Jacques Cartier, of the cartier jewelry house, and Jacques Arpels, of Van Cleef & Arpels, both traveled throughout Asia in the early 20th century, journeying from Paris to destinations as diverse as Bombay and Bahrain. Each returned with a bounty of vibrant gems and new ideas about jewelry design. The flamboyant pieces that followed were forerunners of the Art Deco movement, the works of which displayed design elements originating from India, the Middle East, and the Far East. Nearly a century later, many of those same Asian-influenced traits—snake motifs, micromosaics, and the use of rose-cut stones and blackened metal finishes—are again appearing in jewelry collections worldwide.
Image 1. LOTUS ARTS DE VIVRE wood bangle with gold snake adorned with multicolored tourmalines and rose-cut diamonds, $10,000; YOSSI HARARI 24-karat gold bangles with black diamonds, $21,030, or white diamonds, $38,080 (all at Bergdorf Goodman, 212.753.7300, www.bergdorfgoodman.com).
Turkey’s jewelry-making history dates to at least the Ottoman Empire of the 17th century, when artisans layered oxidized silver over 24-karat gold to create a matte black canvas for a palette of richly colored gems and diamonds. Turkish jewelers Sevan Bicakci and Yossi Harari preserve those techniques in their Istanbul workshops, yet their pieces also introduce new forms of Turkish design.
Bicakci, who began his goldsmithing apprenticeship at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar at age 12, portrays the beauty of his country through images of Mediterranean sea life, flowers, and architecture that he carves into the metal and gemstones in his jewelry. He also incorporates enamel paintings and micromosaics into his pieces.
At Harari’s workshop, sixth-generation craftsmen employ primitive, handmade tools to create 24-karat gold pieces embedded with diamonds and gems.
Turkish influences reach far beyond the country’s borders, as evidenced by the jewelry of Korean designer Sally Sohn and the blackened metal and diamond pieces of Los Angeles–based jeweler Martin Katz.
Image 2. Left to right: SEVAN ring with pink tourmalines and black and white diamonds, $5,170 (at Barneys New York, 212.826.8900, www.barneys.com); Sally Sohn pendant necklace with rubies and green and white diamonds, $35,550 (at Bergdorf Goodman, 212.753.7300, www.bergdorfgoodman.com); SEVAN quartz, aquamarine, and diamond Micro Mosaic ring, $47,880 (at Barneys New York); ARMAN pink tourmaline ring with diamond accents, $7,200 (at Neiman Marcus, Beverly Hills, 310.975.4420, www.neimanmarcus.com); YOSSI HARARI 24-karat gold and oxidized silver cuff with a mélange of blue gemstones, $38,655 (at Bergdorf Goodman); DAVID YURMAN black onyx, ruby, and diamond necklace, price upon request (212.752.4255, www.davidyurman.com); SEVAN aquamarine and diamond carved ring, $12,000 (at Barneys New York); Martin Katz triangular-cut diamond earrings, $74,500 (866.956.7200, www.martinkatz.com); GILAN amethyst and black diamond cuff, $45,600 (212.949.4350, www.gilan.com).
When designer Waris Ahluwalia of India’s House of Waris says, "There is a sense of human touch in Indian jewelry," he could be speaking figuratively or literally. His jewelry makers employ a number of ancient techniques that do not involve mechanized tools. For instance, Waris notes, instead of using a drill to bore a hole in a gemstone, a craftsman, working with one of his colleagues, uses a piece of wood, with a pin at one end, that is attached to a rope. Each person holds one end of the rope, and they pull back and forth to create a propeller action that drills the pin into the metal or gemstone. "This technique was passed down several generations to these men, and it’s part of their jewelry heritage," says Ahluwalia, speaking by telephone from his workshop in Rajasthan, India. "[In India], there is a heritage and understanding of jewelry as a craft that captivated Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, and it hasn’t disappeared."
Indian jewelry is characterized by 24-karat gold; large-scale, textural designs; and prolific use of rose-cut diamonds and colorful gemstones. Ahluwalia’s contemporary designs include crystal and gemstone pendants in 18-karat gold cages.
Image 3. Clockwise from bottom left: Nicholas Varney snake bracelet set with an Ethiopian opal, moonstones, and white, yellow, and brown diamonds, price upon request (212.223.1043, www.nicholasvarneyjewels.com); Amrita Singh five-strand sapphire necklace with rubies and diamonds, $8,450 (at Bergdorf Goodman, 212.753.7300, www.bergdorfgoodman.com); House of Waris crystal pendant necklace set with rubies and diamonds, $8,800 (at Bergdorf Goodman); Buccellati ruby, diamond, and gold necklace, $336,000 (212.308.2900, www.buccellati.com); James de Givenchy for Taffin spessartite, pink spinel, diamond, and platinum ear pendants, price upon request (212.421.6222); Aaron Basha diamond briolette and platinum choker, $96,000 (212.935.1960, www.aaronbasha.com); Munnu/The Gem Palace rose-cut diamond choker set in 22-karat gold, price upon request (212.861.0606, www.gempalacejaipur.com); James de Givenchy for Taffin tsavorite, spinel, diamond, and platinum ring, price upon request.
In the far east, animals, lotus flowers, or Buddhist symbols often are depicted in small pieces with dainty, gem-set patterns and enamel or lacquer inlays. Though these designs traditionally have been subtle, Oriental motifs now are appearing in bolder, statement-making jewelry.
Jade is the gem most closely linked to the Far East, where, in many societies, it is believed to be imbued with spiritual properties that bring good fortune to those who possess the stone. Once prevalent in Art Deco designs, jade—in all its shades—has become a favored gem of James de Givenchy, Lorraine Schwartz, and Henry Dunay, among other prominent designers.
Image 4. Left to right: JEWELRY BY ROSALINA jade and pearl tassel earrings with tsavorite and diamond accents, $48,500 (at Neiman Marcus, Las Vegas, 800.288.7741); MISH NEW YORK Pagoda brooch with white topaz and blue sapphires, $22,000 (212.734.3500, www.mishnewyork.com); MARTHA O’BRIEN 18-karat gold pendant and necklace, $15,300 (at Bergdorf Goodman, 212.753.7300, www.bergdorfgoodman.com); CARTIER pendant from the Inde Mystérieuse collection with white, yellow, and bronze diamonds, emerald eyes, and onyx, price upon request (800.227.8437, www.cartier.com); FRANCIS MERTENS tsavorite, diamond, and titanium tree brooch, $65,000 (at Bergdorf Goodman); JEWELRY BY ROSALINA panther ring with lemon citrine, tsavorites, yellow sapphires, and diamonds, $12,500 (at Neiman Marcus, Las Vegas).