Philanthropist Kara Ross is determined to change the world’s perception of diamonds whilst promoting female empowerment in tandem
Kara Ross is an award-winning jewelry designer and American philanthropist who has established a purposeful movement and social enterprise to empower women.
Diamonds Unleashed offers three unique and beautiful jewelry collections that have been designed by Kara and are created using ethically mined diamonds.
Profits from any sales will be donated to girls’ educational charities, whilst Kara’s brand is also set to host ‘salons’ in major cities alongside a strong network of influential ambassadors. These informative salons will champion women disrupting specific industries and help to further empower women.
The DIAMONDS UNLEASHED movement is already underway and is disrupting the idea of who can buy, wear or own a diamond.
What’s more, Kara, who is famed for her bold and original jewelry designs, is engaging the world to rethink this stone’s symbolic meaning by transitioning it from that of love and union to one of female strength and empowerment.
Kara, whose flagship store is located on Madison Avenue, New York City has also made custom jewelry for the White House. She lives in New York City with her husband, real estate developer and philanthropist Stephen Ross and her two daughters.
‘Diamonds Unleashed is about looking at a diamond, the hardest most beautiful substance on earth, and having that symbolize women’s strength.’- Kara Ross, Founder, Diamonds Unleashed
Here Kara tells Nativa World about her latest and perhaps most compelling business endeavor which is helping to empower women all over the world….
Kara, what does the word ‘Achieve’ mean to you?
Achieve to me means meeting my personal goals. I am not one who compares myself to others, but set high goals for myself which I strive to achieve.
How did you begin to work in the jewelry industry?
When I was a teenager, my parents took me on a trip to Africa where I bought some loose green tourmaline gemstones. When I returned to Philadelphia, my mother took me to Jeweler’s Row in Philadelphia where I designed my first ring around those stones – ever since I’ve been in love with jewelry and knowing I could create something wholly unique at a young age has really had a strong impact on my life. I attended the Gemological Institute of America over 20 years ago, and became a certified gemologist, which means I became an expert in diamonds and colored gemstones. Being a certified gemologist and a designer really combines two specialties – jewelry design is really an art and the gemology part involves the scientific aspect of identifying the stones and their qualities.
Which is your favorite gemstone?
I have always enjoyed working with a variety of gemstones; it’s hard to choose a true favorite. I began my career working as a private jeweler designing engagement rings and one of kind pieces for individual clients and my career has come full-circle to working with diamonds again – but in a way that disrupts the diamond industry. Diamonds are probably the only item that women shy away from buying themselves and I want to change that.
How did DIAMONDS UNLEASHED come to life and how does it empower women?
About two years ago, I found myself resetting my own diamond engagement ring. As I worked, I wondered why, with all of the change women’s empowerment has seen in today’s society, do diamonds still have such an antiquated meaning? With the connections I had already built in my jewelry career, I made it my mission to create a brand that surrounds and supports a cause which I strongly believe in – women’s empowerment.
Diamonds Unleashed is about looking at a diamond, the hardest most beautiful substance on earth, and having that symbolize women’s strength. My mission is to engineer a great rethink about how diamonds are bought, given and perceived and then to use that shift as a platform to address issues that enable women to achieve their potential.
Where can people buy your jewelry?
The DIAMONDS UNLEASHED BY KARA ROSS collection for HSN premiered on December. Our #ShesBrilliant collection for Neiman Marcus debuted in January. We also have a collection in our flagship store on Madison Avenue in NYC. We will introduce a new collection on HSN in May, just in time for Mother’s Day.
Why was there a turning point in your career?
I had a big birthday this year and at this stage in my life I want to give back and I believe that by creating a business that supports organizations that empower and educate girls will help make positive change, because if you give a girl an education it not only gives her opportunity, it gives opportunity to her family and strengthens the whole community.
What challenges have you faced on this business journey?
We have a small and mighty team – the biggest challenge has been getting all the things we want to do accomplished with a small team.
You created a special logo for Diamonds Unleashed, what inspired you?
The symbol is two diamonds, one elevating outside the other, those two shapes together form a heart. The heart symbolizes the unifying philanthropic power of women helping women, to help create the next generation of strong female leaders.
What main challenges do you think the next generation of women will face?
Wage equality is a huge issue, but I see one of the biggest challenges globally as education to employment. There are still so many countries where women are denied an education. Giving a woman an education changes her life, the life of her children, her family and her community, which is why the organizations which are supported by DIAMONDS UNLEASHED, Girls Who Code and She’s the First focus on education initiatives for girls and help empower women.
How are diamonds mined unethically?
That is a really big topic – unethical mining can mean anything from “conflict diamonds” – diamonds that are mined in countries where the proceeds are used to fund wars or the drug trade, to working conditions and environmental standards. The best place to learn more about this is through the Kimberley Process:
How are the diamonds mined that you purchase and use?
We spent the last year carefully selecting diamonds, which adhere to the ethical standards of the Kimberly Process, but we have gone above and beyond to ensure that each diamond used in our collection is completely traceable. To ensure this, we have formed a strategic partnership with CanadaMark™.
The CanadaMark hallmark program provides independent verification that a diamond is of Canadian origin. Through an independently audited process, the CanadaMark diamond program provides assurance that a polished diamond is of Canadian origin, cut from rough that was responsibly mined in the Northwest Territories, natural and untreated, tracked at every stage from country of origin to polished stone, and polished to specific quality standards.
You are holding Salons through 2016, what can women learn from them?
Each of our Salon’s will cover a different topic with the common theme being Disruption and how women are disrupting various industries. For the Miami salon at the Perez Art Museum, we will be focusing on how Hispanic Women are disrupting art and culture. The Dallas Salon in March will focus on Women in Sports. Attendees of the salon will be thought leaders in the region of the salon and each salon will be simulcast on our website.
Do you miss your previous business at all?
DIAMONDS UNLEASHED is really everything to me now. I still get to do what I love most which is designing beautiful jewelry and working with diamonds.
Kara, you travel often, what do you miss when you are away from home?
If I am not traveling with my family, that’s what I miss most – my husband and children. If I am with them, it’s probably my bed – I think everyone misses their own bed.
What items do you always pack when you travel?
Stylish, comfortable clothes and a big hat and sunglasses for sunny days and I never leave home without my iPad and iPhone for staying in touch and keeping up with work.
Which are you favorite apps?
One of my most recent favorite apps is called Texture – you can download over 100 magazines in one subscription. I used to carry a ton of magazines to read on trips and they got really heavy – now they are all on my iPad!
I also have a White Noise app on my phone in case the hotel or street sounds are too loud when I am trying to sleep. My other favorites that don’t have to do with travel are Instagram and SnapChat. I have fun creating different posts for Instagram with our jewelry, my travels and my dog Finn and keep in touch with my girls on SnapChat.
The DIAMONDS UNLEASHED collection is available at Neiman Marcus, HSN, and at Kara Ross New York.
Photography courtesy of Diamonds Unleashed