“My father was a jeweler and gold coin dealer in Istanbul where I was born and raised,” Lika shared in a recent fascinating interview. “When I was 12 I used to wander the teeming, colorful Grand Bazaar where his shop was. I knew it like the back of my hand! It was a maze of an ancient 16th century mall.
“At 18 I came to the US to go to college, but my parents and extended family still live in Turkey. My own jewelry workshop and staff, including several master goldsmiths whose dads originally did work for my father, are there. I visit regularly.
“I’ve always been an artist deep down in my heart but initially pursued a more ‘practical’ career. I received a BA in Economics and Political Science and an MBA from NYU and worked in banking for three years. At this point I was married and had a small son (note: her children are now 26 and 31). I saw a need in the market for a type of casual, stylish children’s clothing. This was before GAP Kids! I started an apparel line manufactured in Turkey and marketed in the US. The business thrived.” Lika received awards for her children’s clothing designs.
“After 20 years I became disillusioned with the apparel industry. Several friends encouraged me towards jewelry design. ‘Your family roots are in jewelry,’ they reminded me. ‘You have a good sense of design.’ But I hesitated. One day a close friend called me from the JA NY Show. ‘You’ve got to get yourself over here.’ I came and was hooked. I decided to take the plunge.
“This year’s our 10th anniversary. (www.likabehar.com) I transitioned my apparel company staff into jewelry design. My Istanbul staff is a tight knit core of friends and family, some with us since our apparel company days. In New Jersey we have our resident gem and diamond expert. Our operations manager had nine years of retail experience. We have a staff of six in Istanbul and four in the US.” Lika lives in Manhattan and commutes to her offices in New Jersey.
“From the beginning I had a vision of what I liked. It’s what I wear myself. I enjoy wearing jewelry that’s elegant and stylish, with precious metals and gems, but that’s casual, not too formal. It fits how we dress today - jewelry that you can wear with jeans, casually elegant. I’ve always used the finest materials. I’m a jeweler’s daughter. Our family doesn’t do costume jewelry!” she says with a laugh.
Ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan jewelry inspires Lika’s aesthetic. “Pure gold, which I love to work with, is very soft and forgiving. I love to use richly colored gems with a soft natural faceting, with an artisan touch. I particularly love blue gems - turquoise, opals, labradorite. Their colors remind me of the Mediterranean. We’re careful about the ethical sourcing of all our materials.”
Lika hss enjoyed phenomenal success in her ten years in the industry. She exhibits regularly at the top trade shows including Centurion and Luxury Prestige and is represented by leading retailers. “I’m a workaholic,” she confides. “We have ten Trunk Shows scheduled the month before the Vegas shows.” To what does she attribute her success? “You need two things - capital and hard work!” Lika shares. “We’re extremely focused on customer service. We’re easy to work with. We price our pieces fairly. I’m always thinking, ‘How can I make my pieces better?’”
What’s on the horizon? “I’m currently using lots of colorful valuable beads such as aquamarines and baroque pink pearls. My work’s always evolving. As an artist, my view is ‘nature imitates nature’ rather than ‘art imitates nature.’ All our materials are natural materials, part of nature herself.” Some of Lika’s pieces are featured in the Museum of Art and Design Store in NYC. “Although I’m an artist, I’d like to move more in the direction of becoming an even more established brand.”
What does Lika do in her rare off hours? “I love to ski, to travel, to cook. I’m into natural farm-to-table cuisine.” With their deep roots in family and tradition, her lifestyle and flourishing career offer a perfect balance. It’s an inspiring formula for success!
Mia Katrin is an award-winning jewelry designer featured in over 100 top stores nationally. She is available for lectures and seminars. To add her Collections or book a lecture: www.jeweljewel.com, 877-539-3569, facebook.com/MiaKatrinforJEWELCOUTURELLC, subscribe to her YouTube channel www.youtube.com/channel/UC2B-53XBuB_HD5-bofc5jAA