On May 19, for the first time in well over a year, I put on a pair of high heels. Then I got in my car and headed out for an in-person work appointment (my first since getting vaccinated). An hour or so later, after a couple of scenic detours to bypass some gnarly traffic on I-95, I was in Norwalk, Conn., and reuniting with Barbara Ross-Innamorati, founder of the fashion jewelry line Évocateur.
Though the line is best known for its hand-gilded cuffs featuring everything from Japanese artist Ogawa Kazumasa’s photo-realistic peonies to Erté’s Egyptian Revival glamazons—and this riff on a popular British morale booster from World War II—the thing to know about Évocateur is that it’s not “art scholar chic” but rather something way more elevated, and universally appealing. Yes, there’s an Évocateur line centered on Van Gogh irises that you can buy at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, but there are also glamorous trompe l’oeil gemstones and malachite swirls, and graphic op art patterns in black and white—very 1960s Pierre Cardin. All of these mix in well with, say, a bracelet stack anchored by a Cartier Love bracelet or a selection of 18k gold and diamond bangles.
The Évocateur studio is small and intimate, just a handful, really, of all-women specialists. One specialist skillfully develops original prints, or engineers those already in existence, so that the pattern lays just so on the various Évocateur silhouettes, which include not only bracelets but also dangle earrings, necklaces, rings, and charms. Another specialist carefully transfers the prints via decoupage and then hand-colors them to achieve the most faithful representation.
A single gilder is personally responsible for hand-applying the 22k gold leaf details, a clean border on one cuff here, a handful of dabbed flecks there.
I observed that the gold-leafing part of the production process requires the utmost precision and skill. A steady hand is key, as is the frequent application of a hand moisturizer (this one—they’ve tried a bunch and it’s the one that works best!) to keep static and stickiness to a minimum when affixing the tissue paper–thin sheets of gold.
Other things I discovered during my visit: The temperature of the studio has to be controlled to ensure that each step of production is executed under uniform climate conditions. Custom designs for various stores are a huge part of the business (see the vintage-themed Martha’s Vineyard cuff for the New England island’s premiere jeweler CB Stark in the collage above); ditto special orders for clients featuring photos of pets and grandchildren. And a live sample of every design series is archived in an immaculate set of stark white, low-slung drawers along one wall of the studio.
I could have spent hours looking at the treasures housed therein, but of course I wanted to preview some of the new pieces Ross-Innamorati would have on hand at JCK Las Vegas. Below, highlights from the fall range. I like imagining them in a case mixed with more opulent, gem-forward, big-ticket jewels and the conversations they might spark.
Top: Évocateur’s Caravan cuff (top), with a pattern inspired by Moroccan textiles, and Boho Blue cuff, $378 each, are among the new fall styles that will premiere at JCK Las Vegas.
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