Metal & Smith: Featuring Jewelry Designers You Should Get To Know
Much In the same way that I become exhilarated by uncovering rare antique jewels, I am equally excited about discovering exceptional contemporary emerging jewelry designers.
At the Metal & Smith Show on September 19, there were many independent and up-and-coming designers as well as breakout talents debuting their collections to the jewelry community for the first time. The show was held for one day in the Mercantile Annex open space in New York City. Although targeted at retailers and press, it’s not considered a trade show by co-founders Lee Wright and Nicole Barclay. The difference, they say, is the intimate setting, providing for more individualized connections and discussions with stores and online and print magazines. The show was tightly curated to include not more than 50 exhibitors, whereas most traditional trade shows might not stop at 500.
The show caters to those launching first collections and independent designers who have participated in the larger trade shows yet have been searching for a smaller more personalized venue.
Although there was some crossover in design and trends—chokers, lariats, mismatched studs, stackable rings—there were enough distinctive designers with distinguishable aesthetics whose collections definitely stood out among the crowd.
Christine Huber, a New York City-based designer trained in sketching and fabrication, who has worked in the industry for over a decade and as a designer for a major brand for the past nine years. Her sketchbook reflects both the inspiration and actual designs for this debut collection, which she launched at the show. She named the collection “Voyage,” which evokes her affinity for travel and exploration. Compasses, the evening sky and stars all figure into the line, which is crafted in lapis, 14K gold and diamonds.
Baltera, which caught my eye with its appreciation for classical patterns and motifs translated into modern wedding and commitment bands. Designers Rudolf Baltera and Julie Gamble create their social-responsible pieces with a nod to old world craftsmanship that’s reflected in all of their designs. I personally would wear these bands in a mix of widths, stacked and combined with diamond-eternity styles.
Anabel Higgins, who mixes the past and present with a sophistication lacking in many of the conversion or re-imagined collections. She designs for the woman much like herself, who appreciates the past yet wants to wear it with high-style ready-to-wear. All of her contemporary designed pieces are crafted in Los Angeles in 18K gold or (999) silver, accented by diamonds and other precious stones. Some must-haves in this collection—her antique and vintage heart padlocks, which she modernized with gems; her diamond surround shield pendants and signet rings, which can be monogrammed and her re-fashioned cameos, turquoise and seed pearl brooches, which are refocused with a current edge.
Julie Lamb has a sense of humor—trust me I know. She worked as an assistant for me when she was 18. She had all the makings of a major talent and I hoped she would retain her clever take on what fine jewelry should be. She has. Prior to launching her own collection, she designed for many large and small brands—gaining experience and paying her dues along the way. ‘Infusing Fun into Fine Jewelry’ a tagline she created for her collection encourages individuality and celebrates strength. Take, for example, her ‘Girlfriend Hoops,’ which she designed as gypsy hoops with diamond accents—wearable yet noticeable, even with long hair, says Julie, a Brooklyn-born and bred girl who also explains that they are slightly larger than those “worn in the burbs.”We love Julie’s swirling glamour cuff and a few of her sexy, dip-down-low lariats with special cuts of diamonds.
Moratorium by Jeanette Lai’s pieces are futuristic, spherical, bold and geometric. They are also hip and meant to be layered. “The jewelry transcends season, trend and gender,” Jeanette explains. Her commitment to the integrity of the total look has inspired her to mold classical concepts into pieces that strip away extraneous details to produce sensual pieces that are crafted in precious metals and accented with diamond pave´.
Tura Sugden, whose handmade link chains in varying lengths have won her a place among the most recognizable newcomers to the jewelry scene. Tura loves to layer and stack, so it’s no wonder that her thin bracelets are worn in multiples in mixed metals and various colored stones. The San Francisco-based Tura launched her collection in 2014 utilizing recycled high-karat gold and ethically sourced diamonds. Yellow gold, rose gold, and palladium are the three main metal choices featured throughout the collection.
The better-known independent designers, who have been showing for several seasons but continue to outdo themselves include:
Kataoka, which debuted its delicate, feminine and highly desirable collection in 2013 in the U.S. after launching the brand in 2011 in Tokyo. Designer Yoshinobu Kataoka is a goldsmith with over 25 years of experience. From the intricacy of the daintiest stacking bands—featuring diamonds, paraiba tourmalines, spinels and sapphires—to those that look like miniature tiaras or bloom with cherry blossoms, Kataoka’s rings have reached cult status with retailers and women in the know. If you are not yet familiar with the brand, you can visit Kataoka at Ylang23, where you can find a diverse selection of their designs. While their rings might have gained the most recognition in the U.S., please don’t miss out on their various shaped ultra-fine diamond necklaces or diamond and gemstone earrings that are detailed with the designer’s signature millegrain surrounding beautifully colored gemstones.
Margery Hirschey’s signature style pairs her painterly compositions of colored gemstones with a feel for seemingly unstudied asymmetry throughout her collection, particularly in her earrings and necklaces. She works with ancient styles and techniques, yet always with an eye on what the contemporary woman wants to own and wear. Her pared down. approach to design elements allows the natural beauty of the gemstones she chooses to create a rich, mosaic-like style that never conforms to traditional standards but rather challenge the notions of ‘fine jewelry’.
Variance Objects is named for the beauty of the variances seen in the imperfect, which give personality to the gemstones that are used. The stones are exclusively cut, not for a preconceived notion of what is desirable, but with an eye for formations, inclusions and textures, which expose the essential character of each stone. Variance Objects focuses on the organic and the natural occurrences that are seen in many gems but rarely seen in those used for fine jewelry—which makes them more fun and less fussy and precious to wear.
Sarah Swell, who I have covered before in various articles, has recently opened a small shop in San Francisco and her pieces continue to grow more sophisticated. One of my all time favorites in the collection is Sarah’s fishbone silhouette, which retains its fluid, swaying movement whether it interpreted as long earrings, a bracelet or a choker length necklace. Sarah looks to the sea and marine life for many of her textures, which are all hand crafted and hand-finished. She has expanded her wedding band and engagement ring collection and is a designer who we will be seeing more and more.