Lika Behar: Rockhound and purveyor of the unexpected beauty of bespoke jewelry

One-of-a-kind Boulder opal shaped in the form of a ship set into gold and accented by diamonds

Ever since Lika Behar launched her collection in 2007, she immediately tapped into her passion for unique gemstones and her knowledge of the history behind the stones and the lore and legend of jewelry. Working in high karat gold, she elevated turquoise to a sophisticated bohemian and seasonless level. Her sapphires sparkled with centuries of narratives, her moonstones created an enchantment and her opals changed with a woman’s movement and the light. She melded centuries of classical elements into relevant designs to a wide demographic of modern women both here in the states and globally.

Over the past few years, however, Lika has been moving more and more into one-of-a-kind and exclusively cut stones for her designs. While I tried on stacks of colored stone rings, Lika uncovered some of her treasures to share with us.  We spoke about her evolution and where she plans to go from here:

Sleeping beauty turquoise in 24K gold with round and baguette diamond accents

What was the impetus for the one-of-a-kind and limited-edition pieces?

Lika: “I have been captivated by unusual rocks and minerals ever since childhood. I used to go on long walks to try and find the most unusual ones I could spot.  This turned into a similar love for gemstones. The more unexpected and unique the gemstone, the more it spoke to me. Although I tried to build my collections upon this concept, I still was playing it too safe when it came to really rare stones.  It took me a couple of years of creating selling my line and seeing what women were immediately attracted to before I built up the courage to buy the stones that I personally loved and would want to wear.”

One-of-a-kind ring in 24K gold with Australian opal doublet

Designing one-offs are very different than the pieces which you have designed with calibrated stone. Can you talk about the process?

LIKA: “When I see a beautiful, original and often organically shaped gemstone, the design process in my mind begins.  Usually, it is the rock that inspires me. It begins to remind me of some wonderful childhood experience I had while spending time by the sea and in the woods.  The stone starts talking to me.  Sometimes it comes to me instantly; sometimes the piece evolves through trial and error. Other times I allow the gemstone to sit in my collection for a few months or even a year before I will work with it. Then the love affair begins—how it’s going to fit into my aesthetic, what shape it will take? Will it become a ring or a pendant? These are some of the questions and sketches I go through before I can figure it all out. Like a puzzle, it starts coming together either slowly or quickly depending on how hard the challenge is. Then after the decisions are made and the design is complete, it’s a bit bittersweet because when someone else falls in love with the piece, it is time to say goodbye.”

What are your favorite stones to use in one-of-a-kind pieces?

LIKA: “Polished rough aquamarine, emeralds cabochons, boulder opals with intense color plays, giant naturally colored baroque pearls, enigmatic moonstones; Mexican fire opals in the brightest orange with unusual green Shiller coming through, large and rare pieces of sleeping beauty turquoise and labradorite with is mystical blue and green flashes.  I also recently fell in love with a newly discovered gemstone: aquaprase ™.   It is a beautiful blueish/green lagoon-like color that you can just dive into and get lost in.  These are the gems worth mulling over for as much time as needed before the design comes to me.”

Do you have a favorite category of jewelry when you are designing one-offs?

LIKA: “There is not one category that stands out as the leader—as I love all categories of jewelry and believe that these rare stones have a place in pendants, rings, bracelets and earrings.  The most difficult thing is to match up one-of-a-kind earrings unless the gemstones are cut as a pair.  Also, there are stones which can be re-cut, so you can get a pair in your favorite gems.  However, in the case of baroque pearls, it is like looking for a needle in a haystack and the match is more aesthetic than exact.  If it looks beautiful together, I will not look at every little detail to see if there is a completely symmetrical mate.   These are made by nature and every one of them is so unique that you have to respect its individual characteristics as you do with all one-of-a-kind stones. They are uniquely different but beautifully paired together similar to a couple you can immediately tell belong together.”

One-of-kind baroque pearl pendant with gold and diamond leaf accents

Do you have many clients asking for you to do custom designs?

LIKA: “Yes definitely! A lot! Sometimes at a trunk show, I have clients that are at the door before the store opens so they can get first dibs on a unique piece.   Sometimes women bring in their own treasures and they want me to create a piece for solely for them.  Sometimes I re-create a well-loved heirloom that a client has forgotten about in the dark recesses of their jewelry box into a piece that they love and wear almost every day. This is my favorite part of what I do.  Seeing the smile that lights up a woman’s face, when she is thrilled with a piece that speaks to her and about her—her moods, sentimental, beliefs and hopes and dreams.”


Created in partnership with Lika Behar