The glory of blossoming flowers is always one of the first and most welcome signs of spring. Watching a flower bloom from a shoot into a bud and finally opening into its full splendor brings joy into all of our lives. Flowers speak a language of their own, whether through its color or species, each one has its own message. The delicacy of a petal, the way it unfurls and reveals the most intimate parts of its inner self has always been an inspiration to artists.
Throughout history, jewelry designers have looked to nature as a muse for their creations, creating florals in a bouquet of sumptuous jewels. To honor spring, and its newly renovated Upper East Side galleries, Sotheby’s New York recently opened a selling exhibition: In Bloom, celebrating the floral motif in jewelry design from the 19th century to now. The exhibition runs through May 24.
The 75-piece collection was curated by Frank Everett, sales director of Sotheby’s luxury division and Carol Woolton, historian, author and contributing director of jewelry, British Vogue.
“Carol and I bonded over her book Floral Jewels from the World’s Leading Designers and I suggested that we do something together, which ended up being this exhibition,” recounts Everett. “Carol pulled the contemporary pieces and I found the vintage pieces. We wanted to have a balance of periods, makers, style and type of flower. We have all types of florals – roses, peony, bluebells, even a carnation.”
The collection highlights vintage pieces from Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, David Webb, Oscar Heyman & Brothers, Verdura and Suzanne Belperron. It goes on to showcase the work of contemporary designers including Solange Azagury-Partridge, Irene Neuwirth, Jessica McCormack and Robert Procop among others.
The result is a vibrant garden of jeweled flowers that capture the essence of these wonders of nature whether rendered as naturalistic or abstract.
“Flowers are one of the ways we measure particular moments of our lives, and jewelry is another,” notes Woolton. “Small wonder that flowers are a recurring and significant theme in oeuvre of the jewelry designer, arguably the greatest leitmotif in the history of jewels, cropping up time and again studied from every angle for inventiveness and brilliance of color to be reimagined in fresh forms to suit the prevailing whims of fashion.”
The exhibition — housed in the tenth floor galleries — features vitrines with garden themed vignettes evocative of a walk through a forest filled with shimmering flowers that go from the understated to over-the-top. The jewels are draped across moss risers or dangling from branches, a naturalistic background that showcases the jewelry to perfection.
Although the exhibition is about flowers, the floral motifs sometimes came from other inspirations. Designer Neha Dani, created a floral cuff with 18 flowers iced in light pink diamonds with vivid pink centers, she explains their significance. “These flowers represent the part of a woman that blossoms. There are 18 flowers because that is the age in many cultures that is the start of womanhood. Women of that age are full of life, they have lots of joy, desires and ambitions. They are ready to go out into the world where they will blossom.”
Portrait cut spinels inspired Krishna Choudhary, designer for Jaipur, India-based Santi, to create a floral motif pendant. Some were antique and others were cut to match. “The spinels are flat, but they still hold their color. This pendant is a tribute to the very charming flatness of these spinels,” notes Choudhary. “Flowers were very important in Mughal times. The emperors missed their home in Persia and flowers were in their art and gardens. The flowers I’ve created are a melding of lotus and hollyhock flowers.”
In Bloom is filled with fanciful flowers, some naturalistic and others based on the imagination of the designer, but all are a tribute to these wonderful messengers of spring and the jeweler’s art.