There is a lyrical quality to everything Silvia Furmanovich’s creates. Over the course of 20-years, the designer has been composing an epic jewelry poem with her collections. Each soulful chapter expresses Silvia’s passion and fearlessness about redefining fine jewelry.
Part of her design story involves seeing the beauty in raw materials overlooked by others. Another key narrative thread is an adventure tale about the search for artisans with rare talent.
Lots of designers working today talk a big game of sustainability and supporting local craftsmanship while comfortably seated in their design studios. Silvia, on the other hand, is a woman of action.
She leaves her home in São Paulo, Brazil and heads out into remote corners of the world to find materials and manufacturers. And then she does something of a mind meld with master craftsmen in order to get them to rethink the possibilities of what they can do.
After finding woodworkers in Acre, Brazil, using native wood to create marquetry pieces, she convinced them to shrink their craft down from large objects to jewels, boxes and clutch bags. When Silvia discovered artisans in Udaipur, India painting miniatures using super fine brushes composed of the hair of a squirrel’s tail and mineral based precious pigments of crushed gems, she found a way to incorporate their work into her designs.
Silvia’s jewels are always so innovative, I have privately wondered how she will ever top certain collections and create another with the same impact. But she does, time and again.
This year Silvia has introduced two completely unique collections. One focuses on the jarina, a seed grown in South American palm trees. The other shows the artistry of bamboo. I reached Silvia over the phone to talk about both.
What are jarina seeds?
The jarina seed is a nice material with a texture and appearance similar to ivory, but of course, it grows on trees so it is a very sustainable product. It is often called the ‘ivory nut.’ It takes around 40 years to produce the jarina seeds we use. They are hard and fossilized. You cannot use young seeds.
The challenging part is that the majority of the jarina seeds have natural black stains. In order to find examples without the stains, we went into a partnership with a community in the Amazon. They choose jarina seeds for us. It takes a very long time. Every six months I receive around 10 strands with round and perfect jarina seeds.
Tell me about the designs in the collection and how you treat the Jarina so they are suitable for jewelry.
We make a kind of wax to close the pores on the seeds and give them shine. We carve them and add gold details, some have pearls or diamonds. In the pendant earrings there are reverse set diamonds with the bottom tip of the pavilion pointing out.
The ivory color and round shapes makes Jarina a very chic classical collection that matches with everything a woman wears. Because it takes so much time to get the seeds, jarina is a small capsule collection.
The new Bamboo Amazonia collection is extraordinary. How did it evolve?
I am always in search of new materials to use in a special way and shine a new light on them. I first fell in love with the bamboo on a trip to Japan. What Japanese craftsmen do with bamboo is art. I studied the material and went two more times to Japan to figure out how to work with it.
I went straight to the houses where artists make basketry. They don’t have numbers on the houses, because they are in a very remote area. Now we are working with three artists in Japan. On the jewels, they use basketry techniques where you can bend the bamboo in many ways.
What attracted you to the bamboo?
I like the beauty and the lightness of the material.
Something else I love about the bamboo are the Japanese tales about it. They include metaphors about the material that can be applied to the philosophy of our lives such as flexibility and hardness. The bamboo bends, but it doesn’t break.
Find out more about Silvia’s story and bamboo in her video on the collection.
The making of Silvia Furmanovich’s bamboo collection.