Opinion

It’s a Thing: High-Profile Designers Talk About Heart-Shape Gemstone Jewelry

NEW YORK. Heart shapes inevitably inspire a wide range of emotions, from groan-and-eye-roll combinations among those opposed to the syrupy sweet symbol to happily surprised exclamations from those who like kitsch. And since hearts have been steadily making appearances in the collections of some of jewelry’s toniest artists (think Irene Neuwirth), I decided to find out why.

Heart-shape opal necklace from Irene Neuwirth Credit: @ireneneuwirth on Instagram

Heart-shape opal necklace from Irene Neuwirth
Credit: @ireneneuwirth on Instagram

Deirdre Featherstone, a longtime platinumsmith with a penchant for motorcycles and big diamonds, didn’t really consider the shape as one to use until her daughter was born. “I always thought hearts were overly sentimental,” she explains. “It’s not a shape I would have used until I met my own child.”

So, with those feelings in mind, when she visited the Coober Pedy opal mine in Australia in 2014 and spied an opal cut into a heart shape, she was instantly smitten. She purchased it, later spotting two other opal shapes at a different mine that combined to form an exclamation mark; these, too, she purchased. She brought them home and let them sit in her safe for months—as designers tend to do with gemmy acquisitions—until inspiration struck. She would make a graffiti-esque homage to her daughter. With a fat black Sharpie, she inked “I” and “CEM” (her daughter’s initials) on paper, then tracing and cutting them from sheet metal to make playful platinum cursive letters with diamond pavé and “milgrain defining and dividing the letters,” she notes. She sandwiched the opal heart (bezel-set into a platinum and diamond frame) between the letters with the opal exclamation mark capping off the wearable sentence. The piece commands so much attention that she snagged a custom order for a similar style from a client at Bergdorf Goodman over the weekend.

A heart-shape opal necklace from Deirdre Featherstone. The sentence is a love note to her daughter.

A heart-shape opal necklace from Deirdre Featherstone. The sentence is a love note to her daughter.

For Kimberly McDonald—the designer who put framed geodes on the map—the heart also has an understated place among her offerings. After all, it has limited appeal, but when found in an unusual material (like the crystal opal in her personal collection), they are fun. “You get a different play of color and a different reflection of light when you have different angles and curves,” she explains about heart-shape opals.

Heart-shape opal necklace in the private collection of Kimberly McDonald

Heart-shape opal necklace in the private collection of Kimberly McDonald

Meanwhile, for Lauren Kessler of Lauren K., hearts have appeal for their classic nature. “There will always be women who adore hearts and men who enjoy presenting heart jewelry to the ones they love,” she says.

One of her favorite styles are opal and diamond heart-shape stud earrings. “They are the perfect size, are easy to throw on, and mix with well with all types of fine and fashion jewelry,” she adds. They are also so popular that they’re often out of stock; luckily, the pair below is available now.

Heart-shape stud earrings in 18k gold with 1.85 cts. t.w. Ethiopian opal and 0.31 ct. diamonds, $3,795; Lauren K. For purchase: Email info@laurenk.com or call 212-719-2067.

Heart-shape stud earrings in 18k gold with 1.85 cts. t.w. Ethiopian opal and 0.31 ct. diamonds, $3,795; Lauren K.
For purchase: Email info@laurenk.com or call 212-719-2067.
Credit: @laurenkfinejewelry on Instagram

 

One-of-a-kind pendant necklace in 18k white gold with black rhodium and a 56.31 ct. heart-shape black opal with blue sapphires, $45,925; Kimberly McDonald For purchase: Call Bergdorf Goodman at 212-753-7300.

One-of-a-kind pendant necklace in 18k white gold with black rhodium and a 56.31 ct. heart-shape black opal with blue sapphires, $45,925; Kimberly McDonald
For purchase: Call Bergdorf Goodman at 212-753-7300.

 

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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Opinion

London Jewelers x WJA Emerging Jewelry Designers Reception & Sale

NEW YORK. On Wednesday night, I attended a cocktail party and meet-and-greet with a trio of under-the-radar jewelry designers at the London Jewelers store in the Oculus downtown. The event was organized by the retailer and the New York Metro chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association, a national nonprofit on whose board I sit (I become the chapter president in January 2018). My purpose there was two-fold: to support my WJA sisters (all three of the designers are WJA members) and to cast a spotlight on the store, which is trying different events to help drive traffic and awareness to artisans who can’t afford to advertise in mainstream (and expensive) publications. While last night’s affair was for press, everyone can meet the designers in store this Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1-2.

London Jewelers x WJA Emerging Designer sale

Longtime designer Fern Freeman, a master of bold, sexy 18k gold styles with oversize disc elements and loads of tassels, was among the three featured talents. I adore Fern, having known her for years and having featured her work in many of the photo shoots I worked during my tenure as a staff market editor for one of the trade magazines. When you need editorial (read: statement-making) pieces, Fern is your go-to source! Not surprisingly, she had a number of pieces like these in the cases last night, plus a brand-new pair of massive tribalesque doorknockers dangling from her petite ear lobes.

Fern explained to me that she took part in the event because of the well-respected name of London Jewelers in the New York metropolitan area (London also has six locations throughout New York state, five of which are on Long Island). Plus, the timing is great—it’s officially the holiday season! And the Lower Manhattan location is rich in tourists and Wall Street executives alike.

So, what’s in Fern’s cases? Plenty of flexible rings in gold with gemstones (Fern calls them tennis styles), turquoise ear climbers, wave-motif earrings, a bracelet, and a two-finger ring (a big wave choker has already sold!), and some newer tribal-inspired pieces like the aforementioned earrings. However, she is most excited about her fringe-laced earring backs, a new look for her. “I’m selling a lot of those,” she says. “They go with everything and can update basic diamond studs, or you can just wear one because the whole mix-and-match thing is still happening.”

The Wave cuff in 18k yellow gold with diamond accents from Fern Freeman

The Wave cuff in 18k yellow gold with diamond accents from Fern Freeman

The other two artists, Gina Ferranti of Gigi Ferranti and Lindsey Scoggins (who worked behind the scenes at one of big chain-store jewelers for many years), had plenty of covetable numbers as well. Gina proudly showed us a new pair of mismatched earrings with pinkish-purple spinel that she has just finished, and Lindsey—whom I just met last night—impressed me with her Roman numeral-inspired Time collection of stackable wedding bands. For sure, those who visit the store this weekend will have plenty to try on, and, fortunately, the designers will still be on hand to meet.

Choker in 18k rose gold with diamonds from Gigi Ferranti Jewelry

Choker in 18k rose gold with diamonds from Gigi Ferranti Jewelry

London’s senior vice president of business development, Scott Saunders (whom I’ve known since his days working at Pluczenik) explained to me that he and the rest of the London team were thrilled to be able to offer lesser-known designers such a great platform for exposure. “We hope this will become a pilot for other stores around the country to model,” he said.

Stackable anniversary bands in 18k yellow gold with diamond-dusted Roman numerals to mark the year by Lindsey Scoggins

Stackable anniversary bands in 18k yellow gold with diamond-dusted Roman numerals to mark the year by Lindsey Scoggins

Saunders said they will choose three artists a year for this opportunity, and if the collections are well received by shoppers, the lines will be considered for permanent positions throughout their other locations.

In Manhattan this weekend? Do drop by the London Jewelers shop in the Oculus downtown to meet Fern, Gina, and Lindsey, and to try on some of the badass jewels—they are bringing extra just for this Friday and Saturday—they have on hand.

 

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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Opinion

The 709 Carat Peace Diamond: What It Is, Why It Matters, and What It Felt Like to Hold It

NEW YORK. Thanksgiving week in America is an ideal time to give thanks—even for non-U.S. residents who work in jewelry. That’s why a meeting held yesterday morning in New York City by Martin Rapaport, founder of the eponymous diamond price sheet, auction services, and magazine—for which this journalist is a monthly contributor—was so significant. The reason for the gathering? The 709 ct. Peace Diamond, a giant piece of rough, found by miners working in alluvial fields in Sierra Leone in February of this year. (Check out the video on the diamond’s website that shows the community where the stone was found.)

The Peace Diamond

The Peace Diamond
Photo Credit: Rapaport

For sure, the stone is significant for its size—Hearts On Fire says that most rough is only about 0.10 ct.—but what’s more important is the story behind the stone. This piece of rough marks the first time that miners in Sierra Leone, once a war-torn country that many know of because of the movie “Blood Diamond,” actually trusted its government to help them broker a sale.

For those of you who are not familiar with the traditional path of diamonds from mine to market, it’s a complicated scenario. Miners like the ones who found the Peace Diamond, named for the peaceful state of the country and the growing trust between Sierra Leoneans and their government—which hasn’t always been the most effective—often sell stones through backdoor outlets at low prices and without paying taxes. They do so out of fear of not benefitting at all if they do use proper channels. The Peace Diamond, which was found in the Kono District of the country, marks a break in this vicious cycle: the miners who found it alerted their local chief, who notified the government, which is helping to broker a well-publicized and proper sale at auction. The proceeds will be carefully and transparently divided up between tax revenues that will benefit residents and more money to the actual miners, who often don’t benefit from a large score. What does this mean? Many independent miners working remote alluvial fields like the one in which the Peace Diamond was found work for about $2 a day and do not have homes with electricity or running water. The Peace Diamond is the beginning of change for this unfair system.

“The village in which this diamond was found does not have clean water, but it will,” insisted Rapaport yesterday morning. “The money from this sale will benefit the people of Sierra Leone.”

The meeting held yesterday at Rapaport was to introduce the media to Paul Saquee V, chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs for the Kono District, and to Pastor Emmanuel Momoh, one of the miners who found the stone. Martin Rapaport himself, having benefitted greatly from diamonds his entire life—diamonds have helped him build his vast network of businesses—has offered to help auction the stone at no cost, leaving more money for the miners and the people of Sierra Leone. The move is an admirable one, as Sierra Leone is long overdue for a boon. Its beautiful diamonds have benefited many outside of the country, but not those in it. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Pastor Emmanuel Momoh holds the Peace Diamond

Pastor Emmanuel Momoh holds the Peace Diamond
Photo Credit: Rapaport

“We hope the sale of the Peace Diamond encourages other artisan miners to not allow their stones to be sold on street corners for peanuts,” said Saquee. “We hope this is the dawn of a new day where the diggers will have full benefits. The sale of the Peace Diamond will improve the lives of people.”

Pastor Momoh, meanwhile, explained that the president of Sierra Leone actually thanked him and his community for not smuggling the stone out of the country and for agreeing to put the diamond in an open tender to be sold in a transparent manner.

“This is the beginning of a new day in our nation where we have the opportunity to get a fair price for the diamonds in our country,” he said. “By buying this diamond, you will be improving the lives of some of the poorest people in the world, in places with no paved roads, schools, or medical facilities. The Peace Diamond represents peace and progress.”

To date, the diamond has been on quite the world tour. The Peace Diamond spent three weeks in Israel and three weeks in Belgium, and will spend several weeks in New York City, all in an effort get expert opinions on how it should be cut and to drum up interest in the auction. The stone was front and center yesterday during the press conference, and attendees had the opportunity to hold it. Of course, I did, and it was magical.

A rough diamond that big is an extraordinary sight, and it had a calming effect once placed in my palm. This was not just another pretty rock—the Peace Diamond is literally a life-changing one. Can you imagine not having electricity or fresh water? That’s hard for Americans to fathom, but this is the reality for many in Sierra Leone. It’s about time this country rises up and takes charge of its own wealth to steer a better path to its future. “It’s not up to NGOs or charities to decide what happens to Sierra Leone—it’s up to Sierra Leone,” said Rapaport.

When the rough is purchased, it will, of course, be cut into myriad stones, but all—no matter the size—will be sold under the provenance of the Peace Diamond name. This is no longer the Sierra Leone of its civil war days. “Our narrative has to change,” noted Saquee. “Yes, there were blood diamonds, but we have moved away from that.”

“Our diamonds now are for development,” added Momoh.

Pastor Emmanuel Momoh (rt.) and Paul Saquee V, chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs for the Kono District

Pastor Emmanuel Momoh (rt.) and Paul Saquee V, chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs for the Kono District
Photo Credit: Rapaport

Another member of the press—a descendant of Sierra Leonean parents—spoke up during a question-and-answer session. “I want to thank you for erasing the stigma of blood diamonds,” he told the panel in a quiet, steady voice.

Momoh smiled broadly. “It’s the beginning of new era where diggers will get fair market value.”

Finally, and God be praised! (God is a recurring reference in Momoh’s conversations since he is a pastor.) This is what natural, mined diamonds do for communities far away that are living in abject poverty the likes of which Americans will never know. This is a diamond story that everyone needs to hear; natural diamonds are life changing, and each one represents a life-giving force as beautiful as their sparkle.

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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Opinion

Opening Night at RE:FINE at The Store at MAD Was Packed!

NEW YORK. Yesterday afternoon, I headed over to The Store at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) for RE:FINE (see “Just in Time for Holiday…“). A few hours were blocked off in the late afternoon for editors to visit early, before the museum opened the store to the public. Nearly all of the designers—32 in total—were present last night, which made for a truly packed house!

The Store at the Museum is floor-to-ceiling windows and perched on the corners of Broadway and Eighth Avenue across from Columbus Circle, and light streams in from the front (facing the Circle) and the Eighth Avenue side. Glass shelves lining the windows further keep the space bright, and the eclectic assortment of housewares and accessories for sale are an ideal high-end companion to all the contemporary jewels that filled the jewelry cases.

Engagement rings, from left: Ruta Reifen, Megan Thorne, Karen Karch For purchase: For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

Engagement rings, from left: Ruta Reifen, Megan Thorne, and Karen Karch
For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

 

As I stated yesterday, the works from these 32 jewelry designers, co-curated by Beth Bernstein of BeJeweledMag.com and Franci Sagar, vice president of brand and retail development, will be for sale in the store through the end of January. Popular collections, however, may remain longer, according to customer requests.

I snapped as many shots as I could for social media, mingled with my designer friends, learned about some of their new collections (Stella Flame was there with a new Golden Dewdrop collection, and Lika Behar brought lots of pearls), and got to meet Franci.

Jelly opal pendant necklace from Lika Behar For purchase: For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

Jelly opal pendant necklace from Lika Behar
For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

 

She explained that while The Store had long worked with a lot of fashion (read: costume) jewelry artisans, pulling in contemporary fine jewelry designers was a natural extension. “We want to bring these two audiences—fashion and fine jewelry collectors—together and bring in an even younger customer with the bridal jewelry offerings,” she explained. “We’ve never offered bridal before.”

Franci and Beth pulled in outstanding designers for the fashion-forward fine and wedding jewelry categories, so I hope that this ongoing experiment to sell modern fine jewelry in The Store will continue. Wedding jewelry designers included Ruth Tomlinson, Marian Maurer, and three more noted in the first caption—all ideal for speaking to a first-time bride because of their untraditional looks.

Pieces from Suneera 925 For purchase: For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

Pieces from Suneera
For purchase: Visit The Store at MAD, call 212-299-7777, or email info@madmuseum.org

 

Franci noted that she saw return customers—one of whom stopped us mid-conversation to chat her up and compare a gold bangle from Stella Flame to a similar one on Franci’s wrist—for each edition of the sale. “We want to see how this evolves, but people like to uncover new talent and like buying from museums,” she continued. “I would say 80 percent of our fine jewelry purchases are made by women, for themselves.”

Further, purchases from The Store are not just a transaction—Franci calls them “a new form of philanthropy to celebrate and support working artists.”

“When our customers make purchases with us, we make it a point to share with them that it supports not only artists trying to make their careers from work, but the Museum’s exhibitions and educational programs,” she continues. “So, buying with us becomes a feel-good purchase that reflects a certain commitment to a set of social values that supports the arts.”

Moving forward, The Store should be less crowded because all of the artists won’t be present (30 designers plus guests made for a packed house), but their pieces will remain! Check them out through January.

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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