Chris Davies, An Innovative Jewellery Designer with the Soul of a Renaissance Master

by Reema Farooqui

It was in the Renaissance period, that artists started using light to illuminate and define their art. In fact, very often light was used as an integral element of the piece of art itself. When you look at a Chris Davies’ jewels, you are struck by the same feeling. In his jewels light is a palpable part of the piece, wherein each jewel is designed to maximise the play of light on the gems and metal. To my knowledge, no contemporary jewellery designer has used the concept of light in his jewels as concretely and brilliantly as Chris Davies.

Chris Davies came to the world of jewellery design after taking a rather circuitous but very interesting route. He started his jewellery journey with a background in ancient civilizations, dance and haute couture. However, after training as a goldsmith, Chris has allowed his creative energies to focus solely on designing and creating fine jewellery. Currently Chris works at his atelier in Hudson, NY, where he handcrafts his very exclusive, one of a kind jewellery pieces.

In his design process, Chris draws on his background and experiences in dance, dressmaking and ancient civilizations for inspiration, and weaves these disparate but synchronous threads into jewels of great beauty, and as jewellery lovers we are all the richer for it. It’s no wonder, then, that two of Chris’s fine jewellery pieces, the ZAZA necklace and earrings demi-parure, are part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Chris Davies, ZAZA necklace, 2014, MFA Boston Permanent Collection

The two jewellery collections from Chris’s studio which have truly moved me are the Scheherazade Collection and The Usonian Collection. Both are literally worlds apart in design and concept ideas, but both draw upon architectural concepts and both have, in their own ways, irrevocably moved contemporary jewellery design into the future. Boldly colourful and intriguingly crafted, these jewels are changing how we think about jewellery, one piece at a time.

The Mashrabiya Scheherazade Necklace, Woven Gold Granulation and Rock Crystal, Scheherazade Collection

In the Scheherazade Collection, Chris has taken the ancient concept of gold granulation and given it a new and very fresh interpretation. Starting from the idea of basketry and lace making, Chris has developed an innovative technique of “woven granulation” where he encases luminous gemstones, such as polished rock crystal, in a net of gold granulation beads. Like filtered light spilling through the filigree of Mashrabiya screens in the Arab world, the gems sparkle from within a lace of  woven gold, and the refraction makes it seem as if light is emanating from within the gemstone rather than hitting it from outside. This is where we see Chris’s exceptional use of light comes alive, where light become as much a part of the jewel as the gems and metal. Another very important element to pay particular attention to, in these pieces, is the pattern of the gold granulation weave. In itself is a work of art, the interlacing of tiny gold granules into a gleaming cocoon for the gems within, is undoubtedly a feat of extreme skill and expertise.

Cypriot Solar Flare Articulated Bracelet, The Usonian Collection

In The Usonian Collection Chris takes us with him on his travels to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural marvels. Here, Chris uses luminous and colourful hardstones, fashioned in exceptional lapidary cuts, and adorns them with polished yellow gold inlays. Each gemstone is set at the back with Mother-of-Pearl, cut to the exact size of the gemstones, matching perfectly in hue and striations. With The Usonian jewels, light again comes to play a part, but here it is the way light reflects off the jewels, reaching inside all the way to the Mother-of- Pearl and then coming out, causing the gems to glow from within with a subtle light caused by the iridescence of the Mother-of-Pearl. The choice of gems, gold, colours, design and craftsmanship, makes these one of a kind jewels truly marvelous.

“APRIL IN PARIS” Draped and Woven Collar of Naturally Lavender Pearls. Inspired by the Sculptural Draping in Haute Couture Dress Making

The jewels of both collection are sensuous with a refreshing fluidity in design, two details which probably stem from Chris’s work as a couturier and dancer. The colours in both collections are vibrant and alive. For his colour palettes, Chris finds inspiration from varied sources, which though separated by time and space, all lead to jewellery pieces that are spectacular in the harmony of colours and materials. Of his choice of colours, Chris explains “Working with color is such a complex puzzle. Finding the right relationships and tones…pure joy.” Chris finds this unadulterated exuberance in the artifacts of Ancient Mesopotamia or Japanese indigo textiles or Impressionist paintings, and translates its language into jewels of wonder.

As Chris himself has noted about his Scheherazade and The Usonian Collection, “Jewelry delights me because I can play with the same ideas present in large architectural forms on a smaller scale, creating dramatic wearable works of art,” it is these very works of art crafted by Chris Davies that has jewellery lovers enchanted and enthralled in equal parts.

You can find out more about Chris Davies and his fine jewellery collections at www.chrisdaviesnewyork.com You can also follow Chris on Instagram @chrisdaviesnewyork

Featured Image:  A thoroughly modern, yet classic doubling strand of golden South Sea Pearls, framed by 11 rock crystal beads encased in woven nets of lapis lazuli and gold granulation, spaced by polished gold beads. Please note the floral pattern formed by the gold granulation against the deep blue of the lapis lazuli.

All images used in this post are the property of Chris Davies New York. Any person or organization not affiliated with Chris Davies New York may not use, copy, alter or modify any of the images used in this post, without the advance written permission of Chris Davies New York.

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