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I first met Bibi van der Velden in 2013 in the new designer section of the JCK show, one of the two largest yearly jewelry trade shows, held in Las Vegas. I was immediately taken by her ability to create pieces that were utterly modern from ancient and antique stones and found objects and her passion for the diverse materials in which she worked. Her display case represented a small world of expressive, experimental jewelry from the natural to the fantastical—pieces that drew me in for a closer look at their detail and tactile nature. While asking about her inspiration and listening to her stories behind the stones, I tried on different pieces and thought about how she was part of a small burgeoning group of global designers who were pushing the boundaries of what was precious— who learned the rules only to bend them and twisted and transformed traditional craftsmanship into contemporary progressive techniques in a creative whirlwind that continues to shape the course of fine jewelry.
When I first heard about the launch of her online shopping destination Auverture before it went live in 2016, I learned that Bibi’s concept was to feature a collective of these like-minded designers with a rebellious nature and fertile imagination to complement her collection and complete her vision of widely inventive jewelry. I could not wait to see the site— which Bibi explains is “named for a word play on overture with the beginning of the letters, AU, the symbol for gold. Auverture is meant to be an introduction to gold and an introduction to the curated land of my jewelry and that of my contemporaries.” She continues. “The designers are all handpicked for their ability to bring the magic back to jewelry.”
In addition to her own collection, Bibi is giving a group of independent and emerging designers a platform to showcase and sell—one that allows women the ability to find the some of the most inventive and refreshing unexpected collections in one destination.
“We believe that real luxury is something powerful and evocative, something rare and special that isn’t ubiquitous,” she explains.
The impressive roster of visionaries all adhere to this philosophy—jewelers from diverse cities and cultures around the globe who include Fernando Jorge, Gaelle Khouri, Foundrae, Pamela Love, Delfina Delettrez, Ana Khouri, Ileana Makri, Noor Fares, Tomasz Donocik, Venyx, Monique Péan and Sara Beltran. They are genuine, with very distinctive aesthetics that work together to compliment each other. Yet each jeweler shines in their niche as you click through the website.
Talking about its global appeal, Bibi explains, “When the site was first launched in 2016 we traveled to various international locations to introduce the jewelry on the site to our clients. We organized trunk shows during the summer of 2016 in Gstaad, and had a very successful collaboration with Foundrae, one of the designers on Auverture, during New York Fashion Week in September. In October we held the official Dutch launch at the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam, my hometown.”
Auverture goes behind the scenes of each designer’s collection. This evokes a personal touch – filled with the emotion and authenticity of the designer’s history. Bibi explains, “By sharing our artists’ compelling stories, backgrounds, inspirations, ideas, choice of materials and even travels and hobbies, we are making it possible to develop relationships between the clients, the jewelry and the creators.” The website continues to reveal an in depth selection of each designer’s collection, along with videos and snapshots of them working in their studios, which has all contributed to it’s philosophy and it’s growth.
The following offers brief profiles of a number of Auverture’s designers as featured on the website:
Founder of Auverture, Bibi van der Velden was first inspired by antique objects. Bibi was born in New York and then grew up in The Netherlands and English countryside and was originally trained in sculpture. She turned her attention to jewelry in 2006. One of Bibi’s earliest necklaces centered around an antique peanut, which she melded together with a folding pocketknife to create the charm. Stones with a story have always held an appeal for Bibi, with a square-cut emerald ring – left to her by her late grandmother – one of her most treasured pieces. Today, she is renowned for her imaginative us of diverse materials that range from 400,000-year-old mammoth tusk, baroque pearls, antique Chinese jade and real scarab beetle wings. She works these unexpected elements together with sustainable gold, diamonds and precious stones and explains, “I love creating pieces that look and feel like they have had a previous life or a buried treasure from an earlier time.”
It’s not surprising that Tomasz Donocik’s work draws influence from three-dimensional strong, figurative shapes and electric colored gemstones. He designed for Stephen Webster before launching his line in 2008. The Poland-born Vienna bred designer attended Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art in London and his experience has taken him into different realms, influenced by a range of inspirations from a garden of good and evil, to Soviet-era uniforms, the film Blade Runner, and Art Deco silhouettes. Tomasz sources his stones ethically, from countries such as Brazil, Australia, and Thailand and works with a rainbow of colors. His latest collections focuses on magnetic gems and bold geometric shapes: blue sapphires, emeralds, white diamonds, amethysts, and blue topaz in the Electric Nights line, along with rubies, pink opals, white agate, and hematite in his Stellar collection.
“I think it’s quite interesting to explore what exists outside of our galaxy,” says London-based Eugenie Niarchos, the designer behind Venyx. Her pieces focus on the planets, the evening sky as well as lush gardens and surreal animals. The collection takes its cues from an array of ideas including the natural world, Fifties Modernism, science fiction. The designer’s Mayfair showroom is filled with mood boards with a mix of images of Bond girls, tropical fish and alchemy. Eugenie launched her line in 2013, after studying fine jewelry and diamonds at the Gemological Institute of America, followed by a stint, working at Christie’s Fine Jewelry Department in New York. Among her favorite stones are opal, moonstone and moss agate. About the later Eugenie says, “ It looks as if it contains “a sort of forest or an underwater world. It’s crazy to see how nature has created that in a stone.” Eugenie’s passion for travels and what lies beyond has imbued her collection with a bold supernatural feeling that is both empowering and eclectic at the same time.
Fluid, sensual shapes inspired by the human form and accented by vivid gemstones are at the heart of Brazilian-born, London-based Fernando Jorge’s collection, launched in 2010. Fernando’s love for drawing led him to study design in Brazil. But it was an apprenticeship in a jewelry workshop in São Paulo that fueled his passion. He then graduated with a master’s in jewelry design from London’s Central Saint Martins. The designer believes that the stones he works with impart a special energy of their own. “They’re hidden parts of nature that we dig out and we treasure, and they tell a story about where they’re from and carry with them some of that energy,” Fernando explains.His approach to established jewelry techniques is experimental. “What I try to do with each collection is to explore a different technique or a different possibility,” he says. He has become known for setting stones on top of stones. For example, tiny diamonds appear to ‘evaporate’ over a bold pink opal and rose gold cocktail ring. Fernando feels that after the designs are complete—he must let them go and allow the client to interpret them and make them their own.
From the mystical to the lyrical, Noor Fares jewels are influenced by everything from “magical optical properties to a range of materials such as mammoth ivory, ebony and mother of pearl. Her first collection in 2009 was named “Fly Me to the Moon” – with wing motifs crafted from these unexpected materials. Lebanese-born Noor was raised in Paris and has since studied art history in Boston, gemology in London and has an MA in fine jewelry design from Central Saint Martins and had traveled around the globe, finding inspiration in different cultures. Noor’s pendants of movable orbs of rock crystal or rose quartz, set on a gold axis, are equally mesmerizing and crafted with precision of detail.
Pamela Love began making jewelry in her Brooklyn apartment in 2007 and today has a full production facility in her Manhattan studio. “There’s something so personal about jewelry,” she explains, “The connection between the wearer and the piece is powerful and emotional in a way that you don’t find with other mediums.” Her creations are deeply spiritual and intuitive. Astronomy, astrology, alchemy, botany, the American South West and the architecture of her hometown – New York City – all provide inspiration as does Pamela’s background in cinema and the arts. The rings she designs are bold and display her signature style. Right handed herself, she says that she typically wears a total of eight rings. Like most jewelers, familial memories are amongst the most formative. In her studio she keeps a photo of her grandmother wearing a black turtleneck and exclusively silver jewelry. One of her earliest memories was of her mother giving her a pair of aquamarine earrings when she was a little girl. “ I lost one and spent days digging through the carpet for it. I never found it and have been wearing mismatched earrings ever since,” she muses.
For Sara Beltrán, inspiration begins at the sea. The designer spends her time traveling between the shores of Morocco, Mexico, Croatia and Greece, sourcing materials and ideas for her line of Bohemian jewelry, entitled Dezso. After a career as a stylist in New York, the Mexican designer now calls Jaipur home –although she travels much of the time. But it is in Jaipur where she finds the exotic stones and materials. She works with shark’s teeth, garnets, polki diamonds and aquamarines. Sara’s work is all handmade, and she notes that she values her designs’ “imperfections.”
Greek-born Ileana Makri designs collections that draw from her home country’s mythology, along with motifs of religion and artistic movements. Her designs are feminine and delicate with a mystical edginess as seen in her signature pavé diamond and gemstone Evil Eye collection. This collection is inspired by Mesopotamian evil eye charms that are meant to offer protection. Ileana was instrumental in making pavé settings fashionable. It was Greece that first inspired Ileana to experiment with the technique, as she used pavé diamonds to replicate the effect of “the billions of stars in the sky over the Cycladic Islands,” she says. Her Classic and Geometry collection focus on streamlined, graphic and angular shapes, accented with diamonds. Ileana first launched her collection in 1996.