“En el corazón de todo arte grandioso hay una melancolía esencial.
At the heart of all great art is an essential melancholy.”
Federico García Lorca
Portrait by Chris Gambrell_
At the end of April, I received a letter from Luz Camino—a Madrid-based jewelry designer and friend. She included a photograph of herself: a classy, beautiful woman wearing a light brim hat, sitting peacefully and elegantly on a wooden garden bench.
The bright spring day filled my own room, as I became immersed in the smells and sounds, felt the refreshing wind in my hair and light of the sun on my skin. Indeed, the very name of this amazing lady, radiating warmth, sophistication and soft luminescence, means ‘light’.
Madrid, April 30th, 2020
It is truly kind of you to think about me and my family. We are all in good health, thank God. I trust that you and your family are equally well. Hopefully, we will all manage to get through these difficult times we are living in the best way we can.
I must admit I felt privileged from day one. My dearest friend and partner invited me to seclude myself in his home outside Madrid, together with him and his Argentinian cousin who was visiting at the time and could not return home. It is a spacious house with a garden that allows us to stroll and breathe fresh air. We are like the Three Musketeers ready to have the best time possible.
Every morning, I read for a while in bed and jump out at nine to have breakfast in my robe and nightgown. We try to do so all three together.
After a few days locked up, we decided that we had to cooperate in a solidarity project and so we started making reusable masks to be distributed free of charge among nursing homes in Madrid, made with the fabric surplus donated by Neck & Neck – a children’s clothes brand. I have to say, my sewing machine has become my favorite object or fetish these days. My tool for helping others.
We dedicate several hours a day to sewing the masks after breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have already delivered several hundred.
Not a day goes by where I do not do some exercise, for an hour or so. After working out, I get dressed and put on makeup as if I were invited out to lunch. I believe it is important to feel beautiful.
In the afternoon we play cards, canasta and crapette, very much fighting to win. At night, we watch a movie, a TV series or the news.
Aside from all these activities, I dedicate some time to work on jewelry designs. How could I not? I just finished a custom-made pair of earrings for a client through Moda Operandi and am developing my new collection that will be shown at Bergdorf Goodman at the end of the year.
Every day I talk with my family as well – it’s a big one! – and with friends who are spending isolation on their own. We have group videocalls with my children and grandchildren, which is fun and helps us keep in touch. I also stay in touch with Ana, my assistant, and a thousand times more with my son Fernando who, as you know, works with me and is my greatest help and support.
He has been involved in my designs for a long time now and he is behind the conception of several pieces. He plays an essential role in the development of my work and I am so happy to see that he shares my vision when it comes to jewelry, knowing that he will be able to follow in my footsteps. As you can imagine, after my telling you all of this, the days feel rather short and there has not been a single one where I felt bored or tired of isolation.
Sad, however, unfortunately yes, because as a result of this terrible pandemic, we have lost dear friends that I shall never forget. I hope, dear Maria, that you are taking good care of yourselves. Personally, I cannot wait to work full time again soon so that I can go back to collaborating with the great team of craftsmen who give life to my designs.
IN UKRAINE, FRENZIED AMBER MINING HAS DESTROYED THOUSANDS OF HECTARES OF FOREST AND MARSHES.
In scenes reminiscent of the gold rush in America’s Wild West, greed is corrupting not just the land but also the lives of the villagers hoping to make their fortune from it.
By Naomi Gryn
Illustration By Chris Gambrell
According to the ancient Greeks, Phaeton – the son of Helios, god of the sun – used his father’s golden chariot to ride across the sky. Fearing that the earth would be set on fire and destroyed, Zeus struck the chariot with a thunderbolt. Phaeton was thrown into the river and drowned. His grieving sisters became poplar trees, and their tears turned into amber, known in Greek as elektron, or made in the sun.
When you wear a piece of amber, you link yourself to the time of the dinosaurs. This fossilized tree resin, warm and soft to the touch, dates back millions of years, with inclusions such as insects, leaves, flowers, even dinosaur feathers that give us a window onto prehistoric ecosystems.
European amber has a rich honey color. It comes from a forest of giant conifer trees that once stretched for thousands of miles. The world’s largest known deposit is found along a coastal strip by the Baltic Sea, northwest of Kaliningrad, where it has been excavated since the mid-nineteenth century. Then, in the 1990s, Ukraine started to mine its own Rovno amber, called after the Rovno, or RIvne, district in northwest Ukraine, it what is now known by locals as the National Republic of Amber.
In China in ancient times, it was believed that tigers could live for 1000 years. After they die, their souls turn into amber – hu po in Chinese, meaning ‘tiger spirit’ – which was thought to bring good luck and have healing powers, and was used in jewelry, ornaments and medicine. In recent times, as supplies of jade became exhausted, a Chinese craze for hu po led to the price of amber soaring from $900 per kilo in 2011 to $2000 per kilo in 2015, and up to $4500 per kilo for very large stones.
Amber excavation in Ukraine became incredibly lucrative and, after the ‘EuroMaidan’ Revolution of 2014, as the country descended into lawlessness, criminal gangs operating in co-operation with corrupt police officers, Ukraine’s security service and politicians took charge of the country’s burgeoning amber trade. Amber miners – mostly villagers from areas with high unemployment – some equipped with pumps made from car or van parts, others with simple shovels, descend on forest areas where amber deposits have been found. Miners blast craters in the sandy soil and flood them with high-pressure water, so that amber will float to the surface. Then they wade into the water and use nets to fish out the stones.
Excavating as much as 400 tonnes of amber a year, the process has already turned many thousands of hectares of land into desert. No longer able to support plant life, once lush pine and birch forests and marshes now resemble a moonscape. Rivers and streams are polluted. It’s an ecological disaster.
Illegal miners have been making up to $50,000 a day, while the average salary for a Ukrainian factory worker is just $2,100 a year. Local youngsters now refuse to work in other jobs. There are drunken brawls and frequent fights over money: life in and around the amber fields resembles the wild west of America at the height of the gold rush. With no other means to support their families, the miners have been known to face down armed police trying to stop their activities. They bring guns, knives, even grenades to the pits. The amber is sold either to illegal Chinese wholesalers, or smuggled into Poland where it can be passed off as legally excavated Baltic amber and sold at the Gdansk stock market
With so much money to be made from bribes, no one involved in the protection rackets wanted to see Ukraine’s amber trade legalized, but at the end of last year, a bill was passed to try to control amber production.
Meanwhile, the oversupply of Rovno amber has drastically reduced its value, which has dropped to just $450 per kilo. And Chinese customers have become more discerning, now preferring smaller pendants to large ones, wanting only top quality beads of a certain size, color and shape. But our love story with amber is only on pause as it is still gaining popularity in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iran where it is used for prayer beads.
The wisdom of the ancient Greeks echoes through the millennia: as we tear up our forests to raid their resources, we risk setting our world on fire and destroying the precious ecosystems that support human life. The amber tears of Phaeton’s sisters are a warning: enjoy our planet’s magnificent treasures, but guard against human greed so that our children and grandchildren might share them too.
FIVE STRANDS OF AN EXTRAORDINARY AND RARE STUNNER
Some creations belong to no one. Like our children, each with their own unique individuality.
Some things can never be forgotten. Like this exquisite necklace, flawless and pure.
Here is one of my favorite portrait paintings by Chris Gambrell. Hiding under a swaddling cloth is my newborn son, just a few weeks old, who also has skin like an angel.
Around my neck is the one-of-a-kind, divine Hemmerle necklace: five strands of pale-blush, ancient and extremely rare angel skin coral, complemented by diamonds and rose gold. So rare, in fact, that it took several decades for the jewelers of Hemmerle to collect the necessary amount of coral, simultaneously making sure that the beads all match in texture, tone and color, a faultless achievement of balance and symmetry.
A moment of perfect harmony, balanced by two of nature’s most extraordinary gifts: one in my arms and the other wrapped around my neck…
Delicate and dangerous: lily of the valley has long been known for its healing and poisonous properties. During World War I, a drug obtained from this plant was allegedly used to treat exposure to poison gas. On the other end of the spectrum: this gentle, elegant and ostensibly innocent flower can cause dizziness, blurred vision and even much bigger problems.
But these flowers have always had a special place in my heart for a completely different reason. When I was a little girl, my mother gave me a birthday present—Diorissimo perfume. A beautiful, luxurious bottle, full of clean and clear scent, with the notes of green leaves, jasmine and ylang-ylang. For a child whose senses are still wide open and perceptive to all the magic in the world, this little bottle represented a whole new microcosm of smells, the marvel and the alchemy of the yet unfamiliar universe of fragrances.
These warm memories and the captivating, fresh, young smell came back to me once I saw the beautiful Irene Neuwirth’s earrings.
I am usually not a big fan of combining opposite tones, but the classic alliance of pale rose with turquoise blue resonated something tender and intimately emotional in me.
The scent of lily of the valley is hard to reproduce in perfumery since processing destroys the smell of its essential oils. Same with the delicate beauty of the original flower. And yet, the quirky, original design of the earrings, in yellow and white gold, carved turquoise and pink opal, akoya pearls and diamond pave, reflecting and redefining every movement and shape of the flower, is the perfect incarnation of this fragile and wild natural wonder.
For the innately feminine, wonderful woman.
THE AIRY, SCULPTURAL, HYPNOTIC CREATION—LIKE A PENDULUM, WHICH WILL ALWAYS RETURN TO EQUILIBRIUM, HOWEVER DRAMATIC THE DISPLACEMENT
The somewhat uneasy look in her eyes is wondering what happens next, but the aura of the painting is serene—like the rhythmical ticking of a metronome, which looks so much like the Rocket earrings, in gold, jade, tourmaline and white diamonds, by a gloriously Brazilian designer Fernando Jorge.
The harmony of the delicate design, the inherent movement and intimate energy, the contemporary aesthetics, the magnetic elegance of these infinity circles turn them into a sensual, asymmetrical yet perfectly balanced pendulum.
Beauty is everywhere, and this realization is soul-healing.
WHAT RESOURCES FOR INSPIRATION AND MOTIVATION CAN BE FOUND AT HOME?
The hour of and-what-if-nothing-remains-after-us.
The hollow hour.
The very pit of all other hours.
No one feels good at four in the morning.
The ominous picture painted by the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska: four in the morning, the hour of ghosts, the hour which is neither early nor late—the bizarre hour.
But not everyone dislikes and avoids this mystical time of the day.
An artist’s home at 4.30 in the morning. Everyone is fast asleep. Or wait: someone is awake—and painting!
Chris Gambrell (@gambrell_) – a striking fashion illustrator and portraitist from Bristol, UK.
The soft strokes and bright, mellow colors of his paintings got me thinking: what is his secret to keeping the inner peace in anxious times like this? How does he keep his imagination and motivation quarantine-free when the whole world is practicing one or another form of isolation?
Enter Chris’ home, look around, dive into his daily routine and listen to his stories:
For me, the art of staying at home is getting up three hours before everybody else.
Secretly, I have enjoyed being able to get up at 4:30 every morning, with hot oats and a cup of English breakfast tea, followed by a neat, strong espresso. I work best at that time of day. The fresh, impressionable early-morning brain deals well with creativity, and I am able to put down the landmarks, which inspire me to produce more.
Since my work is affected by my mood, I have a routine of warmups to get me to the right mental place. This is often short-timed drawings on a page divided into small panels, something which I do not ‘treasure’ too much. I can then produce quality work and draw carefree until the first signs of activity.
With homeschool in session, me and the kids do a thirty-minute workout every day just before lunch and then try our best to replenish energy with some fresh nutrients.
Having the kids around keeps things fast and light, and the day soon nears evening. After a heavier meal prepared more thoughtfully than usual—because the cooking process has to be taken back a stage or two, depending on product availability,—the kids head to bed, and I can get on with working.
What’s been fascinating is seeing all of the different learning and working processes together in one place, weaving around one another; how we cut up the house to allocate zones for leisure, work and learning.
For me, it’s been an eye-opener: to reimagine spaces for different purposes. Now more than ever, the space in which I work has countless additional demands on it, and the day itself has to be cut into chunks, with time factored in for setting up, cleaning, workouts, making sure the kids are occupied and everybody’s happy.
The notice boards around the house have just had the whimsical jokes and long-term games erased and removed. Overnight, timetables and incentive charts took their place. For how long, who knows.
It’s taken a week or two to establish the new normality. We do what we have to do to ensure that we and others are safe and to ‘damage-limit’.
But, take five very busy lives, all with very different goals and needs, and squish them into the same place at the same time ‘all of the time’—and the need for routine becomes king.
Being aware of what is happening focuses and distracts me at the same time. But we have to carry on, and I choose to try and read the headlines and news in a more objective, fact-based way, trying not to dwell emotionally.
VHERNIER ONCE AGAIN PROVES THAT, EVEN IF CREATIVE GENIES ARE A MYTH, IT HAS CREATIVE GENIUSES OF ITS OWN.
As a result of exceptional craftsmanship we can admire four new, alluring and sensual Aladino rings.
The master jewelers must have used some kind of wizardry, so pure and smooth are the shapes, so deep is the color play of the stones, and all of this so true to the spirit of Vhernier.
The streamlined, almost aerodynamic, shape and smooth implementation make these rings, despite their voluminosity, look almost weightless—the Vhernier paradox, echoing the dual nature of a modern woman: strong yet graceful, captivating yet subtle. The clear, glassy rock crystal seamlessly fuses with rose gold, allowing the colors of the stones, placed in between, to shine through: the aquatic blue of lapis lazuli, the subtle cloudiness of white mother of pearl, the depths of the Universe in grey mother of pearl, and the joyful greenth of jade.
The signature sculptural design makes these sizeable rings perfectly wearable. A reflection of the jeweler’s imagination not to be admired under glass but worn in comfort and shown to the world. And it won’t rub against your skin, sparing you any discomfort or unexpected appearance of magic spooks.
Easily recognizable by their particular, sophisticated design, these subtly futuristic pieces remain true to the architectural principles of Vhernier jewelry. Each piece is shaped like a miniature, unique, avant-garde structure, with an eye toward the environment in which it will be exhibited. Like the graceful Italian architectural masterpieces, designed bearing in mind their surroundings, the precious pieces of Vhernier jewelry are crafted with consideration and respect to the ambient space and the wearer’s body.
Victoire de Castellane, Dior’s Creative Director of Fine Jewelry, was the first person to change my mind, throw away stereotypes and take a fresh look at this quirky, charismatic stone. A precious stone that invites you to dream, invokes colors you have long forgotten, along with all the fairy tales that seemed to have long gone.
‘A combination of the incompatible’, was a phrase I overheard at the presentation of the Dior et Moi high jewelry collection this winter in Paris. It cut to the core of the bold and glorious, exuberant and sublime style of Victoire de Castellane, looking into the heart of beauty without bias or prejudice. A beauty that couldn’t care less: is this (st)one precious enough?
‘When I look at it, I see the earth from afar, the oceans, the archipelagos, and the reflections of stars on the waves,’ says Victoire in an interview with DIORMAG. www.dior.com/diormag/en
When a talented artist Hakan created this captivating 3D video, my first impression was fire from the opal.
A beautiful stone with a strong character.
But not all things fragile are inherently subpar and unlucky. Sometimes fragility makes beautiful phenomena and feelings even more precious.
So let’s keep on dreaming colorful, opalescent dreams of magic, purity, sensuality, femininity and beauty!
For one gorgeous moment, imagine a world where every stone, given the right context and design, can shine like NO OTHER, where the hallmark is not price or prestige, but beauty combined in a perfect work of art.
Illustration by INKYCUBANS
Even if not the bullseye definition of this collection, it nonetheless lingered in the air, illuminated by soft magenta and hushed blue lights, for it cut to the core of the bold and glorious, exuberant and sublime style of Dior’s Creative Director of Fine Jewelry, Victoire de Castellane, looking into the heart of beauty without bias or prejudice.
A beauty that couldn’t care less: is this (st)one precious enough? Indeed, one of the most prominent pieces in the collection is an opal necklace in yellow and white gold, diamonds, pearls, garnets, sapphires, peridots, emeralds and lacquer: with a semiprecious, not precious, stone as a centerpiece.
‘Dior et moi’: Me that is not the same anymore, Me that is free in spirit and decisions, Me that creates and sees the world differently.
Diamonds, emeralds and sapphires are set in perfect balance with tourmalines, rubellites, opals, garnets and peridots, previously considered less precious or important. The new generation has a different vision, and a new era in jewelry is following their path and experiences.
Playful and colorful jewels, full of asymmetrical details, a mix of stones of different caliber. “It’s an homage to Art Deco, but in 2020. Like little pieces of sci-fi architecture,” says Victoire de Castellane in an interview for Vogue.
The genius and exquisite invention of the Maison makes it possible to put the necklace on with one smooth move, without assistance and without fear of breaking this extremely complex, yet pliable masterpiece.
Actually, the deal was really big back in 1879, when Boucheron designed the first Question Mark necklace. At a time when Western women’s fashion was still fundamentally reigned by corsets, rigidly structured bustles, ultra-restrictive, heavy, long skirts, profuse decoration, extremely tight sleeves, and tall, fitted, boned collars—all ingredients for zero convenience—this innovative mechanism was revolutionary, giving women, apart from the obvious beauty of the necklace, a long-sought feeling of independence, freedom and power.
The patterns borrowed from nature, leaves, flowers, petals, Art deco-style natural pearls, a peacock’s feather have been carefully studied and reproduced in precious metals and stones. The idea, the design, the implementation, the history behind the piece, even the way it laconically captures the natural body shapes and gives a subtle yet sublime focus to the chest. In modern times, when women are free to dress however they like, this asymmetrical, light, graceful Question Mark necklace remains Boucheron’s answer to the timeless question of beauty, femininity and freedom of self-expression.
Eye-catching rainbow jewelry by Luisa Alexander also has something refreshing to say. And this word is: happy. Besides being very practical, fitting every style and clothing palette, rainbow jewelry is the ultimate mood maker, keeping your spirits up and brightening your day.
Do not miss your rainbow catch at the Moda Operandi trunk show!
A fresh look at a traditional artefact by a new creative mind in the world of jewelry. In Lito Karakostanoglou’s interpretation, a popular amulet—meant to protect wearers against the evil eye—acquires gentler, friendlier and more elegant, feminine lines.
This gorgeous golden eye will be watching the world with you and, so distinctive and arresting, it will make the world stop—to look at you.
And for the cherry on top, you can even pick the color! Choose blue, green, purple, yellow or rainbow, rimmed with laconic golden eyelashes or surrounded by diamonds, sapphires and rubies.
What amazing eye candy! What a catch!
Let’s not reinvent the wheel—everything that’s good about love has already been described by Chaucer, Shakespeare and Poe, as well as Pablo Neruda in his Love Sonnet XI:
I hunger for your sleek laugh,your hands the color of a savage harvest, hunger for the pale stones of your fingernails, I want to eat your skin like a whole almond.
Yet the history of love has a dark side too. So here comes the bad about Valentine’s Day.
Although its origins are buried deep in the past, historians presume that it was started by (pretty much naked) ancient Romans celebrating the feast of Lupercalia on February 13–15: sacrificing animals and whipping women with their hides, while young women willingly lined up for this questionable ritual, believing in its fertility-bringing power. The name of the modern day of love may have also come from ancient Rome, where Emperor Claudius II executed two men named Valentine on February 14, whose martyrdom was subsequently honored by the Church with St. Valentine’s Day.
Hopefully (though this is arguable), people today are much less bloodthirsty and more chill and prefer tokens of love to being whipped with the hide of a sacrificial animal. So here comes the last—and the most beautiful—part of our Valentine’s story: the jewelry.
Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to remember the wonderful and unrivaled YOU, along with the beauty incarnated in gorgeous jewelry pieces by exceptional designers and artists. Charms and necklaces: heart, lips, coins, keys to your heart in yellow, white and pink gold, titanium, rhodium, diamonds, multicolor sapphires, rubies, tourmalines, corundums, enamel, quartz, ebony and pearls—everything your heart was longing for, and much, much more.
Chocolate will taste sweet for a moment, while jewelry will last for ages. An old proverb says: “Love is a collaborative work of art”. And as we know now through modern medicine: love is obsession, manifesting at the chemical level and showing at brain scans. So why not surrender to the sweet, innocent obsession with jewelry on this Day of Love and surround yourself with these vibrant pieces of art.
This day is about you.
Treat your loved one and yourself with a precious heart from the gorgeous selection at the Moda Operandi trunk show. A heart that is extremely hard to break.
The fairytales are anything but forgotten. Reinvented by the artistic duo through precious and peculiar materials, imaginative and eccentric designs, perfect asymmetry and advanced techniques, they take a physical form of colorful, delicious, exuberant and happy pieces. Red, pink, yellow, blue, gold and white, little crowns, hearts, lips and stars—the castles, clear skies, princesses, romantic stories we were told as kids, still alive at the back of our minds.
The ribbons of the Cadeau Pink earrings, a ‘present’ in yellow gold, enamel, diamonds and lemon quartz, wrap around the sublime fantasies hovering in the air, swinging to the gentle footsteps of a modern woman, open to the beauty and art of enchantment.
‘I like to make pieces that defy the ordinary, otherwise it’s no fun’, says Suzanne. This is what her jewelry is about. The iconic Smarties necklace, the bucolic fruit basket, Space Age rocket and ‘Warholic’ tomato soup can earrings, the car tire bracelet: it takes supreme levels of creativity, intelligence, refined taste, skill, mastery of materials and attention to detail to make those creations – which might sound pop and kitsch – look so sophisticated, expensive and haute couture, attracting aristocratic and elite clientele.
An art collector herself, Suzanne breathes love ; smile into her creations. High jewelry is no longer restricted to strict, ultraclassical shapes and styles. Smart, witty and far from drama, Suzanne is a perfect model for her own jewelry: serious pieces with a very feminine touch, and the right sense of humor. They are always unique and somewhat ahead of fashion.
Suzanne’s Wrap It Up Limited Edition earrings in aluminum and gold, are set with diamonds, sit next to the Ed Ruscha’s snowy mountaintops, standing out against yellowish-indigo skies, with a large ‘Pay Nothing Until April’ print in Boy Scout Utility Modern (or ‘no style’, as he himself referred to it) font, invented by the artist. Nothing like the flat terrain where the artist grew up, the landscape was most likely borrowed from a souvenir postcard. ‘Wrap It Up’ earrings are available online on TheRealReal (Please follow up by clicking on the image).
‘It’s not a celebration of nature’, says Ed Ruscha. ‘I’m not trying to show beauty. It’s more like I’m painting ideas of ideas of mountains.’ The dispassionate approach to this otherwise romantic scenery, the sloganesque language of the print makes his paintings—now selling for millions—resemble consumerist posters in the window of a travel agency.
Both artists’ creations, eccentric and elegantly witty, may be self-explanatory on the outside, but carry a deeper meaning on the inside. Or do they?
Life is about so many things, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy the art of humor.
A FULL IMMERSION INTO TIME, NATURE, LOVE AND ITALY: A PRECIOUS PUZZLE BY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS IN MILAN
Illustration by INKYCUBANS
Today they host Van Cleef & Arpels. Over 400 pieces of jewelry, watches and precious objects—produced since the establishment of the Maison in 1906—are exhibited alongside archival documents, sketches and gouache designs, deconstructing the creative process and leading you through the intricacies of artistic thought that gave life to these poetic creations.
The Palazzo looks different with walls draped in red silk, surfaces covered in gold leaf, pink and aquamarine lighting, showcases made from plexiglass, mirrors transforming and amplifying the space around you. Everything reflects and refracts in everything, echoing the luminosity and shimmer of the jewels, with a scenography designed by Johanna Grawunder.
You enter Time, Nature and Love.
Guiding you through a maze of gold, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, platinum and sapphires is the curator of the exhibition, Alba Cappellieri. Connecting the Maison and Time through the literary work of Italo Calvino, she accompanies you to the various rooms of the Palazzo—Paris, Exoticism, Lightness, Quickness, Visibility, Exactitude, Multiplicity—followed by intersections with Dance, Couture and Architecture. After you have passed Time, you will enter the Love section, displaying precious and symbolic romantic gifts, for love was at the very origin of the Maison. Once you have satisfied your hunger for love, dive into Nature—flowers, birds, animals, colors and shapes—an inexhaustible source of beauty and inspiration for an artistic soul.
Pieces of the puzzle come together as you immerse yourself in this divine concoction of exquisite jewelry, modern scenography and elite literature. The seemingly complex interrelations become clear as you walk through the exhibition from one creation to another, savoring and relishing, allowing the story to tell itself.
Join the experience at Palazzo Reale in Milan, from November 30, 2019, to February 23, 2020.