BEIRUT: From jewel-studded antlers to beads molded from Batroun’s rocky beaches – rugged natural themes infuse much of the two-dozen collections on display at Jewelry Design Week in Karantina.
“It’s called ‘Remnants’” says jewelry designer Helen Eter al-Alam of her first-ever collection, one comprised of gold- and silver-plated pieces in macabre themes of life and death. The artifacts of a rib cage fit as a wrist cuff and a miniature spinal column trails down the back as a reversed necklace.
“‘Remnants’ is about the cycle of life, of death and new birth of life.”
These darker expressions of nature are punctuated by typical jewelry themes, like flowers and butterflies, as well as minimalistic pieces that highlight the uncut stone.
The exhibition, which runs through Saturday at the Artheum gallery in Karantina, has provided a space for local jewelers to promote their work. Twenty-one designers are showing their collections, ranging from delicate pieces perfect for mother’s day gifts to pricey, precious jewels right in time for the upcoming wedding season.
Above all, the exhibition offers a chance to explore the full gamut of conceptual jewelry, from artistic, statement pieces to minimalist treasures.
Nature’s inspiration is most literal in a collection of glittering animal themed jewels by Mrs. T.
Designer Tylda Ghosn fastened intricate rings from jewel-encrusted snakes spiraling up the finger, a steer’s head with elegant gold antlers with diamond detail and a spider, whose sparkling legs emerge from an abstract pearl.
The gallery’s ode to nature takes a simpler form at Satish Creations by Roula Dfouni.
Dfouni relies on the rough silhouette of uncut gem stones and pounded metal to give her collection its visual intrigue. As pyrite clings to bits of it natural base, Dfouni’s work reminds wandering observers that the exhibition’s many glittering stones – polished and shaped – have much less delicate origins.
A collection at Gad by Ghada Hachem has stripped natural themes to their bare minimum.
One of her collections is built from silver beads molded from the forms of stones Hachem has collected from around the Mediterranean.
“I picked pebbles from Greece, Italy, Corsica, Batroun, then molded them and cast them in silver,” Hachem says.
Hachem’s work is marked by its rough minimalism. She prefers to use matte finishes in silver, gold and rhodium. The pieces are all organically shaped and often oxidized to give them an imperfect finish.
“I like the imperfection,” she says.
Across the gallery floor, designer Ghita Abi-Hanna proves that minimalism and statement jewelry are not mutually exclusive.
Her most recent collection, called “Distortion,” comprises a range of geometric, industrial-looking rings and earrings based on the same mold. The difference between one design and the next lies in the way that basic shape has been bent and distorted.
Jewelry Design Week, now in its inaugural year, means to focus on modern, contemporary jewelry designers.
So while designs range from more typically feminine motifs to avant-garde pieces, the exhibition offers a thorough look at what is both innovative and locally made.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but it seems that they handpicked designers who do something slightly different,” says Abi-Hanna. Jewelry designers are in need of more platforms for exposing their work, she adds.
Many of the other design fairs, such as those held by Solidere, allow anyone to show – from hobby to career designers. In contrast, Jewelry Design Week has better narrowed its display: contemporary jewelry design by trained artisans.
Several of the designers are optimistic that with time and tweaking, the event can improve its position to promote local jewelers and educate on contemporary design.
The struggles of promoting designer jewelry are apparent among the winding stands, as many of the designers show in collective galleries, sell online or in boutiques abroad, but as yet do not have a retail space of their own.
There are also a handful of young designers presenting their collections for the first time. For instance, Jewelry Design Week marks the launch of CERA BARR, which specializes in pieces inspired by costume accessories.
CERA BARR designer Sara Barraj displays gold-plated head pieces fit for gladiators, winged tiaras and statement earrings that trail up the ear.
In light of the approaching wedding season, Barraj points out a number of fun accessories perfect for taking an evening gown to another level.
“I’ve had a lot of women asking for tiaras for weddings,” Barraj says.
She also offers body jewelry – chains that cross and meet at the back in large, metal designs, for example – that offer an edgy complement to a backless dress. Or a gold chain gilet complements a strapless dress by adding large animal figures to the shoulders.
As one of the younger designers, Barraj’s copper-based creations are among the more affordable jewelry at the exhibit, and prices start at $20.
For higher end wedding gifts, designer Raissa Traboulsi offers classic, delicate designs featuring diamonds, gold and silver.
And for children looking to treat mom this Mother’s Day, Jewelry Design Week cuts out much of the time spent shopping around for the perfect gift. With a range of styles – modest to ostentatious – under one roof, the exhibition is bound to house a treasure mom would love.
A sales assistant at Nounzien suggests a handful of fun pieces for mom, ranging from light orb-shaped earring made from tiny, gold-dipped flower petals to abstract gold-dipped necklaces inlaid with pearls and bits of turquoise.
And for the mother who likes things toned down, Gad offers a range of simple silver jewelry. She suggests getting several of her stackable rings in different colors.
Jewelry Design Week is being held at Artheum in Karantina. The exhibition is open daily from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Saturday. For more information, call 71-781-783.