January 10 2012
Once upon a time the fine jewellery world was dominated by illustrious French maisons such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Then along came a British jeweller by the name of Solange Azagury Partridge who shook up the industry with her cutting-edge, iconoclastic designs that transformed precious stones into modern, wearable and covetable pieces.
Since then a new breed of jewellers has come to the fore, including Azagury Partridge’s fellow Brit, Stephen Webster, Delfina Delettrez, Taher Chemirik and Lorenz Bäumer. Like Azagury Partridge, each one has challenged conventions and experimented with new techniques and materials to create their own definition of modern jewellery.
2012 sees new talents starting to emerge, many of them with connections to Asia. MCL (short for Matthew Campbell Laurenza) is probably the best known, having been spotted on countless celebrities including Rihanna and Gossip Girl stars Blake Lively and Leighton Meester. Although Laurenza was born and raised in the US, it was his travels to Asia, particularly India, Hong Kong and Thailand, that inspired him to launch his second line in 2007.
The Asian spirit in his designs can be seen in his use of bold clashing colours, while ornate enamel adds an exotic look. The pieces, however, are super contemporary and will look just as chic whether paired with an LBD or with jeans. While the line features earrings, cocktail rings and necklaces, I love his bestselling bangles, which I like to stack. The stylish Croco collection (first picture) is one of my favourites – each bangle is set with smatterings of stones that mimic crocodile scales.
Also looking east for inspiration is Marijoli designer Marielle Byworth. Although Byworth is Swiss, it was her stint living in Japan that inspired her to create the abstract Elma collection, which is already a favourite with Madonna. Referencing nature and art, the line features a series of organic shapes and cut-outs that appear on statement pieces such as cuffs, necklaces and earrings.
Byworth’s latest collection, Makra, is a play on the Indian spiritual system of chakras and includes a series of pendants or aptly named “makra” symbols that are decorated with precious stones such as emeralds, citrines and aquamarines, to help balance our energies. While the jury is still out on whether they actually affect your mood, the pendants look fabulous.
Singapore-based designer Tara Thadani is the youngest of the group. Her multicultural background (she is Indian by ethnicity but has lived all over the world) inspired her to launch her brand Tsura in 2009. The former art student looks to African and Indian tribal jewellery and aesthetics as a starting point for her designs. As such, they appeal to women who want statement pieces that have an ethnic yet contemporary look.
Her new Vertebrae collection (second picture) is based on the skeleton of a snake and features coiling chokers and bracelets dotted with stones such as garnets, tourmaline, spinels and topazes. I like the interchangeable and versatile Vertebrae charms that can be worn either individually, or together to make up a chunky bracelet or necklace.
And finally there is Hong Kong-based AS29, the brainchild of Audrey Savransky, a Belgian fourth-generation diamond dealer who struck gold when Kate Moss was spotted wearing one of her cuffs, and Paris stores such as Colette and Le Bon Marché bought her collection. While her delicate diamond and gold chain bracelets are crowd pleasers, it’s her couture line that everyone’s talking about.
Modelled on African bones, the pieces have a cool fashion-forward look thanks to her use of black gold and stones such as dull blue sapphires. The rock-and-roll spine necklace winds tightly around the neck, while the tribal bracelet is made up of multiple ribs that reach up to the elbows like a piece of armour. I love the fact that many of the pieces are designed to be mixed and matched – individual bracelets and rings can be worn separately or stacked together depending on your mood. The feminine hoop earrings curve around the ears like a snake.
As it goes without saying, all these designers have one thing in common – they are the jewellers of the future.