Sunday, May 17, 2009


This week, a friend told me that she has found her self drawn to bling. This was the same woman who told me she couldn't possibly wear 18 mm South Sea pearl earrings because they were 'too big.'

For a jewellry writer and former auction reporter, 'too big" is not an option. In fact, like a bank account, jewels can never be too big. I've tried on a 56-carat diamond and thought it would be perfect for daytime. No one would think it was real.

I've heard everything from the 'sensible', "100,000 USD for a perfect strand of white 16mm pearsl? That's a bargain!" to the 'sentimental', "You know, a ring like that---20 carats, D-flawless--really shows how much your husband loves you but after a few months it will start to look small. Believe me, it's true!!"

"No more shoes, bags and clothes for me. Just bling. It must be my age," said my jewelry converted friend who is in her thirties.

It may be her age but it could be that she found a jeweller (Yewn) that she liked introduced by--ahem--moi!--in a city that has probably the largest volume of diamond sales in the world.

This incident became a sparkling inspiration for me to think of my top three jewelry brands. I have decided to write only about jewelry brands that I think are worth noting not just for their original design (organic, teetering between real and costume, recognizable only to collectors)and everyday wearability but also their limited distribution. And the final qualification is: That I would want anything and everything.

No one could go wrong if they gave me anything (even a pouch) from these three lines:
(Okay--of course, there is Joel A Rosenthal's Paris-based JAR but I think I have to own an oil field, marry a vault or be a big time Colombian cocaine dealer to own something from him)


One of Verdura's catalogues has the following opening statement by their CEO Ward Landrigan, "If this portfolio of Verdura classics has made it into your hands, and you are a devotee, it should remind you why you fell in love with Verdura jewelry in the first place. If it is your first encounter with Verdura, prepare yourself --this may be the start of a long romance."

This statement epitomizes everything I have experienced with the brand. As a penniless fashion student in New York in the Eighties, I remember being mesmerized by this line. I vowed that one day I would buy a Maltese Cross bracelet. But life and other brands got in the way and I completely forgot Verdura until I saw it on someone years ago.

What do they say about love being lovelier the second time around?

My second time wasn't just lovelier, but utterly passionate as I ended up with a few bracelets. But VERY FEW....(It was like ending up in bed all day with someone you worshipped from afar--and I'm not talking about letting your new Pomeranian sleep in your bed)

Verdura's original designer was the Sicilian artistocrat Duke Fulco di Verdura who was born in 1898. He designed what we know today as Chanel's Maltese Cross. In 1939, he set-up shop in New York City backed by Cole Porter and Vincent Astor. Babe Paley (after whom they named a collection last year) and Greta Garbo were clients. For their 70th anniversary this year, they will be introducing another blockbuster line.

As Doris Duke reputedly said about her jewels, "Sell everything except the Verdura." Enough said.

A selection can be found at Bergdorf Goodman in New York and the full line is available in their beautiful, destination boutique on Fifth Avenue, laid out like a grand New York flat with fabulous views.

I don't know very much about the history of Iradj Moini and have never interviewed him. It is a relatively new company, having started in 1989 but it has changed to way I look at 'real' and 'costume' jewelry. In fact, the collection literally straddles both sectors of the market because it mixes semi-precious stones, roughly cut precious stones, pearls and Swarovski crystals. The large, chunky stones are combined with an eye to appearing like costume jewelry and the rough cuts relieve real gems of their 'preciousness' if they are otherwise cut in perfect, light reflecting facets.

If Verdura epitomizes Upper East Side chic, Iradj Moini is throw-away, jet-setting hippie-chic. Completely different but it wouldn't surprise me if they had some similar customers.

The collection is not for the faint of fashion "Comme des Garcons applique" heart. It is in fact, for someone who is 'bold and beautiful' (like me!) enough to carry the chunky designs. Iradj Moini is probably the Tony Duquette of our times. (Yet another jeweler that warrants mention)

The website lists only one shop in New York Soho's Spring Street but there are independent antique and jewelry dealers (such as Domont on Sunset in Los Angeles) that sell the line in their shops or online.

We see a lot of jewelry brands in the Hong Kong market, both at the local and international level. In fact, the biggest international brands have to be in Hong Kong as this city is not only one of the biggest jewelry markets in the world, it is also the gateway to the whole of Asia, particularly China.
Excitement and lustre are almost non-existent in many established jewelry and designer labels. It is rare for the fashion media (or consumers) to encounter a brand, particularly a local Hong Kong brand and immediately say, "Wow! This is art!"
I know, I know. You are thinking "Qeelin" is an international Chinese brand. Qeelin is in fact an excellent brand and Dennis Chan is extremely talented. There are many pieces I would love to have from their collection but not everything. Their iconic Bobo bears are definitely not me.
But I love everything that Dickson Yewn creates. Note that I did not use the word 'designs' but creates because as I mentioned, every piece is a work of art inspired by furnishings, literature, art and jewelry in Chinese history.
Yewn is probably one of the few jewelry lines in the world that still sets pieces en tremblant. Flowers vibrate atop a spring, petals and leaves move back and forth, a clasp is hidden in the form of a gem-encrusted Chinese lock.
It is like nothing you have every seen before. But it could be something that existed in....the Qing Dynasty.
He likes to use rhodium or blackened gold as a setting and what a difference a color makes. Taking a piece from white gold to black gold (see brooch above) makes all the difference between 'preciousness" (I hate that) and precociousness.
Add to that a client base not of celebrities, not of men buying for women but of high-powered women in business and politics who buy jewelry for themselves. Yewn said he sees his pieces as 'ambassadors' for what Chinese are aesthetically capable of. His clients wear his pieces even when they travel thus exposing his work and introducing his label to the upper echelon of international deal makers (think Forbes Top 500) which rarely includes celebrities.
He has been educated allover the world and is an expert in Chinese history and philosphy which is reflected in its purest artistic form in Yewn and in a more commercial form in Life of Circle which is mostly sterling silver. High-low marketing---not bad for a business plan!
He has two award-winning 'destination' shops in Hong Kong. One at the Landmark and the other in the Peninsula Arcade. Entering his freestanding shops takes you back to a reception room in an aristocratic home in the Qing Dynasty decorated with rosewood furnishings and lattice borders. Select pieces are at Neiman-Marcus, Fragments and Bergdorf Goodman in America and the trend-setting EC One in London.
Reader 'Rosanna' has asked me the loaded question, "How do I land my dream job?" It is, in fact, a very good question but because it is so hard to answer, I will have to do some thinking (also very hard and something I am incapable of) and perhaps do an entry towards the end of May if I don't get any more work.
Sometime this week (very likely Tuesday before I leave for Singapore), I will write an entry on cooking, an activity that I have absolutely no talent, knowledge and authority to discuss but I'll do it anyway because it is like style and intelligence--either you have it or you don't.
Personally, I think I have stayed married all this time because I don't cook. If I did, my husband would either leave me or would have been poisoned in our first week of marriage.


Paul Syjuco said...

my favorite post of yours, thus far

Anonymous said...

These are the jewels that really "rocks".I love the last part!!!funny!!!

Zarebski said...
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