By Ashley Davis
This is Anabela Chan’s 18-karat white gold bracelet with green agate and a detachable brooch in 18-karat white gold and silver with white diamonds. Image courtesy of Anabel Chan
This is Anabela Chan’s 18-karat white gold bracelet with green agate and a detachable brooch in 18-karat white gold and silver with white diamonds. Image courtesy of Anabel Chan

New York--Olivier Dupon has returned to the subject of jewelry in his latest book, Fine Jewelry Couture, Contemporary Heirlooms, forthcoming from publisher Thames & Hudson in October.

20160819 Fine-Jewelry-Couture-INSERTCourtesy Thames & Hudson
Dupon has established himself as an expert in connoisseurship. Fine Jewelry Couture is his 9th book from Thames & Hudson; Dupon’s other titles highlight the best floral designers, pastry chefs, artisans and shoe designers working today.

“I have always been an advocate for independent makers and creators, whatever their field of expertise,” Dupon said, adding, “They need our support.”

Dupon’s first jewelry endeavor, the excellent The New Jewelers, was released in 2012. It ambitiously profiled over 100 working jewelry designers, both costume and fine.

This time around, the author has narrowed his focus to the fine jewelry category, specifically highlighting those he deems practitioners of “fine jewelry couture” (think high jewelry, only from independent designers and not necessarily one-of-a-kind). Perhaps a better way to describe the designers Dupon has covered in his latest tome would be to classify them as fine jewelers that Dupon thinks are at the very pinnacle of their craft.

Aida Bergsen, Ana de Costa, Daniela Villegas, Fernando Jorge, Nikos Koulis, Suzanne Kalan and Wendy Yue are some of the 30-plus designers featured.

National Jeweler spoke with Dupon about his sophomore jewelry effort, his favorite designers and the semantics of his book’s title.

National Jeweler: Tell me about your book’s title. For you, what makes a piece of jewelry a “couture” piece?

Olivier Dupon: We used the word “couture” in reference to haute couture, the epitome of fine garment making with hours of painstaking sewing, lavish embroideries and structural prowess. Although generally speaking, the jewelry equivalent to haute couture is haute joaillerie (high jewelry), the book concept was to subtly extend this reference and showcase the idea that “couture” could also apply to a section of fine jewelry, which has become more high-end in terms of exquisite craftsmanship and narrative.

A “couture” aesthetic appears when craftsmanship meets artistry. It is a question of elaborate compositions, intricate structures, out-of-the-box thinking and above all, a sense of exploring new and exciting territory. With this book I aim to gather fine jewelry creations that abide by that philosophy.

Last but not least, even though high jewelers are a byword for rare and exceptional gemstones, it is interesting to witness how they have been increasingly using semi-precious stones in their collections, much as fine jewelers have always advocated mixing the two.

NJ: How did you select the designers featured in the book?

OD: Admittedly, I went with what sets my heart aflutter. I already knew most of the designers, and it did not take me long to identify names who would stand out for the project. Most importantly, I set my sights on selecting practitioners whose creative approaches are different from one another (no two collections are similar), designers with a strong vision and the ability to provide an inspiring back-story for each of their creations. In addition, as in my previous books, it was crucial to shortlist designers from across the world. Geographical and cultural heritages do indeed add another layer to the richness of interpretations. As a result, the sheer variety of content creates a multi-dimensional book in terms of techniques, materials and styles.

NJ: Of all the designers featured, are there any that stand out as the most exciting to you?

OD: It is very subjective of course, but I have my favorites, the same way I hope readers will be enticed to choose their own. The following are all people I would collect from: Nicolas Varney, who excels at bridging dualities and enhancing rare gemstones; Sylvie Corbelin, whose renditions are an invitation to oneirism; Dickson Yewn, who single-handedly revives the ancient Chinese jewelry making tradition; Silvia Furmanovich, whose imagination knows no boundaries; Elie Top, whose two first collections are like nothing I have seen before--part alchemical, part futuristic; Mauro Felter, who is a true colorist, gemstones being his oil, gold the canvas; Temple St. Clair, whose collections are odysseys through bygone cultures, old sciences and ethnography….

Let me pause here. I am listing my favorites but I truly feel I could name them all as such. Each has an undisputed reason for being in Fine Jewelry Couture, a reason why I fell in love with their work in the first place.

NJ: How long did you spend working on Fine Jewelry Couture? What sparked the idea for you?

OD: Although the idea had been in my mind for a while, its execution followed the usual timeframe requested by Thames & Hudson--outstanding publishers who are committed to the highest quality--which allows about nine months for a book to come to life.

I have always wanted to write a second book about jewelry after The New Jewelers in 2012, and I felt the time was right to focus on fine jewelers.

The exceptional pool of talent in the market increasingly fascinated me. Fine jewelry is a highly competitive field and there are a lot of practitioners out there. So it takes great courage to enter the field, or to keep on forging ahead. The ones who have no intention of resting on their laurels and continue to experiment really stand out.

Moreover, at a time where haute joaillerie somehow became slightly more ‘creatively’ conservative (the latest 2016 high jewelry collections are testament to many luxury houses reverting to their fundamentals), the bold initiatives of fine jewelers deserved to be showcased.

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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.