When the French wanted to change jewelry in the 1920s, they were militant about their new ideas. In order to encourage solidarity among designers in a move away from the standard bows, ribbons and flowers that had been popularized by nobility, they picked up their pens and wrote about what they thought modern jewelry should and could be.
Georges Fouquet, who was among the vanguard, was declarative in his book La Bijouterie, la Joaillerie, la Bijouterie fantaisie au XXc Siècle, “Art, which never ages, will prolong the career of these jewels. It will endow them with their true character. They will never be disassembled so that the materials can be used in a different form. They are, first of all, works of art rather than financial investments.” The new point of view resulted in the debut of Art Deco jewelry at the 1925 Exposition des Art Décoratifs et Industriel Modernes.
I was reminded of the forward way of thinking and the avant garde spirt of the Art Deco jewelers, when I sat down for lunch at The Ritz in Paris with the Brazilian designer Ana Khouri, who is based in New York City and only shows her new work once a year in the City of Lights during the Haute Couture and High Jewelry presentations in July. Ana’s ideas about what High Jewelry are strong and imaginative. Following is an excerpt of our conversation.
Your jewelry breaks boundaries of form and silhouette. Your earrings, swoosh around the lobes and into the ear canal. How do you come up with these ideas?
I dream about it. I think about the form and I go all the way until I can make it work. I want to do something that has never been done before. What interests me is that challenge of coming up with something new. I don’t want to keep doing what’s out there. It is not the fire that burns in my heart. It is not what drives me. I could maybe sell more or have more clients if I did it another way. That is not how I want to give the time in my life. It is not what I am creating.
What is the process for your High Jewelry?
I start with the shapes I make in sculptures. I couldn’t even think about another way of creating, because I was a sculptor before I was a jewelry designer. You can see the links between the sculpture and the jewelry. Then from that point it’s like, what do I want to say? It is a study for me in my mind. One concern is adding the functionality of the piece. Sometimes when you add the movement you lose the shape. It’s important that a piece is going to fit and be comfortable to wear.
You use gems to add a bit of color to some diamond jewels. How do you choose them?
We are bound to the stones in jewelry. We have to source ecologically in nature and find the right colors for the jewels. For the earrings with the Paraíba tourmalines, for example, I really wanted the green-blue. I wanted the stones to match and the stones to make sense. It is a challenge to the find the right gems, but it’s extremely important.
You have been presenting your jewelry collections in Paris since 2014. In the last two years you shifted the work in the presentation to only High Jewelry. Bigger jewelers have tried to present here, but failed. What inspired you to take on the added pressure of presenting in Paris?
I have a connection to Paris. My mother speaks French and I learned the language when I was young because my brothers lived here and I came to visit a lot. For my business, it actually just made sense because I have an international clientele and they come to Paris during Haute Couture week.
Paris and the Place Vendôme is the heart and birthplace of High Jewelry. Did you ever think of that when you show your work?
It is almost this sacred space for jewelry. In a way unconsciously, I think I felt it. I thought if I wanted to present, I would do it here. I think I wanted the feedback of these people that live around the beauty of the city. There is something very special about jewelry in Paris.