Shelly is a narrator of stories and her chosen medium is gold and diamonds. For her, rings especially are symbolic of a lifelong commitment, love and companionship; rings are a storehouse of memories – for a couple’s happy milestones together, or for single people who cherish the high points in their life. A gifted empath, Shelly is a first-rate listener and keeps note of subtle emotional nuances discussed by her clients. Since day one of her journey in the field of jewellery, Shelly has been part of several loving narratives, and she uses those stories to create symbolic and relevant pieces of handmade art.
In fact, she’s currently crafting 25-year anniversary bands for some couples whose wedding and engagement rings she’d designed when she first started her boutique jewellery studio in 1991 in Toronto’s fashion district.
Born in Whitby, Ontario, Shelly realised early on that she would be a jewellery artist. A trained goldsmith, her work is uniquely Canadian and globally recognised. Her diamond collections and bespoke designs celebrate personal milestones—the Opulence commitment bands embody the love of a lifetime, and the Achievement rings symbolise a woman’s accomplishments.
In addition, Shelly is also the exclusive designer for Maple Leaf DiamondsTM. In 2015, she paired with this prestigious diamond brand to develop the Seasons collection, which celebrates all that is Canadian: the delicate buds of spring, sparkling summer lakes, earthy autumn forest trails, and the beauty of winter’s gently falling snow.
Shelly’s caring nature extends to environmental protection and she is particular about ethically mined diamonds of Canadian origin. Her national spirit, combined with the need to promote art, has earned her the moniker of Diamond Diplomat by the Canadian jewellery industry.
An award-winning jewellery designer, she is the recipient of the De Beers Diamonds Today Award and has participated as a featured designer in Rio Tinto’s ‘Diamonds with a Story’ campaign that highlights Canada’s Diavik Diamond Mine.
You are known as the Diamond Diplomat within the Canadian jewellery industry. How did you earn that moniker?
In 2004, I was profiled by Canadian Diamonds magazine and they referred to me as the Canadian Diamond Diplomat on their cover. I think they could see how excited and passionate I was about Canadian diamonds. When diamonds were first discovered in Canada, I recognised right away their potential, not only in how the industry would grow locally, but how consumers around the world would respond by choosing these gorgeous stones for their most precious jewellery. The fact that Canadian diamonds are conflict-free is also a huge part of their story and extremely important to me.
Some of your collections are embellished with rose-cut diamonds – are they your favourites?
I decided to use rose-cut diamonds in two of my latest collections partly because of their favourable price point, but mostly because they are extremely different from a round brilliant, for example. The white rose-cut diamonds in the Vintage Opulence collection have a unique and subtle sparkle that catches your eye and entices you to take a much closer look. The vintage feel of the diamonds is further enhanced by the use of blue sapphires and hand-engraved rose gold, which I find appeals to millennials. The combination of rose-cut diamonds, rose gold, and hand-engraving infuses the rings with a look all their own, removed from the traditional engagement ring and wedding band set, which may appear more formal and too ‘blingy’ to the millennial consumer.
The Bound collection, on the other hand, has a tribal look; it is ancient and modern all at once. The rose-cut diamonds in this collection are semi-transparent and opaque, and vary in colours from grey to red to black. This unconventional design attracts the jewellery collector looking for a truly unique piece, someone with confidence to have their own style.
You are renowned for designing rings for anniversaries and weddings – how does it feel to be part of a couple’s journey through the years? You must be creating so many special pieces revolved around special stories…
Creating beautiful and unique engagement rings and wedding bands is the main reason I decided to become a jewellery designer and goldsmith. I feel honoured to make rings a couple will wear for a lifetime, irreplaceable pieces that symbolise the passion and love they share. I’m so fortunate to have a special bond with my clients—it’s allowed me to become their trusted family jeweller. Creating this connection is one of the things I strive for with every client.
I want to be the jeweller they come to for anniversary gifts and special occasion heirloom pieces. My customers are my greatest asset and rightfully so—they could have gone to another jeweller or a chain store, but instead were thoughtful to choose a limited-edition or one-of-a-kind piece. And by being part of the creative process, they have a truly beautiful memory. The intimate ambiance of my studio, complete with soothing jazz music, sets the right tone for inspiration, not just for me, but also for the client. I find a relaxed setting helps the customer envision what they want out of their new piece of jewellery. Recently, I made one-of-a-kind his-and-her rings based on the Bound collection for long-time clients who are renewing their vows. I made their original wedding rings many years ago and they have since become avid collectors of my work. For the family summer vacation this year, they surprised everyone with a wedding at a beautiful villa in the South of France, where they exchanged exquisite rose gold and rose cut diamond rings. I feel extremely privileged to play a small part in treasured memories and moments like this one.
You are a firm believer of using ethically mined diamonds.
Environmentally friendly practices are important to me. We are responsible for taking care of our world and each other. Canada has gold and diamond resources, so naturally, I support this industry—the strict environmental standards and superior working conditions at the Canadian diamond mines give me confidence that my product is something I can be proud of and stand behind. After all, it has my name on it.
As I mentioned before, the discovery of diamonds in Canada’s Northwest Territories ignited my imagination. To this day, my trip to the Ekati diamond mine in 2001 is one of the highlights of my career. I remember travelling across the country to this remote location where pristine lakes and green forests became the backdrop to a new source of ethically mined diamonds. I was enthralled by this unfolding story from the beginning, and created the Essentials collection to showcase these new gorgeous diamonds.
What is your favourite collection and why?
The Achievement rings collection is by far my favourite line. It all started one day at my showcase when a beautiful woman was admiring my diamond engagement ring styles and commented, “When I find a man, I’ll bring him here to get this ring.”
It struck me this was a common attitude to have, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Diamonds are very special symbols of love, respect, and commitment, but I feel ‘self-love’ is equally important. Women often cater to the needs of others and don’t always take the time to recognise themselves, which is why I developed the Achievement rings. The collection is made up of diamond bands that stack together, allowing each ring to represent a special achievement or milestone. A woman can celebrate her own accomplishments with a tiny diamond trophy, so she will never forget she deserves to be recognised on her own terms.
This concept caught on fast with my Essentials collection, and I have since incorporated the idea of Achievement rings/stacking bands in every collection. Each stack is as unique as the woman wearing it; she can pick special rings from across the collections for individual colour combinations and styles. I love to inspire people to achieve their dreams, and Achievement rings are little rewards for keeping your dreams alive.