JOHANNESBURG — She made Jennifer Lopez glitter in that leaf-print Versace dress, she put the glow in Gwen Stefani’s retro-glam style and she upped the bling factor for the likes of Snoop Dogg and Pharrell Williams.
But now, stylist and design consultant Andrea Lieberman is taking a different tack, lessening the glitz a bit with her own line of African-inspired diamond jewelry, Andrea Lieberman for Mouawad. The new collection has been available since late 2005 at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Maxfield and Stanley Korshak in Los Angeles, Harvey Nichols in London and Neiman Marcus.
An avowed fan of Africa, Lieberman was in South Africa last May at the invitation of De Beers to learn more about diamonds for the line.
“I love diamonds,” she said. “I love stones in the rough, as I am very into the organic.”
Lieberman, a New York native, studied fashion at Parsons School of Design and went on to work for Giorgio di Sant’Angelo and Romeo Gigli, before becoming a stylist, with clients such as Mary J. Blige, Faith Hill, Drew Barrymore and Sean Combs, in addition to Lopez, Stefani, Snoop Dogg and Williams.
“I think of my work as imaging — creating images for pop stars and musicians, as well as red-carpet events — with the ultimate aim of helping to market each client’s album or music or the client himself,” Lieberman said.
Her well-developed eye has also led to creative collaborations with Combs on the Sean Jean line, Lopez on Sweetface and, more recently, Stefani on her L.A.M.B. line. But jewelry, Lieberman said, “was always my secret dream.”
She calls her first meeting with Pascal Mouawad, a fourth-generation member of the renowned Lebanese jewelry dynasty, fortuitous, and is at work on her third collection for Mouawad that will feature diamonds.
“I started to work with diamonds, and I appreciate the beauty of them,” she said. “I love diamonds in all their forms, be that rough, half-polished or, in my favorite, rose-cut.”
Lieberman admitted she is one of those women who feels naked without jewelry. She wears her own creations and even sleeps with gold bamboo-inspired bangles stacked on her wrist, a rose-cut diamond ring on her finger and gold chains around her neck. But jewelry for her is more than mere adornment. It’s ceremonial, cultural and even talismanic.
“When I traveled around Africa for two years some time ago, I gained this amazing point of reference, which rounded out and broadened my horizons so much that it made me who I am as a person,” Lieberman said. “Jewelry, in this sense, is a natural evolution from what I do. It is bigger and much more than clothes. I realize the power of stones — what took millions of years to form deep in the earth — and the chance to create something from that was something I could not ignore.”
Visiting the De Beers mines at Venetia and Cullinan afforded her a more intimate look into what makes diamonds so captivating.
“Seeing how the diamonds are mined and produced puts more depth to it all,” Lieberman said.
She was especially struck by the vastness of the open-mine pit at Venetia, which she surveyed from a lookout point. The staggered, terraced ramps of gray rock made the pit look like an ancient amphitheater, or even “the rock quarry in ‘The Flintstones,'” she said.
Against that massive scale, even the monster trucks, as high as a two-story house, resembled ants crawling on an anthill as they trudged up and down the ramps.
To her surprise, there were no diggers hacking deep into the earth. Instead, underground explosions were carried out to uncover ore and diamonds.
“It really brings home the point of just how pure and organic diamonds are,” said Lieberman. “It’s no surprise that they are powerful stones, that they symbolize a lot in a woman’s life, and that diamonds, more than any other stone, become an heirloom, passed down from generation to generation.”
Lieberman intends to keep expanding her collection, which retails from $500 to $25,000, including creating one-off special pieces. Inspired by her recent African trip, which included visits to De Beers-sponsored HIV/AIDS projects, she said the proceeds from the sale of these special pieces will benefit South African children orphaned by AIDS.
“We are so lucky in the world,” she said. “There is so much we allow ourselves to be blind to. Africa has been such an amazingly inspirational place that has given me so much chance to grow as a person and given me life-changing experiences. The true diamonds are the children, and you see that when you look at their faces.”