‘I visited PAD London last year’, says Lee Siegelson, president of New York jewellery gallery Siegelson, ‘and could immediately see the fair was about really strong design. Particularly with the furniture – the aesthetic is old but also new, and so our jewellery is a great fit’.
Exhibiting at PAD for the first time (this year is the fair's 9th edition), it’s clear to see exactly what he means. His curation of important jewels from the 20th century epitomises the boldest, most unapologetic design, often showcasing the most archetypal examples of a genre, like a bracelet in the Egyptian style by Cartier, or a strikingly graphic citrine and yellow gold necklace and bracelet suite, that Siegelson describes as ‘bold and bad and strong’.
Another necklace designed by Fulco, Duke of Verdura, and owned by Cole Porter’s wife Linda Lee Thomas, is set to mimic a belt around the neck, it’s sky-blue aquamarines tipped with rubies, the colour combination and composition wholeheartedly modern, despite being over 70 years old. ‘In my opinion this is one of the greatest pieces of 20th century jewellery,' Siegelson goes on, ‘everything about it points to this – the colours, composition, designer and provenance combine in an overall piece that represents everything we look for in a jewel.'
Highlights of the edit Siegelson has brought to London are too numerous to mention although a small collection of silver pieces by sculptor Alexander Calder that date from around 1940 are of surprising interest. Previously owned by Nelson A Rockerfeller, the relatively humble material may be out of step with the impressive stones on display, but the sculptural qualities and exacting but simple design make them a worthy and relevant inclusion both within the context of Siegelson and of PAD itself.
It seems fitting also that another sculptor, the contemporary artist Nic Fiddian-Green, should debut a small equine gem collection on the stand of Louisa Guinness, the gallerist who specialises in artists who can turn their hand to jewellery design. Known for his epic horse sculptures, that are monumental and yet serene, (his bronze at Marble Arch, London is 12m tall) the translation into wearable pendants, brooches and cufflinks sees Fiddian-Green explore techniques new to him – such as hand carving semi-precious stones from single blocks and casting in gold and silver. The difference in scale is immediately striking but he manages to imbue the pieces with the same tactile calm that pervades his large-scale work, reinforcing the adage that successful jewellery is and should be wearable sculpture.