Jewelry designer Silvia Furmanovich has a case of Egyptomania. He is defined as someone with a passion – sometimes an obsession – for all things Egyptian. This enthusiasm inspired the recent one-month adventure of the designer across the country of North Africa with her son Andrey. They went to explore the country’s rich history and secluded dessert villages, and unsurprisingly, the visit sparked a stellar new jewelry collection, designed by Furmanovich while cruising on a boat along the Nile. Said collection is unveiled at Bergdorf Goodman this week.
Furmanovich is not your average traveler; she gives up the typical tourist routes in search of unusual places where she can discover the local culture and meet artisans, many of whom have been making crafts for generations. It was these excursions – for example, a hike in the heart of the Amazon rainforest where she met natives making wood marquetry and a visit to isolated Japanese villages where artisans weave bamboo objects – that enriched her creations. of past jewelry.
Why we still love Egyptian-inspired jewelry
Like generations of jewelers before her, the Brazilian designer was captivated by the symbolic motifs of Egypt, as well as the country’s architecture and ancient remains. In Cairo markets, she met gemstone carvers and asked them to carve jewelry from locally sourced lapis lazuli, turquoise, jasper and alabaster. In Luxor, a visit to the Tomb of Nefertari in the Valley of the Queens inspired Furmanovich’s sketches of Egyptian royal women. She then asked the locals to paint miniatures of the artwork on stones to place them in a pair of earrings. While staying at the Old Cataract Aswan, the hotel where Agatha Christie stayed and was later featured in her book Death on the Nile, the designer has discovered exotic flora and fauna that are expressed in her iconic colorful wood marquetry in pendants and pouches.
The pandemic has driven tourists away from the area, so the adventurous couple were often the only outsiders in places like Siwa Oasis, a remote village built of clay and salt. “Siwa was the most magical place I’ve ever been to,” says Furmanovich, who translated the colors of the majestic sunsets and ancient inscriptions on the ruins into earrings and pendants.
The designer’s interpretation of the rich Egyptian culture and craftsmanship is on display in new contemporary pieces that are also instilled with symbolism: scarabs representing renewal and amulets for protection. It’s something everyone wants right now.
Egypt’s allure never falters
“I am in love with Egypt”, says the creator CGV. “And I am fascinated by the influence he has had on jewelry over the past 100 years.” It is a fascination shared by many in the jewelry industry, both past and present. For some historical jewelers, an interest was aroused by Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt in 1798. Curiosity again peaked after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. And everything Egyptian became fashionable again in 1922, when Howard Carter and his team discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb filled with gold riches and symbolic artifacts.
This mother-lode of ancient treasures provided endless inspiration for the Neo-Egyptian jewelry movement, led by the great houses – Cartier, Lacloche Frères, Tiffany & Co., Van Cleef & Arpels, and more. They set small ancient Egyptian artifacts – earthenware and dark blue lapis lazuli in the shape of scarabs, pharaohs, sphinxes – into jewelry. Cartier and Lacloche also used these symbols and hieroglyphics to tell stories in diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire and onyx bracelets and necklaces.
Cartier was the most prolific designer of Egyptian Revival style jewelry, a style with which he began around 1910 and continued until World War II, and these designs remain coveted in the aftermarket. Cartier’s jewelry included striking sphinxes, beetles, flora and fauna, which were set in platinum, making it easy to showcase the stones with minimal visible metal.
And it is a theme that continues to captivate today. Among the jewelry houses that have recently produced works inspired by Egypt is Hemmerle, who interpreted the culture of the country using antiques, abstract shapes and patterns in statement pieces, such as a pair of pharaohs in micro mosaic framed with copper and gold earrings, and a large aquamarine ring surrounded by carved turquoise.
It’s more than just style, it’s an old and exotic part of history that comes to life in jewelry. “I had to tell this story,” says Furmanovich. “The meaning of jewelry was so important to the ancient Egyptians; it was powerful, it was protection, and it was buried with them. She hopes her new pieces will instill the same sense of empowerment in a new generation.
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