Grad's Career, Jewelry Line Celebrate Modern Women

Noëlle Vieillard-Jordi on one of her annual trips to Vicenza, Italy to select Venetian glass cameos for Bahina Jewels’ designs. Courtesy Bahina Jewels
Noëlle Vieillard-Jordi watched her new boss, a respected antique gem and jewelry dealer, inspect the Burmese ruby a dealer brought to their Geneva offices.

She worked up her courage and asked if she, too, could have a look.

Vieillard-Jordi, a recent GIA graduate only a few months into her first job in the jewelry industry, got a knot in her stomach when she got a close look at the stone. Her extensive laboratory class training told her something was off.

The “Burmese ruby” looked to Vieillard-Jordi like a synthetic stone, and her boss agreed. They asked the dealer to have the stone identified in a local gem lab, which confirmed two days later that the ruby was a synthetic.  

“I was so proud,” says Vieillard-Jordi, the managing partner of Bahina Jewels. “Not only because we had seen stones like it during our GIA lab classes and I recognized it, but also because I had the courage to tell my boss.”
Vieillard-Jordi, born and raised in Berne, Switzerland, is the daughter of an architect and art history aficionado, and was raised to appreciate beauty and design. She speaks several languages (German, Swiss German, English, French and Spanish) and first pursued studies at the Hotel Management School in Lausanne, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in international hospitality management.  

Once she completed her studies, she accepted a position as operations manager of Christie’s Geneva, where she organized all Swiss auctions and daily operations, as well as managed human resources for the firm’s Geneva and Zurich offices. She left Christie’s for a year-and-a-half-long stint as product manager for L’Oreal’s luxury brand, Kerastase, but found herself missing the incredible gems and jewelry she used to see in the auction rooms.

Two friends – an expert at Christie’s and a director from a renowned jewelry company – strongly recommended she look into GIA, saying it would be nearly impossible for her to break into the gem and jewelry industry otherwise.

“When I decide to do something or to undertake something, I choose the best, whether it’s a school or employer,” Vieillard-Jordi says. “Even if it means that I have to study in a language I do not speak fluently, or live far away from my husband and family.”

So Vieillard-Jordi enrolled in GIA and moved to New York City, where she lived and immersed herself in all things gemological. She loved the city, her studies at GIA and having near-instant access to the diamond district and auction houses.

“I was one of the oldest students, and one of the most serious,” she says. “I was absolutely sure that the gem industry was my future and wanted to absorb all the knowledge the teachers were willing to share with us.”

Vieillard-Jordi and her sister, Annick Jordi, design jewelry that celebrates the independence of modern women. Courtesy Bahina Jewels
She finished her studies in 2004, earning her Graduate Gemologist and Accredited Jewelry Professional diplomas. Vieillard-Jordi found a job – with the antique dealer in Geneva – almost immediately. Working in the small office meant she was able to learn nearly every aspect of the industry, from international trade show organization and the Swiss import/export process, to inventory and jewelry evaluation.

Vieillard-Jordi’s sister, Annick Jordi, studied design in Paris and earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) in New York, as well as her master’s degree in political science from the University of Geneva. The two realized how complementary their skill sets were, and started to dream up a line of jewelry that would celebrate the independence of the modern woman – the one who finds joy, beauty and fun in everyday life, and who is buying her own jewelry that’s not just reserved for “special occasions.”

Sisters and Bahina Jewels owners Noëlle Vieillard-Jordi, left, and Annick Jordi, right, with a few of their designs. “Bahina” is a Hindi term meaning “two sisters.” Photo by Guy Perrenoud, courtesy Bahina Jewels
The sisters’ dream became a reality in 2007, when they established Bahina Jewels. “Bahina,” a Hindi term for “two sisters,” captures the spirit of their venture, Vieillard-Jordi says.

Vieillard-Jordi manages stone purchases, importing and exporting, and inventory, while Jordi handles design and marketing. They work closely together, traveling to trade shows around the world, and making trips to Italy for Venetian glass cameos and to India to inspect and buy loose stones for their designs, which are set in 18K gold. Bahina’s designs are available through private viewings in Switzerland, as well as high-end boutiques in Berne and Zurich, international trade shows like JCK and the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem Fair, and through the company’s website.
Vieilliard-Jordi, who lives in Geneva with her husband of 14 years, Stephane, and their 8- and 6-year-old children, says her GIA education was “a door-opener” and gave her the right skills to build her ideal career.

“At GIA, I learned skills like identifying high-quality stones and good cutting,” she says. “But even the small details – like knowing how to correctly use a loupe – changes the way dealers look at you.”

Vieillard-Jordi manages stone purchases and inventory for Bahina Jewels.
Courtesy Bahina Jewels

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