Now in its third edition, the Designer Vivarium by Vivienne Becker presents a carefully curated array of strikingly original and innovative contemporary jewels by a select group of international, arch-individualist designers and artist-jewellers. The Vivarium showcases today’s avant-garde, often provocative jewels destined to become the antiques of the future, making the perfect complement to the stellar displays of antique and vintage jewellery offered each year at GemGenève. It offers visitors the opportunity to discover the quintessence of contemporary jewellery creation in a dedicated space at the heart of the show.
The idea for a contemporary designer showcase originally came from the GemGenève founders, Thomas Faerber and Ronny Totah, both keen to promote and nurture talent and ingenuity in today’s jewellery world, to keep our industry dynamic, moving forward and in tune with the mood of the moment.
As always, jewellery historian and author, Vivienne Becker, helped by Ida Faerber, searches out jewels and jewellers who dare to push boundaries of concept, design, material and craftsmanship, who challenge the status quo, conventions and preconceptions, questioning the role, meaning and message of jewellery today; for the Designer Vivarium, Vivienne looks for under-the-radar jewellers, some new, some established, but all on a mission to find a new, relevant expression for the art of the jewel. As she explains, “I look for jewels that have a strong, individual point of view, a well-defined identity and creative vision, and for a certain refinement of craftsmanship. I look for a sophisticated integration of concept, material and technique and perhaps most of all I look for designers who have something to say, something new to say, through their jewels. I look for today’s creators who will be part of the long and rich continuum of jewellery history.”
Some designers are returning, invited to participate on a three-year cycle, others are entirely new, injecting the Vivarium with fresh vitality. As always, the styles on show in the Designer Vivarium are all distinctive and very different from each other, representing the depth and breadth of creativity in the jewellery world, and pointing to the growing influence and importance of independent designers in the industry, at a time when the quest for individuality is stronger than ever. And as in past years, visitors will have the opportunity to meet the designers, and talk to them about their ideas and creative vision and experience the joy of discovery that is so much part of the GemGenève spirit.
“Today’s contemporary art jewellery is tomorrow’s antiques and heirlooms“.
Ronny Totah, Co-founder of GemGenève
Archive image of GemGenève
THE DESIGNERS AT A GLANCE
- Aline Debusigne, CH
- Regina Gambatesa, IT
- Studio Renn, IN
- Atelier Allure, AT
- G SUEN, GB
- Alexandra Jefford, GB
- Cora Sheibani, GB
- Alexander Tenzo, RU
2021 DESIGNER VIVARIUM – THE DESIGNERS
NEW TO THE DESIGNER VIVARIUM 2021
Aline Debusigne: Having trained in the fields of ancient history and philology, Basel-based Aline started her own jewellery business in 2018, drawing on her long-term passion for history, and her fascination with collections of ancient and antique jewels and their craftsmanship. Her resolutely contemporary designs, of ingeniously-conceived, architectural structure and carefully considered balance and proportions are all hand-crafted, in Geneva and Paris, using traditional techniques. Her signature marriage of modernity and antiquity is expressed in her use of old-cut diamonds, in a variety of shapes, often scattered, seemingly at random, in near-invisible settings, to generate a shimmering play of light. Her white gold is left natural, without rhodium plating. Aline also focuses intently on sculptural, ergonomic shapes, to create jewels to move with the body, like a second skin, balancing ornament with wearability. She sums up the key characteristics of her style as light, abstraction, movement, body-fitting and contemporary.
Regina Gambatesa: After studying architecture at the University of Naples, Regina moved to Bari, in Italy’s Puglia region, and in 1986 began to create her highly conceptual jewels, conceived, she says, as “ritual objects to bring you closer to your interior.” In 1999, Regina opened her experimental exhibition space, showing her collections and one-of-a-kind creations, some organic, others geometric, with the aim of stimulating a new dialogue around the meaning and power of the jewel. She works with light, with luminous materials to convey and perpetuate the deep mysticism and spirituality long associated with the jewel. Through her jewels, and architectural, Regina explores the relationship between body and ornament. She fuses deep-rooted cultural references and associations with elements of fantasy and imagination. She explores the jewel’s power of communication, finding new ways for the jewel to tell its age-old story, to revive ritual and the energy of the talisman, and most of all to generate an emotional response, deep in the unconscious.
Studio Renn: The Mumbai-based husband wife duo, Roshni and Rahul Jhaveri, founded their design practice, Studio Renn, in 2018. It was born out of their drive for artistic self-expression, nurtured by years spent in the company of artists, by time spent in studios, galleries, and museums. Rahul is a collector of contemporary art and design, and for him, each creation is a leap of faith, into the imagination and the unknown. An alumna of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Roshni oversees the design studio and forges partnerships and alliances, including their creative collaborations with the artist Prashant Salvi and the sculptor L N Tallur. The name Renn means rebirth, which indicates the Jhaveris’ guiding philosophy of re-examining ideas, objects, feelings, reworking traditional themes and techniques, and finding a new artistic, conceptual expression for jewels and objects. Their conceptual, sculptural collections, re-imagining naturalistic themes, include Orange Peel, Woodear, Puffball, Yellow Gilled while their latest work is an exploration of “The unsettling nature of incompleteness.”
Atelier Allure: Thomas Hauser, a classically trained goldsmith and jeweller, explains that, as a 15-year-old, he was inspired to become a goldsmith by Goethe’s translation of Cellini’s famous autobiography. Having completed his apprenticeship aged 21, he continued his studies for the next 12 years, and set up Atelier Allure in 1998, in New York (where he taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology), moving his atelier to historic summer house in Vienna in 2005. He describes his atelier as a jewellery laboratory, where, like an alchemist he explores materials and techniques, taking a ‘universalistic’ approach, researching, experimenting and crafting each jewel himself, from start to finish. His focus is on a synergistic alliance of material, design and technique, along with aesthetic theory and social and cultural context. His quest is to restore the earlier meaning to jewellery, the meaning, stature and nobility that was bestowed on jewels and jewelled objects during the Renaissance, when the art of the goldsmith was revered, on a par with sculpture and architecture. Dedicated to technical innovation, Thomas has developed a revolutionary technique that enables him to ‘tame’ and work the precious black metal Niellium, creating contemporary, architectural jewels that explore the nature of darkness and the interplay of forms with shadows.
G SUEN: London-based art-jeweller, Gearry Suen grew up in Beijing, and moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins and then the Royal College of Art. Drawing on traditions of Chinese ink painting, fine art and product design, and on what he calls his ‘time travel mind’, Gearry fuses imaginative narrative with historical, mythological and architectural references, and escapist fantasy with real-world relevance. In the same way, he combines techniques drawn from centuries of High Jewellery craftsmanship with experimental, high-tech craft processes – including virtual reality – and innovative, futuristic materials. This sense of fusion is expressed in one of his signature themes, the Chimera, which also captures and reflects today’s millennial mood of gender diversity. At the same time, Gearry’s subjective view of nature, the earliest and most ubiquitous of jewellery themes, enables him to create unexpected, surrealistic forms and structures. G SUEN’s Conversation Earrings won the prestigious Goldsmiths Company Award, as well as several other prizes at the 2021 Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council Awards.
Alexandra Jefford: Born and raised in Geneva, and now London-based, Alexandra studied fine art at Central Saint Martins School, London, where she focused on etching and drawing. After pursuing a career as an artist and illustrator, she turned to Jewellery in 2002, studying Jewellery design at the GIA in America and Gemmology at the Gemmological Association of Great Britain in London. She brings her art background to graphic, abstract, cerebral jewels that play with shapes and form, texture and colour, contrasts of sheen and matt, transparency and opacity, and in which etched lines take an important if subtle role. Alexandra draws on inspirations from the Bauhaus and post-war American abstract expressionist painters. Recent collections include Absence and Presence of Colour, which sets vivid stones such as mandarin garnet and green tourmaline next to carved matt black onyx shapes, demonstrating her resolutely modernist approach to the jewel as art form.
Cora Sheibani: Swiss born, London-based Sheibani grew up immersed in the art world, surrounded by art and the celebrated artists represented by her celebrated art-dealer father. Yet she approaches the jewel as pure design, rather than as art, working with line, form, colour, material and texture, integrating all into the overall concept of a collection. Through intriguing, unexpected, culturally inquiring themes, she takes jewellery into entirely new thematic territory, with collections that range in narrative from cakes and ice-creams through cacti, clouds and the eye symbol, both human and animal. Challenging entrenched conventions, in her Glow collection Cora explores phosphorescent and fluorescent gemstones, turning their extraordinary light-giving properties, so often denigrated, into a captivating contemporary design feature.
Alexander Tenzo: Based in St Petersburg, this Russian gem-hunter and jeweller is a champion of Russian jewelled arts, a renovator and moderniser of age-old skills and traditions. For years he has scoured the world for rare and intriguing stones, such as Alexandrites and cat’s eye cabochons, and has assembled a treasury of extraordinary, rare coloured gems, which he now incorporates into his jewels. He also searches worldwide for specialist artisans who can achieve the refinement of technique and craftsmanship he envisages for his jewellery creations. Tenzo is known for reinvigorating the Russian art of stone carving, so inextricably linked to Fabergé, and deeply rooted in Russian culture, in the immense resources of gems and minerals in the Ural Mountains. Alongside his jewels, including his series of cameos and intaglios, he creates objects, meticulously, imaginatively carved from gems, hardstones and minerals.
GemGenève Founders Thomas Faerber and Ronny Totah