You might be surprised when I tell you what inspired Wilfredo Rosado’s new Pearl ID collection. He got the idea for the beautifully crafted personalized jewels from one those white plastic bead bracelets with black letters a friend of his wore one day.
And you know what? The lowbrow reference is perfectly in line with the playful attitude Wilfredo has had towards extraordinary fine jewelry since he launched his collection in 2011. There is no other designer who riffs on jewelry history, art and pop culture quite like Wilfredo Rosado.
In the past, he has turned the grandmotherly look of cameos into something sexy with a ginormous ring featuring a cameo of a mouth and tongue licking lips. (Rihanna has worn the design.)
Wilfredo added edge to diamond floral pendant earrings with bits of black leather highlighting the petals. (Mariah Carey has sported this style.)
He has transformed the shape of gears and cog wheels into a big bib diamond necklace. (Julia Roberts tossed on the statement piece for a premiere.)
Wilfredo took the 70s hippie feather earrings styles to new heights with magenta plumes suspended from diamond, pink tourmaline and white gold pendants. (Gwyneth Paltrow put on a pair for her performance at the Grammys.)
The designer has impressive pop culture credentials stretching back to the beginning of his career. Wilfredo was plucked from a fashion job at Armani by Andy Warhol to work at the artist’s legendary magazine Interview. Wilfredo rose to the position of fashion director during his time at the publication. After Andy died, Wilfredo left and did another stint at Armani, then he launched a consulting business that change his professional path away from fashion.
“In 2008 I was working on a gala event Versace was holding at The Whitney,” explains Wilfredo. “They were launching a jewelry collection and linked to the art by having contemporary masters—Wangechi Mutu, Julian Schnabel and Marc Quinn—make jewels.”
The experience lit up Wilfredo’s passion for jewelry. “I used to wear so much jewelry, Mr. Armani would call me Cleopatra,” says Wilfredo. “When I worked with it closely, I realized that’s what I wanted to do.”
At this point in the story, you might be wondering with all these celebrity credits and amazing backstory, why haven’t you heard more about Wilfredo Rosado over the years? The designer has managed to be high-profile/low-key from the start.
Also, the jewelry has been a little bit hard to find, otherwise known as very exclusive. Wilfredo has done private sales and sold in a few boutiques around the world. There was a period when he had a glamorous semi-private space at Just One Eye in Los Angeles where I enjoyed paying visits on the jewels.
All of that is about to change with Pearl ID. The new collection is being launched at Moda Operandi and will be more widely available than his other work. The prices for many pieces are much more accessible than previous collections. They begin just under $2,500. The craftsmanship on all the designs is at the same level of excellence as the pieces made in the past. In fact, there might even be more innovation.
“I began the collection by doing research on the pearls and what would work best for the letters,” explains Wilfredo. “I chose 10-½ to 12-millimeter South Sea pearls because they are the best quality and the right size to set the letters.”
A perfectionist, Wilfredo had master Italian goldsmiths and jewelers make the gold and gem-set letters. Then he took them, along the with the South Sea pearls, to Idar-Oberstein, Germany where the greatest lapidaries in the world are located. It took six months for the lapidaries to figure out how to carve the pearls.
“They didn’t know how to hold the pearl in place in order to carve it,” explains Wilfredo. “They had to create a new machine to do it. Each increase in pearl size changed the dimensions of the carving. Each of the carvings in the pearls are such that the letters are flush with the pearl. It’s much more labor intensive than it looks.”
There are extra flourishes on the larger more expensive designs like the Amore necklace. It is convertible and parts can be unscrewed so other letters can added to spell different words.
In order to create a look book for the collection, Wilfredo called on his old friend, legendary photographer Albert Watson. The instantly iconic campaign gets across the elegance, edge and the joy of Pearl ID collection.
The final change Wilfredo made to mark this new phase of his jewelry designing career was to alter the company name from Wilfredo Rosado to W.Rosado. “I noticed on Victorian jewelry boxes how they often had a first initial and a last name,” explains Wilfredo. “I liked the look and it reminded me of the old department store B. Altman.”
Chalk the new company name up to another one of Wilfredo’s cool riffs on history. Something I just know Andy Warhol would have loved.