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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 April 2019

Brazilian designer Lily Gabriella interprets Louvre Abu Dhabi in jewel form

The Honeycomb ring takes its cues from architect Jean Nouvel's masterful dome

The Honeycomb ring by Lily Gabriella for Sotheby's Diamonds collection. Courtesy Sotheby's
The Honeycomb ring by Lily Gabriella for Sotheby's Diamonds collection. Courtesy Sotheby's

It is said that there are no wrong answers when it comes to interpreting art, be that the hidden message in a poet’s plea or the intent to conceal more than reveal in a master’s painting. When Lily Gabriella happened upon Louvre Abu Dhabi, her first unbidden thought was that its dome resembled a honeycomb, that most intricate of structures often alluded to as nature’s favourite pattern.

The Honeycomb ring, part of a nine-piece capsule collection that the Brazilian jewellery designer has created for Sotheby’s Diamonds, takes its inspiration directly from architect Jean Nouvel’s latticed canopy. Louvre Abu Dhabi’s dome is famed for creating a “rain of light” effect as the sun passes overhead. Accordingly, the light from the fiery 6.12-carat, fancy intense yellow diamond radiates along the ring, dappling the white diamonds painstakingly handset into hexagonal cavities.

“I am fascinated by architects who push the boundaries of design and Nouvel’s dome is a play of colour and light, which is exactly up my alley. It’s a work of art in itself, a permanent installation for the Louvre,” Gabriella says. “I also wanted this ring to showcase the geometric perfection found in nature, and what is more organic than the honeycomb?”

This is not the first time the designer has translated architectural landmarks into precious yet wearable pieces of art. The Halcyon earrings, which are also part of the Sotheby’s Diamonds collection, for instance, mimic the intricate lines of the Chrysler Building.

Gabriella, who trained at the Gemological Institute of America in New York, says some of her most cherished moments in the city were on “sunny days, when the skyscrapers would light up and the city resembled a mirror from a golden, glamorous, Gatsybian age”.

The solar motif also comes through in an Art Deco-inspired cuff that has a 21.15-carat oval-cut diamond at its centre.

“The paradox with big stones is that, often, you’re unable or afraid to wear them, which is a shame. Given how incredible these diamonds are, I wanted to design something that someone can actually put on, not keep in the closet. So I designed the Solar Cuff such that the stone sits within it, almost like in its own little jewellery case; it’s not staring at you,” Gabriella explains.

While the Sotheby’s collection focuses on diamonds, Gabriella admits she has a penchant for coloured gemstones. “I love that they provide such a wide palette of shades to play with. Some play it safe and only ever opt for ‘investment stones’ – diamonds, rubies, sapphires – but I think it’s also nice to incorporate agate, tsavorites, coral and carnelian, and educate people about these various other stones that we have access to. I don’t discriminate between classic and coloured stones.”

After her New York stint, the designer – who was born in Brazil, grew up in Monaco, worked in Switzerland and lives in London – launched her eponymous fine jewellery brand in the United Kingdom in 2011. She is set to open her first store in London later this year, and currently operates via Instagram. “It’s like a window display to showcase my jewellery around the world. Many need to touch and try on fine jewellery, myself included, but luckily I have been able to translate my pieces online in a natural way that speaks to people. I think social media is definitely impacting and changing the way people shop, even for expensive jewels,” says Gabriella, whose capsule pieces range in price from £34,000 (Dh164,375) to several millions.

Her “luck” may be down to posts that are at once pretty and thoughtful. Interspersed between the gem-studded rings, earrings and pendants that Gabriella creates and sells from her Instagram page, is a mix of artworks, sculptures and decorative items. Sitting between slickly edited images of gem-studded jewels are raw shots of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s pottery, the “bubbles” lamp by Italian interior designer Achille Salvagni and a grainy shot of architect Hiroshi Nakamura’s Ribbon Chapel in Hiroshima.

The effect is one of unforced luxury, an acknowledgement of the people, places and objects that inspire her. “I don’t plan the flow of images; I just put up whatever comes to mind,” she says.

“It’s like posting my mood board, and the inspiration and process behind a jewel, which most people don’t really get to see. Jewellery is, after all, a juxtaposition between the raw and the defined.”

Updated: April 8, 2019 07:35 PM

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