Fine Jewels and Metals Take a New Role in Fashion

There’s little doubt that fine jewelry is making more of a splash in the fashion arena. For the first time in years, runway shows are glittering with gems, fashion editors of consumer magazines are swarming to fine jewelry trade shows, and women are finally recognizing that, just as they purchase their own bags and shoes, they also can buy their own fine jewelry.

Designers in the worlds of both fashion and fine jewelry are looking for new ways to link the two, and their latest innovation was on glittering display at the recent Academy Awards ceremony. Always a fashion trendsetter, the Oscars this year featured the usual suspects adorned in diamonds on their ears, arms, necks, and fingers. But in a new twist, gems also became part of designer frocks. When Leeza Gibbons made her entrance at the awards, for example, her Lazare Kaplan diamonds were not an accessory; they were part of her clinging gown.

The idea of integrating fine gems and precious metals into apparel has been brewing for several seasons. From brassieres to bridal gowns, platinum weave, to take one example, is increasingly cropping up. Jewelry designers, meanwhile, are using the idea to drive their march into the accessories market.

London’s S.J. Teasdale translates the concept into the most luxe couture-wear. Already a force in Europe, the designer of pearl, gold, and gemstone jewelry is bringing his brand of opulence to the U.S. bridal market. Mainstream media are embracing the idea of using gems in modern fashion. Bride’s magazine, for example, has named Teasdale New Designer of the Year for his gowns and accessories adorned with colored stones and natural and cultured freshwater pearls.

Charity Becomes Them

Jewelry designers are discovering that the branding effort entails much more than running ads and opening boutiques. Like their counterparts in other industries, jewelry designers are also splashing their names on public events, activities, and institutions.

Following lightly in the large and heavy footsteps of giants like Continental Airlines (of the Continental Airlines Arena in New York) and FedEx (of the FedEx Orange Bowl in college football) are two star names of the jewelry industry: David Yurman and Fope. In both cases, it’s the literary and artistic crowds the designers seem to be wooing with their sponsorships.

Yurman, whose marketing efforts have made him the unofficial leader of fine jewelry’s branding movement, recently sponsored a literary festival in New York City celebrating the anniversary of the New Yorker magazine. As a result, Yurman’s name appeared on publicity materials and announcements for the event and was mentioned in media coverage of the citywide celebration.

Fope, meanwhile, took another route. Long associated with the arts and music, the company recently announced its support of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In the tradition of the Cazzola family, which founded Fope in 1929, the company became a sponsor of the museum’s Patrons Circle program. The Patrons Circle is a group of collectors and philanthropists, and the program offers a range of social and educational activities throughout the year. Fope plans to invite key customers to the various events.

Vogue Sponsors Fine Jewelry Event

Vogue magazine, known as a leading fashion publication, cemented its relationship with fine jewelry recently by sponsoring a “Vogue Takes Beverly Hills” event. The event, at XIV Karats in Beverly Hills, lasted three days and featured a private dinner party at Spago to honor Doris Panos. The 1,000-guest extravaganza mingled celebrities and the affluent community and put the spotlight on fine jewelry. Models circulated wearing Doris Panos jewels with the apparel of Fendi and Ermengildo Zegna.

Midwest Jeweler Racks Up Awards

With his focus on artistic talent, Thomas Dailing is establishing his store as a leader in custom design in the Midwest. Dailing, of Stevens Point, Wis., has been a regular winner of regional and state design competitions for eight years and has racked up a long list of prizes and awards. In the Minnesota Jewelers Association competition, for example, Dailing won “Best of Show” in both 1998 and 1999.

Keeping the tradition alive this year, Dailing and his two assistants entered the Midwest Jewelry Expo and, of six entries, took four firsts and one “Best of Show.”

A World of Discovery Leads to Design

From Kansas to Portland to Florence, Italy, Elizabeth Weinberg Gualtieri has traveled a long and storied road during her career as a fine jewelry designer.

Gualtieri and her husband, Jack, met at the University of Kansas when both were young, aspiring jewelers. Beginning their career in jewelry together, they worked part-time at a custom goldsmithing store while still students.

Prior to graduating with a degree in metalsmithing and jewelry, Elizabeth Gualtieri traveled to Florence, where she found the direction that would define her career in jewelry. Reading about the Etruscan process of granulation had been interesting; seeing the actual pieces on display in a local museum changed her life.

The couple married in 1993 and moved to New Mexico, where they mastered the ancient craft of granulation practiced in Western Asia and produced by Etruscan goldsmiths in the eighth and ninth centuries b.c. In 1996, they established their home and their business, Zaffiro.

The couple’s unique style blends the ancient granulation technique with their youthful and modern interpretations of decorative arts. In keeping with fashion’s general movement toward the kind of quality associated with the past — combined with a focus on modern design—their jewelry embodies the feel of the start of the 21st century.

Both Gualtieris are interested in arts from various cultures, and their jewelry reveals influences from many quarters—a Balinese temple spire, an ancient Persian manuscript, a handcarved door.

The rich yellow of 22k gold characterizes the couple’s work and fits perfectly with fashion’s return this year to the warm and wealthy look of gold. Nevertheless, Zaffiro’s new line, the “Meredith Collection,” featuring 22k white gold granulation, keeps the company on the edge of fashion and innovation.

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