From Brazil to Bangkok, tracking four fantastic internationally intriguing jewelers
Francis Mertens IDH Titanium
Home Base: Antwerp, Belgium; 32-3222-9300; idhtitanium.com
Years in Business: 10
Known for: Voluminous, delicate jewels made from gem-studded titanium in an alchemic combination of colors
Sold to: Clients in Paris, London, New York City, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Titanium, the high-tech metal that is as light as aluminum yet stronger than steel, breaks every major rule of luxury. No rarer than the beach sand from which it is extracted, it lacks the weight and intrinsic value of gold or platinum and does not evoke any cultural traditions, except perhaps for workers in aerospace, high-tech medicine, and dentistry, fields in which it has found a niche. Yet Belgium’s Francis Mertens of IDH Titanium is using the metal to redefine the outer reaches of the fine jewelry universe. In his hands, pieces of significant scale are as light as butterfly wings and, thanks to titanium’s unique capacity for coloration and iridescence, boast a similarly beguiling palette.
Earrings in 18k gold with diamonds and gemstones; price on request
Home Base: Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil; 55-31-3271-2636; goldesignjoias.com.br
Years in Business: Eight
Known for: Exuberant gemstone jewelry with all the hallmarks of Brazilian design—movement, volume, and, of course, color
Sold to: Clients in Las Vegas, Miami, Paris, London, New York City, Colombia, Cyprus, Bahrain, and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (including the royals of the latter two)
The Brazilians know a thing or two about color, but that goes double for those who hail from the state of Minas Gerais. The name, usually translated as “General Mines,” attests to the region’s reputation as a veritable mother lode of gemstones, from commonplace quartz to diamonds. At its headquarters in the state capital of Belo Horizonte, Goldesign (and designer Ana Marcia) takes full advantage of the bounty. For 2010, the luxury manufacturer is using a range of pink, blue, and green stones—pink agate, amazonite, and chrysoprase—to great effect in pieces inspired by the Orient circa the 17th century. But this being Brazil, jewels evoking nature—think gem-set salamanders or emerald-encrusted insects—are never far from mind.
Cross & Rose ring in 18k gold with turquoise, diamonds, red and green garnets; EUR?12,500 ($16,350)
Home Base: Paris; 33-14-261-1171; lydiacourteille.com
Years in Business: 15 (30, if you count Courteille’s background as a collector of antique jewelry)
Known for: Baroque, gem-set jewels inspired by fine period pieces Sold at: Maxfield, Los Angeles; Browns, London; TSUM, Moscow
In her boudoir-style boutique on rue Saint-Honoré, Lydia Courteille rifles through a box of oddities: wild boar tusks from Namibia, a white cocholong frog carving, a carnelian sphinx. Quirky, elegant, unforgettable—her work reflects the sumptuous destinations that evoke her imagination, not the least of which is her hometown, the inimitable City of Lights. Courteille first came to fine jewelry as a collector and curator, earning a cult following among Parisian editors. But her eye for sublime color combinations and taste for whimsical motifs—jumping frogs, skulls with heart-shaped eyes, juicy cabochon cherries capped by gemstone stems—has kept the tastemakers coming.
Lotus Arts de Vivre
Nautilus shell ring in gold with tsavorites and diamonds; $20,000
Home Base: Bangkok, Thailand; 917-509-0459; lotusartsdevivre.com
Years in Business: 28
Known for: One-of-a-kind jewelry and objets d’art featuring organic materials and esoteric Asian techniques
Sold at: Bergdorf Goodman, New York City; Four Seasons Hotel, Bangkok; private collector events in Asia and Europe
Distinctive doesn’t begin to describe the pieces that emerge from the workshop of Lotus Arts de Vivre, a Thai jeweler and household goods manufacturer: gem-set cufflinks, opulent bangles featuring the mythical serpents of Southeast Asian lore known as nagas, gilded teak fantasy furniture—Lotus is as original as it is diverse. The company was founded in 1982 by Helen von Bueren, a Thai housewife. Today, it’s a family affair: Helen’s husband, Rolf, and their sons, Sri and Nicklas, serve as chair, chief designer, and marketing director, respectively.