Nadja Swarovski’s childhood bedroom, on the second floor of a stucco house with cornflower blue shutters, looks out onto snow-dusted fir trees and a sprawling factory topped with a sign bearing her family’s name. It is the Hollywood sign of Wattens, Austria, the Tyrolean hamlet to which her great-great-grandfather Daniel Swarovski immigrated in 1895, after inventing a revolutionary glass-cutting method that he preferred to keep secret from his competitors in the family’s native Bohemia.
Today, Swarovski is a $3.5 billion business that employs 29,000 people in 42 offices around the world. It produces everything from jewelry to collectibles, lighting fixtures, watches, sunglasses, and—less glamorously—binoculars, rifle scopes, grinding tools, and high-visibility road reflectors. (The latter are made with glass beads.) Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz were actually rhinestone, bedazzled with Swarovski crystals. Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress was embellished by Swarovski. The hairpieces, bodices, and tiaras in Black Swan were also Swarovski, as was the beaded fringe that famously shimmied between Tina Turner’s legs.
The large canary-colored stone adorning Nadja’s left-hand ring finger, however, is not Swarovski. “If it were crystal, it would have been a lot bigger!” Nadja said recently, sitting on a couch in the company’s offices in London, where she lives. “When I was dating Rupert”—she’s referring to her husband, hedge-fund manager Rupert Adams, with whom she has three children: Rigby, 7, Thalia, 5, and Jasmine, 4—“I made sure to always wear a very large crystal ring,” she recalled. She assessed the gem. “Hint taken.”
As the communications director, Nadja, 41, is the fast-talking, hair-flipping public face of the Swarovski clan. On that day, she was wearing dangly earrings that looked like geodes, a black ceramic watch from Chanel, Rock & Republic jeans, and a gray cableknit turtleneck sweater that would not have appeared nearly as fabulously après-ski on a woman who was not almost six feet tall. She has long, coltish legs, attenuated further by her customary stilettos. She chews gum. She hunts. She is given to jubilant malapropism (“We’re very frigilent,” she told me, when I asked about the family’s fiscal philosophy). When she lived in New York, she made it into the papers for dancing atop a table at an uptown gala. But these days, she is a fervent career woman. While her more taciturn relatives were tending to orchids in their greenhouses or tracking chamois amid mountainous rocks, Nadja, who joined the company in 1995, was transforming Swarovski into a modern-day patronage machine. The Medicis of the Alps, she and her family underwrite avant-garde art projects like the Crystal Palace, a program for which Zaha Hadid and Ron Arad have designed futuristic chandeliers, and sponsor fashion-industry events like the CFDA awards. Next up, Nadja launches Aura by Swarovski, the company’s first fragrance, in collaboration with Clarins. In conjuring Aura, she sampled hundreds of scents to create a lychee-inflected perfume with notes of tuberose and pink pepper. “It’s the scent of crystals,” explained a Clarins spokesperson.