Couture Musings

Living Through Jewelry’s Good Old Days

They say creativity thrives during times of financial hardship. Based on my experiences over the past week, I agree with them. In the span of seven days, I’ve seen more interesting work from up-and-coming and established jewelers than I typically see in six months of trade shows, where mainstream buyers lessen the incentive to offer truly cutting-edge design.

This was hardly the case in London last week, when my brief stopover en route to Geneva happily coincided with the last few days of Coutts London Jewellery Week. It’s the type of organized, well-promoted effort that should make designers in any other part of the world emerald-green with envy. Sponsored by Coutts & Co., an investment bank that traces its roots back to 1692, when it provided banking services to buyers of its plate and jewelry supplies, the second annual week-long gathering, chock-a-block full of lectures, demonstrations and cocktail parties, is intended to raise the profile of the city’s creative talent and technical expertise in jewelry making.

My first stop was Treasure, a collection of more than 70 designers selling their wares beneath the soaring ceilings of the Flower Cellars event space in Covent Garden. There, I met Jig Pattni, a Londoner descended from a long line of Indian goldsmiths. Pattni’s work evokes not the glorious 22-karat gold traditions of his ancestors but the icons of 20th century pop culture. To wit: At Treasure, Pattni unveiled his new diamond collection, The King, in homage to Elvis Presley. It included two 18-karat gold pendants, one fashioned into a bust of the crooner, complete with a slicked back pompadour, and the other a seductive pair of blue sapphire-studded shoes.

At a neighboring showcase, Nina Koutibashvili, a London designer who hails from the republic of Georgia, couldn’t have embraced a more different aesthetic (the diversity at Treasure, and at London Jewellery Week, in general, was astonishing). The piece in her showcase that I most coveted was a large linked white gold bracelet covered by a thin layer of black stingray skin (see below), its trademark bubble pattern so beguilingly exotic.

Nina Koutibashvili ray skin bracelet lo-res
Downstairs in Treasure’s sprawling cellar, JeDeCo, the Jewellery Designer’s Collective, a brand new group of more than 20 artist-jewelers, had set up shop. Guided by the principle that there’s strength in numbers, the group formed just a couple weeks ago, though their professional promotional materials and uniformly high standard of design would suggest otherwise.

By the time I returned to New York on Tuesday, capping three weeks of travel that began in Las Vegas, at jewelry market week, I was fairly sure that no other piece of jewelry would ever hold my attention again.

Yesterday, however, during a daylong blitz of various jewelry events around Manhattan, I stood corrected. At the Jewelry Information Center’s annual fine jewelry luncheon at Vermilion, a six-month-old Indian-Latin fusion restaurant in midtown, I was captivated by a $30,000 silver and gold choker necklace by Todd Reed featuring his trademark rough diamond cubes; a $19,000 carved emerald ring by Christian Tse; as well as a $175 teak wood cuff set with black onyx and deep pink quartz, the work of Zapphire by Kanupriya Khurana.

The best part of the event? Editors were asked to place their business cards in a bowl for a series of giveaways that the JIC’s Helena Krodel and Amanda Gizzi (just back from maternity leave, looking marvelous) had organized. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when my name was called. I won an 18-karat white gold Kir Royale ring, set with a 12.56-carat amethyst accented by diamonds and rubies, by Gumuchian (see below). Oddly, this was the second Gumuchian cocktail ring I have won—the first is an 18-karat yellow gold and Tahitian pearl ring that I wear every single day. I’m thrilled to be the New York jeweler’s walking, talking billboard.

Gumuchian R695 AM

Slightly dazed by my good luck, I ventured further uptown, to the Kara Ross showroom on East 60th Street, where I promptly fell in love with a cuff from Ross’s new capsule fine jewelry collection. Known for her chic use of exotic animal skins, Ross wrapped this 18-karat gold and pavé-sprinkled number in purple stingray skin (see below). I’m now officially obsessed with the material.

Kara Ross Purple Stingray Cuff_1 lo-res  

My final appointment of the day brought me to the Upper Eastside showroom of Camilla Dietz Bergeron, the estate dealer. The sight of so many vintage Deco, Retro and Seventies baubles made me feel a bit delirious. So many rings, so little time. I circled the round wooden table at the heart of the showroom like a vulture. From a classic Seaman Schepps rock crystal frog brooch dappled with cabochon emeralds, to scores of whimsical 1940s-esque gold charms (harem slippers dangling teeny tiny akoya pearls, a miniature house complete with a garage and moving car, a lamppost pointing the way to Place Vendôme), the vintage treasures on display were each more charming than the last. I was tempted to laud the “good old days” of jewelry design, such is the temptation to idolize the past at the expense of the present, but then I recalled my day and my week and realized that the good old days are now.

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