Valerie Messika founded her eponymous fine-jewelry brand with the intention of disrupting traditional notions of design with diamonds that have endured for decades. As the daughter of André Messika, a top exporter of polished diamonds, the younger Messika had access to raw materials, workshops and know-how, but she didn’t want to design engagement rings with cushion-cut stones, tennis bracelets and solitaire earrings.
“The new generation of very rich people love to experience new designs,” said Messika. “On the red carpet, they love that it’s fine jewelry and delicate, and they love the diamond-cutting and brilliance of my pieces. You don’t look older when you wear diamonds. The way you used to wear them, you looked older because it was a heavy style. I try to erase as much of the gold as possible and put the diamonds on the skin. I insist on so much of lightness.”
Messika, which hit the $120 million sales mark in less than a decade, has a presence in 400 points of sale in 60 countries, including 80 in France, where the company is based. To target Southeast Asia, a subsidiary is opening in Hong Kong, with stores to bow in China and Japan.
The brand is looking to grow Stateside, as well. Messika USA Inc. opened offices and showrooms in 2016 in New York and 2017 in San Francisco. With double-digit growth every year since its U.S. launch, Messika will unveil its inaugural company-owned stores at Westfield Century City in L.A. and Aventura Mall in Miami. Five freestanding stores are slated for 2020. There are 55 points of sale in the U.S., including at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus stores.
“I’m aware that I need to do trunk shows and do interviews,” she said of the U.S., adding, “It’s the number-one country in the world. This is the country I need to invest in more. We have a good location next to Cartier at Aventura, and we have a lot of good connections in L.A., including some celebrities. Westfield Century City is a good opportunity for them to see the brand.”
The idea behind Messika is diamond jewelry casual and affordable enough for women to wear with jeans and purchase for themselves. The brand expanded to three price ranges, the opening $570 to $5,700; Move, $900 to $150,000, and high jewelry with prices on demand.
“My last high-jewelry collection was called Born to Be Wild, inspired by the American desert and Arizona,” Messika said. “It’s very rock and rough. It’s very much like the wild, wild West. High jewelry is 20 to 25 percent of my business.”
The three ranges are at once delicate and feminine, and strong. My First Diamond necklace is a small 0.03-carat bezel-set diamond suspended between two pieces of gold on an 18-karat gold chain. Move’s Noa ring, a signature of the house, features three diamonds rolling in an open cage and surrounded by tiny pavé diamonds, for $8,640. From the high-jewelry collection, the Singing Paris diamond necklace features oval-cut diamonds with a total weight of 38.6 carats, and the Eternal Soul necklace sparkles with 219 carats.
“Before, we thought the bigger the diamond, the richer you are,” Messika said. “The younger generation has helped change that mentality. When I launched my brand, I succeeded to reach this younger generation. It was about more than having a bag or shoes.”
“My father and I are partners,” she added. “My father wants to try to keep as much as we can [the same]. We are trying to succeed on our own.”