The Adventurine Posts Mark Davis’s Jewels Are A Technicolor Dream

An array of Mark Davis bangles composed of Bakelite and precious and semiprecious stones set in gold. Photo Greg Vaughan


Mark Davis’s Jewels Are A Technicolor Dream

Find out about the designer who is one of Madonna’s favorites

by Marion Fasel

December 20, 2023—Long before feel-good bold colors in a pattern-on-pattern mix became known as the wildly popular dopamine dressing trend, jewelry designer Mark Davis was working the look. And eons in advance of the sustainability movement, Mark was upcycling materials in his fine jewelry. Well now that the world has caught up with Mark, he is riding higher than ever with his brightly colored collection.

Madonna flaunted her Mark Davis bangles all over Instagram during her birthday festivities last August in Lisbon. In And Just Like That…, the uber chic Lisa Todd Wexley (Nicole Ari Parker) has repeatedly showed how Mark Davis’s polychromatic pieces are perfect for city life. The actress not only piled them on this season, she wore them in the first season as well. They are practically a plot point with her colorful outfits.

During her birthday festivities in Lisbon, Madonna flaunted her Mark Davis bangles. Photo via Instagram @madonna

While the heightened celebrity attention is somewhat new for Mark, his colorful jewelry has been a favorite among savvy editors, collectors and the style conscious crowd since he launched it around 22-years ago. In fact, that’s how it eventually funneled into the spotlight.

“If memory serves Madonna was first introduced to the collection on an Italian Vogue shoot,” says Mark. Clearly, she never forgot the jewels.

As for the appearance on the Sex and the City spinoff, it is the exact kind of cool specialty item the veteran costume designer Molly Rogers from And Just Like That… would be well aware of.

Nicole Ari Parker wearing Mark Davis bracelets among other jewels in the first season of And Just Like That… Photo Craig Blankenhorn

“I like to think of the collection along the lines of that internet phrase ‘If you know, you know,’” Mark explains. “It falls in the space between accessible jewelry seen everywhere and jewels by JAR which are practically nowhere.”

There is total validity to this idea. Each piece of Mark Davis jewelry is made by hand and one-of-a-kind.

Some are hand carved. Inlaid patterns are repeated on occasion, but the nature of the material they are composed of creates an instant singularity. Most of the jewels are crafted from Bakelite or variations of the vintage manmade plastic also known as thermosetting resins.

Nicole Ari Parker wearing Mark Davis bracelets among other jewels on set filming the second season of And Just Like That… Photo Getty

Invented around 1907 by Belgian-American scientist Leo Baekeland, Bakelite was initially only produced in black and brown and used in early electronics such as telephones. When colorful forms of the material started being made during the 1930s, it was transformed into jewelry. Labor intensive to craft, it fell out of favor after the Depression when manufacturing costs became prohibitively high.

Mark garnered all his experience and training in design and manufacturing to figure out a way to work with vintage Bakelite and reshape old objects into new jewels.

“I started to conduct experiments, but it was difficult and there was no one to ask questions about it,” remembers Davis. “The majority of craftsmen who had worked with it were dead and gone.”

A model wearing a stack of blue Bakelite and multicolor gemstone and gold bangles. Photo Greg Vaughan

Once Mark figured out the manufacturing, working with a lathe among other things, he decorated the pieces with inlays or marquetry. An array of precious and semiprecious gems set in gold light up many of the jewels.

From the moment Mark launched the colorful collection, it was a hit. And over the decades, clients have become collectors.

“Women usually begin with one bangle and then create their own stacks,” he says. “I have clients who own 50 or 60 pieces.”

A model wearing a stack of red Mark Davis bangles composed of Bakelite and multicolor gems and gold. Photo Greg Vaughan

Collectors look for specific colors as well as various sizes of the bangles. Sometimes they have to wait for what the want. While Davis has a full-time employee sourcing the vintage material from anywhere and everywhere certain colors are scarce.

Most shades of blue, green and red are usually available, but purple is rare. And pink has been quickly snapped up even before Barbiecore hit big last summer. Some clients get specific with their heart’s desire and send Mark images of a dress to match the colors making a truly custom order.

Even though Mark is known for vibrant colors, he makes jewels in shades of black Bakelite too. “The black can be dressier than the other colors so it gives women options,” Mark admits.

A model wearing a stack of Mark Davis bangles and a Vreeland pendant on a gold chain. Photo Greg Vaughan

Over the years the look of Mark’s jewels have not changed dramatically. The designer jokes about his signature bangles, “My job is to reinvent the wheel.” Yet he does continue to slowly and carefully expand and add to the collection. Mark has plans on creating more gold focused Bakelite jewels and possibly producing table top designs.

Perhaps the biggest transformation in the business recently, beyond all the celebrity attention, has been Mark’s move out of Manhattan. Almost 5-years ago the native New Yorker, upped stakes and relocated to Beaufort, South Carolina, a small coastal town nearby The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) where he built a 6,000 square foot facility for the company. Now Mark walks through woods on his way to work with his two Hungarian Vizslas and thinks of new designs for vintage Bakelite objects.

The focus and journey Mark has been on for the last couple of decades proves how one person’s choices can make a difference in the bigger picture. He has saved a lot of Bakelite, which is an unrecyclable material, from entering landfills. It’s a fact that infuses Mark’s high-spirited jewelry with an added layer of joy.

This post was produced in collaboration with Mark Davis.

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