High Drama

It wouldn’t be spring without a trip to Basel, the Swiss city on the Rhine that hosts 100,000 jewelers and watchmakers every year for the luxury extravaganza known as Baselworld. For those who’ve never been, the fair is, hands down, the most glamorous event on the jewelry calendar.

A highlight this year was my appointment with Sevan Biçakçi, the enormously talented Turkish jeweler who has cultivated a global following for his wildly eccentric and technically improbable creations: cocktail rings carved into the likenesses of the Ottoman sultans, gem-encrusted sea creatures, jewels recalling the skyline of his beloved Istanbul.

As I admired the newest additions to Sevan’s repertoire, including a rose-cut yellow diamond ring marking his first foray into solitaires, I heard a familiar English accent behind me. I didn’t need to turn around to know it belonged to Theo Fennell, a celebrated society jeweler who cut his teeth in London during the swinging ’60s. As he strode into the cavern-like space, he grabbed Sevan in a bear hug. “I love this guy,” he said.

It was a brief encounter, but a memorable one: Two jewelry legends with radically divergent styles coming together in a moment of mutual respect and admiration.

A grisly yet bejeweled crime scene from Theo Fennell’s 2007 Show Off! exhibition in London

Delighted to be a witness to their reunion, I was reminded of the last time I’d seen Fennell, in London in September 2007, when he staged a daring ­jewelry exhibition entitled Show Off! at the Royal Academy of Arts. A meditation on the intersection between jewelry, death, and theater, the exhibit featured a series of macabre dioramas—the disembodied head of Marie Antoinette lying at the base of a guillotine, for example—each accented with a single, outstanding piece of jewelry.

The theatrics were extraordinary, as was the point: “Jewelry will outlast us all,” according to ­Fennell, so we should treat it with the reverence afforded to fine art.

That brings me to the point of this issue, our annual paean to fashion. Having spent the past decade writing about jewelry, I know the relationship between the two is not always an easy one. The truth is that most fine jewelers recoil at the whims of fashion, even as they struggle to keep up with them.

Sevan’s rose-cut yellow diamond solitaire

The way I see it, however, fashion and jewelry are crucial to any endeavor in style. Turn to our fall fashion preview on page 148 to understand why, even in a season that promises a return to minimalism, the best expressions of style include at least a hint of sparkle and preciousness.

The red carpet offers the most thrilling example of how the worlds of fashion, ­jewelry, and old-fashioned Hollywood glamour collide. Few people can speak to that convergence better than Lorraine Schwartz, the subject of our Designer Showcase on page 139.

Like her contemporaries Sevan and Fennell, Schwartz owes her success to the drama, spectacle, and lasting emotion built into her work. So, sure, as you prepare for market week in Las Vegas, study up on the colors and styles that will figure prominently in fashion this year. Then put the notes away and buy the jewels that sing.

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