After years of making pieces to other people’s specifications, she wanted to make work that was more representative of her own ideas and style and to build a brand that was more representative of her values and personality. In 2020 she began the process of transitioning her business to what is now the most innovative retail experience in New England and one of the nation’s few openly queer-owned jewelry brands.
Ilah now makes mini-collections of jewelry which are themed, either by style or common gemstones. There is the Star Wars themed “That’s no moon” collection featuring pieces inspired by the destruction of the Death Star. Then there are more generalized collections like “Down to the Studs” which features a number of different gold studs from bees to flowers to geometric shapes. Her pieces are unique but also universal, and all of her collections are gender-neutral and size inclusive.
“Even working in the jewelry industry, I always felt uncomfortable in most jewelry stores and at trade shows. Some of it is how I present, but it is also about all the imagery and wording that most jewelry stores use. You’ve got “Men’s jewelry” and “Women’s Jewelry”. Unlike clothing that might need to be tailored to fit different body shapes, jewelry is a pretty universal fit. A ring is a ring and a finger is a finger. Why should it matter who it is attached to?”
While some items are seen as unisex, the idea of gender neutral jewelry is still new to the industry and not widely used.
“'Men’s' rings are usually wider and only come in larger sizes, while 'Women’s' rings are thinner, have more stones, and only come in smaller sizes. “It’s very limiting and ridiculous. For starters, I can’t tell you how many women have had to deal with the frustration of having fingers that are larger than what the industry has deemed 'women’s' sizes. It’s industry-wide body shaming.”
All of iLAH’s rings are available in sizes from 3 to 16, regardless of the style, and she can make you a ring in any size.
“Most people don’t realize that rings can’t be easily sized 3 or four sizes up or down. If the ring you like is a size 6, but you are a size 10, we will remake the piece from scratch in your size. It means that regardless of what style you like and what your finger size is, you are getting a fresh piece without the weak spots or distortion that sizing can cause.”
The facility on Franklin Street includes a workshop where Ilah and her team of two other jewelers make all the pieces of jewelry as well as the immersive retail experience that Ilah spent two years developing and making.
“I wanted people to have a space where they would be transported for a short period of time, to take them somewhere magical. People want more fun experiences and the space is also very comfortable when compared to a traditional jewelry store.”
Rather than have everything behind glass, many of the displays are interactive, allowing people to touch and try on rings without having to ask. The space is an art installation meant to give people a sense of whimsy.
“The overarching goal of the design is to make people feel comfortable because they are having fun. It’s something that traditional jewelry stores just don’t do. When was the last time you went to a jewelry store and said, ‘that place was so fun!’?”
Having a comfortable experience in a jewelry store is even more complicated when you are in a same sex relationship or have a non-monogamous relationship. Most jewelry stores in Massachusetts will happily sell same sex couple wedding bands, but the imagery from the industry as a whole is still largely heteronormative. And while some brands will consciously post same sex couples getting engaged on their Instagram accounts, it can be hard to figure out what store is going to be the most open and friendly to your particular relationship.
“When someone would walk into my old store and drop little hints here and there about their ‘partner’ and who might propose to whom, it was my cue to make it clear that we were queer friendly. With this new brand and particularly the new store, I want people to walk in and have zero doubt that they are in a queer friendly space. From our Words of Wisdom rings that include 'queer', 'poly', and kink-friendly words to the art on the walls, I want people to know that our whole brand and experience is made for anyone that doesn’t fit into or doesn’t enjoy the traditional jewelry store/brand experience.”
While she makes a variety of pieces, engagement rings are one of Ilah’s specialties, and she has always taken an alternative approach to the traditional gift.
“An engagement ring is a gift and symbol of your love for someone else. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ buy. If you think your partner would rather have a sapphire than a diamond, get them a sapphire. Spend what you can afford, not what some diamond company tells you is appropriate.”
Ilah was the first jeweler in Massachusetts and one of the first in the country to offer lab-grown diamonds, which have increased significantly in popularity in the past few years. Lab-grown diamonds are diamonds which are made in a laboratory, and they are the same crystals as the diamonds that come out of the earth with a few minor differences, all undetectable to the wearer.
“You can’t distinguish between mined and lab grown diamonds under a microscope. They are the same hardness so they wear exactly the same as mined diamonds because they are real diamonds.”
Lab-grown diamonds have opened a new chapter in the jewelry industry due to their optical and physical properties and low price point compared to mined diamonds.
“I priced a two carat diamond the other day and the lab grown diamonds were one tenth of the cost of a mined diamond. With a limited budget you can get larger and nicer diamonds.”
These diamonds can also be produced with human rights and the planet in mind.
“We’re the only company in New England that sells Aether diamonds. They are made entirely from recaptured CO2 emissions and using all renewable energy sources. They are literally made from pollution and have a negative carbon footprint. We also sell diamonds that are made in the USA.”
All of the stones Ilah sells are responsibly sourced, meaning she knows their origin and fair trade grading. Ilah also uses recycled metals in all of her pieces.
“We don’t sell certain stones because they come from countries with known human rights abuses. Even before the war in Russia, we stayed away from Russian diamonds due to the country’s harsh anti-LGBTQ laws. All these things matter to me.”
Along with her jewelry, the store sells art and gifts in a range of price points.
“We want everyone to come and enjoy the space and not feel like the store is out of their price range.”
The art which comes framed right off the wall starts at $12 and is sourced directly from artists around the country. Journals with cheeky titles, stickers, pins, and keychains are also available for under $20. If you are in the Worcester area, the store is worth a visit. You can find all of iLAH’s jewelry at ilahjewelry.com and follow the store @ilahjewelry on all socials.
ABOUT ILAH CIBIS JEWELRY
Looking for a Worcester jewelry store that carries a huge selection of air diamonds and other sustainable gemstones? We specialize in unique, colorful, responsibly sourced jewelry, gay jewelry, lesbian jewelry, and other queer-friendly jewelry as Worcester, MA's top independent jewelry store.
Radically Personal. Unapologetically Human. Made with fierce love.
-Ilah ♥ / IG: @ilahjewelry