Gemologist and fine jewelry designer Katherine Jetter has made it her personal mission to restore the Australian opal to its rightful place, in the limelight and in the hearts and minds of fine jewelry aficionados everywhere. Distinguishing her work through years of experience, Jetter incorporates the iridescent gemstone of her homeland into stunning one-of-a-kind pieces, paired with other precious stones. Whether working with opals or other bespoke rare gemstones, such as her latest collection of pink diamonds, Jetter moves beyond the classic arrangements, creating sophisticated and fashion-forward pieces.
She comes by her passion naturally. Born in Melbourne, Australia to a Greek-Australian mother and a German father, she spent much of her youth in England, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, and now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Creative from an early age, young Katherine was awarded the top International Baccalaureate Art Prize for the Northern Hemisphere (2001) while attending SevenOaks School in Kent, UK. Her parents applauded her accomplishment with a small striking blue opal from her homeland for which she created a simple elegant ring setting. This petite stone started her appreciation of the Australian opal and planted a seed. She went on to acquire a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from University College of London and work in finance at JP Morgan, eventually returning to her roots and her first love, the rare gemstones of her homeland.
Jetter then studied at the renowned Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and became certified as a graduate gemologist and jewelry designer, going on to work for De Beers and other high-end jewelers in Europe and America. The first piece she created after launching Katherine Jetter Ltd. in 2008 was her signature Flower Ring, which she entered into the Couture Design Awards (considered “the Oscars” of the fine jewelry industry). Her nomination there as Best New Designer, led to her line being picked up by Neiman Marcus, who now serves as her exclusive U.S. department store, accompanied by select high-end independent jewelry shops, as well as fine jewelry stores in Russia and China. Since then, the Katherine Jetter collection has grown every year by an astounding 100 percent.
Jetter continues to make time to study the gemology behind the stone. Known as the ambassador of Australian opal in the U.S. Jetter has been going into opal mines since she was 18, earning the trust of the miners to protect the integrity of their treasures. She has thus been granted unprecedented access to some of the most remarkable opals to come out of Australian mines in recent years including a 306-carat black opal, The Royal One, valued at $3 million. The opal is not just Australia’s national gemstone, she says, it is also an essential part of the collective culture, history and identity of her country.
Jetter has her sights on another spectacular Australian gemstone – as seen with her new Argyle Couture Pink Diamond Collection. Only 12 to 20 pink diamonds one carat or above come out of the Argyle mine each year and it is projected to be completely mined out by 2020, further increasing the stone’s value. Jetter’s designs for this haute couture collection are truly collectors’ items with prices starting just below $100,000.
Indeed Jetter’s jewelry resides in a very unique space. By incorporating rare gemstones into innovative fine jewelry designs, her work invokes a sophistication that appeals to a discerning clientele. As this young designer at 31 years of age continues to grow, only time will tell what’s next on her radar of rare, natural stones.
Check out some of the beautiful pieces below:
Clockwise: Aquamarine and Bronze earrings, Lava Bead and Opal Necklace, North Star Studs, Femme Fatale Opal Ring.