A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, who’s been making private-label goods for some of the world’s best-known design houses is now making his own name. Leon Megé crafts mostly platinum jewelry with rare stones like French-cut diamonds. On the 14th floor of a circa-1912 loft building, in one of architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue’s original workspaces, Megé’s workshop—with an enviable outdoor roof deck and a bank of casement windows that allows light to flood the jeweler’s benches—is as inspiring as the pieces fabricated within, which includes American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Award–winning platinum and Paraiba tourmaline rings from 2010 and 2012.
“I picked the site name ArtOfPlatinum.com even before I opened my company because I love working with the material so much,” Megé says.
In 1987, at age 25, he departed Russia for New York City, putting his limited jewelry experience to work as a bench jeweler for Henry Dunay. After leaving to earn his G.G. from the Gemological Institute of America, Megé secured another bench post with the infamous Werner Lippe, a store owner who in 2011 was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Megé started out taking private-label jobs on simple pieces like classically styled engagement rings; then, on a whim in 1999, he decided to create his own website featuring more unique pieces. He created his first site purely for fun from the basement of his home, but got a surprise when the calls started pouring in. Orders from total strangers came in from all over the globe, whetting Megé’s appetite for making more interesting one-offs. Plus, he grew tired of the bittersweet experience of private labeling. “I am responsible for the end product without actually taking the order—or the praise,” he says. “There is no middleman now between me and the end customer.”
Everything in Megé’s studio is handmade. He doesn’t use CAD, a technology that he considers useful for mass-produced merchandise but doesn’t recommend for true works of art. “An original painting and a print aren’t the same thing,” he says.
Megé currently has 30 U.S. trade work accounts, but his label is poised for greater reach thanks to a first-place nod in the 2012 A’Design Award and Competition from Italy and top honors in this year’s American Jewelry Design Council New Talent Contest. The AJDC recognition earned him his first trade show booth in the New Designer Gallery at the Jewelers of America summer show, where numerous stores approached him about wholesale orders. Megé is looking forward to this next phase, but at press time, he was focused on finishing entries for the Spectrum competition. “I love getting awards,” he says wryly.