The Stories of Unordinary Jewelers

Whether you are a jeweller, or an artist, or simply someone who appreciates both, these unique tomes on unique jewelers, will prove to be a valuable addition to your library.

By: Soumya Jain Agarwal

Posted on: November 16, 2023

There are many jewelers in the world. It’s full of them. Coming from the land of India, especially, there is no dearth of jewelers. However, not many can claim to design jewelry that is artistic, or thrilling. There are some cuts, shapes, and curves, that are evergreen, always in demand. And most jewelers prefer to stick to those classic pieces and stone. The business of jewelry is, after all, expensive. 

There are a tiny few jewelers, however, that manage to break the mold, and offer something that is so breathtaking, that it’s almost unbelievable. And this year, publisher Rizzoli, decided to put some of them in the spotlight.

1. The Art of David Webb – Jewelry and Culture

The Art of David Webb coffee table book

A part of my daily schedule includes sifting through numerous press releases, many of them from auction houses. A regular feature in many of the jewelry auctions is David Webb. 

This jeweler from the 1940s was a visionary for his times. Even today, his jewelry stands out among a sea of regular looking pieces. He created life-like monkeys, cats and the legendary zebras. He used materials like coral, abalone pearl, azurmalachite, which were a novelty in the period he lived in. He hammered gold to give them bold shapes; he mixed colors in inconceivable combinations. 

The Art of David Webb coffee table book

In a 1963 article for New York Herald Tribune, Mr. Webb asked boldly that why jewelry can’t be considered as art? Why can’t it be hung on the walls like art? Today, his musing has come true. His jewelry is certainly considered art, and museums love to showcase his jewelry. 

This book takes you through David Webb’s world in a very clever way. Not only does the author Ruth Peltason walks you through his ideas, sketches and innovation, but does so in juxtaposition to the world he was living in. She compares – or rather connects – Mr. Webb’s works with dresses by Yves-Saint Laurent, architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, photographs by Edward Curtis, and even a Roman mosaic uncovered in Pompeii. It’s a wonderful way to perceive jewelry, and culture. A certain page turner. 

The Art of David Webb coffee table book

2. Francesca Amfitheatrof – Fantastical Jewels

Fantastical Jewels coffee table book

For a brand that started in 1854, Louis Vuitton is a fairly recent entrant into the world of high jewelry. But it’s certainly not a naïve one. It knows the game, as does Francesca Amfotheatrof, the Artistic Director Watches and Jewellery at Louis Vuitton. 

A design maverick, Ms. Amfitheatrof was born in Tokyo, and raised in Asia, America, Russia and Europe. She studied at three London institutions - Central Saint Martins, Chelsea College of Arts and Royal College of Art. She has previously led the jewelry design team at Tiffany & Co. She has also been senior jewelry designer for UK royal jeweler Asprey & Garrard; designed for Chanel, Balenciaga, Fendi and Marni; and was the curator of Gucci Museo in Florence. 

Fantastical Jewels coffee table book

Her designs for Louis Vuitton have been contemporary, clean, bold, and spellbinding. “I was not schooled in the art of Haute Joailleire. I believe it is one of the reasons my designs feel modern and relevant,” she says in the book.

That does seem to be true. Even though her inspirations have been ancient, her creations have managed to cradle the balance between past, present and future. She has earned her name in the Hall of Fame due to her ability to create truly beautiful pieces that are adaptable to your interpretation. 

Fantastical Jewels coffee table book

The book, organized by the collection, begins with the high jewellery Spirit collection, which was launched last year. Immerse yourself with 3D sketches, behind the making photos and close-up shots of high carat gems. Ms. Amfitheatrof delves into the inspiration of each piece, while sharing some lesser known details. The Liberty necklace, for example, has a hidden message behind. The Destiny necklace has a 10+ carat ruby that can be removed to be placed in a ring, and can be replaced with a diamond. There’s more to devour. 

The book feels like a journey into the mystical world of Ms. Amfitheatrof. Mood board images, drawings, celebrity shots, all combine to give the book a true Louis Vuitton feeling – a feeling of travel. 

3. A Bit of Universe – The Jewelry of Luz Camino

Luz Camino coffee table book

Luz Camino is – perhaps – the best kept secret of the jewelry world. And that’s just as well, because massification won’t suit her vision and creativity. A person of incredible talent, dexterity and imagination, she doesn’t have a Wikipedia profile, with only about 3000 followers on Instagram. That does not, however, speak about her products. It merely speaks about her dedication to her craft – to jewelry making. 

This book gives an ode to this incredible Spanish master jeweler, who was the first woman in Spain to qualify as a goldsmith, or sacador de fuego (one who extracts from the fire). A short foreword by designer Carolina Herrera is followed by an insightful essay on the jeweler by Clare Phillips – the Elizabeth Gage Curator of Jewellery at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Luz Camino coffee table book 

And then comes pages upon pages of Ms. Camino’s jewelry, which is spellbinding, captivating and pure. Her jewelry is indeed a bit of universe, as she takes inspiration from even insignificant moments of nature. Who could have thought that a necklace can be created to recreate melting ice cubes? Or the curving form of pencil shavings could be cast in gold? Only Ms. Camino I believe. 

The jeweler innovates with any and every kind of material. Brittle mica is combined with tourmalines, irregular opal is used with resin. There are beautiful Poppies and Navelwort brooches to wonder over. There is the magnificent Nebula, composed of multiple gems, artfully orchestrated to showcase the eponymous wonder of cosmos. The Spanish Dancer Fish brooch, Grapes earrings, Blackberries brooch – all are as true to the original as can be. 

Luz Camino coffee table book

At the end of the book is where you get a glimpse into the woman that is Luz Camino. She talks about three incidents that shaped her career, and her grandchildren. Her son pens a moving tribute to the person he works with now. 

The book does not have much text, instead offering a peek into Ms. Camino’s body of work. Most of the jewels have never been seen by the larger world, and they are a treat indeed. A rare exhibition had happened in Manhattan recently, at the Hispanic Society Museum. This book, therefore, is something I will treasure for years to come. 

The three publications are available at the Rizzoli bookstore.

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