Interview With Reena Ahluwalia – Artist, Jewelry Designer, and InnovatorLaryssa
In episode #191 of the Joy Joya Jewelry Marketing Podcast, I share my interview I share my interview with Reena Ahluwalia. Recognized as one of the Top Masters of design and art in Canada, Reena Ahluwalia is an award-winning jewelry designer, painter and professor. She is one of a handful of living jewelry artists whose work is featured on a nation’s (Belgium) postage stamp.
As a tribute to the British Royal Wedding, Reena created a Diamond Tiara for HRH Kate Middleton. Reena designed a historic diamond piece for the Legislature of Ontario with De Beers Canada. She created the inaugural collection for Rio Tinto Bunder Mine, where diamonds were found 100 years after the fabled Indian Golconda Mines depleted. In 2019, Reena co-created the watch that was awarded the Guinness World Record for Most Diamonds set on a watch.
Coveted internationally by art collectors, Reena paints highly nuanced, hyper-realistic diamonds with ultra-magnified facets. She is a professor and member of the George Brown College Jewellery Program Advisory Committee and a Fellow of (IwB) Institute without Boundaries. Reena gives back to many communities and organizations, including ‘Jewelers For Children’ (JFC) charity, to help children who are victims of catastrophic illness.
In this episode, we discuss:
- What it’s like to carve your own path as a woman in a male-dominated industry
- The potential that NFTs hold for the jewelry industry
- How can a physical object and digital object complement each other
- Example of two jewelry brands doing a very interesting collaboration
- …and more!
Check out the transcript below.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 00:08
Welcome to the Joy Joya Podcast, where “Jewelry is joy” and everyone is encouraged to add more polish and sparkle to the world. With topics ranging from marketing tips to business development, best practices, and beyond, this is the go-to podcast for ambitious jewelry industry dreamers like you!
Hi, I’m your host, Laryssa Wirstiuk. Through this Podcast, I aim to empower and inspire jewelry entrepreneurs and professionals so they can thrive while adding more beauty to the world. I’m passionate about digital marketing for jewelry brands and I’m excited to share my passion with you. As we all know, “Jewelry is joy”, so I’ll gladly seize any opportunity to talk about it.
This is episode 191 and today I’ll be sharing my interview with a super creative artist and highly accomplished woman in the jewelry industry who isn’t afraid to try new technologies and venture boldly toward new frontiers. She’s an advocate for innovation in the industry. And her story is super inspiring, not just for jewelry entrepreneurs and leaders, but for anyone who’s ever had big dreams with the odds stacked against them.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about:
- What it’s like to carve your own path as a woman in a male-dominated industry
- The potential that NFTs hold for the jewelry industry
- How a physical object and a digital object can complement each other
- An example of two jewelry brands doing a very interesting collaboration
- And much more!
But before we get to the solid gold of this episode, I’d like to take a moment to remind you that this podcast has both an audio and video component so you can either listen on your favorite podcast platform or watch it on YouTube by searching “Joy Joya”. I love creating this content as my active service to you, my awesome listeners and viewers. And you can always support the podcast for free by taking the time not only to subscribe but also to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, which helps other jewelry dreamers find it too.
I want to read my favorite review of the week. Kai Megushle, says: “I’m really excited to have found this Podcast as well as the other resources Laryssa offers to jewelry entrepreneurs. As someone just entering the space, it’s a relief to hear about her journey and receive tips that aid my own.” Thank you, Kai, and congrats on starting your journey. I wish you lots of luck and success. And I really appreciate your kind words.
If you leave a review, I might read it in a future episode. So please let me know what you think about this episode or about any major takeaways or breakthroughs you’ve had recently.
In this segment of the podcast, I give out my Sparkle Award for the week. During this segment, I’ll highlight a jewelry brand that’s impressing me with their marketing. The Sparkle Award is also interactive, so you can visit sparkleaward.com to nominate a jewelry brand that’s inspiring you these days, and I might feature your submission on a future podcast episode.
This week’s Sparkle Award goes to Icebox, an Atlanta-based jeweler that caters to hip-hop superstars, athletes, and celebrities, as well as other high-end clientele. The store is run by the Jooma brothers—Mo, Rafi, and Zahi. Their parents immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in the early 1970s. And this is super impressive; they started with a table selling Native American jewelry at flea markets and grew it into the successful jewelry empire, really, that it is today.
So I recently learned about this jeweler because of their YouTube channel, which amazingly has 1.7 million subscribers, at least at the time that I’m recording this. When you hear this, there might be even more. They probably have the most YouTube subscribers of any jewelry brand I’ve seen on YouTube. I’m sure many of you listeners and viewers maybe can’t relate to their business model of serving this really specific niche of clientele. But I’m sharing it because I think there’s a lesson to be learned here. With YouTube, they’ve really decided to amplify the experiential part of coming into their store, buying some really bold and blingy diamond-encrusted jewelry. And each one of their YouTube videos is actually less about the jewelry, strangely, and more about the dynamic personalities who come shopping at their store, as well as the really fun experiences they’re having there. So even if you don’t have hip-hop superstars shopping at your jewelry store or buying from your e-commerce jewelry brand, you can still think about how to amplify the most experiential parts of your business and really celebrate the customers who shop with you. Also, how can you tell more stories and be more entertaining as a business in the world? Their YouTube channel is really a great model and example of this.
As I mentioned, you can visit sparkleaward.com to nominate a jewelry brand that’s inspiring you these days, and I might feature your submission on a future podcast episode.
Let’s discuss some recent news related to jewelry or marketing. Each week I share my thoughts about three relevant articles. And you can get those links by visiting the show notes. The first one comes from Town & Country Magazine and the title is “The Best Lockets to Hold Your Secrets”. I was very intrigued by this because I’m like, “What kind of secrets are we talking about?” Anyway, I love this article because even though it was more like a jewelry roundup, I still think it had a lot of relevance and really talked about a trend in the industry right now. I think lockets are a very popular, super trending jewelry category. And it’s really no surprise to me since consumers are craving personalization and experiences in their jewelry purchases, which is—as I’ve talked about if you’ve listened to previous episodes—one reason why the permanent jewelry trend is really catching on, one reason why piercing is so popular right now.
So Town & Country recently did this roundup of the best lockets to hold your secrets. And writer Jill Newman got quotes and insights from a number of designers who offer lockets in their product assortment. She makes the argument that our lives are on such public display with social media that we all need a place to keep our secrets and wishes. And I could really relate to this. I think that’s why this resonated with me.
I remember around 2014 or 2015, before I moved to Los Angeles, I actually got a little silver locket. I wrote on a piece of paper some of my hopes and dreams and that I wanted to move to LA, and some goals for myself. I put it in this little silver locket, and I kept it with me, and it was something that I would always think about and be reminded of. Monica Rich Kosann, a jewelry designer, says, “Lockets have a positive energy and help you manifest the things you want.” She also says while some prefer lockets with love stories, more women and now men are actually requesting them with words of empowerment and inspiration. So there really are a lot of ways to approach this jewelry category. And lockets don’t necessarily have to be so serious all the time. They don’t have to be about this big life goal or this epic love story or whatever. They can be really fun too. And even if you don’t sell lockets in your product assortment, I would invite you to think about: are there ways you can bring that personal keepsake experience to your product? Or could you put a unique spin on a locket?
This second article comes from retailtouchpoints.com. So this website or publication actually has their own podcast called the Retail Remix Podcast. And I was listening to an episode called “What’s The New Holiday Marketing Calendar?” This is an interview with a woman named Julie Van Hollen of Rakuten Rewards, and she made some really interesting points about customer loyalty and the holiday marketing calendar. I just want to share some of those with you. I also encourage you to go listen to this episode, which I’ll link to in the show notes. She says it’s harder and harder for marketers to win and retain customers, especially in a climate with inflation, economic volatility—all things that are shifting consumer behaviors. The things that are really keeping people coming back for more are personalized experiences, offers, and rewards. But on top of that, reconsidering the holiday calendar and kind of putting your own spin on it and not being afraid to do that.
So you probably know about Prime Day, which is Amazon’s proprietary sales event. They’ve kind of created their own holiday. Retail-branded events are becoming more and more important to marketing strategies, whether it’s a retailer creating their own, like Amazon, or a retailer working with a partner like Amazon on this quest for loyalty. So they’re really able through these events to create more touch points with consumers, rather than sitting around and waiting for those big holiday retail calendar events, which we know in the jewelry industry are Christmas time, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day—those are some of the big ones. So, consumers are never going to stop spending against the traditional holiday calendar. Those days will always be there; they’re not going anywhere. But maybe thinking about creating your own holiday or your own branded event, which gives you an opportunity to elongate that calendar. Why sit around and wait for the holidays? Try something new and get your customers excited about a day that they maybe didn’t even think about before. So this was a really great podcast, and I’ll put the link to the show notes so you can check it out too.
The third article was actually a press release that I noticed from Sotheby’s, called “Sotheby’s and Metagolden bring NFT Jewelry to the Global Stage in Inaugural Jewelry Auction”. So this upcoming auction sale called “Art as Jewelry as Art” by Sotheby’s is taking place from September 24th to October 4th. It features NFT pioneer Metagolden, alongside physical jewelry pieces by renowned artists like Picasso and Salvador Dalí. It’s really interesting that a major auction house is getting into NFTs and I think it really pairs well with the content of the interview that I’ll be sharing today. The one NFT that will be auctioned is the digital twin of the ‘Ethereum Expedition’ ring by Metagolden. So according to the press release, I saw: “Resembling a miniature geodesic dome, the piece is inspired by the intercontinental rocket launches that typically span upwards of sixteen hours, which would be curtailed to approximately thirty minutes via up-and-coming space programs like Elon Musk’s SpaceX.”
Hmm. I personally am not interested in the story around this ring. It doesn’t appeal to me. But I thought it was really cool that there was such a detailed story about the inspiration, and I could totally see it resonating with a certain type of customer. So I was so intrigued by Metagolden, and I wanted to know more about what they were, so I went to their website. And they do sell physical jewelry alongside the digital NFT component. So the e-commerce shopping experience is super interesting because you can toggle between photos of the physical and the digital. I invite you to check out their website. It’s a really interesting approach to e-commerce. For more information about any of these articles, check out the links provided in the show notes.
As I mentioned at the very beginning, my guest today is one highly accomplished woman in the jewelry industry. Recognized as one of the top masters of design and art in Canada, Reena Ahluwalia is an award-winning jewelry designer, painter, and professor. She’s one of a handful of living jewelry artists whose work is featured on a nation’s postage stamp—that’s Belgium, by the way, in case you’re wondering.
As a tribute to the British Royal Wedding, Reena created a diamond tiara for Kate Middleton. Reena also designed a historic diamond piece for the legislature of Ontario with De Beers, Canada. She created the inaugural collection for Rio Tinto Bunder Mine, where diamonds were found 100 years after the fabled Indian Golconda mines were depleted. In 2019, Reena co-created the watch that was awarded the Guinness World Record for the most diamonds set on a watch.
Coveted internationally by art collectors, Reena paints highly nuanced, hyper-realistic diamonds with ultra-magnified facets. She’s a professor and member of the George Brown College Jewelry Program Advisory Committee and a Fellow of Institute without Boundaries. Reena gives back to many communities and organizations, including Jewelers for Children charity, to help children who are victims of catastrophic illness. I was so excited to speak to Reena. I love chatting with her. This is super special for me, and I hope that you’re inspired by it and that you learn a lot from this interview. So without further delay, let’s chat with Reena.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 15:59
So Reena, I absolutely love your story about how you broke through as an artist in a very patriarchal society. I would love it if you could walk our listeners and viewers through that story and how you got to where you are today.
Reena Ahluwalia 16:13
Wow! Well, first, thank you, Laryssa, for having me. I think that if I have to talk about my journey, I really have to say that if there’s one thing that’s very defining about my story, it’s creating my own design legacy and my own path with sheer persistence and vision. And I know we have to go back, so I’ll start at the beginning. I was born in India, in a beautiful city that’s called the City of Lakes. That’s where I was born and I grew up there. And also, my parents were really supportive. They were always there for girls’ education—always very supportive. But at the same time, it was not an easy thing for girls to get educated at that point. So I’m really thankful to them for that.
Reena Ahluwalia 17:09
Of course, my family was not into jewelry or diamonds at all, so that was something interesting. So I grew up and got selected in India’s largest and most prestigious art schools. And right after that, I graduated and got into the diamond industry as a jewelry designer. So I go there in the diamond industry. And just being a woman at that time—I’m talking about the early 1990s—in this hugely male-dominated diamond industry was a challenge. And I think it still is to a large degree. Being a woman in the diamond industry without being seen or heard. So I really had to carve out my own path through my hard work and vision.
Reena Ahluwalia 18:08
And I’ve really always believed in meritocracy. I really think that if you have the merit of your hard work and that vision, it will take you places. So I kept doing what I could, slowly, of course. With all of that, things turned in my favor, and people saw what I could do. And at the same time, I would say that just being a woman of color—I recognize, absolutely, that women do face a lot of odds and microaggressions and biases. That’s there, and it’s always been there, so I want to recognize that.
Reena Ahluwalia 18:49
I think if you ask any woman of color or any marginalized group of people, you’ll see many stories. So definitely, I would say that it’s not only women but marginalized groups of people. And we really need to pay attention to that, resolve and address that, if we want any advancement going forward.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 19:09
I think that takes so much courage, what you did, and also vision. Did you have any specific role models in the industry that you were able to look to, or did this really come from a place within yourself?
Reena Ahluwalia 19:21
Well, that’s such a good question because when I started, women were not even there. For example, if I would go to learn about diamond grading, you would just have one or two people overseeing the whole thing, and there was [just] one woman. That was amazing. But then you would have hundreds of people there and maybe one or two women. And even as a jewelry designer, I would not find many people. And at the same time, I would say that in a leadership position, in a position of power—I would lack that a lot.
Reena Ahluwalia 19:57
I couldn’t find role models immediately around me but I had my mother who was such a great, strong woman. She’s a poet, she’s a writer. And all her life, she stood for women’s rights and told me: “Whatever you need, you carry within. So you go! Just look inside. Go for it!” And at the same time, I think it was a journey of discovery. So, as you go along your journey, you find things that you didn’t know about yourself, [like] the strength that you have. And I think as you improve, you’re confident about what you’re doing. I think later on I did meet some amazing, incredible women in the industry, and I’m so thankful that I did.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 20:51
Yes, that’s really inspiring. So, tell our listeners and viewers what are some of the most amazing milestones that you’ve achieved in your career, whether they were personal milestones or awards that you’ve won for your work.
Reena Ahluwalia 21:04
Well, I have had a long career, so I will say that there have been many awards and milestones along the way. So I’ll start with the awards first. And although it’s not a full list, some of the awards that I won are the De Beers Diamond International Award, the HRD Design Award by Antwerp World Diamond Centre, the Rio Tinto Global Design Award, the Canadian Master Craftsman Award, World Gold Council awards, JCK awards, and the Tahitian Pearl Trophy. It’s not the full list, but these are some of the awards I won.
Reena Ahluwalia 21:47
And milestones? I’ll say co-creating a Guinness World Record watch with the most [diamond] stones set on a watch; that was great. Designing a royal diamond tiara for the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was another milestone. And then, of course, one huge milestone, I would say, is having my diamond jewel featured on a postage stamp. This is interesting because very few living artists have this incredible privilege—and I do.
Reena Ahluwalia 22:29
So I have my diamond jewel which was an award-winning piece that’s on a Belgian postage stamp. There are some historic milestones—creating jewelry from the first diamonds that were discovered in India by Rio Tinto 100 years after the Golconda mine was depleted. And Rio Tinto interested me to create the first historic collection out of those diamonds. And then the other one is [that] when in Canada, the first diamonds were found in [the] Ontario province, the legislature invited me to set that diamond in a historic mace. And the legislature cannot start until that mace enters the building. So that’s a pretty cool thing I would say.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 23:15
They sound so impressive, but they also seem really fun. They just seem like really cool life experiences to have.
Reena Ahluwalia 23:23
Yes, absolutely. And I think I would add that as a creative person, you’re doing so many different things. And I talked about the awards that I got or the milestones, but you know, some of the other things, like the diamond artwork I do. And I really feel privileged that I have my diamond jewels and paintings in the collections of some incredible collectors who have been supporting my journey—as well in the museums.
Reena Ahluwalia 23:56
The other thing that I really want to mention is that all these awards and milestones are all okay. That’s part of your journey. But I think what I really value are some other things as well. I’m a professor of jewelry. I’ve been teaching all my life. And that has been a really big, gratifying experience for me. I got a fellowship award for that, and that was good. But I think the kind of deep satisfaction that it leaves me is amazing. To be able to inspire artists around the world and then just contribute and have a dialogue, be part of their journey—I think that’s pretty cool to me.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 24:40
And another thing that really is impressive about you, Reena, and you haven’t even touched on this, is how innovative you’re always thinking. You have this creative mind and you do the more traditional art and that traditional training and creative arts, but you’re also always looking at the forefront of technology and where the industry is going next. Can you talk more about your affinity for innovation?
Reena Ahluwalia 25:05
Like any creative person, and I think that’s part of my journey too, you’re always looking to challenge yourself. And that’s something that really motivates me. That gets me up. I’m excited to expand my mind. I’m excited to learn more. I’m excited to push the limits of my own thinking. And I think that always puts me in a position where I’m questioning: “What am I not doing? What is it that I can access in my mind that I’m not accessing at the moment? How can I relook at the jewelry I’m creating? What are the new things that are happening?” So I’m really excited about challenging myself. And that’s where I guess the innovations come from.
Reena Ahluwalia 25:54
It’s also exciting as a creative person to keep trying to improve your art, improve your mode of expression. So that means that the innovation could be very simply mechanical innovation, technical innovation, digital innovation, or how you tell your story. There are so many different layers to it, and that’s so exciting for me.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 26:18
Yes, absolutely! And one way you’re doing that is that last year, you decided to enter the world of NFTs, which is so cool and I would love to hear more about what got you into that and how you got started.
Reena Ahluwalia 26:30
So Laryssa, as I said, I’m excited about technology, I’m excited about science. I love to know more about these topics. I’ve always had a fascination to learn more about digital technology. I would always be reading articles about it, going into BBC, looking into the science section—all of those kinds of things—going to various websites. So I think it was early 2021 when I started hearing about this kind of new digital revolution. Something is happening in the world where design and minds are shifting, and I was really curious.
Reena Ahluwalia 27:14
And of course, I started hearing about this word ‘NFT,’ [and] ‘non-fungible tokens.’ And that got me really interested and I said, “Okay, what is this digital technology, and how can I learn more about it?” I was really curious about this. But how is it shifting the whole design landscape? And how can I integrate that into my art? And should I even integrate it into my art? Because it’s not only that something new comes and then you just go and use it, I think you need to understand it first. In early 2021, I started hearing about it. And then I also realized that I knew nothing about it. So there was so much to learn. I think it’s a huge learning curve. I would say that it took me a long time to just educate myself.
Reena Ahluwalia 28:05
I would go to websites. I would listen to all the podcasts there were, go to Twitter spaces, look at what people were doing in the NFT space, or follow various people in the community and hear the conversation back and forth. And really trying to understand: How does blockchain technology work? How is it related to art? What is minting? What are these different NFT platforms? And so forth. So that’s where I got started actually.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 28:38
So it sounds like it was a really big learning curve for you. And you were able to find those resources that helped you get up to speed. But what was the moment where you really decided, “Okay, I could utilize this”? And then how did you decide to apply it to what you were doing?
Reena Ahluwalia 29:02
As a jewelry designer, I’m always dealing with physical objects. The three-dimensionality is very easy for me to understand. I sketch in three dimensions. I’ll do my paintings in two dimensions on a physical canvas. So I came from that kind of a world. But at the same time, with my jewelry, in 2014 I used QR technology to embed voice messages in diamond jewelry. I was really way ahead. So I was always interested in integrating the physical and digital worlds. And so I found that to be a very organic next step for me because I thought, “Well, it’s interesting that I made these physical objects, but now I can expand the story into a digital realm.”
Reena Ahluwalia 29:54
Imagine! Because when I do my paintings, it’s not, for example, that I’m looking at a diamond photograph and I’m painting it because that needs no imagination; it just means you have to copy it. But for me, when I’m making my art, I want to take you on a journey. I want you to come along with me and listen to the stories I have to tell. And maybe mix that with your own interpretation.
Reena Ahluwalia 30:23
So when I’m painting, I always imagine it in 3D, although it’s a two-dimensional object. So I wanted to expand that narrative. I wanted to take it and go into this digital realm. It’s very immersive. It’s like a language of diamonds on a different scale or gemstone. So that’s where I thought, “Yes, I want to merge these two and let’s see.” That was a great challenge for me too.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 30:52
That makes a lot of sense. So what do you hope your current collectors—the people who already love your work as well as people who continue to discover it in the future—what are you hoping for them to get out of the NFT?
Reena Ahluwalia 31:05
When I started in 2021, I launched my first NFT collection called the DIAMOND-VERSE, and it’s on OpenSea. And this is one of the very first NFT collections from the diamond and jewelry timeline. And these are my art NFTs. And for me, art is such an important personal expression, so I hope that when my collectors buy my NFTs they’re buying a part of my story. They’re getting a part of my soul. And I think, as collectors when you support an artist, you are enabling them [to] live their dream. I think that’s a pretty cool thing that collectors can do. It’s a beautiful thing. And I think that art NFTs are a digital investment. These are digital assets, and it’s a great investment for the future. So for my NFT collectors, I would say that look out, there might be many more things coming your way in the digital realm from me. So yes, look out for that in the future.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 32:19
That’s very exciting! So, for collectors—we kind of touched on this about physical versus digital for collectors—how do those things really complement each other?
Reena Ahluwalia 32:30
So NFTs are essentially digital assets. So you don’t even need to marry it with a physical object; it could be a standalone digital asset. But in some cases, for example, one of my NFTs, which is a ‘1 of 1’, if you buy that NFT, you can also redeem a physical artwork with it. So you have this amazing benefit of not only having a really great digital asset, but you also have a physical asset that is combined with that. But it’s not an essential thing. And I will say, as I move forward, I will not be doing more of that because I would like to keep it in the digital realm. However, if you’re a jewelry artist or if you want to do the two together, that’s a great idea. Think about jewelry. You can make an NFT, which could maybe be a certificate for that jewelry piece. So there are many ways you can play that.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 33:31
Definitely. So, Reena, you’re also doing a really cool collaboration with Greenland Ruby. I would love for you, in your own words, to tell our listeners and viewers about what that is and how you got involved in it.
Reena Ahluwalia 33:43
It all started when Hayley Henning, who was an incredible CEO of Greenland Ruby, reached out to me. She had seen my NFTs before. And of course, she’s a person I respect, and she’s a great friend too. She reached out to me and she talked about the whole sustainability aspect of Greenland Ruby, and how ancient and incredible these gems are. And she was seeing what I was doing in the NFT space. Greenland Ruby was celebrating their fifth anniversary, so we came together and we thought of doing a fundraiser, something to give back to the community. Greenland Ruby and I collaborated, and we have this fundraising initiative. And what it has is a physical painting and digital NFTs. And I guess this is the first time I think in the diamond, gemstone, and jewelry industry, somebody’s trying that and it’s going well.
Reena Ahluwalia 34:49
The motive and the mission behind this fundraiser is to generate funds for the climate, conservation, and even for communities around Greenland and 100% of the proceeds will go to the Pink Polar Bear Foundation. But what are the mechanisms? How does it work? Every single donor will win my limited edition Ruby NFT. It’s pretty spectacular. It’s animated. You have to really go and take a look at that. And then one donor out of all the donors will win the physical painting, which is quite spectacular itself. I remember when I started, Laryssa, in the NFT space, one of my main goals was to really create some sort of digital imprint that has a physical impact. So how do I create something digitally that not only comes from our own activism but also serves? So I think that was one of the purposes I had and it’s a goal I think I’m putting into practice, let’s say.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 36:13
Absolutely! It’s nice to see that. And sidenote: I did see that painting at JCK this year and it was very cool, and I liked that they had it on display. And then, speaking to the giving back aspect and having a purpose, you also do that with your own collection as well.
Reena Ahluwalia 36:30
Yes. I think it all stems from where I come from, really. When I was growing up in India, I talked about how important education was to me. People can take it for granted. I remember the pencil and crayon box that people take for granted. I would have to save for two months to even buy that. Just getting an education was a very big deal. Somebody teaching you was an amazing thing. Throughout my career, I think that is something I really thought, “I’m going to embed it in my way of doing work, in my creation.” And I think that makes my art practice whole.
Reena Ahluwalia 37:23
Whether it’s with my jewelry collections or my paintings, whatever I do, there’s a tangible impact. And I want to make sure that that happens each year. So I also set aside a certain time. Of course, you’re a designer, you’re running a business, you’re an artist, you need to sell your artwork, and all of that is good. But I also feel that if you commit a certain time, where it’s not about money or just that hustle, I think that’s a good thing for your soul. So I think it’s been a couple of years that I set aside time where I only focus on creating with the intention that it benefits somebody else and not me. It gives me happiness and it gives me great motivation to keep pushing forward.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 38:20
I love that! And I think a lot of businesses in this industry can learn from that example for sure.
Reena Ahluwalia 38:27
It’s a good thing for your soul.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 38:29
Definitely. So Reena, in your opinion, what potential do NFTs hold for the jewelry industry? Where do you see this all going?
Reena Ahluwalia 38:37
It’s going to go places, I feel. One, it’s that we are talking a lot about NFTs and NFT as a word becomes really big and Metaverse and all of that. But if you really look at it, it is the underlying technology, the blockchain technology, that we are talking about. So NFTs are basically tokens that are registering the transactional aspect of it. And at the same time, you have assets that have provenance, history, transparency, and traceability. So when you talk about any of these things, that really can be applied to our field in jewelry and diamonds. We talk about the origin of diamonds or gemstones: Where do they come from? What makes a certain piece really one-off? Why do you want to talk about the history of a certain jewel changing hands? Imagine now that you’re able to prove it and it’s in perpetuity on the blockchain. That’s a great provenance to have. And I think that kind of transparency is expected now.
Reena Ahluwalia 39:43
There are many words we all use, and these are big words. And people don’t understand the bigger, larger words, which I will not say here. But some of the simple things we can do is be transparent, not only in our speech and our actions, on social media, but in the products and expressions that we are putting out there. And I think people demand that now. It is just a given. And that’s what it’s going to be going forward. For the jewelry industry, I think we are innate storytellers. That’s what we do.
Reena Ahluwalia 40:23
Think of jewelry. That’s the most intimate object you put close to your body. Is there anything more elemental, pure, and long-lasting than that? So I think, [as part of] the jewelry industry, we love storytelling. But I think now is the time to level up and just go into this multi-layered communication, which is digital, and start being digital storytellers too. So there’s much to explore in this space, and I feel that this is something that we will all be doing in a few years. It would not be called NFT, but it would be just a normal way of working. So if you can learn about it, if you’re interested in technology, just embrace it and just start somewhere.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 41:12
I love that! I got chills when you were talking about jewelry being like the most intimate object you can connect to yourself, and I think it’s so true. That needs to be something that businesses in this industry always remember when they’re speaking to the consumer, whoever they’re marketing to.
Reena Ahluwalia 41:31
That’s so true. I think even with the start of humanity, imagine how ancient and how essential jewelry has been to the human body. When you put jewelry on yourself, you’re not only decorating your physical body, but you’re decorating your soul. So I think there’s something so exceptional about being in this field. It gives us this amazing opportunity to expand on the meaning and expression of what we’re doing and what we’re saying. So I don’t think it’s very difficult, it’s just something new that you are learning about and you’re putting into practice. I think I would expect all the jewelers and diamantaires to have that in place in a couple of years. I think most of the big brands are doing it.
Reena Ahluwalia 42:21
I remember when I started in December of 2021, I think one week after that, Bulgari launched NFTs. But what they did was really interesting in that they did not put a video of a jewelry piece on and said, “Well, that’s a video.” I click, and now, “That’s an NFT.” Because if you really look at it, NFTs are also very tied into this crypto art culture or digitally native culture. So if you have something that is not innovation, why should it be an NFT? I love what Bill Gray has done. And they expanded on the narrative, expanded on the DNA of the storytelling. They had this amazing art piece on the body, and I thought that was engaging for me. But if you just have a piece of jewelry and you made it into a video and it’s an NFT, I’m not interested. Somebody else is but I’m not. So I’m really looking forward to how our innovators in our jewelry industry are going to push that boundary and even question because all of us question things.
Reena Ahluwalia 43:29
You know, it’s not “Kool-Aid.” This is not a slogan world. This is not that kind of top-down marketing, or it’s not, “Well I tell you so, so this is why it is exceptional or important,” or “I’m a legendary brand” or things like that. It doesn’t matter. I mean, it matters to a certain extent; history matters, and your provenance matters. But that transparency matters too. And how you express yourself matters even more in today’s world.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 43:59
Those are such great points that you made. And I like that you share the example of Bulgari also. I think they are doing really interesting things in the NFT space.
Reena Ahluwalia 44:07
There will be many more, and I’m really excited about that because our community—that is the jewelry and diamond community—I’m really looking forward to them entering the space. And it’d be really cool to see what innovations they are going to come up with.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 44:26
Yes, absolutely. So what do you have coming up on the horizon for you, Reena? What’s something that you’re excited about in your work and your business? What’s new?
Reena Ahluwalia 44:35
I have quite a few things—multiple projects I’m working on, but the closest one I can talk to you about is that I’ve been working for many, many months on my next NFT release. And so my next job is going to be quite exceptional. It’s going to be epic, and I just can’t wait to share it with everyone. You know, I’ve taken my time, and it’s exciting, and I want to share it with the whole world. So please look out for an announcement on social media. And I hope that you’ll check it out. So that’s something recent. My next NFT drop should be coming up soon, probably within this month. And so yes, that’s one. On the jewelry front, the diamond watches and the Alyssum by Reena Collection [are items] that I’m still developing and expanding on. So yes, some amazing projects.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 45:36
So how can people find you and learn more about these things? What’s the best way for them to connect?
Reena Ahluwalia 45:40
I think I would say look for me and you’ll find me on social media. Just go to my website; it’s www.reenaahluwalia.com. I’m on Instagram and Twitter, @reenaahluwalia. I’m on TikTok, a bit new, @reena.ahluwalia. And of course, as I said, look for me and you’ll find me even on LinkedIn and Facebook. I’m everywhere. Let’s connect.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 46:10
Perfect! And I’ll put those links in the show notes too so that people have an easy way to get there. Reena, this has been awesome! I was inspired. I hope people listening and watching were inspired as well. You’re doing so many cool and innovative things, so thank you for sharing that on this podcast. I really appreciate you!
Reena Ahluwalia 46:29
Thank you very much, Laryssa, for having me!
Laryssa Wirstiuk 46:34
What did you think? To learn more about Reena, visit her website, reenaahluwalia.com. Her name is Reena Ahluwalia. Or follow her on Instagram, @reenaahluwalia. You can always email me, Laryssa, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:02
If you love this podcast, please share it with a friend who’d appreciate it. And don’t forget to subscribe as well as leave a review on Apple Podcasts. To purchase a signed copy of my book, Jewelry Marketing Joy, visit joyjoya.com/book for more information.
Laryssa Wirstiuk 47:20
Thanks for listening. Remember to subscribe so you never miss an episode. For more information about working with Joy Joya, visit joyjoya.com where you can sign up to download our free eBooks about various topics in jewelry marketing.