THE CRAFTSMANSHIP OF ARA VARTANIAN: HOW KATE MOSS EMERALD EARRINGS CAME TO LIFE
We all love the sparkle and lustre of a beautiful jewel, but have you ever wondered how each piece is created from start to finish? GEMOLOGUE is bringing you the craftsmanship series aiming to educate and give you an appreciation of the process and how a spectacular jewel comes to life. While other sectors of industry are losing manual skills to automation, jewellery-making stands true its ancestry. I particularly love brands that invest in age-old jewellery-making workshops, conserving traditional techniques and perfecting new ones. THE CRAFTSMANSHIP OF… series will feature design elements, craftsmanship and the labour of love behind every jewel.
Discover THE CRAFTSMANSHIP OF… Ara Vartanian and how these emerald earrings made for Kate Moss came to life!
I caught up with Ara Vartanian in his Sao Paulo studio in Brazil. He comes from a long family tradition of fine jewellery-makers, but his vision is more audacious and his unique, bold style ignores market trends. There are 40 people working at the Vartanian showroom and atelier in Sao Paulo, and the workshop is literally three metres from his desk. Vartanian believes it’s important for the team to be able to work in close proximity to each other. You need a close working relationship with the craftsmen, because everything is handmade and everyone is using different techniques and working on different steps of the process.
INSPIRATION BEHIND THE JEWEL
It is Ara’s interpretation of the gemstones that feeds his inspiration to create unique jewellery. Stones are emblematic creations with great visual impact, and “each stone is singular, by the very principle of geological uniqueness.” Capturing the essence of each stone, Ara imagines the jewellery in his drawings:
“It’s not just the beauty of the stones, the challenge is making the piece comfortable to wear. It’s a challenge and I’m always curious to see the outcome. What’s the best way to use these jewels? Each piece is unique, a one-off. So these jewels are not part of a collection. It’s actually a piece I made for Kate Moss for an event we went to together.”
Ara draws all his designs by hand, making an exact technical drawing of the piece. He imagines the proportion of the piece, adding lines and triangles to distribute weight, all of which influences his design. But the stones always come first. The technical sketch is then sent to the workshop to prepare the elements for the entire design to come to life.
The stones are delicately and carefully analysed before the creative process begins. Ara felt the best option for these stones were a pair of earrings because the emeralds were such a perfect set. They are large and heavy emeralds, so comfort was an utmost concern. Ara chose a certain style of hook to balance the weight of the stones. It allows for movement and doesn’t pull on the ear. Together with the diamonds, the complete piece is quite large, but it wears extremely well.
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Ara has been working with his craftsmen long enough that they understand how he works. But each step in the jewellery-making must be precise and followed with intense accuracy. This process starts with a metal alloy adjusted with high precision torches and tools to create the structure for the jewellery piece. Each stone requires a case for the setting and these are made by hand. They are then rough polished, rhodium plated and soldered together before the setters set the stones. Setting is done with hand tools under a microscope, then laser-soldered as heat could damage an emerald. After a final, delicate polishing of the stones, the setting is complete.
Four to six people were involved in making these emerald earrings: the designer, the goldsmith, the setter, the polisher, the engraver and sometimes the cutter. Or we should say seven people if you include Sabrina, Ara’s wife, who gets the lucky task of trying on the jewellery for the first time!
Every piece is numbered on the back by engraving. The number indicates the whole DNA of the piece, which is catalogued together with photographs of Ara designing the jewellery. If you have proof it was made and designed in his atelier, it will fetch a higher price at auction 30 years down the line and can be passed down through the generations.
Inverted Diamonds – There are a lot of Ara’s signature techniques in these emerald earrings. The invertedly set diamonds and grey diamonds are very unusual and avant-garde and all part of Ara’s signature style.
Hook – To balance the weight of the emeralds, Ara used his technique of hook earrings which are made in gold and covered in gems. The hook style works with the angles and movement of the piece. The stones control the piece and dominate the overall design because all the settings are hidden behind.
It’s been 13 years since Ara moved into this workshop and over the years, he noticed some friction between the goldsmiths and setters, because one tended to damage the work of the other. So Ara changed the process and suggested they work together and focus on the beauty of the final piece, which is the main objective. The team members are dependent on each other. The designer sources the stones, but without the craftsmen, the piece wouldn’t come alive. It’s a collaborative environment and the designer is like a soccer coach: he doesn’t play like the players, but he designs and learns from the inner process. Ara loves working with the machines, discovering breakthrough techniques, and being a part of all the important stages.
GEMSTONES & GOLD
These emeralds came from a set of large Zambian emeralds that were recut. Large, round emeralds are quite rare. This fact motivated Ara Vartanian to work with this particular cut. He found the colour particularly inspiring and beautiful. Ara trusts his supplier who guarantees ethically mined gems.
The precious metal used in these emerald earrings was white and yellow gold purchased from the Gold Exchange in Sao Paulo. Rhodium can’t be used in settings with emeralds because they’re too fragile and the rhodium can affect them.
Thanks for stopping by! What do you think of these beautiful emerald earrings and how they were created? Leave me a message in the comments below.
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I am extremely happy to announce that my new jewelry book – GEMOLOGUE: Street Jewellery Styles & Styling Tips – is now on Amazon. I’m so excited. It’s the first book of its kind solely dedicated to jewellery.
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GEMOLOGUE jewelry blog by Liza Urla is a celebration of fine, fashion and vintage jewellery featuring talented jewellery designers, trendy urban street style, exclusive interviews and rare jewellery reviews. This jewellery blog’s goal is to encourage and educate about jewellery online in a fresh and original fashion to inspire women and men across the globe in a fashion and travelling context.
Jewellery blogger, writer Liza Urla, the founder of GEMOLOGUE, is a London-based and NYC-educated gemologist, who has travelled to and lived in many countries. She is now one of the most influential digital jewellery tastemakers. Her jewellery influence has been acknowledged by Financial Times, The New York Times, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
*Photographed by Liza Urla. Styling and Art Direction by Liza Urla. All photos belong to GEM Kreatives for GEMOLOGUE.
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