As Spring Masters art & antiquities fair opens in New York, London jewellery designer Hannah Martin is celebrating her fresh take on a classical motif. This week, her subtle reworking of an original 18th century cameo, the fruits of a unique collaboration with Greenwich-based fine jewellery exhibitor Simon Teakle, will go on show at the Park Avenue Armory.
Having been introduced by a jewellery historian and mutual admirer, the pair agreed on a project that would underline the timeless appeal of classical codes through a modern lens, and it was Teakle, formerly of Christie’s New York and an expert gemmologist, who chose the cameo as the pivot for the project. ‘I wanted something that had a long term history and story,’ he explains. Hence, the cameo: ‘It is rooted in Ancient Greece, then travels through to the late 18th century and now, has arrived at something contemporary in Hannah’s hands.’
The result is a one-off gold, diamond and onyx pendant with the existing cameo jewel at its centre. ‘I’ve attempted to create a sense of repetition in the undulating gold form that holds it,’ explains the designer. ‘I decided not to focus on the architecture of the cameo itself but on the character of Aphrodite and her horses. I wanted it to feel as if the lines of gold were suspending the cameo; protecting it in some way’.
The images that Robert Mapplethorpe created of Lisa Lyon in the 1980s proved a particular inspiration for the jewellery designer, ‘because he created incredible versions of the human form that embody strength and power as well as a really specific sensuality, that emanates from both,’ she says.
As for the design process, Martin was mindful of creating a piece that worked with the cameo and not against it. Creating a pendant on a largeish scale meant ensuring that it wouldn’t be too heavy to wear. The practicalities of holding the cameo within the gold structure were also a challenge: CAD was the core tool and Martin created 3D printed prototypes throughout the process ‘to check proportions were correct, as I do with all the pieces I create.’
‘Jewellery is so personal that I never choose to show anything for a mass audience,’ says Teakle of the decision to unveil the pendant at this week’s exhibition. ‘Hannah’s aesthetic is very specific: it sends a strong message in such an elegant way that people can only notice.’
That quiet beauty is evident in Martin’s take on this rare jewel which fulfils the original thinking behind the collaboration: the draw is not only the timeless purity of the classic carved stone but the architectural eye that has always set Martin’s jewellery design thinking apart.