Guardians of the Past and Future of Craftsmanship
Discover the independent diamond designers injecting soul and sentiment into your jewellery by reimagining traditional craft practices.By Radhika Somaia |
There’s no doubt that diamonds are forever, but finding a collectible jewel with an equally everlasting quality requires a deeper dive into great design. And the experience of great design is multi-sensory; woven layers of unseen stories waiting to be unearthed. There’s a collective of superbly distinct diamond designers who are representing this point-of-view; inspiring a life of slow fashion, while celebrating and protecting the beauty of the human hand. For them, the art form of jewellery design is emotional, experimental and highly technical. The artisan is at the core of their wearable art, drawing from past techniques to develop modern-day signature styles.
A harmonious balance of design and craft
Design married with craftsmanship is a union of love, where every designer embarks upon their own creative journey to bring their natural diamond masterworks to life. Nikos Koulis and Fernando Jorge, two celebrated names in global contemporary jewellery, take a fluid approach. Nikos explains “I’m fascinated by how a sketch changes and evolves in the workshop. The whole process from paper to cast is open and flexible, hands determine the end results and artistry makes our jewellery special”. Jorge, who learnt about jewellery by sitting alongside craftsmen, thinks with two minds – the designer and the maker. “We work together to choose a craft based on what is most essential to the design. I don’t want to use a technique unnecessarily, but instead focus on the simplicity of a particular skill that expresses what a design needs.” The process is a collaboration of experimental minds who are all working towards creating a single piece of brilliance, treasured by generations to come.
Reinventing traditional jewellery-making techniques
They aren’t wrong to say ‘old is gold’ and designers of today recognise the significance of preserving traditions to uphold a legacy. Wax carving was an ancient tradition used by jewellers to mould designs into three-dimensional forms. Delhi-based Artist, Neha Dani says “Wax carving allows me to think as I work. You can make organic shapes that are hard to achieve with traditional sheet metal and wire”. Her intricate designs are carefully worked and reworked, like a sculptor plays with clay. Lebanese Designer Gaelle Khouri, also works with jewellers wax “to ensure the designs are expressed in the most artistic and meticulous way” she explains. A necessary process to realise the nuanced complexity of such body of works.
Capturing the flavour of Brazil in his jewels, Fernando places natural diamonds in sensuous shapes. He uses a combination of two techniques to translate ‘Rhythm’, his initial source of inspiration – “I used a specific soft carving of gemstones to look like the diamonds were liquid or fluid, alongside a snake chain mechanism which allowed the piece to have a flexible and malleable structure. These techniques were instrumental in defining my personal aesthetic” shares Jorge. Gaelle Khouri, whose identifiable mark lies in the metal of her work “We use a very particular colour of bronze that has a special texture – keeping it in a matte form to juxtapose with shiny gold we typically use alongside.” says the jewellery mixologist, who conjures up pieces that are known to include a cocktail of metals, textures and styles.
After training as a goldsmith in Florence, Indian jeweller, Sajil Shah of Sajjante, brings old Florentine techniques to India like ‘Rigato’, a way to carve fine parallel lines in gold to create a silk like effect and the ‘Nido di Vespa’ an intricate honeycomb like lace, made from a single sheet of metal. “My personal favourite is a technique I use of piercing natural diamonds instead of setting them in prongs. It uses minimal metal and can create a floating effect”. Shah goes on to describe his experience of using this technique to make earrings inspired by cherry blossom – “I pierced over 200 rosecut diamonds in an attempt to make these earrings but broke more stones than I eventually set!” A sacrifice of experimentation, but a true commitment to craft.
Koulis showcases a similar illusion of floating diamonds, but through a different lens. He uses a traditional greek technique that has become signature to his brand over the years “We use hot enamel, heated at a very high temperature that makes it resistant. The clear enamel that we have trademarked in our workshop is a very challenging technique to master. We manage to set natural diamonds within the clear enamel, giving the sense of floating stones in a translucent surface.” These are by no means ordinary jewels, but a labour of love for each designer.
Layers of soul captured in a single piece
When jewellery passes through layers of hands and minds, energies are always at play. A single piece is constructed over hundreds of hours, where even the most minute detail is considered to express a singular artistic vision. Sajil of Sajjante notes “All technical aspects from the settings, flexibility, linking, density, fit, durability must be perfect for the client to feel great wearing the jewel, even if these details are never noticed”. Fine craftsmanship is not always visible to the naked eye, but felt in the artisanal touch. Lebanese designer, Dina Kamal, who takes an extremely engineered approach to jewellery-making, describing her sketches as “architectural drawings”, believes that “in the end each person involved in the creation of the piece adds a part of themselves into it – giving the jewel a soul and a true powerful edge”.
Our past is precious to a responsible future
As we look to a future of sustainable luxury, the human hand could never be made redundant. “Good craftsmanship is a skill done best at a slow pace.” explains Khouri, who believes jewellery should be viewed like artwork. “You don’t buy a piece of art to put in your home for only a season, it must be timeless”. These kindred spirits are carrying forward this sentiment through their everlasting diamond-stoppers, designed to last the ages. So the next time you’re out looking for your next bit of frosting, why not look to a jewel with substance, it’s most certainly always locked with love.