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Jewellery often tells stories. From heirlooms passed down through generations to gems found in flea markets abroad, even the least monetarily valuable pieces can become rich with the sentimental value which comes from wearing something everyday. But perhaps some of the best jewellery is that which comes with it’s own history; a bizarre influence, a unique form of production, an unusual material, a family collaboration. SUITCASE tracked down some of the most interesting jewellery designers in the world, each with a tale to tell. Here are our favourites.
Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy is one of the most famous and celebrated pieces of poetry in literary history. Written in 1308, it tells the story of an arduous journey through hell, purgatory and paradise, and the mythical creatures and terrifying landscapes encountered on the way. This reference may be an unusual starting point for a jewellery brand, but more unusual is designer Rosh Mahtani’s transition from Oxford graduate to fashion industry favourite. In 2012 the former French and Italian student and Harper’s Bazaar intern decided to combine her passions to create a collection which is both intellectual and beautiful. The resulting 100 pieces – there is one for each of the Divine Comedy’s poems or ‘cantos’ – are delicate and disturbing in equal measure, and Mahtani’s lack of formal training allows for an aesthetic which is, in her own words “battered, imperfect, and a little bit melancholy… Just like Dante’s subjects”.
At first glance, Frances Wadsworth-Jones’ delicate creations seem like the kind of classic pieces you would find at any fine-jewellers. Look more closely, however, and you will spot witty and playful touches which set apart the Royal College of Art graduate from her contemporaries. Her latest collection, ‘Thieves’, features minuscule golden ants, poised to run away with the diamonds, sapphires and sea pearls Wadsworth-Jones sets in her 18 carat-gold rings, brooches and necklaces. In her own words, “each thieves piece is a minute world of surreal narrative that celebrates the marvels to be found if we look a little closer”.
A passion for nature, heritage and beauty runs in the family for Cosmo, Cassis and Felipe, the siblings behind Hadron and Lepton. Originally from Chile (but having lived France, China, and Chile respectively) this joint venture sees them return to their roots, with a collection produced by hand in their home country. Combining organic inspirations with technical prowess (Felipe is a digital sculptor), the brand – named after the basic subatomic units that account for our entire existence – presents a collection of silver pieces cast from bones, and from 3D-rendered creations based on natural forms. Their unique and almost tribal creations are the perfect antidote to traditional fine jewellery, having won fans in style mavericks such as Caroline de Maigret, Flo Morrissey and Devendra Banhart.
Californian-born Melissa Joy Manning has been making jewellery ever since she can remember; “I don’t even remember wanting to be a jewellery designer” she quips, “I just was”. From friendship bracelets, to a global business stocked in over 300 retailers, it’s evident that Manning’s years of practice have paid off. Not only are her pieces timeless and elegant, they’re also sustainable, made using recycled sterling silver and gold sourced from a Green Certified refinery with the highest environmental standards, along with alternative materials such as Leland Blue slag (a stony material created while refining ore in Michigan auto plants) and raspberry nickel (leftover from shuttered US zipper factories). All the stones she uses are either up-cycled or responsibly sourced. Manning’s collection is proof that sustainability and luxury go hand in hand.
Another beautiful example of ethical luxury, London-based designers No.13 see social responsibility as almost as important as the pieces themselves. Every item is inspired by or produced in collaboration with the Sami people, an indigenous group living in the Arctic Circle. The most special pieces are those created with Reindeer antlers, which are shed naturally and harvested by the Sami people once a year. The antlers are then hand-carved by Sami craftsmen and etched with traditional patterns and inlay before being set into recycled silver jewellery in the brand’s London studio. Understanding the environmental impact the western world has on the Sami way of life, No.13 donate a percentage of profit to the National Wildlife Federation, which protects wildlife and the environment.
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