How Jeweler Thelma West Wears Her Own Designs to Work

It’s hard to forget one of Thelma West’s jewelry designs. As the mastermind behind the pear-shaped diamond ring set on black ceramic that Rihanna wore to last September’s Met Gala, West has an eye for crafting pieces that are at once bold, luxurious, and comfortable. Yes, comfortable. That is a guiding force for West in both her work as a designer and her personal approach to fashion. “When I’m comfortable, my confidence level goes through the roof,” she says.

Born in Nigeria and based in London, West developed her love of jewelry by observing women in her family and admiring how they put together colorful, well-accessorized outfits. She moved to London as a teen in order to study engineering but soon pivoted. Knowing she wanted to work with diamonds and precious stones, West studied at HRD Antwerp, a highly respected gemology program. At the age of 18, she knew immediately that this was what she was meant to do, launching her eponymous label in London in 2012 soon after.

One of the things that sets West apart is her commitment to ethical sourcing. As she told Vogue last year, “Being African, I have a firsthand understanding of the importance of these gemstones and what they mean within our cultures,” she says. “[Still] it was eye-opening to understand how these gems are mined, by who, and where we are within the industry. I’m lucky to have come into it during a time when things are beginning to change.”

Diamonds are special on their own, but West knows how to take something sparkling yet familiar and make it feel fresh and young. Forget what Audrey Hepburn said in Breakfast at Tiffany’s about not wearing diamonds before 40: West’s jewelry would appeal to fearless and stylish women of any age. The sugarcane motif she uses on gold bands, for example, adds texture and dimension to the building block of any ring.

That affinity for invigorating, emotional pieces extends to West’s wardrobe. Below, she discusses her approach to dressing for work and gives tips on how to develop your own personal style when it comes to jewelry.

Make thoughtful choices

Christina Nwabugo