Attention must be paid: 10 designer collections worth discovering
Name recognition can mean a lot to a jewelry designer, particularly when a consumer sale rides on the confidence that familiarity can inspire. To help some talented jewelers get on the road to recognition, JCK has singled out 10 collections that you may not have heard of—yet—but should definitely be on your radar.
French-Italian designer Laurent Gandini started his career making papier-mâché, terra-cotta, and porcelain accessories for Missoni, among others. But 11 years ago, when he tired of the fashion scene, he turned to fine jewelry. Armed with a contemporary aesthetic anchored by a profound sense of heritage, he renders Alsatian, Venetian, and religious motifs such as flowers, crosses, and rose windows in lightweight sterling silver and 9k rose gold; some pieces are accented with stones such as labradorite to create what Gandini calls “dreamy” effects.
Starting retail price: €230 ($304) for silver and €360 for 9k gold
Accounts: Three in the U.S., including Net-a-Porter; 60 abroad
Trade fairs: Premiere Classe (Paris), White (Milan), all VicenzaOro fairs
Contact: Laurent Gandini, Milan; 39-029-075-2843; laurentgandini.com
Katrina LaPenne takes her Brooklyn native status very seriously. In 2011, after five years at Reinstein/Ross in Manhattan, she launched her line of nature- and artifact-inspired pieces—serpents, talons, Victorian pendants—in (where else?) Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She couldn’t have picked a better place for her eco-conscious business. “I’m lucky to live in an area that values locally produced goods, including jewelry!” says LaPenne, who uses recycled gold from Hoover & Strong and diamonds from Kimberley-compliant suppliers. She bikes and walks to work. And she teaches goldsmithing and enameling in Brooklyn: “I enjoy sharing my knowledge and staying involved in my neighborhood.”
Starting retail price: $77 in silver; $154 in 14k gold; $254 in 18k gold
Accounts: Eight U.S., including Alloy Gallery in Newport, R.I.; none abroad
Trade fairs: Capsule Women’s Show in New York City
Contact: Katrina LaPenne, Brooklyn, N.Y.; 917-528-0495; katrinalapenne.com
Niala Orsmond’s architect father helped instill in her a keen appreciation for architectural design, which she continued to develop through the study of jewelry design at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. From there, she went on to work with Shaun Leane in London, helping him fabricate one-of-a-kind sculptural pieces for Alexander McQueen’s runway shows. Her minimalist aesthetic, inspired by the works of artists such as Frank Gehry and Anish Kapoor, continued to flourish, and the designer launched Niala in Munich in 2010. And though Orsmond has garnered multiple international design awards, she’s equally proud of her commitment to working in 18k–22k gold. “In our nanosecond world, craftsmanship is sadly something that is being placed on the shelf,” she says.
Starting retail price: €900 in 18k gold
Accounts: Private U.S. clients; three abroad
Trade fairs: Jewelers of America Summer Show, Inhorgenta
Contact: Niala, Munich; 49-174-669-4965; nialaorsmond.com
When Jocelyn Prestia’s friends affectionately dubbed her “the fairy” for her delicately pointed ears, she turned the term into the name of her mystical- and garden-inspired collection, Un Hada (Spanish for “fairy”). Prestia, who studied at the GIA in Bangkok and launched her line in 2005, gravitates to gems with fantasy looks, such as opals. “They complement my designs in that they have a magic glow unto themselves.” (Another favorite stone: bubblegum-colored spinel.) While Prestia was initially advised to create a wide and deep line, she’s reverted back to her original idea of a more intimate collection. “I have made my way back to wanting to stay small and hidden, kind of like my pieces,” she says. “They aren’t outwardly showy.”
Starting retail price: $750 in 18k gold
Accounts: Three U.S., including Ikram in Chicago; none abroad
Trade fairs: None
Contact: Un Hada, New York City; 877-481-8706; unhada.com
An architect by trade, “Ana” Guity Stein abandoned building and room design (including some furniture for Louis Vuitton’s 5th Avenue store) to craft intimate and personal art objects for her 5-year-old firm, Anahita. Her modern, sculptural work—all made in New York City in 18k gold—is influenced by the art and architecture of ancient Persia, as well as “the many places I have lived and traveled around the world,” she says, citing the Oriental rugs, onion domes, and lattice panels found in mosques as key inspirations. And incidentally, jewelry isn’t the only thing she can put together. “I’m known amongst family and friends as the go-to gal to call when assembling IKEA furniture,” she says.
Starting retail price: $700
Accounts: Two U.S., including Quadrum Gallery in Boston; none abroad
Trade fairs: Jewelers of America Summer Show, Couture 2012
Contact: Anahita, New York City; 917-816-2523; anahitajewelry.com
When Oberlin College grads Page Neal (left) and Anna Bario (right) realized they shared a love of sculpture and metalwork, they knew they were destined to launch Bario-Neal. The 5-year-old firm specializes in shapes and textures that could have been made by Mother Earth herself. “Our collections take inspiration from natural forms,” says Neal (e.g., fossilized sand shark mouths). The salvage theme is central to Bario-Neal’s mission, from its jewelry—buying recycled metals from Abington Reldan Metals in Fairless Hills, Pa.—to its pets: “We have two shop rescue dogs, Kemba and Tess,” says Bario. “They love visitors, and they have official Bario-Neal dog tags.”
Starting retail price: $25 in silver; $144 in 18k gold; $410 in platinum
Accounts: 15 U.S., including Nickey Kehoe in Los Angeles; one in Japan
Trade fairs: None
Contact: Bario-Neal, Philadelphia; 215-454-2164; bario-neal.com
Inspired by a lifetime of jewelry gifts and heirlooms—including their grandmother’s 1920s ring—sisters Karina Van Den Oever and Arabella Rufino decided to create Leila Michaela in 2010. “The designs are updated re-interpretations of vintage styles,” says Van Den Oever (pictured with her daughter Leila, who helped inspire the brand’s name). The New York City–based sisters tapped craftsmen in the Philippines to hand-make each modernized Art Deco piece in 14k gold and set styles with a wide range of gems, from pearls to ruby and onyx in cabochon and faceted varieties. Finished pieces have already caught the attention of fashion editors, as well as private clients in New York City and London. “We’d like to focus on small specialty shops that carry designer jewelry and lifestyle shops that have a fashion element,” says Van Den Oever.
Starting retail price: $2,000 in 14k gold
Accounts: Private sales only at this time
Trade fairs: None
Contact: Leila Michaela, New York City; email@example.com; leilamichaela.com
Though Madhuri Parson launched her eponymous design company just one year ago, the ex–Silicon Valley marketing rep has been planning for the occasion for much longer. Consider that Parson is a sixth-generation jeweler whose family hails from Kolkata, India. Her heritage is evident in her signature peacock and paisley motifs, as well as the enamel, carved tourmaline, and diamond-encrusted clasps featuring the telltale handiwork of karigar, or Indian craftsmen, who bring her sketches to life. And her keen eye for design and quality—she has a jewelry degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology, a certificate in diamond grading from the GIA, and dual bachelor’s degrees in communications and political science from the University of Southern California—ensures that her finished pieces inspire jaw-dropping effects. When she’s not working on jewelry, she strives to stay fit. “I love exercising,” Parson says. “I’ve done the Honolulu Marathon and the Napa Valley Sprint Triathlon.”
Starting retail price: $2,500 in 18k gold
Accounts: One U.S. (Moda Operandi); two abroad
Trade fairs: None
Contact: Madhuri Parson, New York City; 917-740-3391; madhuriparson.com
POLLY WALES FINE JEWELLERY
While toying with casting techniques at London’s Royal College of Art, onetime sculptor Polly Wales accidentally created her first earthy-looking piece in silver with Swarovski crystals. Her fellow students were so smitten with the look that she made it the focus of Polly Wales Fine Jewellery. Wales says her pieces—using sapphires, rubies, and rough diamonds cast directly into 18k gold—resemble “sparkling geodes” or “discoveries from the deep.” Fun fact: Before launching her line in 2009, Wales lived for 10 years on a canal boat in east London. “It was my boat, so I didn’t have to pay rent, and I just moved it all the time,” she says. “I know quite a few British jewelers who live on boats so they can reinvest in what they do.”
Starting retail price: $2,270 in 18k gold
Accounts: 13 U.S., including Jewelers Werk Galerie in Washington, D.C.; five U.K.
Trade fairs: New York International Gift Fair, Jewelers of America Summer Show
Contact: Polly Wales Fine Jewellery, Epping, U.K.; 44-781-304-9949; pollywales.com
The first time Fanny Boucher traveled from her native France to Jaipur, India, the jewelry designer felt she was home. Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, has been the center of the Indian jewelry trade since royal families lived in the Rajasthani capital. Boucher packed her bags and moved there in 2005 to pick stones, run orders, and oversee manufacturing for a local jeweler. Having cracked the male-dominated, centuries-old stone trading system, she branched out on her own three years later and founded Honorine. The line, reflecting her French roots and the saturated colors of India, features bright precious and semiprecious stones on muted 18k and 22k gold settings. You can often find Boucher wandering the bazaar for inspiration; she’s not the only Westerner there, but she’s often the only female, speaking perfect Hindi to boot. Jaipur plays a major role in Honorine’s designs. “It’s noisy, nothing works, the men behave badly, and it’s magical!” Boucher says.
Starting retail price: $95 for a 22k gold-stamped charm on a Hindu prayer thread?
Accounts: One U.S.; four abroad, including Ron Herman in Japan, Bombay Electric in Mumbai, and HOD in Paris?
Trade fairs: None
Contact: Honorine Jewels, Jaipur, India; 91-141-401-2457; honorinejewels.com