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“Brilliant and Black: A Jewelry Renaissance” at Sotheby’s New York puts a long overdue spotlight on approximately 60 pieces from 21 Black jewelry designers across the United States and Europe.
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Curated by journalist and author Melanie Grant in partnership with Frank Everett, Sotheby’s director of fine jewelry, the anticipated event opened on Sept. 17 and runs through Oct. 10, offering clientele a rare chance to purchase pieces (as the auction house usually deals in signed vintage pieces) and learn about the artists simultaneously.
British fine jeweler Thelma West—whose five-carat pear-shaped diamond Rihanna wore to the Met Gala—told Vanity Fair about how the past year has changed the community itself: “Two years ago, if you had asked me to put together a list of the top 10 Black professionals creating fine jewelry, I would have come up short,” she said.. “The fact that our stories were not told and amplified meant that, not only did we not see each other, but it clearly made it impossible for others (media, industry leaders, etc.) to see us or consider our work worthy. We were all stuck in this circular limbo…That has changed in the last year. I’ve exchanged messages with so many Black jewelers expressing how surprised and happy we are to discover each other.”
Grant said: “There just seemed to be this disconnect between the auction world and the design world for Black designers. I thought maybe there’s a bridge there between the two, an exhibition…which wasn’t strictly about selling and commerce, it was about the arts and a way to amplify it on a much bigger stage for collectors who don’t really know the designers.”
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One of the exhibit’s 21 featured designers is Sheryl Jones, who turned to fine jewelry in 1999 after a decade in the music, film and entertainment business. She’s quickly become one of the most exciting rising stars in the industry, with such celebrity followers as Andra Day and H.E.R.
Watch Jones’ inspirational jouirney and the pieces she created for the Sotheby’s exhibit below:
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