A Viking longship model made of gold and crystals
Simon Teakle’s 22ct Viking longship

At the annual Tefaf Maastricht art, antiques and design fair, in the spring, US-based dealer Simon Teakle exhibited a Viking longship model that doubles as jewellery. The 22-carat gold and rock crystal piece’s detachable woven sail is a bracelet, the dragon masthead becomes a jabot pin, and two shields transform into earrings. A chain hidden under the deck makes a necklace with the addition of the oars and more shields.

California-based goldsmith Loren Teetelli who founded jewellery brand Loren Nicole, spent more than 1,000 hours over two years crafting the one-of-a-kind decorative object. She thinks displaying jewellery when it is not worn is happening more often. “It seems natural to want to have the pieces out and able to be enjoyed, instead of the few times you get to wear something,” she says.

This focus on display is one facet of a strengthening relationship between jewellery — itself often regarded as miniature works of decorative art — and the art world.

“The art world is complementing the jewellery and the jewellery world is complementing the art market, and that’s a link which is getting tighter than before,” says Christian Hemmerle. With his wife Yasmin, he is the fourth generation at the helm of Hemmerle, the German family business that is one of four jewellery exhibitors at Tefaf New York, which gets under way today.

There were 17 jewellers among 270 exhibitors at Tefaf Maastricht. Will Korner, head of fairs, says the category has “one of the longest, if not the longest, wait-list” for a booth, with interest rising year on year and more jewellers on this list than in the fair.

A man and woman standing in a workshop setting, with the woman wearing a colorful floral blouse and the man in a dark suit
Yasmin and Christian Hemmerle © Janek Stroisch

He says creative, contemporary jewellers like participating because “it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to place their jewellery in context of art, that . . . it’s almost a different medium for incredible examples of craftsmanship”. There has been a repositioning of jewellery so as to appeal to “many different facets of collectors”, says Korner, and it is important that they see “it’s not trashy to buy jewellery . . . it’s similar to buying a Picasso or design furniture”.

However, it works both ways, he adds, with the “art market trying to reposition itself towards luxury goods” on a larger scale in the past eight years.

At Collect Art Fair in London, in March, Goldsmiths’ Fair exhibited Juggle by jeweller Ella Fearon-Low — a playful group of five brooches mounted on colourful stands. Contemporary gallery Ruup & Form presented pieces from jeweller Jed Green’s Wear/Display collection: decorative objects with removable elements to wear.

Harriet Scott, head of Goldsmiths’ Fair, says some jewellers are following in the footsteps of the late British jeweller Wendy Ramshaw by creating stands. “We are seeing more and more that jewellers are integrating that idea of a miniature plinth in some way, so [the piece] could then end up on a mantelpiece or a dressing table,” she says.

Scott says doing so gives jewellers scope for greater creativity. “They get some control on how their work is viewed when it’s not on the body as well, which is really nice,” she says. It also “elevates it into the art sphere”, she adds.

Large jewellery houses have long enjoyed a relationship with the art world in varied ways, including sponsorship of exhibitions and events, as well as participating in fairs.

A Van Cleef & Arpels exhibit showcasing a modern design with geometric patterns on the walls, a display table with jewelry pieces, and decorative portraits of models wearing the jewelry
Van Cleef & Arpels exhibiting at Tefaf © Tefaf

Van Cleef & Arpels has shown heritage collection and high jewellery pieces at Tefaf Maastricht since 2013, building relationships with exhibiting galleries to run client events. It was a “commercial decision” to approach decorative art collectors so as to find new clients, says Nicolas Luchsinger, who was director of Van Cleef & Arpels’ heritage collection at the time of interview but has since become chief executive of Buccellati. His new employer launched a retrospective exhibition in Venice last month, timed to coincide with the opening of the Venice Biennale.

Luchsinger says Van Cleef & Arpels’ customer base in the art world has grown by a good 300 per cent in the past 20 years and that its fair booth can be “less intimidating” for some clients than going into a boutique.

Elisabetta Cipriani’s eponymous London gallery specialises in jewellery by artists and her clients are art collectors. She says, today, people want to wear a one-off statement piece with a story and suggests the rise in prominence of artists’ jewellery over the past decade has influenced the wider market. “People who are in the world of jewellery are realising that clients are looking for something different . . . and so they are creating something more and more interesting in shape and material, and they’re calling it wearable art,” she says.

Hemmerle, who is on the Tefaf board of trustees, says “more jewellers are becoming creative” and “stepping out of bounds”. His collectors seek “uniqueness”, whether in art or jewellery.

Artist jeweller Ute Decker’s sculptural pieces, including bimetal earrings inspired by the work of Man Ray, featured in Cipriani’s selling exhibition — Jewellery by Sculptors and Painters — in Venice last month. Decker believes the higher profile of some “artistic” jewellers is down to “a certain zeitgeist” for individuality, instead of people simply looking to buy large diamonds.

“Jewellery, if it’s successful, just like art when it’s successful, touches you emotionally,” she says. “It stirs something, it gets you maybe to think, it engages you.”

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