What happens when fine jewellers let the design process flow.
Jewellery design can fall into a trap of geometry and precision that would make a mathematician proud. But what happens when designers and high-end jewellers let loose with their use of stones and metals? A scintillating array of jewels where randomness becomes the very selling point. Kathryn Bishop discovers the vogue for contained chaos.
Sometimes the quest for perfection can take jewellery designers on a path to somewhere else: the realisation that simply letting the making process flow actually brings more personality to a piece than if it were truly precise.
Never has this been truer than in the current collections from a wealth of fine jewellery designers, from independent talents such as Fernando Jorge and Mabel Hasell, through to luxury jewellers Fabergé and De Beers, who are toying with randomness by sprinkling diamonds and gems across their collections as if crazy paving has been applied to precious metals.
This contained chaos style of jewellery hints at a more natural and fluid approach to design. Indeed, designer Polly Wales describes how the precision and cleanness of some fine jewellery design can emit a sense of ‘coldness’. Speaking of the inherently random style of her work, Wales explains: “This has always been my style because I’ve never personally felt much of a connection to highly polished, pristine and uniform jewellery. The random aesthetic of my work is very much dictated by the lost-wax process I use to make it, which I discovered during a research project at the RCA. I loved the unpredictable nature of these processes and have worked to develop them ever since.”
The unpredictability of design can be exciting and intriguing, but creating such randomness can be tough, especially when the pieces themselves require exacting processes, lending a rather ironic twist to designs that appear as if they have merely fallen into place – albeit beautifully – when in fact their making can be painstaking.
Wales’ collections are crafted by casting stones directly into 18ct gold. “It’s a pretty risky way to work that seems to invite chaos every step of the way, from making the waxes to the casting itself,” she explains. “Precious stones end up erupting from the metal in unexpected ways or even becoming invisible, entirely buried in gold. When I send a piece to be cast I can never be entirely sure what the final outcome will be until its finished in front me, but it’s a chaos that I embrace because it creates soulful pieces that have real warmth and character.”
Another designer who also knows just how exacting working processes need to be to create such a random outcome is Fernando Jorge, whose multi-stone Fusion collection has become one of his most iconic. A description of the collection, which features semi-precious stones studded with diamonds and other, smaller gems, says it is an exploration into the inner workings of the natural world where micro and macro elements are contrasted.
Jorge aims to push the boundaries of craftsmanship with his work, seeking out new ways to present metals and stones through inventive settings. The resulting collections have been dubbed “small universes” by Jorge, owing to their sculpturally complex nature.
CUT AND COLOUR
The gemstones used are also a prominent factor in the contained chaos jewellery model. While round brilliant, baguette and princess cuts add precision to these styles of jewellery, designers such as Annoushka, Mabel Hasell and Polly Wales have dared to bring together a mixture of gemstone cuts for effect.
Explains Hasell: “I create a piece in wax, placing stones where I’d like them to set. Molten metal replaces the wax, flowing in and surrounding each gem, sometimes causing the gems to move and cluster in different positions.”
This haphazard effect, much as Wales describes, is all about leaving the outcome to chance. “The most exciting part of [the] making process is polishing the final ring to reveal stones that have moved in the molten metal,” Hasell adds.
At the more contained end of the spectrum, but no less intriguing in its presentation, is V Jewellery’s AW14 collection as unveiled at IJL in September. The range of jewellery continues the brand’s sleek, Deco-inspired aesthetic while introducing more structured arrangement through the use of baguette stones set at right angles. V Jewellery creative director Laura Vann explains: “For V Jewellery’s latest collection I wanted to change preconceptions of delicate, stone-set jewellery to toughen everything up for autumn-winter. One of the ways of doing this was to play around with different stone cuts and settings to create unique designs that stray away from the norm.”
V Jewellery’s Multiform ring is said to highlight the trend for jewellery with a random edge, with the wider AW14 collection featuring a scattering of different-sized baguettes plus princess and brilliant cut stones. “They feature claw settings, while touches of millegraine tie everything in,” Vann adds.
Texture is an intrinsic part of De Beers popular Talisman collection, where rose cut diamonds in hues of champagne, cognac and grey, are pulled together to create what De Beers terms “raw elegance”. Each piece in the Talisman collection boasts an irregular, organic outline, with the rose cut stones adding an ancient aesthetic. The aforementioned texture is also provided through the use of the serti poincon style of setting, in which the stones are set above the surface of each design. The result is a rugged hand-hammered texture that makes the stones appear as if they are growing out of a rock face.
Also at the higher end of the market is Fabergé, which has presented collections – Gypsy and Emotion – that flow with a random assortment of stones, while exuding colour. The Gypsy Exuberance bangle was inspired by Russian gypsy singers, with “a painterly flow of sapphires, rubies, tsavorites, spinels, spessartites, garnets, punctuated by pools of diamonds”. The piece, though surely time-consuming in its creation, boasts fluidity and randomness that almost belies its intricacy — yet the effect is no less inspiring. Fabergé’s similarly decorative Emotion rings, launched in late 2013, each feature more than 300 gemstones, similarly described as painterly, abstract compositions of random pavé work.
The gap between leaving the outcome of a jewellery design to chance versus utilising techniques to create something intricately beautiful is evidently much closer than many of us think. As illustrated by the pieces presented on these very pages, jewellery that sits on the spectrum of contained chaos allows the personality of each piece to truly shine.