Sustainable excellence: Eco-conscious jeweler Alberto Parada, at Amethyst Boutique.
Starting a fine jewelry business on the cusp of the worst American economic downturn since the Great Depression can be, well, depressing. But that’s what award-winning designer Alberto Parada did in 2007 when he launched a small collection of bold, sculptural jewelry using conflictfree diamonds, colored fair-trade gemstones, and 18k reclaimed gold.
Today Parada is a leader in the sustainable fine jewelry movement, but those first couple of years spent trying to get his wares into more stores were not easy, the New York native admits. “My business started in one store in Indianapolis at the beginning of the economic downturn,” says the 43-year-old self-taught designer. “It was very, very tough to expand and get traction. But about two years ago, I started to hit my stride. Now we’re in 25 stores nationwide.”
Parada, whose parents are from South America, has stayed true to his primary design mission since the beginning. His responsible method of doing business is a growing trend in the eco-luxury market, but his personal approach to designing for his client list—which includes DC political and social insiders, almost the entire cast of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and other red-carpet-ready Hollywood starlets such as Milla Jovovich—has Parada poised to push his business to greater heights.
“The movie Blood Diamond brought the issue of conflict-free jewels and metal mining a lot of attention, but then it faded away,” says Parada, who attended both T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria and Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, and studied business and international finance at Georgetown University. “I’ve stuck with it. I don’t do it because it makes my line easier to sell.
“The idea is to not only buy something that looks good, but that makes you feel good while you’re wearing it,” he adds. “Most of my clients are single, independent women who can and do buy their own jewelry, without it having to be a gift. They’re women who make their own decisions, who want to stand out.”
A typical Parada piece possesses an elegant, architectural quality. His necklaces and cocktail rings, often made with his signature 18k rose gold and accented with black diamonds, call to mind the works of great Modernist artists such as Piet Mondrian.
Amy Hugo, owner of Amethyst Contemporary Designer Jewelry in Bethesda, one of three Washington-area retailers that sell his rings, earrings, necklaces, and cuffs, describes Parada’s pieces as “traditional but not staid.” “Alberto has a European flair. His style stays consistent year after year without being boring,” she says.
Parada says he hopes to add one particularly stylish woman to his client list. “Mrs. Obama would be my ideal client!” Parada effuses. “She’s bigger than anyone; she’s worldwide.”