Rebecca Koven weaves intricate jewellery into wearable art
New York jewellery designer Rebecca Koven’s pieces are bold, complex, and three dimensional, often featuring unusual colours of gold or colourful carved gemstones and intertwined with a story drawn from museum objects or ancient textiles.
Model wearing Rebecca Koven’s creations
An artist and painter before her foray into jewellery making, Koven imbues a strong visual presence to all her pieces. She works fearlessly with gold, creating her own alloys that give her jewellery a distinctive appeal. Yet she is equally comfortable creating delicate styles. Her flexible floral necklaces composed of exquisite gemstone flower carvings are designed to wrap around the neck with stylish flair.
The variety of form and intricate designs that Koven brings to each collection clearly positions her as a creator of ‘wearable works of art’. A favourite all-gold piece is a 22K double-layer Mystic cuff with delicate imprints and laser-cut elements, covering an entire four-inch wide outer layer, while the inner layer forms a smooth wrist-hugging surface. Another important piece is an 18K yellow gold Make-up pendant fashioned in the shape of a gourd adorned with flowers and vines. The stem of the gourd unscrews and reveals a gold wand for eyeliner application.
Lily of the Valley ring
Among her popular flower wreath necklaces is a 60-inch composition of tourmaline flowers — all hand-carved by an artist in Idar Oberstein, Germany — and completed with handmade gold stamens.
Koven’s fascination with jewellery began when she was a child of four, watching her mother dress up for parties. But it was the years spent in the jewellery department at Sotheby’s Canada that bestowed an “intuitive understanding of the meaning of jewellery”. There was a wonderful romance and human drama when working with Sotheby’s clients: the passion with which they buy and the circumstances that eventually lead them to sell underscore the numerous nuances of jewellery.
Aquamarine Wreath necklace
For Koven, designing jewellery is very personal. “I think my successful creations come from answering the question: ‘How do I re-create a visual delight so I can essentially wear that memory’.” As such, her design process starts with visual inspiration, followed by designing on paper or carving in wax, then bringing a multitude of jewellery techniques and sculptural skills to its execution.
She works with three favourite carvers in Idar Oberstein, who specialise in flowers, leaves, vines, animals, and almost everything whimsical. “I can give them almost any task, any gemstone, and they are able to realise my vision.” One of her favourite gemstones is chalcedony because the colour illuminates and compliments every skin tone. :Like pearls, chalcedony is amazingly versatile”, she says.
Her very first collection was presented ‘incognito’ with a dealer at a show for fine estate jewellery and antiques, and the result was thrilling — almost everything was sold. As demand grew from estate and fine jewellery dealers, she established her company in 2000. Since then, her jewels are among the collections at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Barneys. “Most of my sales take place from New York City to women that I have met elsewhere, particularly at shows. I continually meet women who remember my jewellery and follow up according to their schedule. And now more clients, particularly in Asia, are reaching out to me online.”
Her typical client is confident, has a solid sense of self, and is not overwhelmed by bold design. “She has a flair for glamour and loves signature pieces,” Koven elaborates. Her necklaces are popular, but it is her earrings that sell best. “Because most women feel naked without earrings.”
Although prolific in her creations, Koven has no big dreams for the future: “Each dream is more narrowly focused on the next piece of jewellery. The result is quite serendipitous — new designs that I hadn’t imagined even 12 months prior.”
STYLE FILE: REBECCA KOVEN
Jewellery designer Rebecca Koven
1. What defines your personal style?
It depends on my mood. I don’t wear any specific category, but I wear a lot of black, no patterns, as a backdrop. I like being a blank yet stylish canvas for my jewellery.
2. Do you only wear jewellery that you have designed?
I’m known for wearing my Schlumberger (for Cartier) French Flames earrings almost every day. I call them my wings because I feel ‘I earned’ them.
3. Who are your design heros?
A few of my design icons are Balenciaga, Ann Demeulemeester, Tom Ford, Comme de Garcon, and I.M. Pei.
4. What are your usual jewellery choices to accessorise day/evening wear?
I like to wear bold jewellery from morning to night. I don’t typically make a separation unless it is a black tie affair and larger diamonds are in order. Big, bold, retro statement pieces that stand on their own are my favorites, as is any jewellery with an architectural feel. I like my jewellery to make a statement any time of day or night.
5. Is there one piece of jewellery that is a ‘must wear’ for you?
My Schlumberger French Flame earrings. Without them I do feel naked.