There is a long history of creative designers smashing the rules about what is fine and fashion jewelry. Probably the most famous example is the work Duke Fulco di Verdura did for Chanel in the 1930s. The Maltese Cross Cuffs the titled Italian whipped up for the French fashion designer were composed of real gems and base metal. The design duo did not care one bit about what the fine jewelry purist thought of the mix.
Philip Crangi is taking a similarly audacious approach to his new collection. The designer who is a master goldsmith started his career creating fine jewelry then he launched the wildly popular fashion jewelry collection Giles & Brother. (The company name recognizes his sister and business partner in both ventures, Courtney “Giles” Crangi.) Now, Philip is mixing the two collections up with Giles & Brother High. The word “High” is a playful spin on the term High Jewelry that is used by traditional jewelers to describe the pieces with the biggest gems and best manufacturing.
“I haven’t worked on the bench intensively like this in a long time,” explains Philip. “I had been largely involved in overseeing production and different aspects of the business. This is a return to my true love which is making stuff.”
The intellectual designer who is a self-described history geek with an old soul that extends to the vintage memorabilia throughout his studio and romantic script tattoos of Joni Mitchell lyrics on his forearms—“We are Stardust, We are Golden”—has thought out every aspect of the collection in philosophical detail.
Giles & Brother High began when Philip was considering metals and materials. “As a goldsmith, I feel a connection to the process and the possibilities and permutations of what metals can do,” explains the designer. “I was also thinking of the concept of precious and non-precious.” Out of his meditations came the brass set with diamonds.
“The jewels are a mix of industrial and fine jewelry finishing techniques,” explains Philip. “It is a bit of hand and a bit of machine. The energy goes into the model making. I do a really simple casting in brass. I tumble it overnight then I hand polish them.”
The warmth and depth to the patina on the nail heads, stud and rosette motifs in the bold brass designs is highlighted by two types of brown diamonds that add a tonal effect. Malachite and banded agates add earthy splashes of color to the choker and a couple of the bracelets.
When Philip completed the capsule collection after six months of production, he made—as in with his own two hands designed, assembled and manufactured—a leather and sheep’s wool box to store it. “I wanted total control over it. I want to be able to bring it around and have my prayer rug and my trunk and show up anywhere with it.”
At heart of the collection is the same inspiration at the heart of all the designer’s work. “I kind of fantasize that I am creating treasure for a lost civilization. This idea that there is a treasure trove from the past or even a sci-fi Star Trek kind of land and you try to piece together who these people were.” Clearly they were an adventurous tribe who made up their own imaginative minds about what jewelry should and could be.
Giles & Brother High is available to order on gilesandbrother.com. The prices range from $350 to $5,500