“A precious stone, in my opinion, is not just the diamond, but the design and concept behind each piece,” explains Charles de Viel Castel, a financier-turned-jewelry designer who is reimagining how women wear diamonds with his newly launched label, CVC Stones.
With the help of specialized artisans, the Paris-born, New-York based designer has quickly made a name for himself with a collection of unique diamond necklaces, each precious gemstone set in the middle of a smooth beach stone. “Finding the perfect stones is perhaps the most important and time consuming aspect of the design process,” he says. “We spend hours combing through our stones to pick the perfect ones, and days discussing the ideal placement of the diamonds on each stone.”
Charlie de Viel Castel, who came to the U.S. to study at Brown University and simply “never left,” admits that the jewelry-making business was something he “never expected to be in a few years ago”. But with fans like Charlize Theron, Sienna Miller and Sarah Jessica Parker, as well as endorsements by W Magazine and Moda Operandi, it looks like his day job in private equity (where he, somewhat fortuitously, helps small companies expand) may soon need re-evaluating. “The creative process actually balances out the other side of my work and it’s incredibly satisfying,” he explains. “I am so grateful for how CVC Stones is evolving and the response I am getting to the necklaces.”
We spoke to Viel Castel about the intricate design and production process of each one-of-a-kind necklace, and about what is takes to pull off such a unique idea in the jewelry industry today.
You have said that your designs are based on your grandmother’s gift of a single loose diamond. Did the idea for CVC Stones come about while trying to figure out what to do with that loose diamond? How long did it take from you to decide to create your own jewelry line based on this idea?
The idea came to me when my grandmother passed away; she left my cousin one diamond set in a ring and me another one unset and loose. I took this as an invitation to be creative and think beyond the confines of convention. She had always encouraged us to see and appreciate the beauty in the natural world, and I hope I have done her memory justice with CVC Stones.
I knew very early on that I wanted to create a contrast between my precious diamond and something organic. There wasn’t an ah-ha moment, per say, but I spend lots of time on the beach and by the water (or surfing) when I’m not working, so the idea came about quite naturally.
It took over a year, from the moment I decided to combine beach stones with diamonds, to complete the first collection. With no experience in design or jewelry, I had to learn everything from scratch and find the right craftsmen to help me implement the designs I had in mind. Once I started, it became clear that I could extend the concept beyond my grandmother’s diamond; thus the idea of creating a jewelry line and CVC Stones was conceived.
Each stone is handpicked. where do you find them, and Is there anything specific that you look for? How long does it take you to find one you want to use as a piece of jewelry?
The idea of sourcing stones from specific locations was soon replaced with the concept of finding stones with the right textures, colors and veins to create a harmonious pattern for our diamonds. We leave the stones as we find them, we don’t varnish or adjust them in any way. Each one is unique and they come from beaches all over the world. Some magical beaches have very few stones and others have many, it is really a matter of luck to come across the ideal CVC Stone.
Putting diamonds into an organic stone is a very unique way to present fine jewelry. Can you take us through the physical process of making each piece? How do you drill into the stone without breaking it?
Unfortunately, many stones have been broken along the way, but thankfully we are getting better at anticipating which ones will work. First, holes must be drilled into the stones to hold the small and large diamonds we place into them, then another hole is drilled at the top of each stone for the bail. This is a very delicate process and requires a lot of craftsmanship. We are lucky to have wonderful artisans here in New York to help us. They are very skillful but the entire process takes time and a lot of patience.
Every single necklace we create is one-of-a-kind. There is only one such beach stone with that diamond arrangement in existence, so each necklace is as individual as our customers. Every CVC Stone necklace is named; so we think of them as individuals with personalities and characters. I have loved the process of developing these pieces and thus far the entire experience has been so positive, I hope people enjoy wearing the necklaces as much as I enjoy creating them.
The inspiration board on your website features several leopards. Can you tell me where that comes into play with your collection?
That is an astute observation and hadn’t realized it myself. I thought the presence of the leopards in these iconic and classic photographs was wild and unexpected. In essence, it captured the spirit of what we were trying to achieve with CVC Stones – combine sophisticated diamonds with natural beauty.