Five Jewelry Designers You Need to Know
Meet the designers behind the jewels that everyone is talking about.
By: Jill Newman
What makes a fabulous jewel? More than merely gold and gemstones, the best designs are infused with passion, artistry, and heritage – and, of course, great style. They are jewels that make you smile, dream, and feel empowered.
These five international designers are creating contemporary jewelry that is instilled with their unique visions, emotions, and stories. They push the boundaries of what’s possible in fine jewelry with unexpected materials, sensuous shapes, and innovative concepts.
Silvia Furmanovich, São Paulo
Silvia Furmanovich travels to the far reaches of world to uncover natural and exotic resources and artisan crafts that she seamlessly integrates into her fine jewelry. The result is a collection of contemporary pieces that are rich with texture, color, and culture.
Furmanovich’s signature style features vibrant wood marquetry designs set with gemstones and diamonds. They are created by artisans in Acre, Brazil, whose age-old techniques were passed from one generation to the next. The woodworkers spend countless hours crafting patterns in wood, which are then set in jeweled earrings, pendants, and handbags.
Like the designer herself, who often wears colorful, flowing silk kimonos, the jewelry has a bohemian spirit – and a sense easy-going luxury. But there is no mistaking the impeccable craftsmanship and top-quality gems and diamonds, which transform the wood into elegant jewels.
Furmanovich also uses bamboo to create large-scale jewelry designs that are remarkably light. She discovered the art of bamboo basket weaving on a trip to Japan where she met craftsmen using ancient techniques, and she worked with them to create scaled-down versions that she dyed into a range of colors and set with gold and gemstones in shapely earrings and rings.
Every piece of jewelry has a story and is touched by the hands of artisans, and it’s Furmanovich’s way of sustaining age-old crafts through stylish designs.
Nikos Koulis, Athens
Born into a family of Greek jewelers, Koulis forged his own distinct style: Inspired by the streamlined art deco aesthetic, he sets precision-cut stones in lustrous black enamel and gold designs that he says appeals to both mothers and their daughters. His bestselling Oui collection features statement diamond, ruby, and sapphire rings, necklaces, and stackable bracelets.
His Feelings collection features diamonds with fluid gold snake chains that have a Seventies vibe. The pieces shake and shimmer, and they are relaxed yet glamourous, imbuing fine jewelry with a sensuous and playful style.
Gaia Repossi, Paris
Third generation jeweler Gaia Repossi is inspired by architecture, sculpture, and contemporary art when creating her minimalist designs. What appears simple is, in fact, complex to execute. Its jewelry that is designed to be like second skin and to blend in seamlessly with the wearer in a subtle yet edgy way. Like the style of the brutalist and Bauhaus movements, each design is pared down to its core.
Repossi’s Berbere collection, for instance, was inspired by the minimal tribal tattoos worn by African Berber women. The jewelry conveys symbolism in an avant-garde way with simple rings that don’t come full circle and single earrings in blackened gold that are dotted with diamonds.
Bibi Van der Velden, Amsterdam
Bibi van der Velden’s jewelry is artistic and highly personal. Whether she is designing an enchanting animal or a pop art-inspired piece, the jeweler sketches each bauble then hand-carves every wax mold. Each is like a miniature sculpture, made in Fairtrade gold, and set with ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones.
Not one to follow traditional jewelry codes, van der Velden uses surprising elements in her pieces, such as 60,000-year-old mammoth tusks, ostrich eggs, and even scarab wings.
One of van der Velden’s favored motifs is the scarab, an ancient symbol of rebirth and good luck, which she features in rings and earrings. It’s part of her menagerie of playful animals, including a new jeweled pink sapphire elephant necklace.
Valerie Messika, Paris
Valerie Messika’s contemporary diamond jewelry shakes, shimmers, and moves. The daughter of a prestigious international diamond dealer, the Parisian jeweler learned about the magic and allure of the stones from an early age. Her eponymous collection is designed to show diamonds in a fresh, young, and more playful style that appeals to women of all ages.
In her Paris atelier, Messika pioneers new jewelry techniques to make diamonds appear as if they are floating on the skin, without a visible trace of a metal setting. Her signature Move series has diamonds that slide and move in bangles, rings, and pendants. It’s all about the diamond – shown in ways you never expected.