One area that Azlee has staked out is reinventing clients’ own jewelry. Is it thrilling to see A-list trendsetters draped in Azlee originals? Of course. But Zwart is also happy reworking the bracelet of a customer’s great-grandmother: “We are taking it all apart, using all the diamonds, using all the metal to create a whole new piece.”
Does she worry about this offering cannibalizing her business model? No, she says, because the Azlee brand shines through: “I never feel like I am selling a piece that is not ours,” she says.
Today, running a small and thriving business, she hand-selects her jewels and shows designs during New York and Paris fashion seasons. As for her original inspiration, go back to the first stone she worked with. While completing a major in communication and a minor in retail management at Santa Clara, Zwart also spent time abroad in Morocco. There she found a beautiful stone she wanted to put in the right hands. After graduating from college, she worked for a nonprofit goods producer in Guatemala that tapped local artisans. She met a metalworker who turned the tables when she asked him to fashion a ring from her stone. He suggested Zwart try crafting the metal herself. From there, she “fell madly in love with metalworking.”
As she told The New York Times, that time in Guatemala—and boat rides to and from work, with the sun playing on the water—later inspired a collection. She named it Light.