Jewelry designer


Decadence is a word jewelry designer Aldo Orta knows well. His designs are bursting with opulence, fine workmanship, and intrigue, and have gained him a legion of fans over the years including Calvin Klein, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Jones, Cindy Lauper, the Bacardi Family, and many more. Just as his clients are cultural symbols in their own right, Orta’s pieces themselves convey the mystery and fascination surrounding the art of symbols and mythology. Aside from crafting fine jewelry, he has been an active member in promoting AIDS awareness and in donating works to fundraise for cystic fibrosis charities. Orta has been a favourite of the royal and famous for years, but it’s clear that his pieces won’t be their secret for much longer.

When did you know you wanted to be a jewelry designer?
In 1990 I was living in New York and began designing jewelry for myself. At a party in the Hamptons one weekend I was wearing some of my pieces. A member of the Royal family of Kuwait saw my work and invited me the next day to their home to discuss doing a line of jewelry for the family. I got my first order that day for $1 million. I have never stopped designing since. One of the pieces I designed for them was in a prayer bead style; I loved the spiritual aspect of that piece and have been using spirituality as an inspiring aspect of my work ever since.
You are trained in fine art, especially sculpture, at the University of Fine Arts in your hometown of Mexico; did you ever want a career in the fine arts?
I worked for many years as the Art Director for Marriott Hotels worldwide. The money and experience were great, but I find working for a corporation somewhat limiting, whereas working for myself has no boundaries, allowing me to express myself more freely as an artist.
Why did you decide to leave Mexico and move to the US?
I was working as an actor on Mexican soap operas (Televisa). Then the Mexico City earthquake (1985) changed my life: it destroyed my home and the studios. Friends in Los Angeles invited me to stay with them temporarily, however I fell in love with the United States and have been here ever since. A lot of hard work and talent, which I’m grateful for, led me to where I’m at today.
Does your Mexican heritage inspire your work?
My greatest pride is my Mexican heritage. I think Mexico has one of the richest cultures in the world; its history and colourful traditions in all the art forms leaves such a lasting impression on anyone exposed to it. I lived several blocks from Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s home in Mexico City. I saw so much passion and dedication in their work, and that dedication to art as a form of expression has always stayed with me.
How does your skill in sculpture translate to the scale of jewelry design?
My jewelry is all three-dimensional; I rarely design a piece that is flat or two-dimensional. I also like to incorporate movement into my pieces. If a client requests a piece flat in nature, I will deliver it. My collection for QVC is very multi-dimensional and full of movement. I think of creating a new piece as sculpting the silver into shape.
What is your favourite material to work with?
I love silver: the beauty of the “white” quality in silver and the way it reflects light. It’s also affordable for most people and is very durable and will last a lifetime.
Is there a new, emerging technique in metalworking that’s caught your interest?
The metalworking techniques haven’t changed much in recent years, however the computer programs and designing tools available today are amazing. I can design a lifelike three-dimensional piece on a computer screen, experimenting with different design elements and stones, before even starting production. It helps a client tremendously, allowing them input into the design process as well.
What is your source of inspiration?
I am very inspired by history and mythology. I find beauty from all cultures from all time periods. When I have a special commission piece, such as one I did for Prince Albert of Monaco, I do special research into that culture/country to help inspire my design. Having done several pieces now for royalty and the research that’s gone into the symbols and their meanings, I find myself incorporating more of these symbols into all my creations.
Being that many of your pieces are inspired by your love of mythology, do you have a favorite myth/groups of myths from a culture?
I find myself more drawn to Greek mythology. The romantic aspect of their myths and stories, as well as how complete the stories are, makes them seem so real, yet still so magical. They put so much passion into the characters. Also, because of my heritage, I am fascinated with the Mayan and Aztec cultures; the architecture they created is so powerful and haunting. I also love the ancient Egyptian culture and the legacy and knowledge they left for us.
Do you have a favourite jewelry designer you find inspiration in?
Yes, I’m inspired by Harry Winston. I can relate to him because he started a small business and grew it too. He also started with royalty and the rich and famous. These connections helped him to build his empire. Also, he left the legacy of the Hope Diamond to the American people by donating it to the Smithsonian Institute. It’s a gesture that has inspired me to be involved with charity organizations for many years now, to whom I have donated many pieces for good causes; charities like Care Resource in Florida, the Glaads, The Eagle and Badge Foundation in Los Angeles, and many more.
Can you tell us about your creative process when you design?
I need to be alone to concentrate and focus on details and messages. I can’t be rushed; I take whatever time is needed to deliver my vision and I never underestimate a detail. I always start with pencil on paper. I keep my mind calm, and classical music helps too, Bach being my favourite. I’ve been practicing yoga my entire adult life, so small breaks during sketching helps me re-focus.
Is there a message you wish to communicate with your designs?
My message is spiritual knowledge; awareness and history. I try to bring mythology to life. We all know that a picture is worth more than a thousand words, but a symbol can tell more than a thousand pictures. And I want us to remember that we are spiritual beings having a human experience in the light or not.
Can you tell us about your experience on Shark Tank?
I waited a year before I received a call after submitting my application. It was very exciting to be selected out of 40,000 applicants. ABC’s Shark Tank was my stage to perform on and introduce myself as a designer to the masses. The power of TV is amazing, opening doors like QVC. The producers of the show are so supportive and really want their entrepreneurs to succeed.
Can you tell us about the piece you have been requested to design for Queen Elizabeth?
I am so honoured and proud about this commission. The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) was founded in August 1914 at the onset of World War One. An all-volunteer regiment, the PPCLI was named after Princess Patricia of Connaught, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and daughter of Lord Connaught, the then Governor General of Canada. The Regiment fought throughout the 1st World War, also serving in World War II in Italy and Western Europe. The Regiment still continues to serve Canada in Afghanistan. The commemorative brooch was commissioned for the 100th Anniversary of the PPCLI in honour of the wives and next of kin of the Regiment. A truly unique piece, it embodies the Regimental pride and honour placed in the strength behind the serving men and women of the PPCLI.
What is you favourite thing about creating custom pieces?
I love doing the research into the history that the client provides me. It helps me to expand my knowledge of the world and to learn new things. My best reward, however, is to see their faces when they see the piece for the first time and the joy and happiness it brings them. Most of these pieces become family heirlooms, and I feel very proud and privileged to be allowed into their family history.
Who do you most enjoy designing for?
I love to design for myself. It gives me 100% freedom to express myself artistically, knowing I’m the only one who has to truly like the piece.
You are developing Jewelry for the Home; what was your motivation?
I believe your home is your sanctuary. You should surround yourself with beauty and treasures to better enjoy life. I’m also working with a new item, accessories for men’s neckties. They’re available exclusively on
After all of your long success, where do you see yourself in five years?
I’ll tell you what I said to the interviewer right before I went on Shark Tank: “Expectations can lead to disappointment.” I am so grateful for the doors that have opened since I went public on Shark Tank and the amazing contracts I’ve received, changing my life. I’ll be busy building my brand and name globally for many years to come.