YAEL Designs is well known for many things – most notably superior quality and craftsmanship; artistry and innovation in design; and use of bold color stones fashioned in imaginative forms.
The talent of Yehouda Saketkhou – the CEO and visionary designer behind the brand – has been recognized for these attributes with multiple awards, in many different categories, every year for more than a dozen years, including the AGTA Spectrum Awards, JCK Jewelers Choice Award, and InStore Design Award.
Saketkhou is well known for creating you’ve-got-my-attention, one-of-a-kind designs and special collections that feature best-in-show gems, from mesmerizing white and fire opal to tantalizing tanzanite and Tahitian pearl.
While he admits a penchant for playing with fire opals, Saketkhou confesses that he adores all gems, making it too difficult to choose a favorite.
World of Inspiration
Saketkhou’s inspirations come from his life experiences. Growing up in Iran and France, he was deeply influenced by these cultures and their distinct traditions.
Born into a family of jewelry makers, Saketkhou began designing jewelry as a teenager apprenticing at his uncle’s jewelry shop, after his family moved to San Francisco, where YAEL Designs is based today.
At the heart of this brand is Saketkhou’s belief that jewelry should strive to be art. An avid art collector, he is influenced by artists he says with radical imaginative powers, such as JAR, Salvador Dali and Antoni Gaudi. He designs his jewelry, he says, to move through the changing fashions, by sculpting wearable works of art that can be worn as easily today as they will be 50 years from now.
Another important source of inspiration for Saketkhou is his love of travel to faraway places, from the Philippines to Columbia. His jewelry often reflects the best of the architecture and natural wonders he encounters, taking pictures of details that may translate into a pendant, profile of a ring, or center stone design.
Always dreaming up new ideas, Saketkhou has an infectious zest for life that permeates in his art. Something his younger sister Yael, who was born with a mental disability, encouraged in her brother. The muse and namesake of the brand he founded in 2001, Yael would cut out pictures of her favorite jewels for him to make when he opened his own design house.
Saketkhou says the best part of what he does is creating for people meaningful jewelry that celebrates life and warms the hearts of those who wear it. “That’s a powerful thing,” he acknowledges.
Also powerful, is the demographic of independent, art-loving women who buy and wear YAEL Designs. “They are diamond and gemstone savvy, and from what our research tells us, they are animal lovers,” shares Saketkhou, noting that his target demographic ranges in age from 35 to 65.
Saketkhou points out that since 2019 the brand has incorporated new, more accessible price-point collections like Yaelita, and most recently, Borealis.
A whimsical diamond fashion line developed with emerging San Francisco metalsmith Carolyn Simon, Yaelita features custom geometric shapes and familiar forms like butterfly wings and cherry blossoms. Consisting of nearly 200 styles, Yaelita evokes the architecture of St. Petersburg, Russia, where Saketkhou attended the World Cup soccer games in 2018.
While YAEL’s latest Borealis Collection, inspired by the magic of the Aurora Borealis, explores the idea of power, and highlights fully transparent and traceable mine-to-market gem sourcing, Saketkhou says. Borealis features gems like amethyst, blue topaz, red garnet, citrine, peridot, and turquoise in modern geometric cuts, surrounded by gold pyramid motifs and three diamond accents.
“It’s all about cuts, shapes and faceting – offering a great look and feel, quality and price point,” says Saketkhou, excited that the Borealis Collection is attracting more Millennial and Gen Z consumers with exuberant everyday styling that pops outstanding color and design, for $600-$1,200 retail.
All of YAEL’s collections entice jewelry consumers to delve deeper into the gemstones and colors that attract them the most. YAEL advocates compelling messages in its designs, like its Toi & Moi Collection, which after several years, Saketkhou says, remains a bestseller.
The gem combinations are endless, pairing two distinct colors in ring, pendant, earring, and bangle designs – like morganite and brown zircon, rubellite and emerald, turquoise and fire opal. “It’s the story of how beautiful it can be when two people, with different personalities are together, while still maintaining their individuality,” Saketkhou tells.
In addition to creating one to two new collections a year, YAEL continues to make one-of-a-kind designs every year that motivate jewelers to crowd its booth at trade-shows like JCK and IJO, most recently, to be the first to get the brand’s extraordinary “wow pieces” for their showcases, says Saketkhou.
After 20 years of building the brand, Saketkhou realizes that jewelers are timid at first to dive into the wide world of color. “But once they try us, and put our pieces in their showcases, they sell, and really fast,” he says, noting that over time, brand partners become more daring in their offerings.
YAEL Designs is well known as a trusted partner with retail jewelers not only to provide bespoke jewelry designs and special collections, but also custom design services, especially popular for engagement rings. From gemstone sourcing and design rendering, to the final casting and finishing, YAEL offers a custom jewelry design service that it bills as stress-free and profitable for retail jewelers.
YAEL also provides retail partners with marketing resources to help them succeed – from sales training and point-of-purchase material to traditional advertising and social media collateral to digital look books and jeweler locator.
As jewelers, the brand recognizes it bears a special responsibility to preserve the planet that provides the remarkable materials used in its designs. That is why, Saketkhou says, YAEL uses conflict-free diamonds, recycled gold and traceable mine-to-market gemstones, and supports social and environmental causes.
Saketkhou is optimistic for the future; particularly the upcoming holiday season, based on the two most recent trade shows where YAEL exhibited – JCK and IJO. He believes COVID has changed people, who are embracing fine jewelry, really fine quality jewelry, in a more meaningful, emotional way, to celebrate, commemorate and empower.