Irina Kharina is a GIA-certified gemologist and a luxury jewelry concierge who takes pride in working with ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones. As the founder of Tsarina Gems, she is a millennial female entrepreneur who started her business during the pandemic after spending 12 years in the gemstone and jewelry industry. Irina now provides 1:1 private consultations on luxury custom jewelry to clients all over the world. Irina has lived in 5 different countries and is currently based in Toronto, Canada.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I am originally from Russia. When I was 11, my parents came across an opportunity for my brother and me to receive a British education. As they were not able to immigrate to England with us, my brother and I joined a private boarding school in England, while they moved to Prague, Czech Republic. I hardly spoke any English but was excited about this new adventure. I previously visited England and loved it! At school, my days were filled with studying as well as extracurricular activities like playing field hockey and going on various school trips. I also enjoyed art and learning Spanish. Growing up, I spent Christmas, Easter, and summer holidays in Prague and traveling around Europe, which I am very grateful for. Thanks to my parents I was able to see many different countries and cultures from a young age.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
In 2020, when I was working from home during a lockdown in Toronto, I realized that I didn’t need to be working for someone else and be going to a 9-5 office job to follow my passion for helping clients achieve their jewelry dreams. When I first became an entrepreneur, I didn’t have a website, a fancy office, or even a physical product in my hands that I could sell. I was selling the “idea” that my clients could “create a piece of custom jewelry of their dreams”. It was challenging to explain what that actually looked like, but I also realized that thanks to modern technology, I could provide private consultations to clients all over the world from the comfort of my own home via Zoom. I could source ethically sourced gemstones, and work with CAD designers, jewelers, setters, polishers, gemstone suppliers, and fellow gemologists to curate unique, high-end pieces of jewelry from home or anywhere in the world. So that’s what I started doing!
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
Be open to changing direction. When I quit my job to start my own business, many people including myself assumed that engagement rings and bridal jewelry should be my main focus (this is the niche most jewelry businesses focus on). However, although engagements are an incredible milestone and should be celebrated, I believe that women should not have to wait for jewelry to be gifted to them. So I decided to pivot, my new mission is to encourage women to treat themselves to a custom piece of jewelry to celebrate themselves and their work and personal achievements. I am open to the fact that my business is constantly evolving and moving in a different direction. I strongly encourage you to do the same.