Personalities

Meet Designer Jacqueline Cullen and her Whitby Jet, Black Diamond, and Gold Jewelry

LONDON. A tiny sample of Whitby jet spied at a rock and gem fair in England in 2002 is the reason for London-based jewelry designer Jacqueline Cullen’s love affair with the material. In a previous life, Cullen, founder of the eponymous jewelry design firm, studied visual and performing arts, with theater and sculpture installations in mind. She shifted gears to obtain a bachelor of arts in jewelry design from Central Saint Martins, where she explored the possibilities of using jet in modern jewelry.

Jewelry designer Jacqueline Cullen

Jewelry designer Jacqueline Cullen

“I first used jet for my degree final collection at Saint Martin’s in 2003,” she explains. “It suits me aesthetically—I like black and gold—and creatively, because we work with the material in a very sculptural way using lapidary equipment. It has also made sense businesswise as nobody else has thought of reinterpreting this heritage material in such a modern way.”

Today, Cullen’s 11-year-old jewelry firm makes the pitch-black gem—a type of fossilized wood found in the coastal town of Whitby, England—the core of her signature style, along with 18k yellow gold settings.

Her jet is faceted into geometric shapes, hand-carved fissures, and landscapes that look like crevices, volcanic eruptions, and “lightning strikes ripping open the sky,” she says.

Her supply comes from Whitby, home to most of the world’s jet—including the most stable—and where it became popular in the 19th century. (Jet is found in a few other countries, including Spain.) The process of obtaining jet in Whitby is a dramatic one that involves Cullen’s “supplier rappelling down cliffs on the North Yorkshire coast to source raw specimens from disused mines and ancient caves,” she explains. You won’t catch Cullen doing any of that, nor will you nab the name of her supplier. “His identity is kept secret and I hate heights!” she admits.

Cullen enlists the help of local lapidary cutters to help preform the jet, which she hand-facets and finishes in her workshop. An in-house goldsmith handles the jewelry fabrication and setting of diamonds, which are as black as the jet. Cullen sets only 1 mm round black diamonds into her jet styles. Why this tone-on-tone look?

“Black diamonds are the only stone that can be set directly in the jet and not need a metal backing to keep their light,” she says. “There are hundreds of them that give the look of pinpricks of light playing on the surface of the jet.”

 

Large ring in 18k yellow gold with a 1-inch hand-carved Whitby Jet sphere with inlaid black diamonds, $2,300; Jacqueline Cullen at Gold Bug

Large ring in 18k yellow gold with a 1-inch hand-carved Whitby jet sphere with inlaid black diamonds, $2,300; Jacqueline Cullen at Gold Bug

 

 

Drop pendant necklace in 18k yellow gold with Whitby Jet and black diamonds, $4,190; Jacqueline Cullen at Stanley Korshak

Drop pendant necklace in 18k yellow gold with Whitby jet and black diamonds, $4,190; Jacqueline Cullen at Stanley Korshak  

 

Medium Faceted earrings in 18k yellow gold with Whitby Jet and black diamonds, $2,675; Jacqueline Cullen at Be On Park

Medium faceted earrings in 18k yellow gold with Whitby jet and black diamonds, $2,675; Jacqueline Cullen at Be On Park

 

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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Personalities

Collector Obsession: Eden’s Intrigue with Realm Fine Jewelry

PHILADELPHIA. It was January 2013 when Eden met Ann King Lagos of Realm Jewelry through a friend. They chatted and parted ways without any discussion of Lagos’ jewelry, a sculpted line of sterling silver designs. But a few months later Eden met the designer again at private event where the jewelry was offered for sale. For the corporate philanthropic manager of an insurance company, it was love at first sight of the pieces. She struggled to resist buying everything laid out before her.

“I remember thinking, ‘I can’t buy 20 pieces at a clip—what am I going to do?’” she recollects.

Lagos stepped in to help her make a purchase plan, calmly encouraging her to first buy what she would wear the most and note other pieces to collect later. Eden walked away with several items, the start of her Realm collection.

Before the holidays, Eden met Ann again to purchase her Sceptre collar in black ruthenium over silver to wear to a party. Ann pointed out that Eden could—and should—incorporate it into everyday wear, and not just save it for black-tie events. “She asked, ‘Why wouldn’t you also wear it with jeans and a white T-shirt?’” recalls Eden. The look was a winner. “I love the look, feel, and color—it’s so rich, sexy, unique, and has a fresh feel.”

To date, Eden owns upwards of 20 pieces of Realm jewelry. The collar is one of her favorites. “It lays on your neck like an extension of your body, and has a lot of little detail in the tips of the collar that pop against your skin,” Eden explains.

Other pieces in her private stash include the Insignia pendant necklace and ring, the latter a piece that she wears daily. “I literally have not taken it off my right hand—I love the weight,” she says.

And while many jewelry designs feel too dainty for Eden—“I’m five-eight and have big wrists,” she says—Realm pieces naturally complement her and her attire. “I feel regal when I wear Realm,” she says. “And, I’ve had a few people tell me that I look polished when I wear the jewelry, whether it’s in jeans and kimono top or a business suit.”

Insignia Luxe ring in 18k gold vermeil, $550; Realm

Insignia Luxe ring in 18k gold vermeil, $550; Realm

 

Hinged Sceptre Linea Corset cuff in 18k gold vermeil with CZ, $1,050; Realm

Another piece in Eden’s collection, this Hinged Sceptre Linea Corset cuff in 18k gold vermeil with CZ, $1,050; Realm

 

Sceptre collar in sterling silver with black ruthenium, $800; Realm

One of Eden’s fave styles–the Sceptre collar in sterling silver with black ruthenium, $800; Realm

 

Temptations

Eden loves collecting Realm jewelry, but she’s also open to learning about other designers with equally sexy aesthetics. Here are 12 more pieces that could appeal to her obsession and keep her collecting.

 

 

Layered necklace in 14k white gold with 0.42 ct. t.w. diamonds, $1,600; KC Designs

Layered necklace in 14k white gold with 0.42 ct. t.w. diamonds, $1,600; KC Designs

 

 

Twist Line earrings in 14k white gold with 0.62 ct. t.w. diamonds, $1,825; KC Designs

Twist Line earrings in 14k white gold with 0.62 ct. t.w. diamonds, $1,825; KC Designs

 

 

Facets necklace in oxidized sterling and 18k gold with a 12 ct. crystalline quartz, $1,230; Elizabeth Garvin

Facets necklace in oxidized sterling and 18k gold with a 12 ct. crystalline quartz, $1,230; Elizabeth Garvin

 

 

Facets ring in oxidized sterling and 18k gold with green amethyst and 0.23 ct. t.w. treated green diamonds, $4,390; Elizabeth Garvin

Facets ring in oxidized sterling and 18k gold with green amethyst and 0.23 ct. t.w. treated green diamonds, $4,390; Elizabeth Garvin

 

Classic Stax cuff in sterling silver with black rhodium, $375; Hera

Classic Stax cuff in sterling silver with black rhodium, $375; Hera

 

 

Athena earrings in sterling silver with hematite and black spinel, $795; Hera

Athena earrings in sterling silver with hematite and black spinel, $795; Hera

 

 

 

Necklace in black onyx with an 18k yellow gold clasp, $1,925; Vicente Agor at M. Lowe, 510-486-0613; info@mlowejewelry.com

Necklace in black onyx with an 18k yellow gold clasp, $1,925; Vicente Agor at M. Lowe, 510-486-0613; info@mlowejewelry.com

 

 

Earrings in 18k yellow gold with 0.742 ct. t.w. black diamonds, $7,215; Vicente Agor at M. Lowe, 510-486-0613; info@mlowejewelry.com

Earrings in 18k yellow gold with 0.742 ct. t.w. black diamonds, $7,215; Vicente Agor at M. Lowe, 510-486-0613; info@mlowejewelry.com

Bold Pavé Surfboard stud earrings in sterling silver with 0.12 ct. t.w. black diamonds, $450; Tacori

Bold Pavé Surfboard stud earrings in sterling silver with 0.12 ct. t.w. black diamonds, $450; Tacori

 

Ivy Lane Stacked Surfboard ring in sterling silver with 0.58 ct. t.w. black diamonds, $890; Tacori

Ivy Lane Stacked Surfboard ring in sterling silver with 0.58 ct. t.w. black diamonds, $890; Tacori

 

 

Cuff bangle in 14k yellow gold with 1.74 cts. t.w. diamonds, $6,240; Gabriel & Co.

Cuff bangle in 14k yellow gold with 1.74 cts. t.w. diamonds, $6,240; Gabriel & Co.

 

Choker in 14k white gold with 0.53 ct. t.w. diamonds, $2,245; Gabriel & Co.

Choker in 14k white gold with 0.53 ct. t.w. diamonds, $2,245; Gabriel & Co.

Personalities

Collector Obsession: Ann Lois’ Love Affair with Bold Gold Jewelry

MIAMI. It was on a trip to Palm Springs, Calif., 25 years ago when Ann Lois fell in love with oversize gold designs. The engineering executive stumbled across the Denise Roberge Gallery, brimming with fine art and robust selections of high-karat-gold jewelry of the merchant’s own handiwork. Spying a pair of 22k gold squarish, huggie-style drop earrings with scroll motifs, Al (as friends call her) snapped up the pair after being wowed by their size—a standout for her petite 5’4’’ frame—and by their compelling design and clip-on posts.

“It’s difficult to find earrings that I like and will wear,” she explains. “And I had never seen anything like them, not even in my travels on the East Coast.”

Over the years Al has added about 14 more pieces to her Roberge collection. Other acquisitions include large clip-on charms like an open heart affixed to an oversize chain-link necklace, several rings (two that she always wears together), and bracelets. For Al, it’s the weight of the gold, the richness of the color, and the Etruscan-inspired design of the pieces that got her hooked.

22k gold rings from Denise Roberge

Rings in 22k gold from Denise Roberge that reside in Ann Lois’ personal collection. Al wears these together.

 

“Unfortunately, every time afterwards I went to her store I bought something,” continues a modestly vexed Al. “I’ve even bought pieces from her over the phone when I couldn’t get to Palm Springs.”

Her favorite: a strand of plump freshwater pearls she bought on a hank (industry lingo for a strand of unset or loose pearls). Roberge strung them and added a custom clasp. Using leftover pearls, Roberge made drop earrings that include the same ruby accents she used for the clasp of the necklace. Al was smitten. “I’ll never see these anywhere else,” she says.

 

22k gold clasp and freshwater pearl necklace from Denise Roberge

A strand of freshwater pearls and 22k gold clasp that Denise Roberge created for Al.

 

Not surprisingly, admirers have been abundant—and demanding. “They all ask, ‘Where did you get those?’” adds Al.

Temptations

Ann Lois is a longtime jewelry collector and fan of Denise Roberge’s work, but she’s also interested in learning about the vast landscape of other jewelry designers working in rich karat gold. Below, we offer 12 options to fuel her obsession and help her keep on collecting.

Gurhan 22k gold jewelry

Spell Hue drop earrings in 24k gold feature freshwater pearls that drop from the lobe 1.60”, $3,250; Gurhan, 646-230-1122, concierge@gurhan.com

 

Cuff in 22k gold by Gurhan

Pointelle cuff in 22k gold with 0.9 ct. t.w. diamonds, $14,500; Gurhan, 646-230-1122, concierge@gurhan.com

 

 

20k gold Buddha Mama jewelry

Lantern pendant necklace in 20k gold with a 4.27 ct. octagonal London blue topaz, 0.64 ct. t.w. diamonds, and white enamel, $9,100; Buddha Mama at June Simmons Jewelry, Sarasota, Fla., 941-388-4535, jsdjune@aol.com

20k gold Buddha Mama jewelry

Lantern bangle in 20k gold with a 6.11 ct. oval blue zircon, 5.06 cts. t.w. pink tourmaline, and enamel, $25,700; Buddha Mama at Neiman Marcus Chicago, 800-642-4480

Ring in 22k gold by Margery Hirschey

Ring in 22k gold with an 8.25 ct. emerald, $6,700; Margery Hirschey, 303-443-0893, margery@margeryhirschey.com

 

Margery Hirschey 22k gold and emerald earrings

Drop earrings in 22k gold with baroque-shape freshwater pearls and 3.83 cts. t.w. emeralds, $1,750; Margery Hirschey at Bloom by Anuschka, 720-941-2862, bloom@bloomdenver.com

 

Earrings in 22k gold from LALAoUNIS

Earrings from the Minoan-Mycenean collection in 22k gold, $14,500; LALAoUNIS, 212-439-9400

 

 

Necklace in 22k gold from LALAoUNIS

Necklace from the Minoan-Mycenean collection in 22k gold, $43,6800; LALAoUNIS, 212-439-9400

 

Victor Velyan ring

Ring in 24k gold and sterling silver with a 3.35ct black opal and 0.34 ct. t.w. diamonds, $19,580;  Victor Velyan, 213-955-5950, saad@victorvelyan.com

Cuff in 18k and 24k gold by Victor Velyan

Bracelet in 18k and 24k gold with South Sea pearls and 3.19 cts. t.w. diamonds, $38,500; Victor Velyan, 213-955-5950, saad@victorvelyan.com

Earrings in 18k gold with pearls by Katy Briscoe

Earrings in 18k gold with natural peach-color Chinese freshwater pearls, 1.76 cts. t.w. violet-color sapphires, and 0.83 ct. t.w. tourmalines and diamonds, $20,000; Katy Briscoe, 713-662-9886, info@katybriscoe.com

 

Medium-size cuff in 18k gold with 3.16 cts. t.w. diamonds, $35,000; Katy Briscoe, 713-662-9886, info@katybriscoe.com

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Personalities, Video

Designer Spotlight: Masaaki Takahashi

NEW YORK. This Tokyo-based artist visited the U.S. this winter to share his design style and techniques. A trained architect, Masaaki Takahashi traded stainless steel structures for wearable designs to follow in the footsteps of his jeweler father. Part of the lure: utilizing the YoseMono jewelry-making technique, using gofun, or ground seashell mud, to shape individual plated-brass-and-Swarovski-crystal styles. (Karat gold and sterling silver designs are made in more traditional fine jewelry methods.)

“It’s a technique that has been passed down through generations and can’t be learned in school,” explained Takahashi from an uptown hotel suite. “It helps to keep the integrity of design sturdy.”

Takahashi’s signature style, meanwhile, speaks to his university training—some of it spent in Finland. Minimalist linear designs feature marquise-cut stones, ample high-polish finishes, and neuron-and-synapse-inspired silhouettes along with the occasional and unexpected nature motif like giant koi on bubble-esque chain. Suggested retail prices start at $120 in his e-shop, and for an extra-fanciful treat, don’t miss his tiaras.

 

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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Getting Personal

Tokyo-based designer Masaaki Takahashi works with little-known jewelry-making techniques and precious materials, but outside of his profession, he’s just like the rest of us. Here, Takahashi dishes on what he does when he’s not making jewelry. Do you know what he stocks in his refrigerator? Click on the image (which links to a video) to find out.

Japanese jewelry designer Masaaki Takahashi

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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