Fashion Facets – Design Finds

What’s a nice girl who used to work in Catholic Social Services doing designing erotic jewelry? The answer spans a couple of decades, but it makes for a fascinating story.

Michele Wiener grew up in a world of art and creativity – her father was renowned jeweler Ed Wiener and her mother, Doris, was an Asian art dealer. The family summered in Provincetown, where her father designed jewelry for noted artists and sculptors such as Louise Nevelson, Barnett Newman and Chaim Gross.

But like a lot of kids, Wiener wanted to go her own way, so she explored careers in a few different fields. After graduating from New York University with a bachelor of arts degree, she went on to the University of Michigan to study clinical social work and health services administration. Except for a brief stint operating Michele’s Cuisine in Lansing, Mich., this transplanted New Yorker devoted her time to social work and health care.

Her father believed she had talent for design and encouraged her to explore it, but she “ran away from the business as long as possible.” It was only after his death that her thinking was brought full circle. “I discovered a deep well of his musings and my own responses, visual memories and personal aesthetics. I had had a great mentor, yet neither of us knew until after his death.”

In 1991, Wiener took over her father’s business, planning to continue his work under a new mark, but steady demands from her clients for “something different” forced her to explore her own creativity. One of her first challenges was to create an erotic cufflink design for a woman to give her lover.

Released from the burden of creating art jewelry in the style of her father, Wiener accepted the fun aspect of this project and found many more options open to her. To this day, “The Kiss” remains one of her most successful designs.

“All jewelry is erotic,” she says, “because the adornment of the body is an intimate act. It also requires designers to understand the mood and beauty of real people.” Wiener’s designs run the gamut from figurative pieces incorporating human forms, faces and features to bold abstract shapes of gold and colored gemstones.

Currently, her work can be found in fine jewelry galleries such as the Aaron Faber Gallery, New York, and Mobelia Gallery, Boston. Michele Wiener Design, 305 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10165; (888) 594-0890.

Pearls of the Orient

Hong Kong, known as the Pearl of the Orient, lived up to its reputation recently. The Hong Kong International Jewellery Show, in the newly opened convention center, devoted an entire floor to pearls and pearl jewelry, ranging from loose pearls to one-of-a-kind finished jewelry with freshwater, akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearls.

The exhibition opened by guiding visitors through a “World of Pearl” display sponsored by the South Sea Pearl Consortium, a tunnel lined with information about pearls and pearl farming. The display was highlighted by blow-ups of exquisite pearl jewelry created by noted international designers, including Fulco di Verdura, Buccellati, David Webb and Chanel.

Inside, the pearl pavilion featured a stunning display of some of the largest and finest South Sea pearls in the world from the Paspaley Collection as well as finished pieces of jewelry designed by Ella Gafter. The three-day Paspaley Pearl auction followed the exhibition (see May JCK, page 26).

Winners are Solid Gold

How do Asian women like their gold? Pure – and stylish. For these gold-loving consumers, only chuk kam, jewelry of 24k gold, will do.

To stimulate the creativity of Asian Chuk Kam jewelry designers, the Hong Kong Jewellers’ and Goldsmiths’ Association, the World Gold Council and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council staged the seventh annual Chuk Kam Jewellery Design Competition. This event, open to designers and students from Hong Kong and Asian countries, netted more than 250 entries this year, from which a panel of judges selected 40 sketches to be made into pieces.

Winning designs were produced by a roster of Hong Kong’s top manufacturers and designers, who were honored during the annual gala at the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show. Three winners were chosen in each of six categories – rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, brooches/pendants and sets – based on the criteria of fashion sense, originality, craftsmanship and beauty.

Judith Ripka’s Sterling Qualities

Judith Ripka, a designer well-known for her matte 18k gold and platinum work, including a pin worn by Hillary Rodham Clinton for President Clinton’s second inauguration, has launched a sterling silver jewelry collection that debuted this spring on QVC.

The line, distributed exclusively by QVC, is inspired by her gold and platinum designs and follows her philosophy of “interchangeable jewelry.” Pieces in the collection include a sterling and pearl “wardrobe” necklace, which can be transformed into a silver toggle bracelet and two pearl strands that can be worn as bracelets or necklaces. A variety of pendants, bracelets, earrings, pins and rings with different gemstones completes the collection.

Ripka herself has appeared on QVC several times, beginning in late March, to explain her designs and her concept of women’s jewelry wardrobe needs.