Love stories set in the backdrop of war are not just the stuff of movies. They are bitter sweet realities that many couples and families live with in war stricken Ukraine. In a country where every second and hryvna counts, one cannot help but wonder about the relevance of luxury at a time of conflict. Typically, it would appear tone deaf to talk of opulence and fine trimmings while an entire country fights for its very existence and basic freedoms.
Two luxury brands from Ukraine, however, inspire consumers to rethink the role of sentimental, meticulously crafted jewelry amid strife. These brands returned to the very essence of fine jewelry, tapping into its sentimental and emotional attributes to cultivate a culture of love, compassion, and generosity.
OBERIG is a fine jewelry brand, built on rich Slavic tradition and a belief that “love conquers all.” It was the shared passion for design and craft that bonded members of its team during its founding. When the war in Ukraine broke out, it was this same love for creating meaningful jewelry that empowered them to shine its brightest.
Founder Tatiana Kondratyuk begins, “War is the worst thing that can happen. However, we’ve got to know that war has a place not only for grief, but also for the birth of something new.” Two months after the Russian invasion, OBERIG’s production facility in Kharkiv’s war zone had to close its door. Some members of the team have taken their place at the front, while others have engaged in volunteer work. The focus, says Tatianna, was to help the country and its defenders.
“Since February 24, along with hundreds of tragic news, we’ve seen many touching and incredibly inspiring stories,” she shares. Stories about soldiers finding ways to consecrate and celebrate their vows resonated with the team. It inspired a project that would forever be a part of the greatest love stories. “We realized that we can help our defenders with what we can do best – jewelry. We decided to present laconic silver rings to military couples getting married during the war. Of course, we produce and ship everything at our own expense.”
Within months of launching the campaign, letters began pouring in. The team at Oberig discloses, “It turned out that for soldiers, who often don’t have an opportunity to buy rings, our initiative seems very relevant. Within the first 8 days, we’ve got requests from more than 70 couples. Each of these couples has its own special story, all soldiers protect different regions of Ukraine. Right now some of them are in the East and the South of the country, in the hottest spots, bravely fighting for the democracy of the whole world.”
When Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was inaugurated into the presidency, his wife, First Lady Olena Zelenksa wore a pair of bespoke Guzema earrings. Simple modern designs, coupled by a long tradition of craft, made the young jewelry brand from Ukraine the choice of countless leaders and tastemakers. Valeria Guzema explains, “Women are always my main inspiration. My goal is to see and feel the woman the way she is, and offer her jewelry that enhances her self- confidence, making her feel beautiful and comfortable. In my collections, I always give preference to innovation, trying to make something special out of simple things at first glance.”
From the time the brand was launched, it’s always affiliated itself with sustainable values and charitable causes. The Guzema Foundation, which was established in 2020, was initially modeled as a charitable organization dedicated to supporting children in need of medical treatment. When Russian aggression shook the nation, this initiative refocused its efforts towards helping Ukraine and its defenders. “We are working like never before to fundraise for medicines, humanitarian aid, accommodation for refugees and sustenance for the army. All my strength is concentrated in this direction.”
At a time of war, the fine jewelry brand also expanded into the international market. It seemed an unlikely move especially considering the challenges in production and sales. But Valeria explains, “War is an unpredictable ordeal for Ukrainian and every company. (It is) a huge stress to the country’s economy. It’s very important for us to keep on working as we need to support our people and the economy of Ukraine. When bombs explode, it doesn’t seem the right time for the fashion industry, but I strongly believe that we should do our best to survive and to contribute to the survival of business in general.”
Guzema’s roots in Ukraine have always been an integral part of its DNA. They’ve managed to capture the sensibilities of the region’s style setters. At the time of war, however, the brand strategy was to reach out to the international community. Valeria ends, “We hope that international retailers will support Ukrainian brands, and give them a chance to survive. We should also attract the world’s attention to the war–inspiring people to support our defenders and those who have suffered most in the areas of hostilities.” All profits made from sales at Guzema are currently dedicated to this cause.