Who says diamonds are a girl’s best friend?
Seeing the beauty in overlooked gems, designer Irene Neuwirth put opals and chrysoprase on fine jewelry’s radar. Here the consummate California girl shares a glimpse into her booming business and charming lifestyle.

How did you become a jewelry designer?
After college, I returned home to Los Angeles and taught horseback riding. Naturally, my parents told me it was time to get a real job. I decided to turn a fun hobby into a serious endeavor, initially by taking classes for every facet from wax carving to metalsmithing from a GIA professor. From the start, I fell in love with it. I got the nerve to send some pieces along with a letter to Barneys New York, which became my first account.

Did you ever consider another design category?
I didn’t dream about being a jewelry designer when I was a little girl. But I really believe it’s what I’m here to do, especially since it’s been such a natural progression in creativity and business growth.

A lot has been written about your work, but how would you describe it?
Whimsical, colorful, modern, feminine, precious

Does your work have signature elements?
I have a love affair with opals of all types—Mexican fire opals, Lightning Ridge black opals and boulder opals, among others. Every piece is set in 18k gold, too.

Do you design with a muse in mind?
Not in the sense of a specific person overall or seasonally. My constant muses are the women who buy my collection. I love meeting my clients when I travel. I love that they relate to what I love. You’re known for your California lifestyle.

How does your home base affect your work?
I love the ocean and living so close to it. The outdoor lifestyle lends itself to the free-spirited nature of what I do for a living.

What keeps you in Los Angeles?
My life—family, friends, home.

What do you recommend when visiting your hometown?
Walking through the Venice Canals, visiting Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, and dining at Capo, which is the best restaurant in the city, and The Old Place near Malibu, which is famous for its oak bar and steaks and clams (I’ve been going there since I was a kid).

What’s your typical day like?
Because I love mornings, I wake up really early to walk along the canals with my boyfriend Phil and Labradoodle Teddy, followed by coffee at Gjelina Take Away on Abbot Kinney . Then if I’m not traveling, I head to work and design away. Nights are usually spent cooking a delicious dinner and eating on the deck.

Where do you draw inspiration from, and does it change each collection?
It’s also been an organic process. I’d like to say I’m inspired by nature, the ocean, etc., but it really comes down to the women who wear my jewelry and seeing what’s missing from their wardrobes.

What excites you about jewelry this season?
Opals, emeralds and mixing unusual colors.

Are there any fall trends, even new ways to wear jewelry?
I’m not sure since I try not to pay attention!

What’s a great piece of yours carried at Marissa Collections?
I’m obsessed with the carved turquoise and mint chrysoprase earrings.

How long have you been represented at the store?
It’s been over 5 years now!

When’s your next visit to Marissa Collections?
I’m returning for the Hats in the Garden benefit at the Naples Botanical Garden in November.