Behind the Jewelry: The Story of Zurina Ketola Designs

Why hello there! I’m Zurina, the designer behind the jewelry here at Zurina Ketola Designs. It dawned on me a couple weeks ago that I’ve never taken the opportunity to really introduce myself. I figured now would be the perfect time to share a little bit about myself and tell the story behind my jewelry and how it all came to be!

Meet Jewelry Designer Zurina Ketola

The Story Behind Zurina Ketola Designs Jewelry

I’ve been making jewelry for a long time, over fifteen years at this point. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this is really the first time I’ve looked back to revisit the story behind my handmade jewelry and how I started it in the first place. It’s funny to think about for me, because it really feels like it just happened naturally, but looking back I’m realizing that there was so much more to it. So why did I start designing and making jewelry, you ask?

Because I was having a difficult time finding jewelry that I wanted to wear!

It was the early aughts, and at the time I was in my early twenties living in Los Angeles. As every young twenty something should be, I was definitely opinionated. And fashion was an area I had very strong opinions about. At that point in my fashion life, I was beginning to realize that I preferred the look of gold over silver on my skin tone. Turns out, this was quite the challenge. I worked, but certainly wasn’t rich. Silver was far more popular and accessible in general due to price, but even fine jewelry was dominated by white gold and platinum.

So that’s where I found myself. Looking for gold jewelry during a time where the “Gold Standard” in jewelry appeared to be silver.

How Hard Could it Really be to Find Gold Jewelry?

My jewelry criteria seemed reasonable. To me, at least. I was looking for nice quality gold jewelry that had timeless appeal, versatility, and affordability. How hard could that be, really?

Are you familiar with the phrase, “famous last words,”?

Yes. Very much that.

Turns out, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place with a couple not so great options at hand. One of which was costume jewelry, which I could at least afford. The downside? I wasn’t a big fan of what was out there. Most of it was a little too bling-y for my taste, not to mention there was the unfortunate side effect of irritating my skin or making it turn weird colors. My other option was fine jewelry. Not only was this out of my price range, but it all seemed too over the top for me. I was beginning to realize that I wasn’t a real big fan of super glitzy gems in general. They’re beautiful, don’t get me wrong. But they just didn’t seem to fit in with the style I envisioned for myself.

I’ve always had minimalist leanings and liked interesting details, so handmade jewelry featuring semi-precious gemstones seemed much closer to what I was looking for. Unfortunately at the time, silver dominated the field almost entirely, and I was back to square one. I found myself in a bit of a Goldilocks situation of sorts. There wasn’t anything out there that I could call, “just right.”

And so it became a personal goal to remedy that situation.

Personal Style: Handcrafted Jewelry

Handcrafted jewelry with a focus on simplicity and quality seemed much more in line with my personal style, and I decided to focus my efforts there. I knew I wanted more affordable gold jewelry, so I set my sights on designing what’s known as semi-fine jewelry, or bridge jewelry. The materials include 14K gold fill, high quality gold plated metals, and semi-precious stones.

During the next couple years, I spent the majority of my time doing a lot of research on jewelry, fashion, history, and design. I began to immerse myself in jewelry making techniques, methods, and materials to see what resonated with me. While I’m not traditionally trained, I was highly motivated! I think that really drove my efforts and kept me going.

Not long after I began, I started making and testing jewelry designs. A lot of designs. If I had to choose one word that best describes me during that time period, it would be: prolific. I made jewelry for myself and gave lots of jewelry as gifts in those days. Some jewelry designs were more successful than others, and I learned a lot from every project. Even the abject fails. Those early years really helped me hone in on the important details and aesthetic elements I wanted to showcase with my jewelry.

More than anything, I wanted my jewelry designs to feel timeless and combine versatility and longevity. At the time I started, a lot of what I found already available just didn’t feel modern to me. When I was growing up in the 90’s, gold jewelry felt so traditional, so dated. Gold was associated with a more opulent and gaudy aesthetic, and none of those things meshed with the times.

Since I was nothing less than a product of my time, the gold jewelry that was out there didn’t really mesh with me, either.

The Take Away

As I began to discover, I gravitated towards a much more subdued style. Rather than adding more and more, I would make something, then go away and come back later. After coming back, I’d begin to strategically take elements away. Originally, I would go back to a single piece and do this again and again, but after a while I developed a better instinct for what I was looking for from the beginning. Over time, this exercise cultivated a style that was both pared down yet luxurious. This lead me to focus my jewelry designs primarily on shape, proportion, detail and technique.

The Perks of Being a Jewelry Designer

As you can imagine, being a jewelry designer definitely has a few perks. One of my favorites was the emergence of my private collection. These are pieces that I find I am especially fond or proud of, and haven’t parted with. I still have some of those early pieces in my private jewelry collection. The selection of items shown above are good examples and feature variety of moonstone, labradorite and pearls.  These gems have always been favorites and these pieces hold a little sentimental value for me. I’ll share more in the future, I feel like these special pieces deserve to be shown off a bit more!

While some early pieces have a place in my private collection, others have have maintained their popularity with customers. Even to this day, certain popular jewelry designs remain available as signature styles.

The navy pearl link earrings shown below are a perfect example of this. The design was originally introduced around 2005, and they’ve remained a customer favorite ever since. I wanted to make a versatile, daily wear pair of drop earrings that work casual or dressed up, and these little gems seem to hit the mark with customers every year.

Zurina Ketola Designs free form freshwater pearl drop earrings in 14K rose gold fill on white background

Adventures in Jewelry

Over the years, I’ve found myself wondering what my life would be like if I had taken a different path. My adventures in jewelry started as more of personal side project that eventually gained momentum, which I am forever grateful for. I had no idea that my work would resonate with others to the point of becoming a rewarding career. After all, my educational background is in the biological sciences. If you can believe it, I was planning on a career path as a forensic scientist, not a jewelry designer!

But life is full of pleasant surprises, and at least now I can sit back and enjoy a few things things that are,” just right.”

Tell Me About Your Personal Style and Fashion Influences!

So what about your personal style? What are your influences, and what do you consider to be, “just right,” in your fashion world?

I had so much looking back and writing this post, I’ love to hear a little more about you!

Feel free to contact me or post a comment below!


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