My sense of design comes from the diverse experiences of my life combined with a willingness to take risks
Eclectic and versatile, with more than a dash of fun; people often use these words to describe not only Zina's designs, but also Zina herself. From her earliest days, she was surrounded by varied influences and characterized by her desire for new experiences.
As the child of Polish immigrants, Zina spoke Yiddish before learning English. Because of her bilingual status, Zina served as the unofficial liaison for her father's New York jewelry factory. Her job duties in the family business weren't limited to translation. Most notably, she performed collections on delinquent accounts. "There I was - this little girl," she remembers, "walking down to the Bowery, which was pretty rough at the time. But nobody bothered me, and it got the debtors to pay up. They couldn't tell a little girl 'no.'"
Inspired by her father's example and surrounded by the artisans in his factory, Zina had fallen in love with design by age twelve. Although she could have entered the family business, Zina - never a fan of predictability - chose a different path. Encouraged by her mother, whom Zina calls "a fabulous feminist before anyone knew what that meant," she entered the teaching profession. Fearing that a safe, suburban school would be boring, Zina chose to teach at 125th Street in Harlem. "It definitely wasn't boring," she says.
Soon, life changes took her to El Paso, where she encountered an entirely different world. She reacted with characteristic openness. "I looked up and thought, 'Purple Mountains' Majesty!'" she remembers. While in El Paso, Zina worked in the television industry and delighted in the unique opportunities of a border town, including visits to booming Ciudad Juarez. This experience awakened her love of travel and interest in different cultures, and she dreamed up a more ambitious trip.
She sold everything and set off for Europe. When asked if this was some kind of "American abroad" indulgence, Zina laughs. She wasn't trying to find herself; as always, Zina was just looking for a new, fun experience. "That's what I love about travel," she says. "The possibility of surprise, of something wonderful happening, which generally doesn't happen if you're sitting at home."
After a year of traveling through England, France, Switzerland, and Italy, Zina returned to the U.S. "I ran out of money," she laughs. "So it was time to do something else." She ultimately settled in Los Angeles, largely because it was different, and then something exciting and unexpected happened. Zina reentered the jewelry world, just as inventive designers were beginning to see the possibilities in sterling silver. The artistic instincts that had first emerged during her childhood were still there, made stronger by her adventures. Throughout her travels, two things had remained constant: Zina loved moving forward and she viewed life with an artist's eye. She used those qualities to create a line of jewelry that was totally fresh and new.
Understanding that the traditional jewelry industry focused on special occasion pieces, Zina envisioned a sterling line that was fashion-forward and accessible. "Women want everyday items for work and dinner," she explains. "Jewelry you can purchase for yourself and that tells the world how you want to be interpreted."
In 1989, the demand for Zina Sterling Silver inspired her to open a store in Beverly Hills. It quickly became a destination for dynamic, inventive merchandise. Always offering customers something new and different, Zina expanded her jewelry line to include pieces with diamonds and 18 karat gold. Additionally, she created her own brand of clothing in gorgeous Thai silks and cottons. She continues to travel the world in search of creative items to share in the store.
Today, after 25 years of success in the heart of Beverly Hills, Zina is delighted to open her online boutique. Typically, she sees it as her opportunity to start a dialogue with customers all over the world. "I learn something from customers everyday," she says with a smile. "Now who knows what can happen?"