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Jewelry Designers Inspiration

Sheva Fruitman

Photo: Sheva Fruitman

The creations of James Taffin de Givenchy may be exotic—diamond sea anemones, blossoms with 100-carat yellow sapphire centers—but many of them started life in circumstances surprisingly mundane. "I find wonderful stones in New York's 47th Street diamond district," says de Givenchy, who is the nephew of the famous couturier. "Everything comes through there, and I can send something to a lab to be checked, which I can't do on a trip to, say, Burma." Still, he understands the powerful draw of buying a special stone abroad: "It's like bringing part of the trip back with you."

Though New York is de Givenchy's home base, he doesn't confine himself to the East Coast. He recently scored a cache of breathtaking freshwater pearls from the Mississippi River—an increasingly rare find because of pollution—that had turned up at a gem show in Las Vegas. Nevertheless, Asia (a favorite among jewelry designers) beckons: "The colors! I'm taking a trip to India next spring. Even if I don't buy anything, I want to get a feel for where the stones come from. And I would love to go to China." Alas, one glamorous place that enthralls de Givenchy can't be visited at any cost, since it exists solely, if powerfully, in the province of the imagination. "I'm so inspired by 1950's and 60's Paris, this dream of what it must have been like after the war—the explosion of excitement, the fashions, the decadent lifestyle."

Though he's been in the jewelry business a scant three years and looks as though his 30th birthday is far in the distance, Dean Harris actually began thinking about precious stones long ago. On a school trip to Istanbul at age 10, he noticed one of the other kids, whose father was a gem dealer, doing a little shopping for his dad. "He was buying rubies for fifty pence apiece. I was intrigued," he recalls. By the time he was 12, the American-born Harris had traveled in 20 countries—always paying keen attention to the sparkling adornments the adults were wearing. "I recognized the intimacy of jewelry early on," he says.

Part of the charm of Harris's designs—thin, elegant, yellow gold bracelets in a color made just for him ("not too shiny or brassy"), mother-of-pearl cuffs flecked with the tiniest of diamonds, wooden bangles with gold twine and diamond accents—is their interpretations of nature. "I went to St. Bart's this year for the first time and I couldn't get over the color of the water," Harris says enthusiastically, like countless converts to the Caribbean before him. "That's what has inspired me to explore the color of opals."

Pippa Small: Available at Uh Oh, Scottsdale, and Barneys New York. Christopher Walling: Available at Bergdorf Goodman, or call 212/581-7700. Stephen Webster: Available at www.stephenwebster.com, or call 44-207/486-6575. Dior Haute Joaillerie: Available at Christian Dior Fine Joaillerie Boutique, New York, or at www.dior.com. James Taffin de Givenchy: Call 212/794-0308. Dean Harris: Available at Barneys New York; or Greg Mills, 212/391-0050.


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