Liza Urla of Gemologue in London
The model, blogger, and gemologist wears many hats, all of which touch on a love of pearls.
Russian-born Liza Urla debuted her Gemologue.com platform in 2009 while still a student at GIA in New York City, and its popularity has mushroomed alongside her love of pearls. “It was still early days for bloggers—‘influencers’ weren’t yet a thing,” she explains. Still, the digital jewelry platform took root as a place to celebrate fine jewelry of all kinds, including pearls.
“I absolutely adore pearls, because they are one of nature's most beautiful embellishments,” she continues. “I often incorporate them into my looks—be it either a pearl face, a pearl-encrusted kokoshnik, pearl shoulders, pearl corset, or a headdress made entirely of pearls!”
Below, the busy creative opens up about her love of the organic gem and some of her most innovative pearl projects.
Why do you love pearls?
Pearls excite me because of my upbringing in Russia: they are in my DNA. I feel pearls are for women everywhere a celebration of self-love that can instantly put a confident smile and a luminescent glow of delight on their faces! Since I launched Gemologue.com, my aim has always been to raise awareness about pearls, change the perception about pearl designer jewelry, and help pearl farms worldwide, particularly the pearl farms’ ongoing struggle to keep water clean, as oysters require clean water to produce pearls.
In what year was your “Pearl Face” idea born?
My first pearl makeup look, created by me and applied by Julia Flit, an artist and a London-based professional jewelry photographer, was born in 2015 during London Fashion Week. The look was inspired by ancient Egypt and was my way of self-expression and paying homage to one of my favorite gems. I love to show that pearls are not old-fashioned. On the contrary! Pearls are a highlight of contemporary jewelry design! My #jewelleryface pearl makeup went viral and was included in several best-dressed lists by Elle Italia, Le21eme, Glamour, and others.
Then at a JCK Luxury show, I wore pearl headwear inspired by Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a continuity of my London Fashion Week pearl makeup and was followed by a pearl kokoshnik (traditional Russian headwear), pearl gloves, and pearl hair during an edition of Jewellery Arabia Bahrain.
You can watch the pearl face process online.
What are your favorite types of pearls and why?
Natural pearls. During my work trips to the Middle East, I learned that the pearl has always been a symbol of luxury, but for Bahrain it has always had a much deeper meaning. Representing the tradition, cultures, and heritage of the Kingdom, the natural pearl holds a special place in the fabric of Bahrain’s history.
I also admire and collect South Sea and Tahitian cultured pearls. Personally, my concern is what types of pearls are here to stay? I would love to see more of the South Sea and Tahitian pearls become more en vogue.
What are some of your other favorite pearl projects?
I created a gem and pearl crossword series as a gift to my followers (download it here), and run occasional jewelry and pearl giveaways, such as when I partnered up with Bahraini jewelry designer Azza Fine Jewellery, for a natural pearl jewel giveaway during an edition of Jewellery Arabia Bahrain. I also opened a Gem Photo School with my good friend and professional jewelry photographer Julia Flit. We debuted it in 2020 during the global pandemic lockdown as the jewelry industry shifted to a more online retail focus. Now more than ever, pearl jewelry photography needs to be unique, eye-catching, and above all, creative.
Tell us about your book, Gemologue: Street Jewellery Styles & Styling Tips.
Gemologue Jewellery Street Styles & Styling Tips is a unique book, because it focuses solely on jewelry street style. When I started Gemologue, it was the only digital platform focusing on jewelry street style rather than fashion. The book features eye-catching and inspirational photographs, including costume, tribal, and fine pearl jewelry, and of course, my pearl face. Find it on Amazon.