Some 500 or more years ago, Inca craftsmen created bird motifs to wear around their necks, recounts Los Angeles–based Sylva Yepremian. That artwork, she says, represented a kind of mystical connection to their deities. Yepremian, known for her ability to craft distinctively contemporary pieces using unusual materials—think inimitable vintage intaglios, antique lockets, vegetable ivory pendants, open-winged sparrows hand-carved from vibrant turquoise, and perfectly polished 19th-century diamonds—procured 20 of these amulets from an artifact dealer for her Sylva & Cie jewelry designs. “I love the collectible aspect of the artifacts,” she says. “They transcend time and trends.” Transcend, yes; defeat, no. But the material’s slight weathering makes the birds that much more appealing in a new collection of pendant necklaces and earrings that includes a series incorporating those amulets (which range from $4,250 to $16,500) as well as other pieces inspired by indigenous American aesthetics.
Yepremian’s influences extend northward from Inca territory, too. Some of her designs include this entrancing opal pendant set with Mayan-style patterns, shown on a gold chain with hand-forged Navajo beads, and these bird earrings with faceted and rough carved emeralds. Yepremian, who was born in Lebanon, was first introduced to the jewelry business by her father, who worked as a master jeweler for Maison Cartier in Paris, where she lived until the age of sixteen, when the family came to Los Angeles.
Today, Yepremian’s designs—each made by hand in her workshop in downtown LA’s historic jewelry district—are a unique, head-turning fusion of old and new. Each piece manages to deliver a boundary-breaking creation within a timeless framework. The jeweler is continuously on the hunt for museum-quality collectibles to integrate into her modern designs: “It gives my clients an emotional connection,” she says. “It is beyond just a beautiful piece of jewelry.”