Renowned bridal gown designer Monique Lhuillier has been collaborating with Kay Jewelers for a few years now on a collection of engagement and ceremony rings called Bliss. But her latest co-branded collection with the jewelry retailer employs lab-grown diamonds for the first time—a development Lhuillier wouldn't have predicted even a couple of years ago.

"I was trained to appreciate natural diamonds," the designer told Gem + Jewel at a recent brunch at La Mercerie restaurant in Soho that Lhuillier hosted with Kay Jewelers. "I didn't know if my customer was ready to embrace it, or if I was." But seeing loose, lab-grown stones in person convinced her: "They were colorless, the brilliance was there, and [using them] allowed for a larger center stone," she recalled. "The customer is trending towards a bigger look." The collection features 12 engagement ring styles, six universal matching bands, and three women's lab-created diamond bands.

Monique Lhuillier Bliss 18k yellow gold engagement ring with 2 cts. of lab-grown diamonds including an oval-cut center stone, $6,999.99
Monique Lhuillier Bliss 18k white gold engagement ring with roughly 3.7 cts. of lab-grown diamonds, including a round-cut center diamond, $18,999.99

Lhuillier noted that the natural/mined diamond Bliss styles aren't going anywhere, and that "Each group will develop, nothing is being replaced. We are offering a broader selection with more options for my brides and grooms to address the trends."  Lhuillier shared that sales of wedding bands with diamonds are on the uptick for men. Men "want some sparkle on their fingers; men love stones and bling, too," she said. 

According to the designer, the Kay partnership came to fruition once her successful Blue Nile jewelry partnership was up for renewal. She next wanted a partner with a retail footprint. "Kay is the authority in the space," Lhuillier said. Kay Jewelers has 908 stores and another 120 Kay Outlet stores nationwide. 

Monique Lhuillier Bliss engagement ring with roughly 2 cts. of lab-grown diamonds, including an emerald-cut center stone, $4,799.99

The two parties spoke over Zoom calls during the worst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, when most of us were in lockdown. Simultaneously, Lhuillier was working on her brand's 25th-anniversary book, which was published by Rizzoli in September 2021. "It was the perfect time, as we had the time to really look at the jewelry project, reset it, and flesh it out to be different than the past—while at the same time diving into how we built the Monique Lhuillier brand and what resonated for us," Lhuillier explained. Like her clothing and famously coveted wedding gowns, her jewelry with Kay channels the sharply modern, feminine-feeling aesthetics, though the journey to encapsulating her aesthetic in jewelry collection is different. "The jewelry is more architectural," she says, "and built around the center stone."

Beyond fine jewelry partnerships, Lhuillier has expanded her brand with home and stationary partnerships, among other projects. She'd like to add to her own brand's offering of day bags and costume jewelry, and also expand to more retail outlets, especially international ones. "I am happy to reach customers at different points in their lives," she says. " It doesn't just need to be a gown day. Every day can be special."

Monique Lhuillier Bliss 18k white gold ring with 1.75 cts. lab-grown diamonds, including a princess-cut center stone, $3,999.99

With her energetic and rosy outlook, such a future seems plausible. But Lhuillier insists it's the creativity that keeps her moving forward. "Your jewelry is something you look at daily, reminding you of your special day. In the world today, beauty and joy are needed more than ever."