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20 Designers to Watch in 2020 and Beyond: The Bridal Bunch
This cohort channels something old while infusing something new into jewels that turn engagement rings and wedding bands into art.
In the first installment of my 20 Designers to Watch in 2020 series, I highlighted four jewelry designers who interpret color in original and compelling ways.
In Part 2, I look to four independent brands straddling the line between classicism and modernity in their bridal creations, transforming a category that can be staid into jewels covetable purely on the basis of their design.
The Bridal Bunch: Azlee, Erika Winters, Eva Fehren, Single Stone
Designer: Baylee Zwart
Based In: Los Angeles
Key Retailers: Dover Street Market, Matches Fashion, The Webster
Upon its founding, Azlee quickly became a darling of buyers and press with its geometric array of jewelry subtly infused with ancient influences.
In a few short seasons, Azlee bloomed into a mature, refined collection under the discerning eye of designer Baylee Zwart, who boasts an artist’s sense of scale and proportion.
Casting the Azlee lens on bridal, Zwart really hit her stride as she sourced unique diamond cuts that appealed to her and demonstrated proclivity for graphic shapes.
“Baylee Zwart is the innovator in the bridal space,” said consultant and former Brides editor Shane Clark. “Her use of unique-cut stones, bold graphic designs and fresh perspective on engagement rings are distinct.”
As halo settings reached peak popularity in the United States, Zwart championed bold, classic bezels that transformed simple diamond solitaire styles into dynamic statement pieces.
She’s since complicated her settings, adding side stones or nesting wedding bands, furthering the bridal-jewelry-as-art conversation.
Based In: Seattle
Key Retailers: Alchemy Jeweler, Greenwich St. Jewelers, Twist
Bridal is Erika Winters’ claim to fame, executed with the detail and precision of a master, so it’s easy to forget her eponymous line is less than a decade old.
“Because her vision is so strong, you’d think she was already designing for decades,” remarked Greenwich St. Jewelers owner Jennifer Gandia, who carries Winters’ line.
“She is obsessed with the details, and it shows in every [aspect] of an Erika Winters ring—the finish, the piercing and the milgrain.”
Winters’ collection possesses an old-fashioned romanticism, marked with early 20th century design elements.
An overtly feminine quality in the finely wrought settings lend the engagement rings and wedding bands their nostalgic feel.
These attributes have become Winters’ signature look, but her work always includes a modern touch, often courtesy of sophisticated satin or sandblasted finishes.
Designer: Eva Zuckerman
Based In: New York
Key Retailers: Twist, Etc., Jeffrey
Zuckerman’s bridal offerings don’t deviate from her signature aesthetic.
Like her main line, bridal styles stack and nest, are often finished with rhodium, and diamonds typically feature the straight lines of which she’s so fond.
“I think it’s particularly remarkable how Eva does ‘alternative’ bridal using the most traditional materials,” opined fine jewelry writer, stylist and consultant Kareem Rashed.
“She somehow manages to make a diamond solitaire feel fresh and cool, without any gimmicks—no small feat.”
Zuckerman’s engagement rings and wedding bands are typically minimal, which is key to being versatile enough for daily wear, but wildly different from her contemporaries’ styles.
They will only grow in their appeal as “alternative bridal” gains a greater footing in the marketplace.
Designers: Ari and Corina Madilian
Based In: Los Angeles
Key Retailers: Single Stone LA, Single Stone San Marino, Croghan’s, Greenwich St. Jewelers
“They were the first to use antique diamonds in a collection of new engagement rings that honestly interpreted the best designs from the last century,” said Greenwich St.’s Gandia of Single Stone, headed by husband-and-wife duo Ari and Corina Madilian.
Gandia credits Ari’s “knowledge and expertise” and Corina’s “style and passion” as the winning combination behind Single Stone’s particular style of old-world elegance, which combines striking stones with bold, directional settings.
Single Stone’s bridal line was a slow and natural progression for the company that opened a storefront in downtown Los Angeles in 1988 selling restored antique jewelry, as well as antique and vintage diamonds.
Launched in 2004, the eponymous bridal collection accesses timeless stylistic elements of jewelry from the past, whether ornate detailing reminiscent of Art Nouveau, or the clean, bold lines of Art Deco.
The Madilians’ current styles are of-the-moment translations of engagement ring design hallmarks that have held up, a way of appreciating vintage without being too on the nose.
Their dedication to interesting antique diamonds has placed them at the forefront of the current vintage and antique bridal trend in which older styles, with all their imperfections, feel fresh and novel.
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