You could look at the Amazonia collection from Graziela, the line by Brazilian-born, Chicago-based designer Graziela Kaufman, and simply be drawn in by its stylized botanical motifs, beguiling animals, and resplendent gemstones offset by vibrant rhodium finishes in shades of fuchsia, emerald green, and royal blue. Unveiled during Las Vegas Jewelry Week this summer, there were luminous palm fronds, an array of dazzling plumage, and a menagerie of captivating creatures—a monkey, a jaguar, and a blue morpho butterfly, to name just a few.
Surely the colors and craftsmanship were enough to compel some buyers to invest in the Amazon forest–themed creations, but it’s hard to ignore the poignant undercurrent rippling through Kaufman’s vision of paradise. It’s one that tells the story of vulnerable ecosystems and the impending demise of one of the world’s most beloved natural treasures, now under siege by a variety of environmental and human forces.
In Kaufman’s mind, there are two Amazons and the necklace pictured at top beautifully encapsulates the tension between the two. Three years ago, when the Amazon was engulfed by devastating fires caused by deforestation, the design of the necklace came to Kaufman in a dream that sent her on a creative journey. “The front of this necklace shows a happy, healthy Amazon with its animals and water and beautiful healthy leaves as they are supposed to be, and the back shows brown leaves with holes and the devastation left by the fires,” says Kaufman. “The whole Amazonia collection trickled down from the concept of the big necklace.”
According to the Graziela brand, the Amazon rainforest is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, home to 3 million species that all depend on the longevity of the tropical trees that thrive there. As a native of Brazil, Kaufman found that learning about the vulnerability of the ecosystems, particularly the wildlife, affected her on a deeply emotional level. Her heart was hurting, she said. “I’ve been studying the Amazon my whole life,” says Kaufman. “If you sit on the ground of that forest you can feel its heart, its breath, its life, and its power, and it’s our job to protect it.”
In addition to raising her collectors’ awareness of the Amazon’s natural wonders and treasures, the Graziela brand has pledged to donate 10% of proceeds to the Rainforest Trust.
“I wanted to tell the story of the forest in my pieces and I believe that the dream did come true,” she says. Retail buyers responded to the color offering and versions set only with diamonds in equal measure. “Most of our retailers added both collections to their orders, which has made our Amazonia collection our best launch yet.”
Even the smallest pieces in the collection highlight the urgency of a landscape and ecosystem in crisis. For example, the pink dolphin—known as boto—has been one of the Amazon’s most famous and beloved creatures. “There are tons of stories and myths about them, and they are said to be the protectors of manatees,” says Kaufman. “They’re born gray, and as they age they become pink. They are extremely fast and agile and they can turn their heads 90 degrees. Unfortunately, their population has been reduced to a couple thousand due to pollution and poaching.”
The colored rhodium jewels are as lush and inviting as a bowl of perfectly ripened jungle fruit, and you get the feeling that wearing them will immediately give your wardrobe—and your mood—a vivifying jolt.
“I’ve been working with colored metals for about five years,” says Kaufman. “First titanium and then colored rhodium. I’m so in love with all the dimensions, tones, and colors and how pieces of jewelry become festive, innovative, and surprising when color is added to its metal.”
Below, more amazing Amazonia pieces for those who crave color. See how long these jewels linger in your thoughts, as they have in mine—especially knowing their inspirations may not last forever.
Top: The collection’s hero—the Amazonia Necklace in 18k gold; green and brown rhodium; Paraiba tourmaline; champagne, black, and white diamonds; yellow and orange sapphires; tsavorite; emeralds; and rubies, $280,000
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