You can clearly make out the lines and moldings of ancient Roman pillars in the latest collection from emerging fine jewelry brand Aymer Maria, which was inspired by the work of Italian Renaissance-era architect Palladio.
Decorative history is fundamental to house designer Ruth Aymer’s design process. “My research goes far back to 17th century Africa, mainly how jewelry as adornment was worn and has developed over time,” she tells The Zing Report. “There’s a lot of academia that I’ve delved into, focusing on ancient structures in West Africa. You’ll see from the first Pilastro ring that I ever designed, Pilastro Gold Ring I, that the acanthus leaf detail and fluting seen on the shaft of the columns are very prominent throughout the whole of the collection.”
The designer is one in a growing group of modern jewelry makers creating collections that look more like substantial, time-worn museum pieces than lightweight trifles. The rich gold look and weightiness of metal antiquities is in fact a white-hot trend in jewelry right now.
Jewelry designer Susan Lenart knots wire to create complex textures that hearken back to ancient ethnographic ornament from India, Africa, and Asia. And emerging fine jewelry designer Darius Khonsary has made a big splash in the high-end jewelry market with her diamond-studded—but rustic-feeling—pieces that resemble precious relics. Khonsary also renders her jewels in 18k gold that’s then plated in a satin-finish 24k gold, in the classic way of Persian jewelers (the entire collection is an ode to her Persian heritage).
Sotheby’s harnessed the craze for B.C.-era jewelry design in September when it staged its The Dance of Beauty and Divinity in Ancient Gold Jewellery sale, which offered a selection of ancient rings originating in southeast Asia that would typically live out their days under glass in museums—but likely became go-to accessories for present-day jewelry lovers.
For sure, jewelry that looks ancient practically screams, “Fine jewelry is forever,” which speaks to luxury consumers’ desire to invest in jewelry and other goods that can be passed down for generations. And perhaps fervor for Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragons is pushing the needle. But there’s more to the trend. Loren Nicole, a former archeologist-turned-jewelry designer, thinks jewelry that pays homage to the past “tells the story of how cultures came together,” and adds by way of example, “Indian, Greek, and Eurasian nomadic cultures crossed paths and adopted motifs from each other, and you can see it in the jewelry.”
That organic blending of cultures—and easy, open sharing of the arts—feels nearly Utopian in our current, hype-divided era, which for many feels fraught.
Nicole’s traversed the globe in her line: she dropped a striking Viking collection in 2020 and is ever-inspired by the cradle of Western civilization, Greece. “I often find myself drawn back to their early designs,” she says. “Jewelry is a symbol of civilization, it’s a sign that art and beauty were important, but jewelry also has a communicative aspect; it can denote aesthetic sensibility, status, wealth, and power. I am also drawn to ethnographic and primitive art from Africa, Java, and Pre-Colombian civilizations, as well as Rome and Egypt.
She’s also dedicated to keeping alive, and even reviving, some of the ancient fabrication techniques she’s studied, including granulation, chasing, repoussé and handmade woven chain. But ultimately, she says, “I make jewelry that I would want to wear. My personal taste is to look at ancient jewelry and make it more minimal. I focus on one of two design motifs or elements and make it clean, modern, and meticulously crafted.”
Top photo: Aymer Maria 9k recycled gold earrings