The reluctant jeweler

Janina Dizon Hoschka on her mother’s legacy and keeping balance in her life.


Janina Dizon Hoschka, who, at first, resisted being a jeweler, finds herself celebrating her 10th year in the business with a 200-piece collection that looks back on her design journey. It also considers her contributions to the 40-year legacy of her late mother, haute jewelry designer Juliette “Jul” B. Dizon.

The elder Dizon, known for her fondness for whimsical florals, hailed from a family of architects. “[Her] artistry is very much organic and nature-based: Flowers, leaves and soft designs,” said Ms. Dizon Hoschka, who added that her mother’s later designs acquired a modern edge after she developed an interest in crystals.

“I was 15 when my mom said that we needed to start helping around the store so that she could train us. At that age, it felt like it was being forced upon me. I really tried to resist it,” remembered Ms. Dizon Hoschka in an e-mail interview. “I’ve always loved clothes—I would oftentimes dress up my mom, my sisters, my cousins, and my friends—and to me that just meant fashion design.”

It was two years later when she finally embraced jewelry design after joining the annual De Beers Diamond International Awards in 1990 where she became a finalist. Her entry to the so-called “Oscars” of the jewelry design world was a pair of stud earrings made from pink sapphires and diamonds, the design of which was inspired by the rice terraces. “That sparked a curiosity in me and made me think maybe I can be good at this,” she remarked.

Ms. Dizon Hoschka—together with her sister, Candice Dizon—is a third-generation jeweler. Her grandmother, Paz Bañas, a famed jeweler in the 1960s, was known for her discerning eye and for being a “purveyor of all things beautiful.” Eventually, Ms. Bañas handed over the reins to her daughters, who began designing jewelry for Old Manila clientele. In 1978, the first Jul B. Dizon boutique opened its doors. This history is a light for Ms. Dizon Hoschka, who calls her mother “one of the best and greatest inspirations” of her life. “She taught me everything there is to know about the industry,” she said. “She always tried to push us in ways that make us better—[to] challenge our minds and not be afraid of hard work yet find balance for family. Not many women I know can do that with so much grace and elegance. I can only hope I can be half of the person she is.”

And her favorite piece designed by her mother? An Apophyllite necklace embedded with multi-shaped diamonds in white gold. “It was a design that resembles a rough diamond in its natural state, so it looked like a diamond within a diamond—that to me was ingenious,” she said of the piece that won at the 1994 De Beers Diamond International Awards in Paris.

While her mom’s organic pieces caught the attention of clients like actors Sir Michael Caine and Charles Bronson as well as American socialite Susan Gutfreund (wife of John Gutfreund, former CEO of Salomon Brothers, Inc, a US investment bank), Ms. Dizon Hoschka leans toward jewelry with an unconventional yet playful bent that “doesn’t take itself too seriously.” 


Beyond her mother, Ms. Dizon Hoschka has looked toward artists like Alexander Calder, an American sculptor known as the originator of the mobile, a moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes that move in response to touch or air currents. She remembers being “blown away” by Calder’s works, particularly by Arc of Petals (1941), a piece made from painted and unpainted sheets of aluminum and iron wires.

“I love the lightness and balance of his work. How everything hangs in this thin wire, imperfectly asymmetrical yet perfectly balanced. Much like life,” she said, adding that Calder’s art reminds her of the importance of balance. “Someday I hope to have an original Calder piece as they are quite pricey. It would be a dream to have it in my home,” she mused.

Such was her admiration for Calder that she designed earrings inspired by his mobile creations. Reminiscent of Arc of Petals, the earrings, which won the 2008 Samshin Award in Korea, resemble flower petals swaying in a passing breeze.

Ms. Dizon Hoschka’s 200-piece collection, aptly called Dekada, took 18 months to complete, from conceptualization to production, and is divided into 10 themes (including an ode to Calder called Kinetic). The jeweler describes her journey as  “constantly evolving” and her current designs possess a more linear, geometric tone. “As I’m getting older, cleaner lines appeal so much more to me—it’s much more interesting to me—although I will always appreciate a good detail,” she explained.

Janina Dizon
18K pink gold with freshwater pearl necklace with 9.70 cts. citrine pendant and 1.15 cts. brown diamonds from the Ascend collection.

Her love for geometry is apparent in her Ascend collection, which features jewelry in step-like designs because “life is never a straight line,” and the clean lines of Galaxy, which uses pearls to mimic outer space.

Janina Dizon
18K pink gold ring with black, white, and golden south sea pearls and pastel sapphires from the Galaxy collection.

Despite her preoccupation with geometry, she also included classic designs in the Dekada collection: Goddess, which features hammered metal and bangles for the “mighty beings with superpowers, also known as a woman”; and Vintage, which features gems in classic settings inspired by her love for estate finds; and Kasal, a wedding line featuring rose cuts and mixed-shape fancy diamonds.

She also created a series for her signatures: Transformer, which can be dressed up and down via attachments; and Exotic, which uses crocodile, stingray and snake leather as dramatic backdrops for the gems. “I was probably one of the first people to use stingray in a more non-conventional manner of jewelry,” she said. There is also a line dedicated to her sister—called Candy, of course—composed of “fun, flirty jewelry.”

Janina Dizon
14K yellow gold and black silver “Tiger’s eye” buddha pendant with 1.38 cts. diamonds from the Buddha collection.

Dekada harks back to her first collection with Buddha, featuring jade pieces. “My first collection coming back from living in Thailand and starting a family was all about oriental symbols of luck, double happiness and the Buddhist faith. To me, that was very important and significant as I had not seen Oriental designs that much at the time,” she said.

Though she has passed a landmark year in being a jewelry designer, it is apparent that Ms. Dizon Hoschka—much like her mother before her—puts a lot of stock in being with family. She hopes to be able to spend more time with her children, working less and “just being happy and content.”

And like her mother, does she want her children to follow in her footsteps and become jewelers? “I would be very happy if they followed in my footsteps. My mom’s legacy is so important for me.  It is a heritage that I promised to her that I would pass on,” she said.