Fashion Facets

FINDS FROM BASEL’S DESIGNER HALLS

Today, a major jewelry fair would not be complete without a special exhibit or hall dedicated to designer jewelry. These displays showcase everything from award-winning “classics of tomorrow” to truly avant-garde pieces meant to teach and inspire rather than to be worn. To an American eye unaccustomed to European-style art jewelry, the designer halls at Basel may seem a waste of time, but beyond the show-stopping sculptures lie some truly interesting – and yes, wearable – new sources of designer jewelry. Each year, JCK scopes out pieces or artists’ work that might be applicable to American jewelers and gallery owners. Here are some of 1998’s Basel design finds:

Nuria Ruiz was born in Barcelona, Spain, but moved with her family to Geneva, Switzerland, at age 5. The daughter of a jeweler and an art collector, Ruiz was painting and drawing from an early age. She studied design and sculpture at the Massana and Llotja Schools of Art in Barcelona and received a diploma of gemology from the University of Barcelona.

In 1972, she opened Cubic, a firm specializing in minerals and semi-precious stones, and soon began creating ethnic-style jewelry from the specimens she gathered in her travels to China, India, Africa, and South America. Needing a venue to display her jewelry, she opened a gallery in Barcelona, but over time she gradually evolved from ethnic designs in semi-precious minerals to very simple forms in gold jewelry.

By 1996, she had begun to create small sculptures and colorful silk scarves. She also returned to painting, which has had a decisive influence on her recent work. In 1997, she became a member of the Gruppe Design consortium of jewelry artisans exhibiting in Basel’s designer hall.

“I love to create jewelry,” she says. “When my mind is empty and my pen moves by itself on the paper, it is as if an invisible thread is guiding my lines. This is a sublime moment, when I lose all sense of time and I feel in total synchronicity with the universe.

“The quest for new shapes and techniques has allowed me to express what I feel in my own way. Each collection is a challenge, and each is different from the other, but what is most fascinating of all is that I don’t know what kind of jewel I will be making tomorrow.”

Nuria Ruiz, Pau Casals, 24, 08021 Barcelona, Spain; tel. (34 93) 201 82 86.

Pierre Fürbringer is one of the lucky few who never has to scramble to find a hotel room for the Basel fair. A native of the city, Fürbringer has had his own goldsmith’s atelier there since 1965.

The award-winning jeweler and designer is also a teacher. Over the 33 years his atelier has been in business, eight apprentices have learned their craft at his side. Fürbringer is a two-time winner of De Beers’ Diamonds-International Award, a Diamonds Today winner, a two-time winner of the Prix Genève (Prize of the City of Geneva) and a one-time winner of the Swiss Jewellery Award. He also believes in giving back to the industry that has supported him: He is an active member of the Central Association of Swiss Goldsmiths and Watchmakers, the Crafts Council of Switzerland, and the Swiss Works Committee for Design and Crafts.

Today, Fürbringer’s work is a little on the avant-garde side. Pieces with stone inlaid in both precious metals and rare woods are his specialty. He often incorporates untraditional materials such as acrylics and horse’s hair in his jewelry, which, as he says, “offers the necessary scope to shape the desired expression of our jewels in a distinctive way.”

Pierre Fürbringer Goldschmiedatelier, Freie Strasse 34, CH-4001 Basel, Switzerland; tel. and fax (41 61) 261 8208.

Educated in interior design, Israeli designer Abigail Janowski has used her aesthetic sense of form and space to create an array of individual 18k gold pieces, all displaying her feeling for materials and shapes. Inspired by classical studies, she tries to create styles that are at once unique and timeless.

“I try never to lose sight of my purpose – to adorn the individual human being. My jewelry dreams of other places and times, but it is modern and of the here and now,” she says.

Abigail Janowski, 9/40 Giliad Street, Ramat-Gan, 52515, Israel; tel. (972 3) 613-2119, fax (972 3) 613-2354.

BASEL’s SECOND PRESTIGE AREA

The management of the World Watch, Clock and Jewellery Fair in Basel celebrated the opening of Hall 301, a prestige pavilion in the building where most of the foreign delegations have their national pavilions. Prestige Hall 301 houses a representative selection of 16 leading manufacturers representing Saudi Arabia, Spain, England, Israel, Japan, Lebanon, and the United States. It is a separate entity from the big Luxury and Brand Name Hall 201, where major international jewelry designers have their permanent exhibits. The goal of the new hall is to give greater visibility to the foreign delegations’ pavilions, according to fair management.

Arezzo Designers Strut Their Stuff

Scenic Arezzo, Italy, nestled in the foothills of Tuscany about 40 minutes from Florence, has a worldwide reputation for its production of quality machine-made gold and silver chain, volume-priced jewelry, and collectibles.

But rapid shifts in world economies and changes in consumer demand are forcing manufacturers from this region to expand their offerings to include higher-fashion products, such as rings and necklaces in 18k gold and diamonds; electroform pins and pendants; and necklaces and bracelets made of fancy, manipulated chain links dotted with gemstones.

In an ongoing effort to encourage original design and to gain attention for local manufacturers, Centro Affari, producer of the annual OroArezzo trade fair held in Arezzo each spring, challenged exhibitors to submit original designs for its Premiere Design competition. Participants in the event, now in its third year, were required to create a new jewelry item that was imaginative in design, technically innovative, wearable, and salable.

Displayed in glass vitrines in the main aisle of the fair, 66 entries were judged by a panel of designers, manufacturers, retailers, and press during the first day of the show. Winners were announced at a dinner that night, televised from a local castle.

A PERSONAL TRIBUTE TO A HUMANITARIAN

When Rudolf Erdel was killed in a kayaking accident in May, the industry lost a great advocate, many of us lost a dear friend, and the world at large lost a man of great compassion.

He played a critical role in boosting the return of platinum jewelry to the U.S. market, but more important, Rudi was always gracious in his efforts to further the industry as a whole, not just his own business.

He launched his American-based platinum design firm shortly after I took over the fashion beat for JCK. Though he was a third-generation member of a German jewelry family, and I’d been at JCK for five years, we’d both embarked on a whole new learning curve, and we often helped one another along. I always appreciated the fact that any time I or any JCK editor called, Rudi would always make time to answer our questions. His assessments of the market were astute, and he shared his knowledge freely and openly. He didn’t care if we were calling specifically to interview him or just to gather background knowledge about platinum and the jewelry market in general.

Rudi’s jewelry will be his most tangible legacy, but those who knew him personally will remember most his sharp intellect, caring nature, and compassion for humanity at large. My memories of Rudi Erdel – a painter as well as a jewelry designer – converge on one day in March 1997. He was one of four judges for JCK’s 1997 Retail Design Competition. During lunch that day, the group fell into a discussion of world politics, and everyone at the table was curious about how someone who grew up in a divided, postwar Germany would view the world. Rudi could have carried a chip on his shoulder for a war he never personally saw; he could have been an angry young man, as many other young Europeans were. Instead, he chose the other way – he embraced peace and opposed war and hatred of any kind, in any land. That, in my opinion, was Rudi’s greatest contribution and our greatest loss. – Hedda Schupak