THE CRAFTSMANSHIP OF MARIA FRERING: HOW THE BOMBÉ RING 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 to 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.
MARIA FRERING JOIAS
What are the most popular jewelry brands in Rio de Janeiro, you might ask? Brands that reflect Brazilian culture and ones that create beautiful and colourful jewellery that you can wear to the beach.
Let me introduce you to Brazilian jewellery designer Maria Frering. Born in Rio de Janeiro, a true Carioca, Maria Frering is as stylish as her jewellery or joias (the Brazilian word for jewelry).
Maria Frering creates jewellery with a Brazilian vibe, incorporating rich colours and traditional craftsmanship native to her hometown. Her Bombé Rings, made of 18K gold-plated sterling silver, combine natural Brazilian gemstones with vibrant cross-stitched Egyptian cotton for a striking effect. The ring design was first conceived in 2018 and has been a staple part of the Maria Frering Joias collection ever since. It is an eye-catching ring and a good example of Brazilian fashion jewelry.
“I love the energy of creating, learning and building a brand while managing twins and making it happen in the world of jewellery.” Maria Frering
Maria is a proud supporter of the local community and produces everything she makes in her hometown of Rio.
“I have a weak spot for fashion jewellery, especially with Brazilian gemstones…” Maria Frering
…And these Bombé Rings certainly stand out in the world of Brazilian fashion jewelry.
INSPIRATION BEHIND THE JEWEL
The Bombé Ring was one of the first pieces Maria Frering designed for her jewellery brand. It gets its name from its roundish, convex shape and is part of a collection called, ‘Study of Colour’, which was in part inspired by Henri Matisse’s work.
“The intention was to have a collection made of simple yet bold shapes that could focus mainly on the juxtaposition of different colours and textures rather than on the shape of the jewel itself.” Maria Frering
Colour plays a prominent role in the creation of the Bombé Ring and Brazilian fashion jewelry. Maria bases her selection on Brazilian gemstones – Topaz, Amethyst and Citrine. Then it’s a matter of pairing the gems with the coloured threads of the Egyptian cotton.
“I place it next to different colour threads to understand how the colour of the gemstone affects the thread and vice versa. Sometimes I am also inspired by art – in the case of this Bombé Ring I was particularly inspired by a piece from Matisse’s Papiers Découpés series” – Maria Frering
Drawing is a critical part of the design process and helps to envision the entire collection as a cohesive whole. For Maria, there is always one piece that takes centre stage that the rest of the designs will follow. It doesn’t have to be a statement piece or the most commercial piece, but there is a mood that sets the tone for the rest of the collection.
Drawing is also essential to the manufacturing process and determining how the embroidery will work with the piece.
“The metal is the base for the embroidery and doesn’t have the malleability of fabric, so it is important that every single hole is planned ahead so the final result looks even.” Maria Frering
Once the main inspiring piece is chosen, Maria meets with the 3D development team, which is the trickiest part of the process.
“The team has to interpret the drawing as a three-dimensional shape and match the embroidery hole patterns to the piece.” Maria Frering
During this step, the team must think about how the piece will be manufactured and how it will affect the different materials. Embroidery threads cannot endure heat so the pieces cannot be soldered like other jewellery. For each jewel, Maria and her team have to come up with unique solutions, sometimes involving bolts and screws (like the Bombé Ring), or sometimes a click system. It is a complex process and many times, prototypes need to be tested and redone until the piece is perfect.
From the 3D model, the ring can begin to take shape and a prototype is printed in resin using a 3D printer. This prototype heads to the workshop where it will be cast in sterling silver. The goldsmith will polish the cast, making sure every hole is clear of any leftover silver from the casting process.
Next comes the part we’ve all been waiting for… the jewels!
“The next step is setting the stones. Our stones are cut in Rio especially for our pieces and are set in a workshop in Copacabana.” Maria Frering
The pieces are then sent to another workshop in Rio for gold plating.
“From there the piece heads to its final manufacturing destination, COOPA-ROCA, where the embroider assembles the jewel, ready to be worn.” Maria Frering
This is a unique and signature technique that Maria created for her Voya, with her partner at the time, Camila Cunha. This brand developed jewellery collections that would tell the history of a country or culture in a certain period.
“We decided it would be fun to add an element of embroidery to a collection we were developing with an English Garden theme.” Maria Frering
Maria initially experimented with Egyptian thread and metal, and was fascinated with the results. She decided to focus on this technique and develop it further, exploring the possibilities of bringing embroidery and jewellery together in one piece.
“The main obstacle was developing not only the embroidery but the backing of the jewels so that the threads wouldn’t be exposed to the skin of the wearer. It has been a long journey evolving both techniques but very satisfying to achieve such unique results.” Maria Frering
Beautiful Brazilian fashion jewelry!
For a goldsmith to be able to produce a piece like the Bombé Ring, he will probably need to apprentice with a more experienced craftsman for about a year. The training for the embroidery varies. Some artisans have had previous training in embroidery in general and manage to pick up the technique quickly. But sometimes even the most skilled artisans struggle with the technique, breaking countless needles along the way, and prefer to stick to embroidering fabric.
“On average, an artisan has to be trained for about 6 months to be able to embroider on jewelry. The Bombé Ring is the most complex piece to embroider.” Maria Frering
Maria used to embroider the pieces herself, but as the brand started growing, she needed to outsource the work. So she developed a relationship with Maria Teresa Leal, founder and director of COOPA-ROCA.
“I wanted it to be through a social company. I researched the existing ones and discovered COOPA-ROCA and immediately emailed them. Maria Teresa and I met over coffee and it was a great fit. Maria Frering
Initially, Maria personally taught Leal how to embroider the jewellery pieces, so she could understand the technique and train a select few of the artisans who worked for COOPA-ROCA. It was important to Leal that the artisans would enjoy this new technique.
“For some time I embroidered the prototype and sent it to them so they could use it as a model jewel, but nowadays they embroider everything from scratch.” Maria Frering
Some types of embroidery are traditional to Brazil, so it is a good fit for a Brazilian fashion jewelry brand. Maria has her very own stitch called the ‘samba stitch’ that was created by a modern tapestry artist by the name of Madelaine Colaço.
“I admire Madeleine Colaço enormously! A collection inspired by her is in my plans for the future!” Maria Frering
It’s important for the Maria Frering Joias brand that gemstones are sourced locally. Maria believes in using local artisans throughout the whole jewellery-making process.
“The sterling silver is purchased directly with the casting company we use in Rio and the gemstones are from associates in São Paulo or Rio.” Maria Frering
Most of the gemstones have to be cut to the nearest millimetre. Maria works with a local lapidary in Rio, who works with independent designers with over 30 years of gemstone cutting experience.
Working with local sources and teaming up with socially responsible companies like COOPA-ROCA has helped these companies to grow and given them a steady source of new clients and work flow.
Because of this stability and their incredible work, they have managed to secure financial backing from the government to hold many workshops. These will in turn train more artisans and offer more opportunities for women who are in underprivileged positions and need to increment their income.
“In the future I see us expanding to work with other social companies, possibly developing new techniques that different artisans could focus on.” Maria Frering
A true Carioca infusing Rio into her Brazilian fashion jewelry and honouring the local community. Maria Frering Joias (the Brazilian word for jewelry) has to be one of the most popular jewelry brands in this beautiful and inspiring part of the world.
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.
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.
*Styling and Art Direction by Liza Urla. All photos belong to GEM Kreatives for GEMOLOGUE.
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