To be clear, the ginkgo (or gingko) leaf has been inspiring artists across many, many hundreds of years, including the masters of the art nouveau style, who were heavily influenced by Asian art, especially Japanese woodblock prints and the botanical themes depicted therein.
Art nouveau pendant brooch necklace in gold, enamel, and pearl (Image courtesy of Doyle)
It’s hard to say whether it’s indeed popping up as a motif more frequently or I’m just starting to notice it more. Certainly it’s a mainstay of the interior design world.
Clockwise, from left: Thibaut wallpaper, art nouveau lamp at 1stdibs.com, Michael Aram dish
But in jewelry, at this particular moment, it feels like something new.
Distinguished by a fan-shaped leaf, the ginkgo tree is incredibly ornamental, though not quite as exotic as I thought (I imagined these trees as being the exclusive domain of tea gardens and Buddhist temple courtyards). Ginkgos are so hardy they can grow almost anywhere, even in cities. In fact, they supposedly survived whatever killed off the dinosaurs and, thus, are a revered symbol of endurance and resilience.
Also of note: The tree is dioecious, which means, horticulturally speaking, it can be either or male or female. Both sexes need to be present to reproduce but one can exist without the other.
For designer Lynne Mercein, the ginkgo leaf has become her signature. She gathers samples from trees on her property in Darien, Conn., and then mounts them onto wax to create molds that recreate the texture with remarkable accuracy.
Ginkgo leaves galore (Image courtesy of Lynne Mercein)
Looking at Mercein’s work, and the other designer interpretations highlighted below, I see the ginkgo leaf as something that telegraphs beauty and grace. A quietly elegant way to say “we’re still here” after so much rain and fire.
Hammered gold-filled cuff with sterling silver ginkgo leaf, $350; Lynne Mercein
Ginkgo Earrings with 0.57 ct. tw. diamonds in 14k gold, $2,900; Brevani
Deco Midi Ginkgo watch with hand-painted red ginkgo leaves on a mother-of-pearl dial (strap or bracelet sold separately), $695; Michele Watches
Sterling Silver Ginkgo Leaf Long Stem Pin, price upon request; John Iversen
Butterfly Ginkgo Ring with blue chalcedony and diamonds in sterling silver and 18k yellow gold, $775; Michael Aram
Ginkgo Leaf Short Necklace in molded brass, $258; Tory Burch
Small Ginkgo Cluster Earrings in 14k gold, price upon request; Annette Ferdinandsen
Gingko Leaf Pendant in silver with a single ideal cut diamond, price upon request; Toby Pomeroy
Silver gray Tahitian baroque pearl necklace with an 18k ginkgo clasp, $2,900; Mimi Favre
Triple Tiered Gingko Earring in 18k green gold and white diamonds, $7,700; Alison Nagasue
Brooch in 19.2k yellow gold leaf with diamonds set in platinum, $6,830; Aaron Henry
Gingko Cuff, in hand-forged 18k yellow gold, $2,200; Stephen LeBlanc
(Top image: Assorted gingko necklaces, from $150 each; Lynne Mercein)
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