As Spring sets in, an exhibition in New York City – London Originals: The Jeweler’s Art in Radical Times – gears up to showcase English jewelry legends.
Global policy expert turned vintage-jewelry dealer, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos, who founded Mahnaz Collection, has curated the show to center on a creative mix of iconic London jewelers harking back to a period of seismic changes in the arts, architecture, technology, design, fashion, music, women’s rights, and youth culture. The high point is a rare chance to see the handcrafted pieces by Andrew Grima, Charles de Temple, Barbara Cartlidge, David Thomas, David Watkins, Gerda Flockinger, George Weil, John Donald, Kutchinsky, Tom Scott, and Wendy Ramshaw.
Among the spectacular vintage designs on display is a gold, textured sunburst pendant set with a faceted green tourmaline sprinkled with diamonds on a textured gold torque necklace and an eye-catching agate and trillion-cut tourmaline and diamond-accented white gold ring by Andrew Grima. “The designers and artists in the show, especially Andrew Grima, seized the opportunities presented and, by conceiving precious jewelry in an entirely fresh idiom, made an inspired contribution to the larger cultural history of the period.” Grima was an exceptional designer. Completely untaught, he led the way for a new generation of jewelers, she observes. “They textured yellow gold in a dozen different ways, used natural, unpolished, and uncut stones, or set fine diamonds in modernist settings. Some of Andrew Grima’s jewels, with their rough crystals, dense textures, and massive scale, exemplified Brutalist style in miniature form; other pieces, such as his gold brooch cast from pencil shavings, displayed elements of pop art,” explains Mahnaz.
Also of note is a pair of earrings by Barbara Cartlidge in gold, featuring amethyst slices in the center. A wide bracelet made in textured and polished gold, and platinum – punctuated with diamonds – resembling brick stacks, made by David Morris, recalls his artistry and showcases his talent for creating bold wearable arts. Another treasure being showcased at the exhibition is a marvelous bracelet embellished by David Thomas in gold stepped link with faceted tourmalines and baguette-cut diamonds. A precious brooch in nugget flake gold crown designed by John Donald shimmers delightfully with diamond accents that converge in the center. Not lost on Mahnaz’s keen eye is the “very diverse and impressive work” that mirrors a “uniquely direct love affair with nature; engagement with technology; originality in design, matched by superb craftsmanship; experimentation with gold; and the use of unusual gemstones, minerals, and non-precious materials.”
What is quite unusual about Mahnaz Collection is that it brings a “perspective nurtured early in the east to modernist vintage European and American jewelry.” Mahnaz, who was raised to appreciate yellow gold, an ancient, enduring metal with endless design possibilities, extends the appreciation to the pieces she curates for her gallery. “I may be one of the only – or only – fine jewelry gallerists of this kind in the United States,” she adds.