Alumni spotlight

Designer’s Inventive, ‘Outrageous’ Jewellery Wins Industry Awards

A spaceship-inspired ring of pink gems surrounding a pearl is showcased on a bride’s intricately drawn henna hands.
“The best part about being a designer is seeing my ideas come to life,” says Trishala Ashok, a member of GIA’s first graduating Jewelry Design and Technology class. “The whole process of sketching my idea on paper, designing it in CAD and sending it out for production – it’s exciting!” Here, a bride wears a spaceship-inspired cocktail ring from Ashok’s WANSH Fine Jewellery on her wedding day. Courtesy Priyanka Mayur

It’s easy to imagine that an emerging artist like Trishala Ashok – whose work has won multiple design awards in just a few years’ time – might have been first inspired by a fantastic, high-end jewellery display or glittering ring on the red carpet.

In truth, the Bangalore-based jewellery designer was first motivated by the craft bins she found as a child at a Marshalls department store. That’s what Ashok, as an 8-year-old girl on holiday with her family, remembers about her first trip to the United States.

“I picked up a lot of beads, Sculpey polymer clay, Shrinky Dinks and wires,” she says, noting that she began making “junk” jewellery for family and friends. “As I got older I would sell jewellery to boys who wanted to gift something to their girlfriends.”

Trishala Ashok, in a black outfit, wears one of her spaceship-inspired rings.
“When I introduce myself, I feel so proud to say that I graduated from GIA,” says Trishala Ashok, GIA JDT. “I went there as a student, and came out as a confident jewellery designer. People know that if you've graduated from GIA, you have been trained by the best.” Photo by Sunder S.A.

Ashok, an alumna of GIA’s first Jewelry Design and Technology (JDT) graduating class in 2013, eventually collected a large assortment of stones at home, gathered from aquariums, sand piles – even the street.

“I used to think every stone was a precious gem if you cut it and gave it facets,” she says.

She dreamt of starting her own jewellery label, so when Ashok read about GIA in the newspaper as a teenager, she “instantly fell in love with the place”. She earned a bachelor’s degree in media studies from the Center for Management Studies in Bangalore, then worked as a social media manager for a luxury boutique in Bangalore while waiting for her GIA application to be processed.

Ashok was thrilled to be accepted to the Institute’s brand-new, six-month JDT programme on campus in Carlsbad, although she was nervous about the technology the students used.

“The only thing I would do on my computer was check emails, so learning Rhino and Matrix 7.0 design software was really new for me,” she says. “Initially I found it challenging, but after practicing every day, I got better. Now as soon as I open the software, my hands do all the work. I know where every tool is and what all of the keys are for. It’s like riding a bike – you never forget.”

In addition to gaining gem knowledge and software skills, Ashok discovered that she loved the design challenges that GIA instructors would announce. “I loved to compete and to be challenged,” she says.

A centre diamond is flanked by oblong leaf-like shapes that make up the band. Two oblong leaf shapes on each side of the centre diamond also feature small diamonds – one in the centre of each leaf. Trishala Ashok’s diamond engagement ring was a final submission project for her JDT diploma for GIA. “Whenever I feel like giving up, I look at that design,” she says. The ring reminds her of how far she has progressed. Matrix rendering by Trishala Ashok

Ashok says her final submission as a GIA student, a bridal engagement ring, still inspires her work.

“It’s a very simple ring, but it took me by surprise because I was still a student and I got a taste of what I was capable of doing,” she says. “I sat for hours trying to get it right. And now, whenever I feel like giving up, I look at that design. It reminds me of how far I’ve come in this industry since I made it.”

Ashok – newly confident and ready to start her label and career back home – graduated in 2013.

“I am who I am because of my experience at GIA. I knew nothing about jewellery before GIA – all I knew was how to put a fancy bead on a string on a bracelet,” she says. “At the end of my JDT course, I surprised myself. I was happy to see what I’d learned and achieved in those six months.”

Hoop earrings with blue and green gems that mimic the colours of a peacock’s tail.

Ashok started her new label, WANSH, which is a combination of her parents’ names, and almost immediately began winning design awards, including from direct-to-consumer fine jewellery brand Mejuri, and Gem Privé, a design contest platform.

The “heart” of WANSH, she says, is the notion of “inspirational design”. Ashok’s ability to look through the mundane, the unexpected, the minutiae of daily life and create something beautiful is a skill she consciously cultivates. She points to Vogue creative director Grace Coddington, who once said, “Always keep your eyes open. Keep watching. Because whatever you see can inspire you.”

“It’s one of my favourite quotes because it describes me as a designer,” Ashok says. “I’ve made pieces inspired by outrageous things – shark jaws, jelly fish tentacles, spaceships. My favourite ring was inspired by a vase that I came across while watching the show ‘Modern Family’.”

Ashok acknowledges that the challenges to a young designer are many: Competition is fierce and designs don’t always turn out the way she intended. She learns from her mistakes and allows them to help “make room for improvement”.

“The best thing to do is to be true to yourself as a designer,” she says. “Your brand and your designs should reflect your personality.” 

Jaime Kautsky, a contributing writer, is a GIA Diamonds Graduate and GIA Accredited Jewelry Professional and was an associate editor of The Loupe magazine.