For some discerning individuals, artisan-crafted jewelry is firmly placed on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. On the highest tier of self-actualization, the motivation to adorn oneself with wearable art becomes a talisman that protects, wields power and recalls moments in time.
These are the craftspeople who make it their life’s mission to bring joy to others through their painstakingly designed, one-of-a-kind and limited-edition jewelry. Born from curiosity, imagination and dreams, they are all created for the same purpose: to take their wearers on an unforgettable journey.
The indefatigable Liza Schwartz created her first leather jewelry line at age 12 and tested the waters on Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive, where her wrap bracelets flew off the pop-up tables on which they were displayed. Her lucky break came at age 23, where at an open call for designers at Henri Bendel New York buyers chose to represent her line of bracelets inspired by Schwartz’s stint studying abroad in Barcelona. Ever-expanding, her collections are now carried in more than 300 boutiques nationwide and at several Miami hotels. In her Mid-Beach showroom, she creates two collections a year and oversees a team of five to develop her mostly made-in-Miami pieces. Collections are named after the cities from which she draws inspiration: St. Tropez, New York, Sienna, Ibiza, and her Miami hometown. Jewelry is made with Italian and U.S. leather, turquoise, pearls and crystals in sterling silver and 18K plate, with the most popular being the wrap bracelets that started it all.
“People are drawn to the collection because it’s high quality at a good price,” says Schwartz, “both soft and edgy pieces can be worn every day through the evening to a black-tie event. It’s the perfect gift and is great for travel, as well.” She plans a fine jewelry line within the year. Schwartz’s entire collection is available to see in her showroom by appointment. 300 71st St., 6th floor, Miami Beach. Prices range from $35 to $350; visit lizaschwartz.com.
Considered one of the world’s foremost master jewelers, this Istanbul-based craftsman unveiled his first collection in 2002 to a startled audience. The public had never seen monuments, seagulls, doves, flowers, butterflies and cherubs inversely carved into tourmalines, emeralds, rubies and rock crystals. Intricate detail defied logic with carvings that appeared to float within convex gems surrounded by dozens of rose-cut diamonds. Understated these pieces are not. The technique, much-guarded and now patented, catapulted the humble Bicakci onto the world stage. Rings, bracelets and a recently unveiled timepiece collection inspired a new breed of global collectors. Five rings were chosen to be part of Victoria & Albert Museum’s worldwide traveling exhibition; others are in museums. Every piece is one-of-a kind, taking an average of six to eight months to create. His Grand Bazaar-adjacent workshop includes 70 maestros, including sculptors, mosaic masters, engravers and micro painters who work together to create final masterpieces. “The main thing is not the stone; it’s the sculpture I create with the stones and the story underneath,” says Bicakci. “Every collection contains a story.”
The newest collection, Islands, is the first inspired by a locale outside of Istanbul, the result of a recent Caribbean wedding the maestro attended. While clients have been known to fly to Istanbul and visit his showroom, Bicakci opened his first U.S. retail boutique in Miami’s Design District, to which all jewelry arrives first before traveling to New York, destined for a private showroom and Bergdorf Goodman. Prices range from $10,000 to more than $1 million. The Miami boutique is a museum and worth a visit. 140 NE 39th Street, Suite 205, Design District’s Palm Court; visit sevanbicakci.miami.
Sometimes a person’s true calling reveals itself later in life—Julia Child, for example, released her first cookbook at age 39. Such was the case with Liesa Berkson, a South Florida native whose passion for jewelry design may have been delayed, but from a love of nature, art, architecture and her grandmother’s garden, was actualized in 2011 at age 44. It’s for her grandmother that Clementine Fine Jewelry is named, and some of its rarest pieces are inspired. The Clementine ring, for example, uses a Mandarin garnet with extraordinary brilliance and depth of color that’s culled from only two mines in the world that produce such stones with an intense orange color.
One look at the collections’ names—from Sweet & Juicy, Bougainvillea to Tropical Garden and Seashore—reveals Berkson’s love of nature, and ability to visualize pieces that can be layered or worn alone. “I try to find beauty in everything, and that’s where my inspiration comes from,” she says. “Seeing a beautiful garden, a tranquil beach, a colorful bird, I capture everything around me.”
Berkson’s collections start the same way artisan jewelry has been crafted for centuries: on paper. From there, she spends entire afternoons hand-picking the most vibrant gems for their color, clarity and brilliance. Then she sends her designs to a master jeweler in London, who transforms her drawings “into beautiful pieces of art for women to love and enjoy,” says Berkson. “I also love using peridot in my collections to add contrast and to highlight the primary gemstone’s natural beauty. Peridot also represents luck, and we can all use a little bit of that!”
Prices range from $900-$5,000. Clementine Fine Jewelry can be found exclusively at clementinejewelry.com.
To step into Orianne Collins Jewellery in Miami’s Design District is to be transported to a well-appointed living room, albeit surrounded by glass cases with glittering men’s women’s, children’s and “under 25” jewelry collections. Champagne is poured, and loyal clients are pampered with treatments in a behind-the-scenes spa. It’s all part of the experience the demure Collins creates to honor collections that have taken her around the globe and been inspired by quiet spirituality, culture, travel and architecture.
Made from semi-precious stones, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and VVS1 diamonds, Collins designs daily and launches a new limited-edition collection every six months, with each piece handmade in Switzerland in the tradition of haute joaillerie. The Tales is closest to her heart, inspired by a moment gazing at Moroccan Palace Glaoui’s doors, which led to a collection with rich curves and arabesques using white diamonds, sapphires, amethysts and topaz. from $300 to $90,000. Up to 20 percent of every sale goes directly to the Little Dreams Foundation Collins founded with husband and veteran musician Phil Collins 15 years ago to give underprivileged young artists, musicians and singers-songwriters new opportunities.
Never one to stay still, Collins is unveiling Romero Britto’s Jewelry Collection by Orianne Collins this spring, in a collaboration with the venerable artist and dear friend. At the same time, she is launching skin-care line for various age ranges, using precious stones in each product. “I’m using the same stones that are in my jewelry collection,” says Collins. “from serums to day, night, décolleté, body and eye creams, it’s the first time someone is using the benefit of precious stones in their products.”
Orianne Collins Jewellery, 140 NE 39th St., Suite 207, Palm Court in the Miami Design District; oriannecollins.com.