Fashion Facets

Those ubiquitous “I Love You” and “#1 Mom” charms that everyone gave for Valentine’s Day gifts used to be known in the trade as “talking jewelry.” Apparently we still like our jewelry to talk, but the conversation has gotten much more sophisticated.

One of the more intriguing trends spotted recently is the “hidden message,” a stylish update to the traditional engraving on the inside of a wedding band. A growing number of international designers have adapted this romantic idea in rings and pendants that break apart to reveal a hidden message or have engraved poetry and verses visible on the outside or hide a tiny gem at the back.

Other designers pass on their message through a combination of ancient and modern symbols. Rings, pendants and pins with icons depicting love, faith, wishes and dreams strike a positive chord with today’s consumers. They’re available in a variety of materials and designs.

WE ARE ALL ONE IN JEWELRY

Uno A Erre’s third Couture Jewelry collection, unveiled at a gala reception at the Fashion Institute of Technology in late 1997, is based on the theme of a “Global Village,” emphasizing diversity, multiculturalism and tolerance. Contributing to the final collection were Italy’s Paola De Luca, New York’s Maria Canale and Thailand’s Chortip Boonto. They paired intellectual and emotional elements from past and present in designs that cross cultures.

De Luca bent, broadened and eventually broke traditional design rules, incorporating American Indian motifs with the sensuous fluidity of European Art Nouveau. Thus one “Terra-Guerra” or “earth warrior” necklace reinterprets an ancient warrior’s breastplate through architecturally spaced hollow tubes and Omega chains in 18k white gold with cabochon rubies and sapphires and red feathers.

Award-winning American designer Maria Canale’s jewelry fuses clean, linear forms with extravagant ornamentation. She distilled the “global village” theme into three elements – food, clothing and shelter – to reflect basic human needs yet elevate everyday forms into art. The subtle, self-contained shapes of corn or maize inspired the Kernel Collection of body necklace, cuff bracelet and earrings; the Clothing Collection incorporates 18k gold and draped silk chiffon.

Chortip Boonto, winner of Uno A Erre’s 1997 Best New Designer award, divided her collection into three categories: Power of Expression, Miracle of Time and Rotation of the Earth. All three evolve from a design theory she calls The Evolution of Beauty. Her Rotation of the Earth collection in 18k.

White gold is textured to represent the development of beauty and architecturally shaped so it appears to move with the light.

Design Finds: FROM SESAME STREET TO FIFTH AVENUE

Jewelry designers come from varied creative backgrounds, but few can boast the resume of Brooklyn-based Patricia Ficalora. She began her professional career designing soft, cuddly puppets, not jewelry.

Although a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in sculpture, Ficalora’s training and inspiration come from far beyond these shores. As an undergraduate, she was among those chosen for the prestigious European Honors Program, which afforded a year’s study in Rome. She stayed in Italy to obtain her masters’ degree in sculpture from Rosary College in Florence before returning to the U.S. in 1983.

Back home, she joined Hensen Associates as a creator of the “Muppets.” But soon she made the leap from Big Bird to big gems. She joined the corporate design department at Tiffany & Co. in 1984 and two years later signed on with Angela Cummings as senior design assistant and principal model maker. There she remained until setting up her own business in the summer of 1994.

Her first major solo effort was a series of sterling silver belt buckles, available with alligator straps. Ficalora says the inspiration for these buckles came from Japanese sports such as judo; designs include embossed patterns of seaweed, cherry blossoms, leaves and daisies. Her second collection – cufflinks for men and women – built upon the first. Ficalora says she designed it to fit the fashion trend toward simple, understated elegance. It’s characterized by “uncomplicated simplicity, but with careful attention to proportion.” The initial collection was available in sterling only, but a new 18k gold collection is now in production.

The Ficalora collection retails from $180 to $1,500. It’s sold in Takashimaya New York and Tokyo, as well as upscale specialty stores such as Ultimo in Chicago and Greta in Beverly Hills.

Ficalora New York, 55 Middagh St., Brooklyn, NY 11201; (718) 522-5368.

COLOR HER CREATIVE

Her colorful, dramatic designs suggest designer Dale Novick was trained as a painter; indeed, she picked up her first paintbrush at the tender age of five, inspired by a creative father who painted for pleasure and designed jewelry as a hobby. After studying painting, sculpture and art history at Cornell University, the young artist headed for Brazil – where the lush tropical colors and brilliant gemstones became her focus. She still sources a rainbow of gems from that country, including amethyst, citrine, tourmaline, beryl, rubellite and blue topaz, which she sets in 18k yellow gold.

Novick describes her paintings as “abstract and tactile with lots of bold color.” Her jewelry is an extension of this look, using organic, fluid forms to create wearable art. Designs have creative names such “Stacking Planets” (a series of rings with bezel-set colored gemstones), “Fame” (bold tri-colored earrings of rhodolite, green tourmaline and citrine) and “Scarf Rings” (multicolored, freeform rings through which silk scarves can be threaded).

Novick’s new designs, though decidedly modern, are influenced by antiquity. These include Byzantium earrings with open-hook backs, Etruscan earrings and necklaces with gold granules and ruby cabochon details, and Galleon Treasures, a set of crucifix, stud and ball earrings with colored cabochons.

Her hand-fabricated pieces can be found at Saks in San Diego and Sarasota, N.Y., and at the Gayle Willson Gallery, Southampton, N.Y. Prices range from $700 for earrings to $4,500 for a multi-gem brooch. Dale Novick Ltd., 133 Albertson Ave., Albertson, NY 11507; (516) 248-1626.

DYSFUNCTIONAL ROYALTY

Yugoslavia has been torn asunder by warring factions and its name struck from world maps. Now even its royal family is suffering some very public and costly spats.

Christina Oxenberg, estranged daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, apparently felt a little strapped, so she decided to convert a few family trinkets into pocket money at Sotheby’s last December. Included in the $76,187 sale were a 1900 Cartier emerald ring; a pair of turquoise and diamond drop earrings; a turquoise, pearl, diamond and rock crystal necklace; and a diamond and pearl ring. Princess Elizabeth tried desperately but unsuccessfully to reclaim the cache, which was sold to several different anonymous buyers, according to a report in the New York Post. Even the fact that cousin Prince Dimitri works at Sotheby’s failed to keep the jewels in the family.

The sale is sure to drive a deeper wedge into an already acrimonious family relationship. The jewelry originally belonged to Elizabeth’s great-grandmother, the Grand Duchess Waldimir of Russia; the family was able to save it from the Bolsheviks during the revolution. Elizabeth gave it to Christina upon her 1986 marriage to British artist Damian Elwes, from whom she is now divorced.

Both the Princess and Howard Oxenberg, Christina’s father, apparently took umbrage at her thinly disguised novel, Royal Blue, published last summer. While Mother stopped speaking to Christina, Daddy stopped her allowance. Christina sold the jewels because they didn’t mean anything to her and she was “tired of struggling,” her roommate told the Post.