On Friday night, avoiding the pre-LFW parties, I slipped into Sotheby's to hear Liza Urla in conversation with Kristian Spofforth - and purchase a signed copy of the new Gemologue book! I had never been into Sotheby's before, with its imposing facade, suited staff and prestigious history I did not really feel like I would be allowed in. I had no idea that the public are welcome to come in and wander about, getting up close to art that would be cordoned off behind tight security in a gallery and the staff are unbelievably knowledgable and friendly.
Liza Urla looked very elegant in a bell-sleeved Ellery dress and Silvia Furmanovich earrings. Kristian Spofforth came across as gregarious and charming with orange socks matching the case of his tablet.
We were asked who knew the difference between natural and man-made diamonds, something that is seemed no one was quite sure enough to answer. This is a subject that I know far too little about and now want to look into further. Kristian Spofforth named two producers of man-made diamonds; DeBeers through Element Six and Diamond Foundry so I will look into this as an alternative for the future.
The difference, proposed Liza Urla, is that natural diamonds were a miracle of nature, the way they are formed about 90 miles under the Earth's mantle around 3 billion years ago whereas man-made have all the same characteristics but are new and factory made. An area of concern for many people now is protecting the natural environment and Kristian Spofforth considered there to be two main options; man-made/synthetic or recycling/remodelling. He went on to describe the characteristics which distinguish many older diamonds from the new cuts, they sparkle more in candlelight than incandescent light and are often slightly wonky and I agree with him that these difference can give the stone more personality and charm.
Liza Urla had asked many people their opinions on synthetic versus natural diamonds and found that many people are not really aware of this new alternative and, once it has been explained, many people were open to the idea for contemporary but would prefer natural for their engagement ring. So the choosing between these options is a largely emotional reaction and it will be interesting to see if attitudes change as the have with natural as opposed to cultured pearls.
My favourite part of the talk was hearing about Liza Urla's selection from the current auction. The first to be selected was an item of jewellery I personally have not come across before, clips for clothes! They look a lot like earring but are designed to be worn clipped onto the neckline or hem of evening wear. The pieces available for auction are 1960s Tiffany and open up a whole range of potential ideas. Liza Urla said that sometimes vintage jewellery feels like 'the real thing' or the original idea and I definitely agree, there are many items that may be classic now but it is always special to see a much older variety, such as Roman signet rings.
The next item was a Bvlgari, approximately 1940s clutch, a solid and weighty, tactile clutch with a mirror inside. Kristian Spofforth explained that the clutch has a loop so that coloured cords could be used to go around the wrist, but they are not generally found with the cords at auction.
My favourite piece was a diamond 'tennis' bracelet. Liza Urla stated, as only a jewellery lover could, that every girl eventually wants a diamond tennis bracelet. I am not sure that this is true for everyone but as I learn more about gems and craftsmanship I do feel that it is true for me. This piece included sapphire, rubies and emeralds which are polished as buff tops alongside the diamonds. Kristian Spofforth dates the piece as late 1920s/early 1930s but there is no signature so it is impossible to be sure of the maker except that they were a master craftsman.
In the Q&A Liza Urla was asked what she was wanting to be conveyed with the book. She said her favourite jewellery book is Understanding Jewellery (recently republished) but the problem with most jewellery books is that they only show product shots and so there is a lack of showing styling or seeing the pieces in situ. Liza Urla started her exploration with street style, the book is to inspire expression through jewellery as well as fashion, the intention is to be fun and show love for the pieces.
Having looked through the book, it certainly does that, it is a vibrant selection of images with a wide range of jewellery from costume to fine and full of inspiration.