Rosanne Pugliese has always been drawn to mosaics found in both art and architecture, from the Byzantium artwork she studied in design school to the modern worlds of Antoni Gaudi and Salvador Dali in Spain.
“I love that in mosaic work, such varied materials can be put to use, from pebbles to marble, tile, glass, to gold and gemstones,” says Pugliese, best known for the more restrained single stone designs synonymous with her namesake jewelry line, handcrafted and finished in her Brooklyn studio
So when Pugliese began to feel the urge to increase the complexity of her jewelry work, she turned to mosaics in the form of shimmering tourmaline tiles from Brazil, found in various shapes, shades and sizes of green. “In the workshop, we played with layering them, and setting them as simply as possible with little gold prongs,” explains Pugliese, who also brought rose-cut gem slices, aquamarine tiles and teardrops into the mix. “We were hooked,” says the former Calvin Klein designer who left a career in the fashion world to channel her eye for luxurious materials and clean lines into jewelry form.
Though the process of crafting a finished piece is slower due to the individual nature of each stone (“Toyo Kurokawa’s especially light hand and her ability to make beautiful settings makes them work”), Pugliese’s mosaic-inspired work has opened the designer to new possibilities on the workbench.
“The variations in shape and size lend themselves to asymmetrical designs since each layout is slightly different and the result is altered each time they are made,” she says. What’s more, the mosaic arrangements allow Pugliese to re-cut and re-purpose “one off” or damaged gemstones previously thought of as white elephants.
But some things will never change, including Pugliese’s use of responsibly sourced materials—a commitment she made more than 20 years ago when she made her first large purchase of recycled gold for the work room. “High karat gold lends itself especially well to recycling,” explains Pugliese. “In the years since, thanks to the good work of Ethical Metalsmith and the Alliance for Responsible Mining, it is very easy to find recycled and fair trade raw materials in the marketplace.