JEWELRY

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

A Luxury Women's Watch That's - Gasp! - Not Diamond Encrusted

Luxury women’s watches are often miniaturized and predictably covered in diamonds, but this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak sparkles more simply

by: Rebecca Malinsky

Originally published December 27, 2018 in The Wall Street Journal

FOR TOO MANY YEARS, marketers have taken the simplistic “shrink it and pink it” approach when creating products for women, with everything from razors to computers becoming diminutive and rosy. The luxury watch world’s similarly reductive way of designing for women? Winnow a timepiece into a delicate bracelet-ish style and bathe the bezels in diamonds. 

“It’s a bit of a lazy approach,” said the Italian jewelry designer and watch collector Carolina Bucci. “Everything is just made smaller, with diamonds or a pink strap and labeled for ladies and everybody should be happy.” Everybody, that is, except Ms. Bucci, who recently collaborated with Swiss brand Audemars Piguet on a women’s watch that rejects that boring trope. 

The designer—who was given a vintage men’s Royal Oak watch from Audemars Piguet for her 35th birthday—caught the attention of the brand’s CEO François-Henry Bennahmias when a mutual friend introduced the two in 2014. “He wanted to know why the hell I was wearing an old man’s watch,” she said. When she explained to him why she didn’t care for his brand’s diamond-encrusted women’s watches, he challenged her to create something better. The result: a 37-millimeter Royal Oak in a yellow-gold Florentine finish, Ms. Bucci’s signature. Though intended for women, it has the heft of a traditional men’s watch.

To achieve the glittery Florentine texture, the gold is hand-hammered with a diamond to create facets in the metal and a surface that sparkles, especially when the watch is in motion. “It’s not meant to sit in a box and look pretty,” Ms. Bucci explained. “It needs to be used and loved, and it needs to interact. That’s how it really comes to life.” First conceived as a watch for active people, the Royal Oak is as suitable for swimming as it is for running to the office and happy hour-ing, a lifestyle most modern women can relate to. Perhaps other watch brands will soon realize that small and diamond-y is not one-size-fits-all.

ROUGH MAGIC Audemars Piguet & Carolina Bucci Watch, $53,600, 212-688-6644 PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, STYLING BY ANITA SALERNO

ROUGH MAGIC Audemars Piguet & Carolina Bucci Watch, $53,600, 212-688-6644 PHOTO: F. MARTIN RAMIN/ THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, STYLING BY ANITA SALERNO

I Wanna Rock

A new wave of innovative jewelers - all women - is bringing craftsmanship to the Instagram generation. Are these the heirlooms of the future?

by: Rebecca Malinsky

Originally published: February 15, 2018 in The Wall Street Journal

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

BRENT NEALE

Bright Young Things

We discovered New York City designer Brent Neale on Instagram, which is how many of her customers follow her work. When she’s made a new piece, she immediately posts it on the photo sharing app, often triggering a prompt sale. And although her conspicuously cheerful and colorful designs might seem strategically created to pop on your iPhone screen, they hold up in person, too. One indicator of Ms. Neale’s design sensibility: She doesn’t own a single black dress. “I love colorful things,” she said. “They’re fun and happy, and it’s important to wear things that make you feel that way.” Though she has many favorites among her collection of semiprecious rainbows, gold ladybugs with ruby spots and patches of emerald-adorned grass, she singles out a pair of turquoise double-flower drop earrings (above) for their versatility: “The length is slightly lower than your chin, so they’re flattering on peoples’ faces,” she said. “You can wear turquoise and flowers with anything.” Brent Neale Earrings, $6,800, modaoperandi.com

 

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

NATAF JOALLERIE

Astronomical Gems

The first piece of jewelry Shannon Nataf designed for someone other than herself was a silver ring shaped like a cloud, with diamonds set into the edge. This gift to her mother was meant as a reminder to look for life’s silver linings. “It felt really empowering that you could put meaning into things that were beautiful and also tangible,” she said. Ms. Nataf has gone on to create a celestially themed line whose pieces look like small works of art when viewed in a case. On the body, they become extra-intriguing: A pair of “infinité” hoop earrings, for example, loops from the inside to the back of the ear, evoking Saturn’s rings. Ms. Nataf’s designs play with accepted notions of, say, what a ring should look like, or how a charm sits on a necklace. Curious why the stones in jewelry rarely come into contact with our skin, she made a ring whose pearl rests beneath its gold setting (above). For the future, this iconoclast plans to continue “mixing things around and turning them inside out.” Pearl Ring, $1,970, Diamond Ring, $2,400, natafjoaillerie.com

 

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

RETROUVAÍ

Retro Baubles

Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based jewelry designer Kirsty Stone (yes, Stone) first caught our attention with her gold pinkie ring with a flying pig motif, a playful suggestion that anything is possible. The quaint reference to “when pigs fly” has a certain throwback charm, as do Ms. Stone’s classic signet rings, so redolent of your grandpa. “All of my pieces have some sort of nostalgia,” Ms. Stone said. “I get a lot of emails about my fantasy signets and the flying pig.” One female head of a Fortune 500 company wrote to reminisce that she’d printed a flying pig on her first business cards out of college. Although Ms. Stone’s designs are essentially empowerment symbols, they’re not cheesy. Take her gemmed compass pendant (above): The subtext of this midcentury style is to trust your own intuition. To Ms. Stone, a woman’s collection of jewelry is all about the stories behind the objects. “I hope my pieces stay in families for generations,” she said. We would be surprised if at least some of her clients aren’t planning to pass them along. Compass Necklace, $1,980, and Yin-Yang Necklace, $2,485, retrouvai.com

 

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

JESSICA BIALES

Varsity Spirits

Jessica Biales was a practicing attorney before starting her jewelry business. “I was a really bad lawyer,” Ms. Biales said with a laugh. And while she played around with signet-ring designs for a few years, it was the early 2017 launch of her collection of “Breton” striped metal signets that took her brand to a “whole new level,” she said. Her decision to combine her love of the classic navy-and-white striped Breton sailor shirt with her jewelry proved fateful. The buzzy rings were picked up by Dover Street Market and Colette, two retailers known for discriminating jewelry selections. As a follow-up, she launched Collegiate by Jessica Biales, setting out to refresh the traditional class ring. The customizable, enamel-striped rings are set in silver as well as the gold she typically uses, allowing her to bring the price down to $400, a reasonable price for a graduation gift. Each ring can be designed with university colors or just the wearer’s favorite shades, if school spirit isn’t the graduate’s thing. Emerald Signet Ring, $3,000, Collegiate Signet Ring, $400, and Block Signet Ring, $840, jessicabiales.com