Personalities

Meet Shana Gulati of Shana Gulati Jewelry

New York City. Aug. 20, 2020. Shana Gulati of the eponymous jewelry design firm puts a modern twist on traditional Indian jewelry-making. Gulati sets upcycled diamond slices—tiny “residue” diamonds from Polki (flat-cut diamonds) designs—into sterling silver and 18k gold jewels in mosaic patterns held together by a proprietary resin-like substance.

“I found beauty in garbage,” she jokes about her signature look, one she spied in her home country of India and expanded on. Gulati unveiled her collection in 2012 after abandoning a career in law. After earning her JD and a master’s in international law, she struggled to find work despite her advanced degrees. Was she now overqualified for most positions? “I felt like the universe might be trying to tell me something,” she recollects.

In a moment of frustration and while venting to a friend, the pal urged her to take a more serious look at a gift that Gulati had dismissed as superfluous—her ability to turn something ugly into a something beautiful and coveted. “She told me, ‘You always put things together in the most beautiful ways,’” says Gulati.

Reluctant but intrigued, Gulati sat down with a sketch pad, inspired by a love of jewelry fostered by her own culture. “Polki means not the perfect cut,” she notes. “Polki diamonds are cut in uneven ways and thick slices, but my slices are much lighter and are byproducts of other cut diamonds. No two jewels can ever be same.”

With her family’s support, she started turning out pieces named after loved ones like her grandmother Veera and personal connections, including street names in Paris and New York City, where she resides part time. Everything, including packaging, is made in India, where Gulati shares her design ideas with jewelry artists who bring her pieces to life. Most of her jewelry is cast.

The bulk of her uncut stones, meanwhile, come from India from a manufacturer she’s worked with for eight years. Others are sourced from Australia and Canada. Diamonds take center stage in most designs, though the occasional pink sapphire or aquamarine has been known to appear. “Design has more to do with color scheme and aesthetic than anything else,” she says.

Retail prices start under $100. Find Gulati’s work in stores worldwide and in her own e-shop.

Jewelry designer Shana Gulati

Jewelry designer Shana Gulati

Julia studs in 18k gold vermeil with uncut diamonds, aquamarine, and silver resin, $188; available online at Shana Gulati

Julia studs in 18k gold vermeil with uncut diamonds, aquamarine, and silver resin, $188; available online at Shana Gulati

Arsha ring OS in oxidized sterling silver with uncut diamonds, champagne diamonds, and black resin, $298; available online at Shana Gulati

Arsha ring OS in oxidized sterling silver with uncut diamonds, champagne diamonds, and black resin, $298; available online at Shana Gulati

Halki necklace in 18k gold vermeil with uncut diamonds, aquamarine, and silver resin, $548; available online at Shana Gulati

Halki necklace in 18k gold vermeil with uncut diamonds, aquamarine, and silver resin, $548; available online at Shana Gulati


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Personalities

In Memoriam: Jewelry Designer Roberto Faraone Mennella

New York City. June 5, 2020. Italian jewelry designer Roberto Faraone Mennella, co-founder of the RFMAS Group, AMEDEO.shop, FaraoneMennella.com, and Robertobyrfm.com, succumbed to cancer early yesterday morning following a nearly yearlong battle with the disease.

Lifelong friend and business partner Amedeo Scognamiglio made the announcement on Facebook yesterday.

“My best friend, my rock, my mentor, my ‘eyes,’ my first date and endless love is now Light,” wrote Scognamiglio. “Roberto is finally free, healthy, smiling, happily sketching jewels and interiors in his new home in Heaven. He wanted to go before me, so that when my time comes our house and showroom in the sky will be ready to welcome me and my mess.”

The pair debuted the Faraone Mennella jewelry brand in 2001, when it was quickly picked up by Neiman Marcus and other high-end jewelry stores. The Faraone Mennella signature is graphic and playful, a marriage of Italian craftsmanship and contemporary design born in their shared culture of Torre del Greco, Italy, and honed over a friendship that started in childhood; their jewelry is a wearable celebration, a direct reflection of the pure joy of their shared lives, experiences, and those who loved and supported them.

Faraone Mennella had studied law in Italy prior to moving to New York City to secure a design marketing degree from Parsons The New School for Design. His professional life took off when Scognamiglio joined him stateside and the two teamed up to design jewelry, paving the way for the successful ventures—which also included a costume diffusion line—that followed.

In mid-March, the typically private Faraone Mennella posted a photo of himself post chemotherapy and opened up about his illness amidst the Covid-19 pandemic that ravaged his beloved home country. He encouraged fellow citizens to stay home to fight the spread of the virus and thanked the “thousands nurses and doctors taking care of us and working nonstop despite the harsh work hours and exhaustion to save our lives.”

Gannon Brousseau, executive vice president of Emerald Expositions and director of the Couture jewelry show, reflects on Faraone Mennella’s contributions to the jewelry design community.

“Roberto was elegant, brilliant, and caring. His legacy as an innovator who created his own distinctive path in jewelry will be recognized for years to come, and he will also be fondly remembered for his warmth and kindness. He had a generous spirit, and he was always willing to help and support anyone, even those who others might view as ‘competitors.’ His love for Capri and Naples was unconditional, and he delighted in inviting friends and clients to share in his proud heritage. His dedication to his family and friends was unrivaled; he will be greatly missed for both his talent and his friendship.”

Faraone Mennella’s last Instagram post was one week ago and featured a happy photo of himself and Scognamiglio in their early days.

Roberto Faraone Mennella in New York City in 1993
Source: @robertofaraonemennella on Instagram

Roberto Faraone Mennella in New York City in 1993
Source: @robertofaraonemennella on Instagram

“I had just turned 22 years old that evening (as of today I still have those dumbbells the birthday gift) then I had dinner with friends at Chez Black…it seems like yesterday but the main question is why am I wearing a suit?! Ahaha @amedeokingofcameos

Following Faraone Mennella’s wishes, a small private service will be held in the family’s chapel.

Cassandra earrings in 18k gold and sterling silver with 4.8 cts. t.w. rubies, 2.92 cts. t.w. blue sapphires, and 18.1 cts. t.w. red tourmaline, $22,500; available online at Faraone Mennella

Cassandra earrings in 18k gold and sterling silver with 4.8 cts. t.w. rubies, 2.92 cts. t.w. blue sapphires, and 18.1 cts. t.w. red tourmaline, $22,500; available online at Faraone Mennella

Roberto Faraone Mennella in New York City in 1993
Source: @robertofaraonemennella on Instagram

Roberto Faraone Mennella in New York City in 1993
Source: @robertofaraonemennella on Instagram

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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Personalities

Meet Sia Taylor and Her Poetic Ephemeral-Moments-Inspired, Moveable Gold Jewelry

New York City. June 2, 2020. Sia Taylor combined her passion for sculpture (she has a master’s degree in it from the Royal College of Fine Art) with adornment to debut her eponymous jewelry design firm in 2007.

“I was always slightly uncomfortable throughout my studies,” she explains. “I knew I needed to make things, but the scale was wrong; my sculptures could be large, but always involved minutely tiny details.”

So she started taking jewelry classes and realized she could better express herself through accessories. Her developing signature style aimed to capture the essence of clouds, sunbursts, and night skies. She refined it from her present-day home base of Somerset, England, where she now executes a graceful design DNA of fleeting moments like rainfall and blowing winds in ombre colors of repeating gold patterns that shimmer and sway.

“My jewelry is part of a natural progression from my training in fine art,” she explains. “I use the same ideas and processes, just on a more intimate scale.”

Finished jewels show multiples of dots, leaves, fringe, and other movements that reflect thoughtful study of live forms. Taylor captures the sensations of these natural occurrences in an effortless way. “I don’t want stiff leaves or shapes that don’t move,” she adds.

To achieve this goal, Taylor cuts and hammers each tiny component out of metal sheet. For multicolor bangles and bands in her Rainbow Gold collection, each small facet is individually soldered on. For sure, there are no shortcuts. “Every element on my pieces is handmade,” she says. “It is painstaking, slow work, but I think that gives the jewelry a soul.”

Taylor’s jewelry is made in 18k and 24k gold and platinum. To date, gemstones are not featured in designs. “I think because I didn’t train in jewelry, it has never been my thinking to add a stone,” she explains. Retail prices start at about $375, and the jewelry can be found in fine stores like Egan Day in Philadelphia and August in Los Angeles as well as on her own website.

Rainbow Gold Bangle bracelet in 18k yellow gold with rainbow-hued facets in 18k and 24k gold and platinum, $3,750; available at Twist Online

Rainbow Gold Bangle bracelet in 18k yellow gold with rainbow-hued facets in 18k and 24k gold and platinum, $3,750; available at Twist Online

Mermaid earrings in 18k yellow, white, and rose gold, $5,760; available online at Von Bargens

Mermaid earrings in 18k yellow, white, and rose gold, $5,760; available online at Von Bargens

Rainbow Leaf Full necklace in 18k yellow, white, and rose gold; 24k gold; and platinum, £6,265; available online at Sia Taylor

Rainbow Leaf Full necklace in 18k yellow, white, and rose gold; 24k gold; and platinum, £6,265; available online at Sia Taylor

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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Personalities

Meet Hoonik Chang & Aisha Baker of Aisha Baker Jewellery

New York City. May 18, 2020. It was 2015 on a rainy day in London when Hoonik Chang and Aisha Baker of the eponymous brand first met. Chang, a longtime student of the arts and jewelry design, had been friends with Baker’s sister for years, but it was the meeting of those two that paved the way for a fine-jewelry partnership to form.

Both Chang and Baker shared a love of Italian design, bold colors, and quirky style best defined by Baker’s fashion sense (Miu Miu is a favorite). “I’ll wear something very simple and add a huge choker and a pop of color,” she says. “I wear a lot of bold accessories, bags, and shoes, but all have a girly touch of modern fairytale.”

And that’s where the brand’s wonderland styling come from—a marriage of whimsy and craftsmanship thanks to Baker’s personal aesthetic and Chang’s jewelry training and design sensibility. Chang initially studied jewelry design at a university in his home country of Korea. From there, he moved to the United Kingdom for further education at Central Saint Martins University of the Arts and interned with a high-end brand. By the time he and Baker met, he was ready to spread his wings as a maker in his own right. Baker, who hails from the Middle East, with a culture rich in a love of fine jewelry, served as an ideal muse. Chang then moved to Dubai to work closely with Baker, and by 2018 the pair established Aisha Baker jewelry. In 2019, the brand exhibited at the Couture show in Las Vegas.

All designs are made in 18k gold with a variety of colored stones, and many pieces feature enamel. Vibrant mixes of colors are evident in every design, and themes are fairytale inspired but not literal interpretations. For example, Mirror Mirror’s Alcazar styles are sleek blocky and digitized-looking gold numbers topped off with enamel and gems to suggest a fantastical royal palace comprising myriad chambers and passageways.

In Prism, oversize Galaxy chandelier earrings are a pastel paradise of celestial motifs—white opal clouds mingle with a pale blue, pink, and yellow gemstone rainbow. In Talkin’ Talk, enamel lips and diamond teeth make for lighthearted ring subjects while a playful Chitchat ring resembles the coiling phone cords of another time when landlines alone connected us.

“Every piece is a reinvention of classic fairytales translated for the 21st century woman,” explain the duo. “Every jewel is an elevated take on our modern lives with a dash of escapism.”

To date, four commercial and two one-of-a-kind collections dubbed Masterpieces are available. In the latter, just five pieces of each design are made. Retail prices start at $2,000. U.S. retailers include Moda Operandi and The Diamond Cellar, among others, and some items can be purchased from the Aisha Baker website.

Fable Cap pendant necklace in 18k yellow gold with enamel and 0.335 ct. t.w. diamonds and 0.159 ct. t.w. rubies, $4,800; available online at Aisha Baker

Fable Cap pendant necklace in 18k yellow gold with enamel and 0.335 ct. t.w. diamonds and 0.159 ct. t.w. rubies, $4,800; email mirjana.kozlovacki@aishabaker.com for purchase

Victory Dance ring in 18k yellow gold with light blue enamel and 0.36 ct. t.w. diamonds, $4,900; available online at Aisha Baker

Victory Dance ring in 18k yellow gold with light blue enamel and 0.36 ct. t.w. diamonds, $4,900; email mirjana.kozlovacki@aishabaker.com for purchase

Peony Symphony Frozen in Time Masterpiece earrings in 18k white gold with blue enamel, 34.8 cts. t.w. colorless quartz, and 4.02 cts. t.w. diamonds, $38,000; available online at Aisha Baker

Peony Symphony Frozen in Time Masterpiece earrings in 18k white gold with blue enamel, 34.8 cts. t.w. colorless quartz, and 4.02 cts. t.w. diamonds, $38,000; available online at Aisha Baker

Drop earrings in 14k yellow gold with purple garnets and diamonds, $1,300 at K.Jon’s

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