NEW YORK — Nak Armstrong, who took home a Council of Fashion Designers of America award for innovation in accessory design in 2005, continues to live up to the accolade.
This story first appeared in the May 23, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designer will unveil a 40-piece collection at The Couture Show in Las Vegas next month, comprised of earrings, necklaces and bracelets that employ a technique designed to achieve a distinct mosaic motif. The line will retail from $650 to $5,500 and is crafted from 18-karat yellow gold, sterling silver and precious and semiprecious stones such as green and pink tourmalines, lapis, topaz, chalcedony, sapphires and raw diamonds.
Heavily inspired by mosaics and the fusing of Art Deco and Roman themes, Armstrong said a challenge was fashioning pieces that were “large with a lot of impact,” but also lightweight and competitively priced.
“I want to create something I hadn’t seen before. I wanted to fuse my inspirations together, and by doing that, make it a little bit more modern, lighter and feminine,” said Armstrong. “It’s our own version of mosaic — it’s how we translate mosaic from the literal sense to jewelry. It really delivers — you see more stones and less metal and have a much lighter piece.”
Armstrong conquered the technical challenges by developing a method that eliminates the need for a traditional bezel setting — and as a result, no metal covers the gemstones. This serves a dual purpose of reducing the amount of metal and framing the stones, which is what gives the pieces a mosaic effect. To achieve this, the designer uses a drill to make holes in the gemstones, which are then welded to sterling silver or 18-karat gold bars that surround the stone.
“I have to think about every design that I do and what the metal content is going to be. It used to be that the stone cost drove the price so you were trying to do less stones and more metal — and now it’s the opposite,” said Armstrong. “The more stones you can show, the bigger your pieces get — and for less money.”
The designer insists that his new offerings are entirely different than his previous jewelry endeavor, the almost-exclusively 18-karat gold and chain work-focused Anthony Nak collection, which he shuttered last year.