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New York designer Zani Gugelmann says that she wants her sleek yet opulent, heirloom-meets-modern jewellery to evoke “a childlike feeling of happiness and surprise in both the owner and the beholder.”
Indeed, movement and transformation are both integral to Zani’s designs, with her signature pieces pendants that at first appear to be solid gold shapes, but are in fact constructed with hinges that allow them to unfold into motifs such as stars, flowers, or crosses, embellished with ceramic detailing and precious stones. Zani was first inspired to create these designs after discovering a friend’s piece of vintage Victorian jewellery, telling Forbes that she was “in awe of the complexity and design of this piece [which] launched me into a whole new adventure.”
Now, alongside her signature pendants, Zani crafts shield rings that take their design cues from 16th Century poison rings, that open to reveal hidden stones, and studs that unfold from triangle shapes into diamonds. Each piece, the designer notes, “is intricately designed for movement through the delicate engineering of pivots, axes, and hinges.”
“In a time where everything is so overexposed and displayed for the world to see, Santo offers the wearer the opportunity to keep something personal; only they can decide when to reveal the intimacies it beholds,” says Zani of the collection.
Zani, who makes her 14k and 18k gold pieces with craftsmen in New York, studied at Bowdoin College in the US, and after graduation trained in jewellery design with Cecilia Bauer, who’s known for her classical jewellery-making techniques. After initially launching a jewellery line in 2002, Zani returned to the craft in 2016 with the launch of Santo by Zani.
With their fusion of history and modernity, there’s a timeless quality to Zani’s pieces. She envisions her jewellery as “acting as an amulet,” with each design having its own “spiritual strength.”