Tawnya Warren, founder of Zoe Fine Jewelry, first entered the jewellery industry as a seller in 1993. Over the course of the following twelve years, during which time she worked for highly regarded businesses including Barneys New York, she learned everything she needed to know to pursue her true passion - creative jewellery design. In 2005, she founded her own brand and began the process of crafting jewellery that gives strength and power to women.
Tawnya uses her creativity to design one original collection after another, taking inspiration from both the dark and light times she’s experienced in her life. We chat with Tawnya about how she started out as a sales person in Barneys, the importance of creating jewellery that signifies a joyful moment in people’s lives and why she doesn’t want her name in bright lights.
When did you first fall in love with jewellery?
“When my grandmother gave me her star sapphire ring that she wore every day and I felt her strength and love just holding it. I often hold it and feel her with me. I’ve never cleaned the ring so it still has the soil from her organic garden she would cultivate each year in Pennsylvania when I was growing up. I decided I wanted to create pieces that would have lasting memories and tell a story for generations to come.”
Who has been the biggest inspiration for you?
“My mother and grandmother were significant as they were both symbols of very strong independent women. My grandmother taught herself how to weave when she was 65, creating many beautiful pieces and competing in craft shows selling her work. They taught me that no matter what obstacle you faced it could be overcome and it reminds me that we can never stop pursuing our life’s passions. I learnt hard work, determination, and perseverance from a young age.”
How did you get into the jewellery industry?
“My entire career has been in the jewellery industry, on all sides of the table. I started as a sales person at Barneys New York and then a buyer. After that I opened wholesale jewellery businesses for other jewellers and then my own jewellery retail store, before finally making my first ring. I sold it and then made two more and then four more, until it grew and grew. Once I had enough for a collection I launched in Barneys New York in 2005. Eleven years later I still am a vendor with Barneys. I learned from each designer I worked with over the years about so many facets of the industry before I ever designed my first piece.”
"My entire career has been in the jewellery industry, on all sides of the table."
What drove you to start your own jewellery line?
“I graduated from college winning Accessory Designer Of The Year. I designed shoes, handbags, belts, and millinery all by hand and won many awards. Jewellery was the medium I always wanted to design but the cost was too high. It wasn’t until I wanted to focus on having a child that I also wanted to give birth to a jewellery collection of my own. I wanted to restructure my life so when my child was born I could work from home and raise my son. I accomplished it. My son was born in 2007 at the exact time my jewellery was a success. It enabled me to spend every minute with my son and create beautiful jewels along the journey.”
What are your core brand values?
“High craftsmanship and quality materials are of utmost importance. I only use conflict-free diamonds and fair trade materials. Treat others as you wish to be treated. I have always lived my life by the rule of Karma.”
"I always say if jewellery could talk, the stories it would tell. Imagine a 100-year-old piece of jewellery and all the joy and sorrow it has seen."
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
“Long walks by the ocean inspire me and clear my mind to create new pieces. I love Georgian and Edwardian period jewellery, imagining the elaborate dress and details of bygone eras and working them into a modern age design. I always say if jewellery could talk, the stories it would tell. Imagine a 100-year-old piece of jewellery and all the joy and sorrow it has seen.”
Who are the clients you are most proud of?
“To me, it is not about the celebrities that own my pieces, but the man who is in love and wants to surprise his fiancé with a proposal. The love and care that goes into that purchase intrigue me the most. The men are so humble and filled with such joyous love that it’s almost intoxicating. It’s a constant reminder that love is all that matters.”
"When they spin the ring on their finger I want them to think of the happy moments in life."
How do you want someone to feel when they wear your designs?
“Joy. When they spin the ring on their finger I want them to think of the happy moments in life. Each time they touch the metal and stone to their skin I want them to feel the power and joy in that very moment it signifies for them. A constant reminder that passion fuels life.”
What is your greatest accomplishment so far and what does the future hold for Zoe Fine Jewelry?
“Seeing how proud my son is about his mommy designing jewellery and being successful enough to find a balanced life. He is my greatest accomplishment. I never wanted ‘my name in bright lights’ type of success. Hence why my brand is called Zoe, my curly haired wild child alter ego. Zoe is Greek for life. Passion fuels life and for me, it is all about pursuing life’s passion and helping others celebrate their moments of passion one piece of jewellery at a time.”
Zoe Fine Jewelry is available to buy on Jewelstreet here.