Last chance to see: Black jewellery designers celebrated at Sotheby’s New York

Melanie Grant curates ‘Brilliant & Black: A Jewellery Renaissance’ at Sotheby’s New York

woman wearing diamond necklace and right, a gold cuff
Left, Thelma West and right, Almasika
(Image credit: Sotheby's)

Sotheby’s is celebrating Black jewellers with a new exhibition, ‘Brilliant & Black: A Jewellery Renaissance’. The exhibition, currently taking place at Sotheby’s New York (until 26 September 2021), with all pieces available to purchase until 10 October 2021, is the brainchild of jewellery author and editor Melanie Grant, who has curated the first ever selling exhibition dedicated to Black jewellery designers.

The exhibition encompasses an eclectic selection of over 20 jewellers, with the 60 pieces included spanning a range of styles, from traditional to contemporary. Jewellers, including Harwell Godfrey, Jacqueline Rabun, Rashid Johnson, Mateo New York, Almasika, Thelma West, Lola Fenhirst, Lorraine West and Johnny Nelson have each presented pieces available to view in person at Sotheby’s New York galleries or through the Sotheby’s Buy Now online marketplace.

gold and silver ring

Lola Fenhirst

(Image credit: Sotheby's)

‘I believe we’ve entered a renaissance in Black jewellery design similar to the post-war surge in creativity we experienced in the 1920s when the likes of James Baldwin, Gordon Parks and Harry Belafonte rose up to express a new vision of Blackness through the prism of art,’ comments Grant. ‘Jewellery artists of African descent have been largely ignored in favour of “African inspired” design over the last century, despite the fact that so many of the resources to make jewellery come from the continent.’

For Catherine Sarr of Almasika, the exhibition is a chance to explore each jewellery design in greater depth, and an opportunity to draw connections with audiences. The three pieces she has presented – the ‘Universum’ cuff, ‘Vici’ earrings and ‘Le Cauri Endiamanté’ – subscribe to her sculptural jewellery aesthetic. ‘I design jewellery that connects to larger traditions and significance spanning generations and cultures,’ she says. ‘I am interested in overlapping circles in cultures. It is an honour to have Almasika included amongst so many talented visionaries, Melanie Grant felt this urgency to bring together artists whose aesthetic and vision she felt needed to be discovered by the world.’

‘The events of 2020 have resulted in a cultural shift where Black talent is being acknowledged for its brilliance and jewellery designers for their contribution,’ adds Grant. ‘They have compelling stories to tell.’

asymmetrical gold and pearl earrings


(Image credit: Sotheby's)

diamond ring in black claw

Thelma West

(Image credit: Sotheby's)

pearl and gold earrings


(Image credit: Sotheby's)


Jewellery is on view at Sotheby’s New York galleries until 26 September 2021 and available to purchase through Sotheby’s Buy Now online marketplace until 10 October

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.