The majority of jewelry companies exhibiting at the annual Basel fair are Italian or German and, unlike the U.S., both countries have distinct, recognizable traits in their jewelry design.
Typical Italian design is characterized by soft, sensuous, rounded surfaces with classic styling and curves as feminine as the women who wear it. Gems are plentiful, big and lush.
Typical German design is geometric, futuristic, spare and orderly. Gems – though always top-quality – are typically small and used sparingly or boast an unusual carving that becomes the single focus of the piece.
Today, however, a growing number of Italian and German exhibitors at Basel have started to blend both countries’ design characteristics. Still, tradition is a factor.
The traditional and vastly different aesthetics developed in countries that are a scant three-hour drive apart – closer than New York City is to Washington, D.C. But the Swiss Alps comprise a dividing line for style. You see a blend of both countries’ architectural styles near the Italian border of Switzerland, but after passing through the Alps, the Italian influence is gone and the German influence takes over as you head toward Basel and Germany.
Designers from both countries cite everything from the weather to religion as influences in their jewelry design. “If you see a German church, it’s usually Gothic, which is very clean and neat,” says Rafaella Mattioli of Rinaldo Gavello, Milan, Italy. “Italian churches have rounder, smoother, more Roman characteristics, like the Colosseum.” She also cites religion, explaining the difference between the German Protestant work doctrine, which essentially states “you’re worth what you do” vs. mellow Italian Catholicism, which says you’re worth whatever you think you’re worth. She says this is reflected in the traditionally stricter lines of German jewelry vs. the softer lines of Italian jewelry.
Ursula Scholz, a designer in Frankfurt, Germany, cites the influence of the 1920s Bauhaus movement in architecture, which stresses clean lines and concentration on a few strong points. Germany was the only country where the movement really caught on, she says. Though the movement ended in the early 1930s and architecture has changed since, the concepts remain an important part of 20th century art.
Stephen Greenstein, an American-born designer living in France, says it’s the weather: “Italy is full of sunshine. Italians like being outside,
eating fresh fruit and spicy food. They’re free spirits; they don’t like to wait in line. Germany has a colder, wetter, harsher climate and lots of factories. Germans spend more time inside, and they lead a geometric, orderly kind of life. They patiently wait in line.” He likens the bright polish of many Italian pieces to sunshine, and the matte surfaces of many German pieces to gray skies.
Designer Tamara Comolli, who is German despite her Italian-sounding name, says design comes from the heart. She was born in Munich, but lived in Spain, Gibraltar and France while growing up, and now lives in Miewbach-Wies, Germany.
“My design influences are not typical German. I think it has to do with mentality. Germans are strict and correct; their architecture and their cities are straight,” she says. “In Italy, things aren’t straight and strict. Streets wind and weave. It’s more romantic.”
DESIGN FIND VISIONS FROM THE GREAT LAKE
Most people associate Minnesota with lakes (10,000 of them), Scandinavians (try finding a native-born brunette) and The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, not to mention some @#$%! cold weather.
But more than anything, Minnesota is inextricably linked with Mother Nature, and this is what inspires artisans such as Stephan Hoglund of Grand Marais. Holding a piece of Hoglund’s jewelry is like holding a little piece of Minnesota in your hand, except it’s much warmer. The rugged forms of his jewelry evoke vast, remote expanses of unspoiled wilderness and juxtapose sophistication with raw spirituality.
He calls his line a “Vision from the Great Lake.” And like a lake, it is deep and still with the kind oftranquility that only the ages and the featured rocks can give. His studio and gallery, called Superior Design Jewelry, is situated on Grand Marais’ one major street, between the Grand Marais State Bank and the Waltzing Bear Coffee Shop, and about 100 yards from Lake Superior.
Hoglund’s jewelry demonstrates his fascination with the relationship between man and nature. He mixes materials such as drusy agate, petrified wood, reticulated gold, basalt, raw copper and beach stones. In fact, if there were a 12-step program for addicted beachcombers, he’d be a prime candidate because of all the solitary hours he spends in pursuit of the perfect native stones of the Great Lakes. He also loves now-rare native thomsonite and chlorastrolite, two stones that come from basalt lava flows and are polished by waves in the lake en route to shore.
Hoglund attributes much of his creative talent to his grandfather and father. His grandfather, a metalworker, filed saws at the lumber mills and made knives. His father “made everything, including our house, fountains and wagons.” His own contribution to this family legacy is spirituality. His reverence for nature is as powerful as any thundering Sunday sermon. And though he isn’t given to thundering, his reserve vanishes when he fights to save Grand Marais from overdevelopment that would spoil the untamed beauty of the land, a beauty that is reflected in his jewelry.
Stephan Hoglund, Lake Superior Gemstone Jewelry, P.O. Box 850, Grand Marais, MN 55604; (800) 678-1891 or (218) 387-1752.
VIVA La Diva!
The Women’s Jewelry Association’s first Diva Award for Jewelry Design contest sought jewelry ideas to fit women’s diverse work styles, from domestic engineer to corporate counsel.
Winning renderings were selected from 132 entries and were celebrated at a bash at Las Vegas’ Club Drink in June. The grand prize winner was Shari Cuartero of New York City, who designed this 18k yellow gold link bracelet featuring seven linked three-dimensional miniature shoes.
“The bracelet represents the means by which women forge ahead, keep up the pace, stay on their toes and land on their feet,” says the artist.
Second prize went to Hele-Mai Varik, also of New York City, whose hinged relief 18k yellow gold and opal matrix bangle bracelet shows “the hands of women holding the earth and taking it further with their work.”
Virginia C. Pellegrino of Miami won third prize for this 18k yellow gold and black cloisonné enamel brooch representing a traffic sign updated from “men at work” to “women at work.”
Honorable mentions went to Mirjam Butz-Brown of San Diego, Laura Carley of San Francisco and Kim Cullen Cobb of Auburn, Cal. Certificates of merit were awarded to Elena Alcalay and Sharon Rudelman, both of Pacific Palisades, Cal.; Barbara M. Berk of Foster City, Cal.; Maria C. Canale, Stamford, Conn.; Andrea Marcucci of Charleston, Mass.; Michelle
Patience of St. George, Utah; Michell Smith of North Arlington, N.J.; and Maki H. Schreiber, Amy DiBona, Robin Garin Rotstein, Hiroyo Watanabe and Magdalena Hess, all of New York City.
To Chelsea, from chelsea
The Town & Country Fine Jewelry Group, headquartered in Chelsea, Mass., designed a special charm bracelet for Chelsea Clinton to honor her graduation from the Sidwell Friends School.
Presented by the City of Chelsea and Town & Country, the bracelet showcases seven memoir charms of Chelsea Clinton’s life: an apple blossom to symbolize her home state of Arkansas, a panda as a reminder of her trip to China, a medical symbol for her pre-med major at Stanford University, the Sidwell Friends School charm, a diploma and mortarboard to mark her graduation, a giraffe to remind her of a trip to Africa she took with her mother and the seventh charm representing Socks, the first family’s pet cat. The mortarboard and diploma charms serve as a clasp for the bracelet. The charms are accented with diamonds and cabochon sapphires.