What’s old is new again at the hands of designer Rosanne Pugliese, who found her calling at the jeweler’s workbench almost twenty years ago. Using recycled high-karat gold as her trademark, Pugliese’s handcrafted metalwork conjures up the sculptural forms of ancient Greece and Rome while taking cues from the natural world around her. Bold organic gemstones come to life in finely crafted gilded settings, forming designs that are as traditional as they are modern, as delicate as they are high-impact. Ahead of her in-store appearance at August on June 11, the Brooklyn-based artisan, who got her design start in fashion, opens up on her illustrious career, and the driving forces behind her understated opulence. Trust us, these ain’t your grandmother’s pearls…
How decide to become a jewelry designer?
It was a leap of faith. I started soldering and taking jewelry-making classes about 20 years ago while still working in the fashion industry. There were only a few “artisan” jewelers around at that point, but I knew I wanted to create jewelry that was more expressive and sculptural than what was available in the stores, yet also more modern and elegant than “craft” jewelry. Friends started buying my work. The turning point came in 2003 when I sold my collection to Barneys New York.
What inspired your signature hammered links?
The challenge of working and “sculpting” in the most expensive medium around: high karat gold. I love the overall aesthetic of 22k gold: the saturated color, the buttery quality, and its texture when finished. However, due to the costs of the raw materials, it is essential that the finished pieces be lightweight to keep them accessible. Hand fabricating the hammered links accomplishes this goal, and sets the work apart from mass produced, heavily embellished jewelry. As much as I love the idea of beautifully carved or highly ornamented work, I get more pleasure from combining very simple elements to create texture and movement, and finding that sculptural quality. Designer Toyo Kurokawa and I have been working together for many years, and her “hand” and working style heavily influences the collection.
Do you have a favorite stone to work with?
Favorite stones are ethically-sourced Aquamarines, tourmaline, quartz, moonstones, amethysts of various hues. Love to see the inclusions and imperfections in a stone to witness the way the gem formed in the earth. We let the gemstones speak by setting them in finely made, simple gold frames. These allow the light to play with the color, sparkle and texture of the gems. Important to use recycled high karat gold.
What inspired your recent use of Tahitian pearls & serpent settings?
I always gravitate to beautiful forms: roots, vines and tendrils have always been present in my work, and I love the symbolism and arrangement that serpents take in art. I am continually inspired try and catch their movement in the soft, maleable 22k gold and contain a little bit of their essence. The Pearls: I came across a gorgeous pair of gnarled, irregular, luminous baroque pearls at the gem fair last year, and began by combining them with small 22k gold bezel set diamonds. When I wore them, I felt as if I were wearing something that an Italian Contessa handed down to me from generations before. They instantly changed the look of whatever I was wearing and how I was feeling. I kept searching for more South Sea Pearls, and became enamored with the silvery greys in the Tahitian Pearls, and the creamy champagne and white Baroque pearls from the same resource. The goal for the collection became to update the concept of pearls: to set them and wear them in a more modern way than had been done in the recent past.
How do you choose the stones for your pieces?
I work with only a few trusted gem cutters, and I spend hours and hours with my favorite Brazilian dealer when he comes to town…….he always has wonderful “one off” experiments that I can adopt and feel are unique to my collection. The last visit I found especially interesting rutilated quartz and rock crystal forms. Also “addicted” to the gem fair in Tucson each year in February.
Describe your aesthetic.
“Quiet luxury” says it all. The collection tends to be light and subtle, but still has a strong, simple elegance.
How much do your day-to-day surroundings influence your work?
Balance in life is very important. Love my profession, but spending time with my husband and 2 sons; great food, books, film; time away on the beautiful Maine coast all inform the work.
What are other sources of inspiration?
My (adopted) home town of Brooklyn! The lifestyle here influences all of my work….I am grateful for my longtime, loyal customers and “collectors”: women who are stylish and love beautiful clothes, furnishings etc., but have too many interesting things (kids, careers, travel) going on in their lives to be slaves to fashion and trends. They gravitate to the pieces that are light, simple and versatile, which you can put on in the morning and not think about too much, or feel too “precious” wearing. She appreciates work that is classic and modern, but not so perfect and polished, and that has a little grit to it—just like Brooklyn.
Where and when are you at the height of creativity?
Love to sit at the bench and work with wire, a torch and a hammer…… first thing in the morning. Forming and shaping materials by hand is more productive for me than sketching. It is difficult, but essential to clear the time and forget about chores, emails etc a few times per week , to just play and be creative. I try and put aside the notion of reaching a goal; just experimenting is important. This is proving to be the most difficult part of having a business in the creative world: It is necessary to steer the ship, but also beneficial to drift and wander occasionally. The “height of creativity” goes hand in glove with “height of frustration” sometimes!
Is there a piece of jewelry that you own which is most special to you?
Gifts from my husband: a classic Cartier watch given for my 40th birthday; a simple platinum and diamond band which belonged to his grandmother.