“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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
From the very beginning of its history, jewelry has showcased status. Produced from rare or difficult-to-mine materials, requiring time-consuming, intricate—to the point of being hazardous—techniques, fine jewelry has always been the trademark of importance, position in the hierarchy.
The pharaohs and queens of Ancient Egypt adored themselves with exquisite jewels made from precious metals, gems and colored glass, while commoners wore jewelry made from rocks, clay, animal teeth and shells. Today the spectrum of materials has broadened immensely and can include all of the above in one piece. Yet, gold and diamonds, sapphires and pearls retain their unshakeable position in the representation of beauty.
Fine, luxurious jewelry is meant to be noticed, even when it comes in the shape and size of tiny, minimalist diamond or pearl stud earrings. Let alone the shiny, filigree, classic and modern, subtle and chunky statement necklaces, screaming for attention: Look at me! Notice me!
Statement necklaces of all sorts, from classical beauty to chunkier modern pieces, and stud earrings of all shapes and colors, from simple diamond drops to complex ornaments, was a palpable trend at the Golden Globes 2020.
Statement necklaces are the ornate, sophisticated frames, drawing attention to the neck, face, hair of the wearer. Stud earrings, no matter if diamond, pearl or metal, will serve forever and work with everything—an easy and painless solution for any occasion.
Look at her, notice her! A gorgeous woman floats through a stunned crowd, making all heads turn. A wealth of little pearl drops shining in her ears, bringing immense, clean light to her face.
DON’T MISS THE LAST WEEK TO SEE THE MOST INCREDIBLE EXHIBITION “CHAUMET IN MAJESTI” AT THE GRIMALDI FORUM OF MONACO UNTILL THE 28TH OF AUGUST!!!
You may only associate tiaras with princesses and fairy tales, but they’re making a comeback. We suspect it’s a conflation of the global elite’s creative play coupled with newly reinvigorated female empowerment, but tiaras have found their way into the jewelry cabinets and even boardrooms (!) around the world.
Regardless their use (the boardroom example is real – one Chinese businesswoman is said to occasionally don a tiara during special business gatherings), tiaras are always a statement, an exclamation point – and a distinctly feminine one at that.
One jewelry house notably has tiaras on lock: Chaumet has made tiaras for over 200 years, with their oldest example dating to 1811.Chaumet was commissioned to create a tiara for Empress Josephine in the late 19th century and has over 3,000 tiaras in its archive; they continue to produce a limited number every year, may of which are special orders for powerful women looking for something special. In a world seeking differentiation and distinction, the elegant tiara is again taking its place as queenmaker.
THE JEWELRY ICON