Fine jewelry and timepiece creator Chris Aire recently rocked the Grammys with his eponymous brand. Two-time Grammy Award winner LL Cool J lit up the prestigious awards wearing a cool $9.5 million worth of the revolutionary celebrity jeweler’s diamond designs. In comparison, fellow two-time Grammy Award winner Shaggy showcased over $500 thousand worth.
Known as the “King of Bling,” the innovative creator of timeless, trendsetting luxury pieces not only adorns the music and film industry’s A-list, including Angelina Jolie, Clint Eastwood, and Dr. Dre. but he also accessorizes some of the NBA’s most notable stars.
Christ makes everything from signature dog-tag pendants and impeccably-crafted watches to unique socially-responsible bespoke diamond ring commissions. His legendary RED GOLD® collection made history as he was the first jeweler to stage a jewelry runway show at New York’s Fashion Week in 2004, featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell.
African-born Aire moved to the US as a teen and attended college in California. He worked at a restaurant and slept in his rusty old BMW before setting up shop at various L.A. hotspots to find his “dream clientele.” His innovative and dramatic timepieces, like his jewelry collections, are now highly revered among tastemakers, watch, and luxury jewelry aficionados worldwide.
Celebrity journalist Angela Sara West chats with Chris about the famous fans of his brand, success secrets, legendary Red Gold® collection, and how his prestigious pioneering pieces have changed the trajectory of the watch and jewelry industry.
How would you describe your beautiful brand?
We are a unique luxury brand that helps people express themselves in their most unique ways. We provide exceptional personalized offline-and-online shopping experiences to discerning customers worldwide and elicit their loyalty through unique content, elevated curation, exclusive offers, and exemplary service.
You have a fascinating ‘rags-to-riches’ story. How did it feel to realize your dream of launching your eponymous brand?
Humbling. I know it’s all by grace. I never take it for granted, which is why I keep working and challenging myself six days a week to better myself than I was the previous day.
Who/what influences your work?
The Divine influences me through art, music, culture, dreams, imagination, nature, and our clients. I spent most of my formative years in Africa, so the culture is ingrained in me. I learned invaluable lessons about who I am and my relationship with the world. It exposed me to natural beauty, incredible art, music, and discipline. These lessons inspire everything I do.
The secret to your phenomenal success?
Grace. The ability to see things before their physical manifestation. I see the world uniquely from Chris Aire’s perspective and embrace things many people miss or take for granted. All our pieces embody this uniqueness. They are created meticulously with attention to detail in a magnificent way. This energy resonates with our clients, coupled with our business motto, “CAF” (customers are family). We treat them with the utmost care and respect, which keeps them returning.
How have your innovative ideas and creations influenced the jewelry and timepiece industry?
I believe I have influenced the industry in a significant way. Over-sized watches and jewelry, aka “Bling,” were at one point taboo, but today are mainstream and have generated billions of dollars in additional revenue for the entire industry. Our Red Gold® brand was a game-changer for branding in the watch and jewelry industry. We’ve influenced how some older brands approach branding and subsequently increased the world’s rose gold and pink gold sales.
Your stunning signature RED GOLD® collection’s resonated well with male clientele.
We started the brand in late 1988 and painstakingly worked to create awareness for almost a decade with limited financial resources. Like every important thing, it took a lot of effort and resources from concept to creation and marketing. It was not until early 2000 that we hit a tipping point with celebrities embracing the brand, and the ability to invest more money into marketing and promotion, that it caught on like wildfire.
Your big break came when legendary NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton ordered platinum basketball pendants, charms, and bracelets for his crew, seeing you become THE go-to jeweler. Which are some of your favorite pieces?
I have so many. I love everything we create for different reasons. My favorite pieces right now include the NBA 75 Greatest Players rings. It allowed us to create something for some of the greatest athletes who have played basketball in the history of the NBA. They carry a lot of meaning. The full details are encapsulated in the design of the rings. Each ring was inscribed with all 76 names, including customizing each one with the personal information of each player.
Shaggy’s custom-commissioned ring, which we delivered to him right before the Grammys, depicts a slice of his incredible story. Also, we made the Floral Fantasy $40 million diamond dress entirely in 18-karat amber hue gold and diamonds from our Red Gold® brand. Another favorite is the $10 million diamond halter wholly made in platinum, 18-karat amber hue gold, and diamonds from our Red Gold® brand. It was the first time an entire dress was created with precious metal and diamonds. And the Don ring we recently made for DL Hughley, which is simple and elegant.
You’re big on sustainability, inclusion, diversity, and social responsibility. You actively support African non-profit organizations and help communities in your homeland to empower the underprivileged to achieve their dreams.
Some may disagree, but this is a belief I hold dear to my heart. We are all connected and the environment. It is evident in everything we do. We are involved in charitable work in Africa, helping educate and provide clean water. In the US, our non-profit, Aire for Life Foundation, helps communities and empowers people through art.
What can fans expect from your newest collection?
We are putting the finishing touches on our beautiful new collection of rings, necklaces, bracelets, and watches. They will be available on our revamped website soon.
What changes have you witnessed in the jewelry industry recently, and how do you see it evolving?
One of the most significant changes is the popularity of lab-grown diamonds. Known as CVD and HPHT diamonds, more and more people on a budget are requesting them. We will continue to see increasing demand for them going forward.
What is up next for Chris Aire?
We’re expanding our online presence and hope to serve people worldwide through a hybrid approach that includes virtual and live interactions. Covid-19 changed how the world conducts business, and we want to adapt to the changing business environment.
Chris’s tips for the top engagement ring!
- Do your research. There’s a common misconception among some consumers that a bigger diamond or gemstone is always better. However, you can have a diamond or a gemstone that is only about a carat and is just as valuable, if not more so, than a five-carat stone of lower quality.
- I’m a big fan of quality over quantity, but I also respect those who want things a little bigger but cannot afford the higher price tag, so they opt for the lower or lesser grade. Whatever you prefer, ensure you get the quality your jeweler or supplier promised.
- If you opt for natural diamonds, ensure they are GIA certified, as GIA-certified diamonds tend to be graded more accurately. Compare the certificate number with the inscription on your diamond girdle to be sure they match up.
- If you have time, have your ring custom-made. An engagement ring is not something you buy every day, so make it even more special by having it designed into an heirloom piece. Every love story is unique, so why not capture it in one of its most important symbols?