Francis Mertens contends that you cannot create truly innovative designs if you try to make them from traditional precious metals. "Gold and platinum are heavy and thus limiting in what you can make," says Mertens, a former trucking entrepreneur who five years ago opened his first diamond jewelry workshop in his native Antwerp, Belgium. Instead of gold or platinum, Mertens prefers titanium, but before he could incorporate the metal into his designs, he had Airbus engineers teach him how to work with it.
Last spring, Mertens presented his first titanium designs to buyers at Bergdorf Goodman; the retailer will launch the Francis Mertens jewelry collection in its Fifth Avenue store in November. Mertens spent four years assembling the collection, which comprises voluminous and surprisingly lightweight diamond-studded hoops and three-dimensional floral earrings, brooches, and necklaces. He also developed a rhodium treatment that transforms the inherently gray appearance of the titanium with a finish that mimics white, yellow, or pink gold.
"Until now jewelry was very flat," says Mertens. "Titanium gives you the ability to create three-dimensional, sculptural designs that are still light, feminine, and stylish."
Francis Mertens, available at Bergdorf Goodman, 212.872.2578, www.bergdorfgoodman.com