The Old and the Beautiful

How four contemporary jewelry brands are resurfacing forgotten styles including carriage covers for earrings and miniature tile mosaics

by: Rebecca Malinsky

Originally published April 19, 2019 in The Wall Street Journal

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Teensy Mosaics

Wealthy young people in the 17th and 18th centuries often embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe, weaving through Paris and Rome by boat and horse-drawn carriage to study architecture and art history. Kind of like your junior year abroad, minus the Limoncello shots. A souvenir of choice for these travelers was a coin-size tile recreation of a notable site they’d seen, such as the Coliseum or the Pantheon. Meticulously assembled by artisans such as those from the Vatican Mosaic Workshop (which is still active today), these micromosaics were easily portable and made from small glass tiles that wouldn’t fade and dull the way paint does. Virginia-based jewelry designer Elizabeth Locke has been collecting vintage micromosaics and resetting them in her signature hand-hammered gold as part of her eponymous line for the past 30 years. But some were too precious to part with, so she recently donated 92 of these mini-masterpieces to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, on display beginning April 27. Link Necklace, $13,075, Waterfall Pendant, $6,200, Elizabeth Locke, 212-744-7878

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Wooden Hues

A conversation with a woodworker piqued Brazilian jewelry designer Silvia Furmanovich’s interest in marquetry. The technique of laying thin slices of wood in a pattern has traditionally been mostly reserved for furniture (it was popular during Louis XIV’s time), but Ms. Furmanovich found a team of artisans who still practice it and convinced them to shrink their efforts to jewelry scale. The biggest challenge? Getting the colors and proportions just right. “It’s like a puzzle,” she said of the process. One big plus: Wood makes it possible to create lightweight statement-sized jewelry. “If you did this with gold and stones, it would be too heavy,” Ms. Furmanovich explained. What’s more, the grains’ soft natural hues intriguingly undercut the large pieces’ grandeur. Silvia Furmanovich Ring, $4,400, Bergdorf Goodman, 212-872-8744

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Lollipop Gild

Jean Prounis spent her childhood absorbed in her grandfather’s books about Greek history, and in 2012 she began studying ancient goldsmithing techniques like chainmaking and granulation. The latter is the process of heating gold alloy until it forms small spheres—or granules—that then bond together in the cooling process, acting as their own setting. Pieces made with the technique date to at least 3000 B.C. “I love the connection to this other time, and bringing this Greco-Roman motif into present day,” the designer said of the granulated gold balls she uses to ornaments her creations, including the Nona bracelet pictured. The full collection of recycled 22-karat matte gold jewelry is handmade in New York but could as easily have been discovered on an archaeological dig. Unlike, say, 14-karat gold which includes more strengthening metals, 22-karat picks up nicks, scratches and oils from wear. As Ms. Prounis explained, “It’s like a record of time as you wear it.” Prounis Bracelet, $6,220, Earrings, $5,900, Bergdorf Goodman, 212-753-7300

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Undercover Angels

Emily Satloff’s former gig as a curatorial consultant for the Metropolitan Museum of Art introduced her to the Georgian-style foil jewelry for which her line Larkspur & Hawk is known. The cut-glass stones backed with vibrantly colored foil made jewelry more accessible in the 1700s and look just as novel today in Ms. Satloff’s traditional-with-a-twist designs, which use quartz or faceted semi-precious stones. Now the jeweler is embracing another historical bauble look known as “carriage covers.” First patented in Providence, R.I., in 1878, these metal enclosures clasp over precious gems like a locket. Developed around the same time as the expansion of mining in South Africa, they were used by women eager to conceal their diamonds during risky carriage rides that thieves might interrupt. Of her new take on the look, Ms. Satloff said, “It’s not about hiding your diamonds but adding that sphere that makes something you already own or a piece of Larkspur & Hawk jewelry look entirely different.” Transformation? Thoroughly modern. Larkspur & Hawk Carriage Covers and Earrings, $1,550, net-a-porter.com