At the Visnja Jewels penthouse showroom on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, there are dramatic changes in the decor.
“We’re wallpapering the entire showroom with photos documenting 50 pieces I’ve designed over the last 10 years,” Visnja Brdar, the designer and owner of Visnja Jewels, told a visitor. “It’s a celebration of everything and we’re having fun with it. This is not the conventional show-and-tell.”
The photos, taken by Raymond Meier and Micaela Rossato, chronicle the Visnja Jewel collections of pendants, earrings and rings, which are typically diamonds set in platinum, and always inspired by values and ideas important to Brdar. It’s personal, but of universal appeal. Like having hope and faith, or self-awareness. “I believe what has meaning for me, what I need, resonates with other women,” Brdar said.
She’s marking the 10th anniversary of Visnja Jewels with a retrospective of her work titled “Jewelry and Fortification.” About 40 pieces from the collections will be exhibited at the showroom starting Tuesday for a week.
Ironically, Brdar was inspired to become a fine-jewelry designer because she wasn’t inclined to wear much, if any at all. Brdar, a graphic artist, has a degree in visual communication from Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia. For several years she was employed by Fabien Baron, where she worked as an art director involved in advertising, product and packaging design, book design and marketing collateral for international accounts such as Michael Kors, Giorgio Armani and Jil Sander, as well as leading fine-jewelry brands.
“I realized I wouldn’t want any of the jewelry for myself. I actually never wore any of it. The decorative nature of the jewelry in general was unappealing to me.
“Then lightning struck, after thinking about all that. It seemed essentially all the same, but I also felt I would wear pieces that had depth and meaning and expressed ideas. If something represented freedom or courage, I could wear a piece like that. I would wear jewelry that symbolized eternal values that I needed for my life. I felt what was missing was really chic jewelry with spiritual meaning and depth that would resonate with me.”
And so Brdar started creating jewelry for private clients without any formal design schooling. Even after 10 years of designing, she continues to feel like an “outsider” and has no outside investors in her business.
There’s a fierceness to her style and it’s been there from the beginning. The first piece she designed was a lioness pendant with 400 cut diamond stones set in platinum as part of a collection called Courage. Displaying the piece, she said, “When I put this one on, I feel more courageous. It propels me forward.”
“Power” was the theme of another collection. She posed the question: “What’s the ultimate symbol of power in the universe? It’s the sun, which I’ve represented in a modern way.”
She once created a collection called “Faith,” with a design representing an eternal flame.
“What the jewelry represents is first and foremost. Form is second,” Brdar said. “It becomes a meditation on life.”
Her prices range from $800 for a pendant in 18-karat gold to earrings priced $150,000 in platinum and diamonds. The jewelry is elegantly packaged in handmade Lucite cases.
She considers diamonds “the purest of stones — I’m not interested in other stones.”
“It’s always my objective to have the diamonds sit on the edge. My diamonds kiss each other. Rather than having a lot of metal holding the diamonds in place, I work with the least amount required to hold the stones securely in place. It gives a floating affect. It’s extremely minimal.”
To further mark the 10-year anniversary, Brdar has a concept inspired by the ancient Greek phrase, “know thyself.” For Brdar, “That’s the most important thing to achieve in life.…So what form would ‘know thyself’ take? It’s my own initials or your initials. It’s custom-made typography with your initials,” that draws upon her graphic arts background. As Brdar said, “There is a solution to everything if you are willing to look for it.”