Some people see jewelry as a simple, frivolous pleasure. Pippa Small is not one of them. For an impassioned perspective on jewelry’s profundity and power — to protect, inspire, communicate and, above all, endure — talk to the London-based designer about her love for bejeweled adornment.
Better yet, check out her latest collection, “Old is New,” a collaboration with Joseph Coplin, the co-owner of New York’s Antiquarium Ltd. Fine Ancient Arts Gallery, an antiquities dealer on New York’s Madison Avenue. The capsule includes 25 pieces — a mix of rings, pendants, necklaces and bangles — featuring Antiquarium artifacts from as far back as the 1st millennium BC mounted in Small’s elegant gold settings.
The idea for the collection was born about a year and a half ago, when Coplin visited Small in London and “pulled out some pieces he thought would do well to turn into jewelry,” she says. She’d been frequenting his gallery for nearly a decade at that point, soaking up his knowledge and passion for “extraordinary things.”
Small had most of the pieces in the collection fabricated in India, whose goldsmiths, she says, have an “instinct for gold” that translates into “more sympathy for the pieces.”
She referred to a solid gold amulet depicting an oryx that she set into a silver and 22-karat gold ring retailing for $26,160. “It’s a beautiful mountain goat creature that represented virility and power,” she says. “Think about how rare gold was and about the artisan who worked on it. It was probably one nugget of gold that would have been panned from a river. It’s not just an exquisitely made piece. It’s about how it was sourced, who would have worn it, and how unimaginably precious it was.”
Other standout pieces in the collection include a gold ring topped by a swimming dolphin of Etruscan design from the 3rd century BC, a pair of Parthian 1st century BC votive wine pitcher amulet earrings, a 7th century BC Egyptian amulet of a goddess set as a pendant, and a number of agate beads strung on 18k gold chains, such as a Sumerian banded agate flat rhomboid bead from the 3rd Millennium BC.
“Whether crystal or agate, some are so worn down through human touch that all the edges have been softened,” Small says. “The stones have absorbed the oils of people who’ve worn them, their energies and stories. There’s that sense of wear in them; you feel the softness of human touch, humanity and history through all its good and bad, beautiful and horrible moments.”
The collection, which ranges from $2,200 to $27,230 (for a rare Greco Persian Heliotrope scaraboid seal transformed into an 18k gold bangle), is currently on display at Small’s shop in London’s Notting Hill. In January, it will travel to her two boutiques in California, the Brentwood Country Mart in Los Angeles, and the Marin Country Mart north of San Francisco.