Jewelry Industry Loses Holly Dyment, One of Its Most Original Voices

TrendsDec 02, 2020

Jewelry Industry Loses Holly Dyment, One of Its Most Original Voices

The Canadian designer’s jewels made whimsy an art.

Holly Dyment was the designer of whimsical and vibrant jewelry under her eponymous label. She died last week, age 61. (Image courtesy of Muse)

Toronto—Canadian designer Holly Dyment, a singular talent known for her unique take on fine jewelry, died Nov. 25 following a battle with cancer.

She was 61.

Holly Andrena Dyment was born on Aug. 18, 1959 in Toronto to parents Donald Dyment and Lexie Miller.

She received her education at the Toronto French School and the Bishop Strachan School before studying fine arts at Bennington College, a private liberal arts school in Vermont, and graphic design at George Brown College in Toronto.

The artistic chameleon pursued many creative careers in her lifetime.

She began as a window display artist and graphic designer at fashion retailer Fairweather, where she spent a decade.

Next, she launched her own business as a faux finisher, painting decorative interior items in bright shades, solidifying her artistic identity as colorful maximalist.

She went on to have a successful career as an interior designer in Toronto, decorating “her own houses and those of her clients with customary verve,” according to her obituary.

In 2009, she began lending her signature boldness to an eponymous fine jewelry line.

Jennifer Shanker, head of New York City’s Muse sales showroom, recalls her unorthodox introduction to the brand in 2013, when Dyment showed her work at the JA New York show and won the Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year Award.

“I received a call from my friend, the late Cindy Edelstein, who said, ‘We met this woman at the JA New York show; she is a brilliant designer with the most outrageous jewelry. We love her but we don’t know what to suggest to her. We thought if anyone can sell it, you can.’

Holly Dyment’s fine jewelry signature was her portrait jewels. Here, a self-portrait ring rendered in 18-karat gold with enamel, diamonds and sapphires.

“Holly was only to be in New York City for a few days, so we rearranged our schedule to meet. Then Holly didn’t show up. When I called to ask where she was, she said, ‘Oh my goodness I’m wearing my Wednesday ring, I got confused, I didn’t realize it’s Tuesday. Can we meet tomorrow?’”

“Little did I know she wore a different skull ring for each day of the week, but just from the phone conversation I liked her instantly. So, we rescheduled for the next day and it was love at first sight. We immediately fell in love with Holly

and her jewelry, which are somewhat synonymous.”

Muse began representing Dyment, bringing her, and her work, to the Couture show in Las Vegas every year.

“Holly Dyment was an incredible talent whose art and creativity will be deeply missed by the Couture community,” said Gannon Brousseau, Couture director and executive vice president at Emerald.  

“Her legacy will live on in her innovative and prolific body of work, and in fond memories of the warmth and vibrancy of her character. Our hearts go out to her family and friends.” 

She garnered a legion of devotees from some of the world’s most discerning jewelry aficionados, like historian, author and editor Marion Fasel, and writer and editor Lynn Yaeger.

“Holly was an absolutely unique and exceptional designer,” Fasel said. “Her work was unlike anything else in the field. That’s a rare achievement in jewelry today.”

Her jewelry was inspired by annual trips to India, where Dyment took in the colorful wonders of ancient cities like New Delhi, Calcutta, Jaipur and Hampi, as well as Mexico, where she had a home.

She manufactured her pieces with a ninth-generation jewelry company in Jaipur, where she also sourced her colorful gemstones.

Dyment’s love of color didn’t end with gems; she was also known for her enamelwork, in which she depicted people, flora and fauna, with a particular penchant for skulls, and often with a black-and-white striped detail or border.

The simple line depictions illustrating her subjects are a language all their own and are instantly recognizable as the work of Holly Dyment—slightly cartoonish and never taking themselves too seriously, communicating an insouciant joyfulness, and delineating their owners as proprietors of art first and luxury second, never the other way around.

In a bio provided by her showroom Muse, Dyment described her own designs as, “not for the fashion faint-of-heart,” explaining: “I’m fascinated by antique jewelry—charms, amulets and pieces described as ‘Victorian sentimental,’ which depicted the quaint superstitions and traditions of that time. I translate that somber vibe into fun, fine jewelry that walks the line between precious and precocious.”

SEE: A Vibrant Life Expressed Through Jewelry 

She attributed her unique point-of-view to her mother’s love of prints in the vein of Emilio Pucci and Marimekko, as well as the bright shades seen in Pop Art. The macabre inclinations of Tim Burton and Edgar Allan Poe were also touchstones. 

Dyment was arguably one of the original and visually loudest arbiters of precious jewelry with a sense of humor, be it a cocktail ring depicting Frida Kahlo’s face (one of Dyment’s favorite inspirational subjects) or a playful Rococo-feeling girandole earring.

Her jewelry oeuvre solidified whimsy into wearable art.

“Holly’s enamel portrait jewels, of course, are what she was most known for,” Fasel explained. “Those pieces not only brought a sense of art and artistry to her collection, they also infused a feeling of joy that was so much a part of Holly’s vibrant personality.”

This year, Dyment created one of her portrait brooches depicting Yaeger.

Yaeger said, “I was a big fan of Holly’s work—so unique, so unlike anyone else’s creations—from the moment I first saw it. But when I met her at the Couture show in Vegas last year, both of us were too shy to really talk! How I regret that now.

“Still, she must have known how much I admired her work. When she made me the brooch in my image a few months ago, I was stunned and thrilled beyond words. If only I had had the chance to thank her in person.”

Dyment, a non-smoker, died of lung cancer at Toronto’s St. Joseph’s Health Centre.

She was preceded in death by her parents.

Dyment is survived by her sons, Andrew Lauder (and wife Carly Deziel) and Cooper Dyment (and wife Emily Spencer) as well as her aunt, Robin Vaile Robinson, all of Toronto.

She is also survived by her brother Cam Dyment, his wife Barbara Dyment, of Collingwood, Ontario, and their children, Kirstie, Brandon and Kyle; cousin Philip Dyment, his wife Petra Mattes and their children, Gabrielle and Jack; and lifelong friend Janet Heisey.

Due to COVID-19, a celebration of life will happen at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Dyment’s honor to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

Shanker, and her team at Muse, for now embrace Dyment’s artistic legacy to cope with her absence.

“It was a gift and an honor to know and work with Holly. We already feel a huge void without her and will lean on her memory and her jewelry to keep her spirit alive through her signature, singular style.”

Ashley Davisis the senior editor, fashion at National Jeweler, covering all things related to design, style and trends.

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