Quick! What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of sterling silver? Is it price point? Gift-worthy? Tiffany & Co., perhaps?
As the less expensive cousin of the precious metal family, sterling silver has long been favored by shoppers on a budget. While still considered fine jewelry, the metal won’t break the bank. But where there is high demand, there is mass production, and that goes against the grain of what buyers are currently seeking. Instead, demand is rising for artisanal goods with a mission, a story, a face.
The five talented designers profiled here are ready and able to answer the call. All work in sterling silver, honoring the craft of jewelry-making while imbuing their designs with both passion and personality.
You may not be familiar with their names just yet, but trust us—you soon will be.
Combining a sculptural aesthetic with naturally occurring patterns and textures, Marisa Lomonaco’s designs are wonderfully unpredictable. “I’m constantly filling my pockets with found objects, and take great pride in translating them into lasting, wearable relics,” says the designer, who works from a studio in Beacon, N.Y.
Lomonaco began forging bracelets, earrings, rings, and necklaces by hand in 2008.
Her Coral collection features corals, bones, and fossils cast into sterling silver or antique bronze; the Endless Column collection is inspired by a Constantin Brancusi sculpture; while the Axis collection takes its inspiration from the movement of faceted light.
The designer’s favorite line, however, is the Leather collection, striking in its animal textures, including alligator and armadillo. “I’m obsessed with the way texture can be translated to metal,” she says. “Like a great leather jacket, these pieces seem to evolve over time and become more beautiful with wear and age.”
Lomonaco’s designs are priced $80–$900. She also offers custom fine and bridal jewelry by appointment.
Top: Coral Lace collar necklace in polished sterling silver (also available in antique bronze); $948; Marisa Lomonaco; email@example.com; marisalomonaco.com
With a flair for the dramatic, Moratorium’s edgy-chic styles incorporate signature three-dimensional shapes, many of which resemble pyramids (or, for the gem-obsessed, diamonds).
“I chose a symmetrical pyramid because it forced me to get very good and precise at silversmithing—I only started learning it as a hobby in 2009,” says New York City–based designer Jeanette Lai Thomas. “I also believe there are common themes found in all cultures around the world. The pyramid is one of them, and it’s an unbelievably strong structure.”
It’s Thomas’ modern reinterpretation of classic shapes that makes the line a solid choice for retailers. “Like pyramids, I want my jewelry to be timeless,” she says.
Retail prices run from $100 for a simple pair of sterling pyramid earrings to the $2,800 Moratorium Rosary: At 30 inches long (including its lavaliere-style drop), this solid sterling silver necklace is made up of 40 individual pyramid-shape elements and features 40 solder points. (In 14k gold vermeil, the Rosary rings in at $3,300.)
Each piece is carefully crafted and polished in sterling silver.
Above: Cocoon pendant in sterling silver on 18-inch Venetian box chain (also available in 14k gold vermeil); $365; Moratorium; moratorium.nyc
Los Angeles designer Ann Marie Spinelli’s Saint Ann jewelry brand is practically a newborn, having come to life in 2016. Named for Saint Anne, the patron saint of gold- and silversmiths (and also equestrian riders)—her womb was said to be the source of the precious metals—the brand is Spinelli’s take on bold, unisex jewelry.
“Erotic art and literature, along with the power and mythological mystery of the Greek/Roman classical styles, have also played a profound role,” says the designer. “Through these inspirations, I create heirloom pieces that are timeless yet modern, and empowering.”
With collections named for Olympians—Aphrodite, Venus, and Athena, to name a few—these creations are not simply put forth as jewels, but instead as “body adornment.” Ornamental elements popular in the Art Nouveau and Deco periods are common throughout the collection, which includes rings, cuff bracelets (for both the wrist and upper arm), and headpieces, all made in downtown L.A. Pieces are available in sterling silver, with retail prices ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, as well as in 18k yellow gold.
Above: Artemis Arm Cuff in polished sterling silver; $2,000; Saint Ann; firstname.lastname@example.org; saintannjewelry.com
Crafting one-of-a-kind pieces in her Berkeley, Calif., studio, designer Alison Antelman seeks to define the relationship between metal and movement in her jewelry. Abstract and open to interpretation, her work can truly be described as wearable art.
New York City inspired Antelman’s current collection of the same name. “I always loved the city, felt comfortable there, loved the serendipity of stumbling upon a wonderful photography exhibit or some oddball thing,” she says. That love translates to her designs, which boast an urban edge.
Antelman, though continually discovering new techniques and processes, teaches a variety of jewelry design and fabrication workshops in her studio. “I find that teaching has honed my own skills, particularly the ability to troubleshoot and puzzle solve,” she says. “I enjoy the workshop through the students: seeing what they’re going to learn, pursuing it with hesitation, and then seeing their satisfaction in completing and achieving the project.”
Antelman’s creations—rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and brooches—range in price from $250 to $6,200. Custom-design requests are welcome.
Above: Winter Moon necklace in oxidized sterling silver with 18k and 22k gold, stainless steel cable, blue tourmaline, and diamonds; $3,200; Alison Antelman; email@example.com; antelman.com
That Dena Bagon grew up in a family of antique dealers is apparent in her creations. Using original antique and vintage pieces—many featuring talismans commonly seen in Victorian times (snakes, crescent moons, stars)—the designer fashions them into contemporary styles.
“I adore the sentiment, hidden messages, and romance of the Victorian era,” says the Delray Beach, Fla.–based Bagon. Her reworking of these finds—stick pins into rings, pendants into brooches—results in modern treasures that are just as in demand now as they would have been more than a century ago.
The 5-year-old D.Jo line caters to a sense of individuality with jewels that bear symbols, characters, and messages. The designs are intended to mark important moments and relationships: friendship, love, marriage, children.
“I love the snake pieces; they celebrate never-ending love,” Bagon says. “The evil eye is a very close second—someone watching over you, protecting you.”
D.Jo Jewelry is sold in select retail stores in California and Paris, though the designer also sells independently. Her sterling silver pieces start at $175, and gold at $250.
Above: Sister Moon crescent necklace with antique paste stones; $1,200; D.Jo Jewelry; firstname.lastname@example.org; djojewelry.com
(D.Jo necklace: photograph by Stephen Lewis; Thomas: Yana Bardadim; Spinelli: Jennifer Esteban)