Diamonds have always played an important role in many women’s lives. This has certainly been perpetuated film and Hollywood were we’ve had some amazing quotes from Marilyn Monroe’s
“diamonds are a girl’s best friend”
to Mae West’s
“I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number of carats in a diamond!”
Today we meet with Vania Leles, founder of VANLELES DIAMONDS LTD based in London, a luxury company that sources diamonds and creates unique bespoke jewellery for special occasions, who has dedicated her life and career to luxury, gems and diamonds in particular.
A very successful fashion model, a career at Graff Diamonds and De Beers where you created bespoke jewellery and sourced fine investment-purpose diamonds for many clients, including Royals, and eventually your passage to Sotheby’s as a member of the Jewellery Department team where you were the Client Jewellery Manager and oversaw and participated in the auctioning of some of the world's most prestigious diamond and gemstone pieces, including the sale of the one of the worlds greatest diamonds the Superb Pink Diamond of 24.78 carats Fancy Intense Pink bought by Mr. Graff and re-named ‘The Graff Pink’ and of course the sale of the magnificent jewels of the Duchess of Windsor. One would say that you had achieved the successes many of us simply dream of what inspired you to leave this behind and set up your own business?
Oh you’re too kind. I am grateful to all the great people I’ve learned from over the years and I feel that I’ve been really fortunate to have gained such a great experience.
It didn’t all come easy to me thought. I remember sending my CV 15 times to Graff as it was the only place I wanted to work until one day they called me up for an interview. Knowing what you want and why is important and being persistent was key and led me to a wonderful career in the jewellery houses I worked for.
While I feel privileged to have been trusted enough to work in such fine companies I knew that ultimately my destiny was to source my own gems and design my own jewellery for my trusted circle of clients. …Vanleles Diamonds is a labor of love.
My inspiration for creating a fine jewellery brand actually developed already when I was a little girl, spending time playing with my mother’s jewellery. Since then I have been fortunate enough to work with some of the most talented designers and craftsmen in the world and this has really helped me find my own voice as a jeweller.
ERB VanLeles Diamonds Collection
You have described your company as a luxury company, how do you like to define luxury?
Luxury for me is understated elegance, precise, delicate and durable craftsmanship. Luxury is about never compromising and always striving for perfection.
Some luxury companies have subscribed to a rather more democratic view of luxury redefining it as ‘accessible luxury’, do you subscribe to this view or is luxury in your opinion strictly tied to ‘exclusivity’?
By accessible they mean mass production. Something mass-produced, in my opinion, lacks the trained eye and hands of master craftsmen. While this may be acceptable for some type of luxury items, it does not work in diamond and fine jewellery. To me the quality, rarity, beauty and personalized service cannot be delivered in mass. Each client is different and so has to be the way you service each one of them.
Everyone deserves to experience the luxury of top quality diamond jewellery as it is truly amazing. Luxury of course comes with a price that can prohibit many and especially young jewellery lovers from the experience.
EP VanLeles Diamonds Collection
Many of the ‘established’ luxury brands are now finding that their consumers, including those from their newer markets such as Russia, China etc are returning to values such as heritage, craftsmanship, and durability, as stated by Antoine Arnault recently. How do you feel VanLeles Diamonds will fit into this ‘new vision’ of the luxury client?
We strongly believe in craftsmanship, durability and demure elegance and as you have seen my jewellery collection and the bespoke pieces we have created exuberate precisely that. Whereas many products (hand bags, shoes etc…) benefit from industrial processes, diamond jewellery will always be more precious when created based on good old-fashioned master expertise. We are increasingly serving clients from abroad.
VanLeles Diamonds Yellow Bespoke Earrings for Private Client
When you speak about gems in general your love and passion for the subject is tangible. What is it about gems and diamonds in particular, that excites you the most? Where do you think this passion stems from?
My passion stems from the vibrancy in colour and the dance of light in every diamond. These are facets of diamonds that can only be achieved though a masterful process from raw material to a beautifully cut and polished gem.
You were born in West Africa, Guinea-Bissau and later educated in Lisbon, Portugal. You spent seven years working in London, New York and Paris with couturiers, stylists and fashionistas, and now your are based in London. How have all these different cities, countries and continents influenced you and your designs?
Great you asked that! They influence me a great deal. However people I have met or seen are my true inspiration. The way they talk, move… I always create jewellery with an elegant and gracious person in mind. When I meet a very elegant and graceful person I imagine what jewellery would help further exacerbate a graceful long neck, a set of beautiful eyes or long beautiful fingers.
The Timeless Grace Collection was influenced by the vibrant jolt of the life in New York, and inspired by many of my girlfriends and the classic romanticism of Paris!
VanLeles Diamonds Tennis Bracelet
What in your opinion makes VanLeles Diamonds stand out from the rest? What defines your jewellery?
Everything! We source absolutely the most beautiful certified diamonds in the world. I personally spend a lot of time with our suppliers reviewing their stock and I only pick the absolutely best diamonds. I am known to be a very picky lady in the industry hahaha. I am also very picky when in comes to the craftsmanship and only work with the most talented craftsmen in London, people I’ve known for years. Finally, our clients also appreciate that our prices are fair compared to buying in retail as we buy directly from site holders, avoiding middlemen and expensive retail margins. Most importantly the level of personalized service our clients receive throughout the diamond selection, design and buying process makes VanLeles Diamonds significantly better value than any other jeweler in London. Many of our clients are frequent and very experienced buyers and they only buy from VanLeles Diamonds.
VanLeles Diamonds "Timeless" Pear Shape Earrings
How would you describe your typical client? Who is the woman or the man for that matter who who buys VanLeles Diamonds?
VanLeles Diamonds ladies want quality, attention to detail, beautiful jewellery and someone that is able to turn a dream into reality. She’s a caring mother or a highflying career woman, sometimes both with a passion for luxury and fine jewellery. The VanLeles Diamonds gentleman is looking for quality, trusted jeweler and a good value for his hard working money. He is typically heavily involved in the fine details of specification and design and expects an excellence service. Both are intelligent buyers that value excellence, service and good prices. Paying 2 or 3 times more for a diamond in Bond Street and Rue du Rhone and being served by an inexperienced client service person isn’t attractive to our clients.
PP VanLeles Diamonds Collection
Your latest collection appropriately named ‘Timeless’ is a collection which returns to the ‘classic roots’ of jewellery worn by icons of style and elegance such as Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Jaqueline Kennedy, styles that have proven to be able to withstand both time and fashion tastes. What or whom was the inspiration behind the collection? What was your objective behind it and do you believe you succeeded in achieving it?
I create, design and source inspired by an elegant and gracious person in mind. The HRH Duchess of Cambridge is a modern 21st century princess and her grace and manner fascinates me. I hope I will have the honour of designing for her in the future.
While at Sotheby’s I learned that the classic pieces were far more popular than the elaborated and opulent designs.
Often clients would even buy this jewellery just to remove the precious stones in order to reuse the stones. So people love classic jewellery design.
At Vanleles Diamonds we design jewellery to be worn. The objective is that you can wear it today and every day. Elaborate designs are for fun occasions where you would also wear a special dress. It is also a very special feeling to wear diamonds that your daughter and eventually your granddaughter can down the line without wanting to change its setting.
Which piece of the collection represents VanLeles Diamonds best in your opinion?
The Timeless Grace Collection is all made with diamonds and platinum, as white as snow, representing purity and innocence so every single piece is truly an ambassador for Vanleles Diamonds.
How would you define VanLeles Diamonds?
Luxury at the most competitive prices.
VanLeles Diamonds Emerald Cut Diamond in Micropave
Which piece of the collection represents Vania Leles best?
They all represent me…Sorry I can't choose I am absolutely in love with them all. (same as question 10 – why would Vania Leles like different things that Vanleles Diamonds?)
How would you define Vania Leles?
Hard to define oneself without being misunderstood… but I can say that I am a perfectionist, a great listener, hard working and in love with life and lucky enough to do what I truly love.
Which jewellery designer today or from the past do you relate to the most?
I love Verdura and Tony Duquette.
As with most designers you’re already thinking about if not working on your next collection, what can we expect to see?
Yes I am working on our next collection at the moment. I can’t say much but expect more vibrant colors and exotic motifs. I can’t wait to share it with our clients.
VanLeles Diamonds Emerald Cut Diamond in Micropave
In addition to the Timeless collection VanLeles Diamonds also offers an exclusive bespoke service. Can you tell us more about this?
VanLeles Diamonds bespoke service is the core of what we do.
We take the time to really get to know our clients needs and to create truly unique pieces of jewellery that fits with the level of investment they’ve put aside for the jewellery. Our passion is to create something personal and exceptional that tells a story within the client’s budget and requirements.
Second, we always adhere to strong moral and ethical beliefs and only source diamonds from known and trusted partners. As an African it gives me great pride to only buy conflict-free diamonds.
Our bespoke creations are all designed and crafted in London by the best craftsmen in the industry. This ensures that even very unusual designs are flawlessly executed.
VanLeles Diamonds Princess Cut Diamond & Classic Trilogy Diamond Rings
Through VanLeles Diamonds you have sourced diamonds for VIPs why do they come to you in particular?
Trust, assurance of buying high quality diamonds at the best price no one in the industry would be able to offer. Trust is imperative, your clients need to feel understood, secure and comfortable to buy from you. Most of my clients have known me for many years and they know that with VanLeles Diamonds they get a more personalised service and a significantly better price than they would with a larger corporation.
RRB VanLeles Diamonds Collection
What has been the hardest gem to source in your experience and why?
Our clients often have very specific wishes that are not easy to satisfy. This is a great personal challenge for me that I love to be involved in. As a very recent example, I have just sourced a rare and very beautiful round pink diamond that I’ve been looking for since November.
As the luxury market finally sees a significant upturn in business with many of the luxury brands posting phenomenal sales results for this fiscal year’s third quarter there is a desire for expansion and consolidation of their brands. What are VanLeles Diamond’s plans for the short term and long term?
Well, in our experience the luxury market has held up very well in the past couple of years and we have now started to design our next collection. We expect the luxury market, especially the market for diamond jewellery to continue growing. As more people invest in diamonds we also expect that prices will continue to rise, especially on unique precious stones.
Where can we purchase your latest collection?
In our studio in Belgravia, London, United Kingdom. We have a ‘by appointment only’ schedule as we would like to spend as much time with our clients without being interrupted.
2 Eaton Gate, Belgravia London UK