Jewellery has entered the void
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Design that accentuates the negative, so to speak, is making its presence felt. Mumbai-based Studio Renn, which set collectors buzzing at this year’s Geneva Luxury Week, calls its Puffball Voids series a meditation on the “unsettling nature of incompleteness”. Here, negative space – often empty, but not necessarily – isn’t just a design device, it’s something to be celebrated in its own right. “Everything is nothing until you frame it,” says co-founder Rahul Jhaveri.
For the Puffball collection, the casting skin of the grey-gold, baubled bracelets, bangles, rings and earrings is left raw, in contrast to the network of pitted voids with highly polished rims. “Gold frames the void, and diamonds in some of them highlight the ‘absence’,” says Jhaveri, who established the jewellery-design practice in 2018 with his wife Roshni. The Seed-Leaf collection, which explores fertility and abundance, also draws attention to voids with a reflective finish.
The “supporting” space around, between or within the focal elements of a design is an invisible force that entices and compels the beholder, adding not just volume and structure, but intrigue and unpredictability. And while the principle is age-old, it’s becoming more dominant. Jewellery designers are finding ever-more striking ways to harness its powers – whether it’s intricate, airy-light openwork with the look of finest lace by Victoire de Castellane for Dior; swooning curves sculpted from a Stream Lines bracelet by Fernando Jorge; a visual trick on a lapel, courtesy of a Torsade de Chaumet brooch; or playful minimalism in the form of Julia Obermaier’s abstract, blue-agate pendant, Space Between.
“It used to be more of an avant-garde thing – a sort-of hallmark of ‘artist-jewellers’, especially in the ’60s,” says Valery Demure, founder of the curated jewellery platform Objet D’Emotion and virtual marketplace Nouvelle Box. “But it’s becoming more accessible.” She credits Ana Khouri, Gaia Repossi, Delfina Delettrez and Charlotte Chesnais for the momentum. “I think jewellery is also following fashion,” she adds. “Pieces that are ‘open’, with cut-outs and incomplete lines, can be playful and sensual.”
Repossi sets stones afloat in beautifully bare and graphic linear forms. Elsewhere on Place Vendôme, iconic designs are being reinterpreted to reveal tantalising glimpses of skin, as in the three-band “Radiant Edition” of Boucheron’s signature Quatre rings. Removing its classic diamond-ring layer leaves what creative director Claire Choisne calls “a mischievous space between two jewels” – an absence that jolts the senses. “Everyone wants to be very visible now,” says Demure, “and wearing pieces more in the style of ‘body adornment’ is appealing to the younger generation who want to be a bit naughtier to get noticed. There’s also demand for bigger, more impactful pieces for everyday but these have to be light enough to wear.
Greek fine-jewellery maverick Nikos Koulis concurs. “Once people have found something that reflects them, they want it on them all the time,” he says. Koulis’ dramatic, geometry-inspired work deals in strong shapes and bold materials. “The main thing, for balance, is ‘lightness’… and with negative space you can create volume without heaviness.”
In his Together collection, Koulis tempers the black enamel of high bombe rings and torcs with an open cage of finely woven, fluid golden chains that are rigid enough to support sizeable diamonds, yet appear like golden thread. It’s modern, fresh – and fascinating. His preoccupation with “coming together or apart – and what lies in between” also underlies the abstract Me collection, where square-cut diamonds are offset at the edge of rings, with exaggeratedly roomy settings (“although fixed, it’s like they’re raised and floating”), while crevices open up mid-bangle, so the ceramic seems to heave and “breathe” with life.
Dina Kamal has a reverence for “ma”, the Japanese word meaning “the space between things”. This “breath that brings a piece into balance”, as she puts it, often expresses itself in her architectural designs as a literal break: effective, dramatic punctuation. Sometimes it’s about rhythm and flow – almost palpable in Cartier’s Voltea set, where masterful openwork infuses a visually bold aesthetic with supple, wave-like energy and movement. Meanwhile, considered space gives depth to Sophie Bille Brahe’s signature Escargot designs and new drop earrings, inspired by islands. And it’s the witty hook of Lia Lam’s 100 Per Cent ring, which reinvents the classic toi et moi commitment.
But for ingenuity, goldsmith Sonia Cheadle’s minimalist gold and diamond Bridge brooch stands out. It subverts the classic brooch format with a circular wire that twists and disappears into fabric, leaving the diamond bar on show – a playful interaction that highlights not just the jewel, but the organic beauty of the space that holds it.
Model, Marilou Hanriot at Ford Models. Casting, Chouaïb Arif. Hair, Sachi Yamashita. Make-up, Hicham Ababsa. Manicure, Philippe Ovak at MFT Agency. Photo assistant, Antoine Pereira. Stylist’s assistant Yuliia Mchedlishvili