In the age of Insta-fashion, it is ever more the rare occasion to come across a designer who prefers to let her brand do the talking, and more importantly, who actually has a unique language to share.
Enter Caroline Combs. The Swiss-American New Yorker begins by saying, “I don’t really want to talk about myself,” adding, “I’m not so much of an in-the-limelight person.” Her fine jewelry brand al.tru.ist, made of 14-karat gold and sterling silver pieces, packs a delicate punch. It features her contemporary take on elements from nature—roses, thorns, even elephant tusks—and showcases a contemporary spin on necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets. Altruist creates an identity around its wearer, and it doesn’t stop short at covetable jewelry that any introductory client or the most informed collector would covet.
An “altruist” is defined as “a person unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others.” Meeting “Caro” at her Paris Fashion Week showspace, I can attest that she personifies this ideal. Warm, tall, and striking (see above), she is the daughter of one of Princeton University’s first female students. In the few short years since she has found her calling, Combs has given herself entirely to pursue her craft with the unbridled enthusiasm characteristic of the new generation of leaders coming out of America. Her fine jewelry, which boasts a fine-edge aesthetic, features 100% recycled gold, regardless the surplus cost, and ethically-sourced gems and conflict-free diamonds.
“It all started with the tusk pendant and the black diamond primeval rings, because they were initially something I wanted for myself,” she recalls. “I’m very active so gold fits my lifestyle better and dresses up simple clothes quite easily.” Working with a “genius” who worked with the Tiffany’s T Line, she sought to use 14kt gold because the “shine was nicer than 18kt gold and the color more subtle.” Unlike plated or 10kt gold, Altruist pieces will last forever. Having seen them in person, I can attest that the craftsmanship is impeccable and the jewelry very competitively priced. “I don’t want to hype the diamond market with large pieces with mortgage-like prices, I want people to have peace of mind when they buy our product. To have something timeless that can be worn day and night, still make a statement, and not break the bank,” she states. Her purpose is to make something of high quality that has value. The statement designs have since been spotted on Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Bosworth. Stack, layer, collect, exchange, and rotate, Altruist jewelry—and the movement it stands for—is here to stay.