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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Of Pigeon's Blood and Rose Gold

I write about most lifestyle and arts topics, including travel, fashion, art and culture but they don't always connect to each other. Occasionally, they relate in ways that are mind-boggling. I was assigned to write a designer profile for the jeweler's trade publication, JQ International. When I cover fashion, I expect to focus on the designer's artistic process and inspiration. For Miami-based designer J.R. deBellard, travel, art and culture turned out to be all a part of his process. Born in Venezuela and raised in Paris, J.R. mixes fascinating elements of his interests and background into his jewelry. His Ghana collection, featuring Adinkra symbols, sharks teeth, bear claws and rubies, blew me away. I studied the necklaces for a long time, trying to figure them out but I never did.

J.R. had to break it down for me. He only designs in yellow or rose gold because that's what he remembers elegant ladies wearing on the French and Italian Riviera when he was growing up. He has followed African politics for a long time so he chose Adinkra symbols, which are ancient Ashanti designs from Ghana, to adorn each piece. J.R. also loves English Victorian history and how aristocrats would bring back mounts and animal pieces like bear claws and sharks teeth and wear them engraved with flowers. Finally, he's also interested in the Brazilian candomble religion, which uses talismans like the figa, a clenched fist image, to ward off the evil eye. You'll see the fist all over Brazil but it's usually carved from dark wood. He dangles the pieces from black leather and often highlights his favorite stone, the Pigeon's Blood ruby.

So you have representation's from three continents and three different culture's --Ghanaian, Victorian and Brazilian, all in a striking and unlikely mix. It's sensual and deep jewelry that goes way beyond pretty. "I try not to design for a simple mind," I'm making jewelry with meaning," says J.R.

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