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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Masterpiece London 2017: The Best Of The Best Jewels


The "Music on my Mind" necklace by Wallace Chan. All photos by Anthony DeMarco

My first trip to the Masterpiece London art fair, held June 28 – July 5, was short but nevertheless fruitful. There were 16 firms that presented jewelry at the annual art fair. They was a lot of diversity among contemporary and modern jewelry designers and branded firms that sell both period and modern pieces, and dealers of period and antique jewels. There were a number of exceptional pieces and quite a bit of variety.


Wallace Chan’s new pieces were whimsical and wild and wonderful. His standout piece was the colorful “Music on my Mind,” necklace, a titanium and gemstone masterpiece that appears like an extended bejeweled collar that floats and bounces on the neck when worn. The focal point of the necklace are seven, six-sided pendants made of lapis lazuli, crystal and a Burma ruby center stone. The piece was commissioned by a client who owned the Burmese rubies (more than 56 carats). Chan said he held onto the gems for many years until he decided on an appropriate design. The necklace comes with matching earrings and ring.


There were other exceptional pieces from Chan, including a colorful, gem-encrusted brooch (pictured above and below) that shimmered and an example of his famous “Wallace Cut,” an unconventional carving technique that creates a multi-layered, 3D relief illustration in transparent materials.


Chan began his artistic career as a sculptor and in recent years has returned to this art form, which he says he will continue. In his exhibition space was a large piece titled “A Dream of a Generation.” The focal point is a face of a person with suspended arms folded, with the right arm gripping the top of the left arm. Above the head is a bejeweled butterfly and spotlight behind, captures the shadow of the insect on the wall. The eyes on the face are just slightly open. Chan explained that he is in a semi-state of consciousness, being both in a dreamlike world while alert enough to be in the moment. He said the man’s unconscious self is looking inward at his internal struggles, while managing that struggle with the challenges of the world around him.

"A Dream of a Generation" sculpture by Wallace Chan


Tsavorite earrings and a tsavorite and copper ring by Hemmerle

Hemmerle presented its share of impressive artistic creations with new unique pieces that focus on combining precious gems with materials normally not associated with jewelry making. Its work with fashioning aluminum in ways never thought possible is well known. This year the Munich-based firm presented a few pieces that use copper and bronze. Among them is a ring with the metal darkened in grayish tones with a faceted tsavorite center stone. It could easily be paired with tsavorite and silver earrings that featured a rough textured cut that enhanced the sparkle. It’s a technique that is often used by the firm.

Various Grima rings cleverly displayed

The London firm Grima—founded by Andrew Grima, known for his modernist designs of the 1960s, and since his death in 2007, continued by his wife, Jojo and daughter, Francesca—presented a full complement of creative works, all cleverly displayed. Among the pieces that stood out was a large green tourmaline crystal pendant necklace set in white gold and diamonds, originally designed by Andrew, and a multicolored necklace made with amethysts, diamonds, tourmalines, citrines and aquamarines set in yellow gold, by Jojo.

Well crafted bejeweled crustaceans by Theo Fennell

One of the most outrageous and popular London jewelry designers, Theo Fennell, presented his whimsical pieces. The luxury jeweler was recently pulled out of bankruptcy protection by a “turnaround firm.” There are a lot of people in London’s jewelry industry breathing a sigh of relief that his jewels and personality will continue to be a fixture in the city. The pieces on view ranged from his iconic skulls to highly detailed sea crustaceans to more traditional opal jewels.

An aquamarine heart brooch wrapped with braided strands of gold by Verdura

The brands, Verdura and Belperron, were also on hand presenting collectable pieces and recently created jewels based on the drawings of the two iconic designers. Verdura was the most prevalent with highlights that included a large chunky peridot necklace and an aquamarine heart brooch, wrapped with braided strands of gold.

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