Based in the French capital, Soligems was founded by designer and jeweller Veronique Ragagnon. Meaning ‘solidarity gems’, the brand’s philosophy is based on a very simple observation: the shocking contrast between the lavish world of jewellery and the living conditions in the countries producing precious stones. Compared to the price of a jewel finished, the monthly salary of a Malagasy miner, approximately 30 euros, seems therefore derisory.

So, Veronique had an idea to redistribute a share of the price of the jewel to associations located in gem-producing countries such as Madagascar. Her passion for gemstones is evident in her vibrant and unusual fine jewellery designs, all handcrafted from precious metals and an array of coloured gems. We chat with Veronique about her journey from investment business to jewellery design.

When did you fall in love with jewellery?

“I’ve always loved jewels. As a child, I used to cut jewel pictures from catalogues and pretend they were real.”

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How has your childhood influenced you as a designer?

“I was born in Madagascar but came back almost immediately to France. I grew up near Bordeaux. As a child, I heard many tales about Madagascar, where my parents had lived for four very happy years, and all its treasures. My parent had collected some minerals and gems from Madagascar and that was my first contact with gemology.”

"My parent had collected some minerals and gems from Madagascar and that was my first contact with gemology."

Why did you move from investment business to jewellery design?

“After an MBA and many years in the investment business, I met someone who had trained as a gemologist and was a jeweller specialist by chance in one of the leading auction houses. I thought this was a marvellous line of work and decided to follow the gemology courses of The ING in Paris. I then had the chance to be a trainee with one of the main gems experts in Paris who showed me his treasures and taught me how to select the best stones.”

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What drove you to create your own line of jewellery?

“Having begun to buy and collect rare and valuable gems, I began to design jewels for me and some friends. That’s how it all started.”

"Since I began I have given back more than €7000 to those NGOs."

Values are really important us at Jewelstreet. What are your core brand values?

“I travelled extensively in gem producing countries and realised populations there were generally very poor. So, I decided to give part of my sales to charities helping local populations. Since I began, I have given back more than €7000 to those NGOs.”

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What inspires you and your designs?

“Architecture, nature, art and travel are my main sources of inspiration. I am very sensitive to colours. The workshop I work with is in the south of France. They exchange of ideas is very fruitful and their work is very delicate.”

What is the most meaningful piece of jewellery you have received as a gift?

“I am very lucky as my husband of many years also likes jewels and is very generous. I must say I have a very nice personal collection. The first meaningful jewel I received as a present was a ruby ring from Cartier, which came as a total surprise, not even for an anniversary of any kind. That’s why it is so dear to me.”

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"My best client has bought at least ten pieces from me, I am very proud that she takes so much pleasure in wearing them."

Are there any clients you are particularly proud of?

“My first clients were all friends and I am proud of them all. But of course, it is highly gratifying to have a total stranger choose one of your jewels. My best client has bought at least ten pieces from me, I am very proud that she takes so much pleasure in wearing them.”

How do you want someone to feel when they wear your designs?

“Independent, elegant and refined. Most of my clients are women who buy for themselves, who wear jewels at work. The pieces they buy must be at the same time luxurious and wearable.”

What drives you to continue to design?

“There is always so much room for improvement. The words I like to hear from people are ‘I usually don’t wear jewels but...’”

Soligems is available to shop on Jewelstreet here.