Jewelry is in Caroline Ballou's blood. She's an artist who grew
up in the heart of what once was America's jewelry capital, near
Providence, Rhode Island.
A member of a family who owned one of Rhode Island's most
important manufacturers of fine jewelry since 1886, Caroline seemed
destined to follow into the family business.
But as a teenager, she set her sights on a career in the fine
arts, studying painting and printmaking. However, the lure of
jewelry was too strong. After earning a graduate degree in
metalsmithing at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design,
Caroline returned to her family's jewelry business armed with her
"I started off by just ramping up my family's basic jewelry with
some of my design ideas," she says.
It was a match made in jewelry heaven: Caroline's fine arts
viewpoint teamed her family's high quality standards and technical
expertise in fine jewelry manufacturing. As design director for the
family company, Caroline's career took on a new dimension when she
began to design her own namesake line in 2004.
While a college art student, Caroline took three months off from
her studies to travel to Africa with 10 other American students. It
was an experience that not only changed her life, but played a key
role in her development as an artist and jewelry designer.
"The culture in Africa was so rich; I loved it," says the
designer. "It is one of those experiences that stuck with me for a
long time. It still does."
One of her signature designs is the swirl motif -- a traditional
symbol found in African artwork. Caroline incorporated the swirl
into her original collection and she continues to use
the traditional symbol.
Though exotic experiences certainly influence Caroline's
designs, she finds inspiration in her everyday life, too. From
architecture, to the leaf on a tree, to the night sky, anything and
everything can be translated into jewelry through her artist's
Caroline rarely leaves home without her sketchpad. It's not
unusual to find her either thoughtfully gazing at the world around
her or furiously sketching -- whether on a plane, at a park, or in
"I'll walk around and purposefully think about how what I see
could be used in my designs. I'm constantly thinking about how to
translate things into jewelry."
While Caroline and her designs have grown creatively through the
years, she remains true to her love of organic shapes. Influenced
by her paintings, Caroline adapts the flowing lines and sweeping
details found in her drawings into three dimensional sculptural
"Even when working with geometric shapes, I'll add a curve. I try
to not lose the soft feel of my original hand-drawn sketches as my
designs are translated into actual jewelry."
In addition to her emphasis on the organic, Caroline infuses her
fine jewelry with a cross-cultural edge -- taking influences from
around the globe and filtering them her own contemporary artistic
Giorgio Armani for his classic elegance. Herve Leger. Love
Missoni; especially the dresses. For more casual styles I like
Nanette Lepore, Ella Moss or Michael Kors' quintessentially
And what woman doesn't love shoes? Like "Sex and the City"
favorite Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin, even
I think the common element is that they have a casual lifestyle.
They like tailored looks from J. Crew, Anne Klein, Donna Karan,
even Banana Republic. The emphasis is on the wearer, not the
outfit. The same with the jewelry, it complements their style in a
1. Belts -- they can really dress up an outfit.
2. Scarves -- a great way to change one's looks.
3. Shoes from any of my favorite brands.
4. A cool coat.
5. A black long sleeve T-shirt.
Definitely something from the Scirocco collection, like a
long pendant or chain link necklace that could be worn all the
time, with anything. The cuff bracelet makes a real statement.
We're debating now where our whole family is going to celebrate
my mother's 80th birthday: Hawaii or south of France?
Two women I emulate are my sister-in-law and my neighbor who's a
stylist for film shoots. Neither one of them tries too hard, but
they know how to combine tailored classics with feminine flourishes
The key I learned from them? Understand what are your strengths
and flaws and find clothing that fits. Be honest about your
An all-black ceramic Rado watch my father gave me for my 35th
birthday. I wear it like a piece of jewelry, and it always reminds
me of my father.
Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis for their incredible creation of
blue jeans, the ultimate in American style. Interestingly they were
German immigrants who came up with the idea of putting rivets on
the pockets to keep them from ripping. They look great on a
grandmother and a 3 year old.
Most women are jewelistas but not because they are knowledgeable
about gemstones or techniques. Ask any woman about her jewelry, and
she can tell you who gave it to her, where she bought it and the
story behind it.
Like Claude Monet a century ago, Caroline Ballou finds
inspiration in the timeless silhouette of the water lily. Thus, the
jewelry designer named this collection after Monet's home in
France: Giverny. Alternating textures and organic shapes give
Giverny jewels a look and feel that is as soft and elegant as
Inspired by the juxtaposition of silk's strength and softness,
as well as the quiet richness of the Asian culture, Silk Road
features flowing lines and soft finishes. Silk Road's sweet mix of
designs are easy to pair with the latest fashions, and even easier
to wear every day.
In the Scirroco collection, Caroline Ballou flawlessly
interprets the strong winds of the Sahara. The swirling motif and
the hammered textures of Scirroco create a collection of beautiful
contemporary jewels, while subtly reflecting the movement and power
of those desert winds.
Shop this collection
On Caroline's journeys throughout Europe, as well as in her
native historic New England, she developed a fondness for
cobblestones. Weathered by the footsteps of time, no two are ever
the same. These stone shapes inspired Caroline Ballou's Cobblestone
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