Redefining the Jewels of The Past with a Contemporary and Relevant Spirit
Leaving Las Vegas to return to New York is always a reminder that Manhattan is home and filled with experiences, significance and a whole lot of meaning and history for me, which is also what I gravitate towards in jewelry. And this is the essence of our third piece in Bejeweled’s Las Vegas jewelry week series, which launched with the rare and authentic jewels I found at the Antique Jewelry & Watch Show and the trends that the designers themselves were rocking at the Couture show.
Speaking of Couture, there are a number of designers who delve into the different symbolism, messages, legends and spirituality that is intrinsic to jewelry’s past. Here are four of the best in this category—some newcomers to the show, others who have just emerged into to the industry and one who has evolved throughout the years.
With a name which is derived from the French proverb ‘Retrovailles,’ which designer Kristy Stone explains, “is defined as the joy of reconnecting with something from one’s past, Retrouvai, combining elements of nostalgia with strong modern messages.”
When talking about her own past, Krisy speaks with wit and a strong sense of who she is and where she came from. “My grandmother worked for a costume jewelry house which meant that I grew up extremely over-accessorized. My parents called me a gypsy because I looked as if I were wearing Christmas decorations to school each day.” Kristy’s love for jewelry from an early age turned into a passion for pieces with history and heritage. “It’s very important to me that my pieces reflect modern interpretations. This comes through in her signet collection. “I wanted to inject some of my own character into these rings and pendants. I launched the collection with messages woman would want to pass down to future generations.” Kristy adds. Examples of this depict animals in front and saying on back. There is a flying pig motif which, when turned over reveals the message ‘Anything is Possible’ and an owl, which is inscribed with ‘See Things Differently’. These are just a few of the pieces in the signet collection. Kristy also designs enameled and gemstone gold compass pendants, which are available in different sizes and as Kristy explains, “recall the look of a grandfather’s pocket watch or gold compass yet are imbued with the meaning that a woman’s intitution is the compass that guides her.” Kristy’s newest pendants feature iconography in gold set on the front, set into and lapis and with engraving words on the back. “There is an all-seeing eye for wisdom, a parrot for truth and a rising sun for optimism.”
Although I had covered different pieces from Beth Bugdaycay’s 2016 launch of her Foundrae jewelry collection in various stories for Bejeweled and other magazines, I had never met the former longtime CEO at Rebecca Taylor in person. This all changed when I stopped at her booth at Couture. We immediately hit it off. She loved my antique fobs, engraved love tokens and padlock charms on a Victorian chain and I couldn’t stop asking to see more of her pieces.
Her collections has undertones of the sentiments and silhouettes from the Victorian era but are designed with the hip modern eye of a woman who understands the look and the language of what woman want today. Beth explains that she left Rebecca Taylor to pursue her passion for jewelry. “I have always been drawn to the past: the symbolism and the stories that the pieces told and I wanted to work in this medium and create my own charms, messages and talisman.” Her cigar bands were the first pieces that retailers and customers responded to. They hint at the vintage versions of the ring but are laden with meaning and symbols that are so relevant today..
In describing her first collection, which has five different themes: Strength, Karma, Dream, Protection and Wholeness, Beth says, “I began with symbols that would commemorate certain parts of a woman’s journey but also to inspire woman to move forward with the next chapter in their lives.” She continues, “Sometimes we all falter and we need to reminders to pick ourselves up and that we can overcome the obstacles put in front of us. This is what the Strength collection is all about.” Although all of the themes carry specific meanings and symbolism, they can be interpreted differently by each woman who purchases the pieces.
Beth’s newest collection speaks to love and living life to the fullest. My personal favorites include a pendant with white blossoms on black enamel background, which indicate that these flowers can grow in the dark and emphasizes resilience. The other is a ring, which says simply, “If Not Now, Then When.”
Not only does the designer behind Foundrae and I share the same first name and double B initials, but she is in tune with all that I am drawn to in jewelry.
When I was in college and had dreams of becoming a novelist— one of the first thing I was taught was that the story could not just scratch the surface but had to go deeper and that it had to be textured and layered, among many other aspects that pertain to fiction as well as other writing and art forms. When Elie Top, a designer from France began showing and explaining his collection to me—It immediately took me back to the lessons of my college days. Elie had the unique ability to turn his story telling into jewelry. His pieces are multi-layered “so as never to be ordinary or basic” says Elie, who came from a fashion jewelry background, albeit at Yves St. Laurent Couture and Lanvin for 12 years where he worked with Alber Elbaz. Although his background included some of the most creative jewelry to walk down a catwalk, when he changed over to precious metals, he explains, “I had to learn all new technical aspects and what would work or how I could make it work. While I was concentrating on this I also was figuring out how to create a collection that was more about my beliefs, sensibility, dreams and ideas than what I had been designing for Lanvin.”
After only approximately two years, his collection is impeccably crafted and he has mastered his way around the restrictions of moving from fashion into luxurious fine jewelry. He has built rings that combining different metals on one side which flip over to intaglio hard stones on the other side and can be worn either way. He detailed them with overlays of enameled motifs. And while this might all be incredibly important, the real draw for me was the way he set about designing what he describes as his ‘trilogy’. “It’s my version of Star Wars.” He laughs. The most recent collection is part of story that unfolds in a series that sprung from Elie’s fertile imagination. Let’s just take a peek at his four statement rings in his collection “based on the Greek philosophy of the four elements. As Elie explains, “I started with Earth, Fire, Water and Air. Then I added the three signs of the zodiac. I wanted to keep building on the theme and I layered in the colors,animals and seasons and finished it off with the tarot card for each element.” He shows me an example of the ‘Fire’ ring. The front has the three zodiac signs in gold and diamonds. It flips over to reveal a back that is a carnelian intaglio engraved with a salamander, which represents the color of fire—red and the season, which is summer. On the shank of he ring, there is an overlay of a wheat motif (which grows in summer) and a small engraved club for the tarot card.” He has created all of the larger statement rings this way and added smaller and more toned down versions. He has also designed oversized pedants that carry on this theme. Elie’s collection is one that continues to dig deeper to continue to tell his story—which, like Star Wars will continue on past a trilogy.
Erica Molinari is the designer in this group that has been in the jewelry business the longest. She has always had an affinity for antique and ancient pieces—the look and the symbolism. But it wasn’t until she came up with the concept of her diverse charms that this particular look for her began to take off. She designed them in silver and gold and sometimes the words or saying would be on one side and the symbol on the reverse. Other times she would have two different symbols with one meaning that would encompass both of the motifs. The charm collection grew and has been a huge success for the prolific designer, so much so that she expanded into rings in 2016. These are band styles with varying floral and geometric patterns that make for beautiful wedding and commitment rings as well as the perfect stackables. As for the bands, they remind me of modern day poesy rings with the saying, word or motto on the inside. Erica’s unique spin is that all of her messages are in Latin or Italian.
“When I was working with just a couple of words, Latin proved to be the best option but as the sayings became longer, they didn’t translate well. For these longer messages, I moved over to Italian which still keeps the continuity and basic premise of the collection.” Even Erica’s more tongue-in-cheek Oscar Wilde quotes are in Italian. Erica explains, “One saying can have so many different meanings to women who are going through very different experiences or moments in their lives.” I know this to be true because I purchased Erica’s thin gold and enamel floral band with the Italian inscription which translates to ‘She Flies On Her Own Wings’ right before I launched Bejeweled. I was somewhat nervous about daring to start an online magazine on my own and this ring was an everyday reminder that not only could I do it but that I was doing it.
Erica’s newest pieces reveals inscriptions on the outside of the rings and bracelets and there will soon be necklaces in the same vein.