In 2017, as an unknown 25-year-old, Emmanuel Tarpin exploded onto the jewelry scene when he sold his large-scale Geranium Leaf aluminum earrings at a Christie’s auction for $25,000. And to think it was his very first design under his own name…
But anyone who knows Tarpin’s work would agree: the high-ticket sell was no surprise. After all, the designer combines his love of nature, sculpture and gemstones with innovative materials and techniques to create truly modern masterpieces. His exuberant creations have also caught the attention of the likes of Rihanna and Mandy Moore, who have worn them at red carpet events.
Growing up in the picturesque countryside of the French Alps, Tarpin has always been captivated by nature, and maintains a boyish sense of wonder for the world around him. Unconcerned with traditional jewelry conventions, Tarpin works alone from his Paris apartment; the rooftop garden he cultivates there serves as one of his constant sources of inspiration.
Since an early age, Tarpin knew he wanted to work with his hands. He earned a degree at the Haute École d’Art et de Design in Geneva and then spent three years at Van Cleef & Arpels’s Paris workshop before starting his company. We visited with Tarpin during lockdown at his Paris apartment, where he shared his design process and loves.
What made you want to design jewelry?
It started with a passion for gems and stones. As a child, my father and I went to the French Alps often where we looked for rough stones. I was also inspired by working in sculpture, which I practiced for 14 years. I always had this need to express myself and to create with my hands.
What’s your greatest design influence?
Nature is my first inspiration. That comes from growing up in the country and my frequent hikes in the Alps during the summer or winter. Nature offers us an amazing panel of volumes, colors and textures. Travel is a big part of it as well.
How do you express yourself on Instagram?
Instagram is a real window into who I am, and to understand my work, you have to understand me first. My creative process is a part of me; that’s clearly why I post Stories about my inspirations, drawings and the final pieces.
Do you always play music when you sketch?
I love to do sketches. When I have an inspiration, it starts with a sketch. When I draw, I often listen to classical music, such as Bach, Prokofiev, Lully… Classical music is a part of me because I practiced the oboe for 13 years.
On Instagram you reference Disney movies, what is it about Disney that inspires you?
I love Disney movies and characters. I grew up with these movies and they taught me how to keep this childlike vision of what surrounds me—the vision to create.
How do diamonds play a role in your jewelry designs?
Diamonds are essential in my work. I appreciate diamonds because they are easy to wear and work with almost everything; they can be set on very classical pieces or very modern designs. My clients love diamonds for many reasons, including their signification: purity, love, eternal.
You make so few jewels a year. Will you think about making more?
I don’t produce a lot of pieces because I love to take my time with each one. When I create, I’m looking for the right stones, finding the right balance between colors and textures, and it requires a lot of experimentation. I prefer to make one-of-a-kind designs because each person is unique and deserves her/his own jewel.
Now that the world has changed since the pandemic, what do women want in jewelry?
Since the pandemic, people are more open to showing their own personality, to affirm themselves and follow their desires. In jewelry, they are looking for something unique that reflects their feelings and looks like them.
Do your clients collect jewelry as they do art?
High jewelry is an art, like a painting and music… it’s sculpture to wear. The process of creation is here. So, like art, jewelry is collectible.
“High jewelry is an art, like a painting and music…it’s sculpture to wear”
If you could pick one woman that you would like to see in your pieces, who is she?
I would say Emma Watson. She fascinates me because of her strong commitment to the environment and feminism. She is a true natural beauty.
Who do you admire most in the jewelry world and why?
I admire Suzanne Belperron. She was not scared to show her own vision, even when it was against the current, to use unusual materials and to express herself through jewelry.
What jewelry do you wear?
I wear my yellow gold and diamond wedding band, a pendant necklace with an emerald cut diamond and a diamond cross.
What watch do you wear?
A 1978 Rolex Day-Date in brushed yellow gold with a lapis lazuli dial.
What is your personal style signifier (the item of clothes you wear most often)
Blue jeans and a big sheepskin jacket.
What do you do when you aren’t designing jewelry?
I love to travel, to visit new countries and experience new cultures and people. It’s also the best way to learn about ourselves. I love to see exhibitions, read books and run in the mountains or countryside.
If you could learn a new skill what would it be?
Glass blowing or breakdancing.