New York City.
If you had to choose another profession, what would you do?
I think photography! I’ve always dabbled as a photographer, but I think I would really love the social and cultural aspect of being a professional photographer–meeting new people, understanding different perspectives, and being creative behind the lens.
Describe the person who wears Lauren Wolf Jewelry in three words.
Confident, sophisticated, and fashionable. Someone who’s definitely willing to step outside the box.
What is the most exciting part of your job?
Well, I do a lot of administrative work these days, but I love being a female business owner and getting the opportunity to work with so many amazing women. Being a jeweler can often be a solitary experience, so I must say having a small business where I’m able to employ so many women has been a real treat and a surprise for my career. I also love getting to design and fabricate new work on the bench, although I find there’s not enough time for that these days.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’ve always drawn inspiration from travel and urban environments. Now that I have a family and live in California, I don’t have quite as much access to that type of lifestyle, but I’m always on the lookout for new ideas. I also love drawing on the ancient (my anthropology roots) when I can–often this comes from collecting great cultural books, and getting an idea of how jewelry was worn and made 400 years ago is always inspiring to me.
As a designer, what is your most marked characteristic?
What is your most treasured possession?
Well, if we are talking jewelry, it would be my custom evil eye ring that I made for myself a few years back. When you make jewelry for a living you learn not to get too attached to any one specific piece; you’re simply a temporary keeper of some incredible pieces. My personal jewelry collection is actually pretty small, so making something for myself to keep is rare and special. My other favorite treasures are an antique silver bangle my husband gave me for my birthday, and a silver antique acorn brooch from my son!
Describe your personal style.
Well, my style has definitely become more casual since moving to California, but I would say I’m a jeans, fancy top, and nice shoes kind of gal? I definitely have a uniform. Baller casual?
Rumor has it you recently got matching diamond tattoos with some of your employees...
Oh yes! That was so much fun. Our shop manager in LA and I had been talking about getting diamond tattoos for years! We tried to get them done in New York while we were there a while ago, but we had trouble getting an appointment so we held off until we got home. We ended up going to our favorite local spot in Oakland, Tattoo 13. It was impromptu, and it was a lot of fun.
Women are often told they can’t have it all. You’re an artist–and you’re not starving–rather, you are a successful businesswoman, mother, and wife. Did you set out to empower and defy gender norms or is that a natural byproduct of your awesomeness?
Ha, that’s a nice compliment, thanks! I worked for a long time at my business before getting to where I am now, about 14 years! So, I’m glad that it’s finally paying off. I don’t think I intentionally set out to empower or defy gender norms, but I was always taught to work hard and go for your dreams. And this was definitely not a mantra in my house as kid... just something that I was told you could do, so I thought why not? It helps that I’m very driven and love to work as well.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
I think ESQUELETO is probably the greatest, from a curatorial point of view.
Who are your favorite artists?
I love Matthew Craven and Kori Girard.
What part of work continues to surprise you?
How much work it takes to run a small business!
What is your favorite cut of a diamond?
Old mine cut.
If you could change one thing about the jewelry industry, what would it be?
I think oversaturation in the industry makes things less interesting, but at the same time it keeps the drive up to make better work... I guess that complaint is a double edged sword.
What piece of advice would you give to young, creative entrepreneurs?
Stay at it. Anything that you want to be successful at–small business, craft, a career–all require time, commitment, and patience. So if it’s something that you really love, just keep your head down and make it work.
If you were a time of day, when would you be?
Lauren's work is designed and produced in Oakland, CA.
Interview by Marisela Feldman.