Kyoto stories: a long-lost box of Japanese fabrics has inspired a magical jewellery collection

A box of antique kimono fabric compelled Brazilian jeweller Silvia Furmanovich to create a collection of one-of-a-kind jewels

Left sees a Jasper gemstone brooch and right sees a Kingfisher feather hair ornament
Left, 'Landscape Jasper' pendant in gold, landscape jasper, golden South Sea pearl and diamonds, $24,592. Right, 'Antique Chinese' Kingfisher-feather hair ornament (used as a brooch) in gold with Kingfisher feathers, diamonds and fire opal, one of a kind, $17,596, both by Silvia Furmanovich, from Bergdorf Goodman. 
(Image credit:  Gabriela Porthilo)

It was the glinting light that compelled Silvia Furmanovich to peruse a dark box of fabrics in a New York antiques store. Closer inspection revealed a pile of intricate material samples. The São Paulo-based jeweller had happened upon a collection of Nishijin woven silks which had belonged to a late Kyoto family clothing business serving aristocratic women in the Kansai region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – the Meiji era.

‘I was mesmerised by the wealth of nature motifs and symbols, such as cranes, clouds, sparrows, waves, bamboo shoots, maple leaves, chrysanthemums, peonies and dianthus flowers that decorated the fabrics,’ Furmanovich says of the inspiration for the Obi collection. ‘I thought they could be intricately interpreted using our marquetry and miniature painting techniques.’

The discovery also presented a swatch book with 141 fragments of obi belt fabrics. “Each piece was a little universe unto itself, complete with its own symbolism,’ Furmanovich tells us. It was a serendipitous find because it so perfectly reflects the Brazilian jeweller’s distinct fine jewellery style. ‘I work with marquetry craftsmen in the Amazon rainforest and miniature paintings specialists in Udaipur, India. The Japanese design sensibility is out of this world and when I saw these fabrics, I knew that they could be interpreted using these specialist crafts – the intricacies and patterns created a natural dialogue with them.’

The result is a collection of multi-layered, textured depictions of the fabrics, created using wood overlays for the marquetry, and paints derived from minerals and gemstones for the miniatures. ‘I am a firm believer in the power of craftsmanship, and I am dedicated to what I believe in,’ says Furmanovich, going some way to explain the almost spiritual quality of these magical pieces.

A pair of gold and lacquered wood earrings with pearls and diamonds

Antique Lacqyer Plaque' earrings in gold, lacquered wood, white South Sea pearls and diamonds, $15,688, by Silvia Furmanovich, from Bergdorf Goodman

(Image credit: Gabriela Porthilo)


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Caragh McKay has been a contributing editor at Wallpaper* since 2014. She was previously watches & jewellery director and is currently our resident lifestyle & shopping editor. Caragh has produced exhibitions and created and edited titles for publishers including the Daily Telegraph. She regularly chairs talks for luxury houses, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier among them. Caragh’s current remit is cross-cultural and her recent stories include the curious tale of how Muhammad Ali met his poetic match in Robert Burns and how a Martin Scorsese film revived a forgotten Osage art.