Jewelry designer Lika Behar has had a history with jewelry since childhood, with a grandfather and father who worked as gold coin dealers and estate jewelers in Turkey. Today, Behar makes all of her jewelry there using high carat gold and pure silver, while she sources her gems primarily in the U.S. The result is an array of beautiful and unique collections that are luxurious but can be worn every day.
We caught up with Behar to learn more about her journey in the jewelry industry, how COVID-19 has affected her business, how she continues to connect with customers and more.
How did your journey in the jewelry industry begin?
I have loved jewelry as long as I can remember. My grandfather and then my father were in the business in Istanbul where I grew up. One of my earliest and most traumatic jewelry memories was outgrowing a thin gold bangle bracelet with a tiny turquoise on it. My dad had to clip it off my arm, and the only thing that could stop my tears was his promise: “Do not worry, you will be swimming in jewelry all your life!” After stints in banking, designing childrenswear, and consulting in the apparel industry, I finally tried my hand at designing jewelry when I was almost 50! The hobby instantly morphed into a career, and here I am!
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business and, from your perspective, the jewelry industry?
Well, without trade shows or trunk shows it has of course, affected our business terribly. Getting caught off guard without a very good website complicated matters. My team and I spent lockdown on figuring out how to function virtually.
How have you been continuing to connect with your customers during times of social distancing, and how has the reopening of the economy and stores gone for you so far?
We have been having very successful Zoom showroom visits to show off our new collection. Those customers that have kept their inventory fresh by reconnecting with us virtually are having excellent sales numbers, some better compared to their pre-COVID numbers… go figure! I think pent-up demand had a lot to do with it.
How much do you rely on social media and other digital platforms to connect to your customers, and how do you do so?
We rely on social media to support our brand and of course to support all our customers that rely on it. We follow them and repost religiously when they tag us. Our social media is designed to help Lika Behar retailers achieve success with their customer base. I can’t imagine being a designer today without some sort of social media presence.
What was the initial inspiration for your brand?
Ancient Greek and Roman and Byzantine jewelry and architecture. Growing up in Istanbul with my dad and grand-dad’s stores in the historic sections of town, I couldn’t help it.
What else inspires you when designing?
Nature, especially oceans, rivers and lakes. I am a water person. There is research that suggests looking at a large body of water has a soothing effect on the mind. I also get inspired by fashion, although I do not allow it to dictate what I do. I adapt to what is going on, making sure my work stays original and is true to my aesthetic sense. The point is to try to not look dated while maintaining a unique point of view.
Can you give us an idea of your design process?
I can start with a leaf; a painting, a view or a beautiful gemstone, and I listen to my mind speak to me. Very often, I find myself blasting classical music while I am working. It helps me tune out distractions.
How long does it typically take to create a piece of jewelry?
It can take years, or it can take a few minutes. When I do custom work; sometimes the brainstorming goes in the right direction very quickly. It has to feel right, and then I say ok, let’s make it. Sometimes I hang on to a gemstone for years; looking at it periodically, and then one day I have an ‘aha” moment and that’s it! It moves quickly from there.
How would you describe your brand using only three words?
Unique, attainable, innovative.
How do you personalize your jewelry and designs?
Very often I do collaborative custom work. Even if the recipient says “you are the artist, you tell me what we should do”, I still try and listen. Listening is the ultimate skill when personalizing work. I look at a face and try to suggest necklace length or earring shape or stone colors, but at the end of the day, listening to your patron gives you the ability to fulfill their dreams. We sell happiness!
How about a favorite piece?
The ginormous infinite doorway aquamarine I have made into a ring… God, I adore that stone. Also, who can go wrong with a chunky gold necklace.
Are you partial to any stones or hues?
Every color as long as it is blue! From Turquoise to aquamarines, sapphires Australian opals and even blue topaz… they all speak to me.
What do you think sets your jewelry apart from other companies that specialize in fine jewelry?
My work is unique yet wearable all day every day. It does not look mass produced, and still attainably priced.
Can you tell us a bit about the collection or pieces you plan to exhibit at Luxury 2021?
Now that is a surprise!
We are so happy you joined us for the first-ever JCK Virtual 2020. What was your favorite part about the online show?
It was a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with some of our customers, and to remind them that we are alive and well and ready to serve them.
What are you most looking forward to a Luxury 2021?
Having an in-person show! It will be so good!
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