Influencers in Jewelry Design: Alishan and Lydia Halebian

Alishan Halebian blends two diverse cultures to create his unique, iconic jewelry. Read this interview by Marlene Richey with him and his wife, Lydia, to learn about their story.

Authored by Marlene Richey

Last edited: 9/19/2019
Diamond-set rose gold engagement and wedding ring set
Alishan working at his bench
"My influences in both life and jewelry come from a variety of places—whenever I find a strong manifestation of the human soul, I get inspired." See more of Alishan’s work on his Instagram.

Alishan Halebian moved to Los Angeles in 1970 from Armenia, and it was there he discovered and honed his artistic voice in metals and developed it to become one of the most outstanding jewelry designers and accomplished metalsmiths today. His elegant and sophisticated designs are a magical combination of two diverse cultures—East and West. By taking the best of both worlds and melding them together, Alishan has established his own iconic, individual look seen though his distinctive collections that are "bursting with creative expression.""

His business, which is simply called Alishan, is located in Tustin, California where Alishan and his wife, Lydia, have a studio. Together they form a powerful, cohesive team, with Alishan designing and Lydia running the business.

Here are their thoughts and history told in their own words.

How long have you been in the jewelry world?

Alishan: I have been making jewelry since 1970. I started as a diamond setter for a couple years and then I experimented with making jewelry on my own. I am completely self-taught. There were a lot of experiments and discoveries.

Stripe earrings by Alishan made from oxidized silver, rubies and white diamonds
"Stripe" earrings fabricated from palladium and oxidized sterling silver. Set with rubies and white diamonds.

Describe your look and style.

Alishan: Expressive. Creative. Musical.

Style and look is what you establish, and it becomes yours after years of work. It is not artificial. It is very internal. It is your voice, your artist voice. It comes with a body of work. The other part of style is that it is fluid. It is constantly changing. If it doesn't, I am very bored. So there are two parts of style and look: (1) It comes from many years of work and everything else I do in jewelry and art. That's my voice; (2) with continuous change in style and trends, my voice stays constant.

What are your design influences and inspirations?

Alishan: Inspiration for me is very important. It doesn't come from other jewelry. It comes from architecture, nature, a song, or anything that is really beautiful. It just comes to me from everything and anything that I might see or experience.

Define your technical smithing processes and how they are different from other jewelers.

Alishan: My smithing is not any different than any other metalsmith. It is just my thinking that is different. I never went to goldsmithing school, so I had no rules when I first started. There are many different right ways to make something and only one wrong way. I always have to have an image in my head of what I want, and then it goes onto paper. The design dictates the process. The design dictates me.

Where and when did you discover your passion for jewelry/metals? What made it all click for you?

Alishan: I didn't have an interest in jewelry making when I came to Los Angeles. I started working as a stone setter. And then I discovered Swiss and German designers through the German magazine Gold and Silver from the 1960s, and that started my interest. The work was really beautiful. That was my first discovery of wonderful form and design that related to jewelry making. A sculptural and artistic approach to the art form really moved me. Simplicity and minimalism inspired me very much.

A stone-set cuff bracelet with floral designs
Oxidized sterling silver cuff with platinum, 18-karat rose and yellow gold flowers. Set with sapphires, green tourmaline, and rubies.

What long-term trends do you foresee in the jewelry world or the world at large?

Lydia: There is a constant change in fashion and lifestyle throughout the world. One of the huge trends is people having a sensitivity to the nature all around us and figuring out how to save us from global warming. It is one of the most important issues of our time. Responsible mining and reclaimed precious metals have become very important in the jewelry industry. So many designers honor nature and animals in their work.

How/why do you feel you might be a trendsetter or influencer in the jewelry world?

Lydia: Our trendsetting is what we create. We like to create our own journey and our influences come from a variety of places.

Alishan: I don't think it is my place to decide if I am an influencer. It is my colleagues, friends and the industry who decide if I am a trendsetter. I am not sure how much of a trendsetter I am. It all comes through in the history of my work. The work has to grow and mature; then the industry will notice you and take you seriously. It is not just jewelry, but all art forms. You have to show you are serious. That takes years and years.

Who do you most admire and emulate in the jewelry/art world? Why?

Lydia: I admire many jewelry designers, not just one person. Every year we see new talent entering the jewelry design arena. There are several designers I admire and collect some of their pieces.

Alishan: There are many designers and colleagues I respect, and they have been an influence on me. I don't get my influences from jewelry but other sources. One of the reasons I really admire and respect their work is because it is so beautiful, just looking at it is inspiration in itself.

Three stone-set rings
These stone-set oxidized silver and gold rings are perfect examples of Alishan's iconic style of jewelry making.

What is the one most important piece of wisdom you would like to pass along to other makers?

Lydia: I would say stay true to yourself and be expressive.

Alishan: Get inspired! That is the most important thing. Always be new and honest with your work.

Describe your workshop.

Alishan: My studio is really a mess. I am always looking for something, and then I leave things everywhere. It is what it is!

Tell me about one memorable thing that has happened in your professional career?

Alishan: There are just so many amazing memories such as great customers and retail jewelry stores. We are fortunate to share very good memories with our customers. We really appreciate knowing them and have become friends. That goes for the entire jewelry industry: Great memories with colleagues and friends. It is inspiring to have so many creative people around us. It makes all this hard work easier. Relationships are important.

Finished earrings set with white diamonds and watermelon tourmaline slices
Platinum earrings set with white diamonds and watermelon tourmaline slices.

What are you most proud of to date?

Alishan: I am looking to the future for my best work or my proudest moment. I have never compromised myself. We are still relevant in the industry and able to continue to work. The fire is still there. And I am sure it will go on for a long time. It is hard to make it in the art and craft markets and to turn your passion into a living.

Lydia: I am very proud of Alishan. His work is continuously maturing in creativity and design.

What do you love most about your place in the jewelry world?

Alishan: The creative part. The making.

What do you feel is your biggest contribution to jewelry?

Alishan: My work. Being there.

Read interviews with other influencers in jewelry design