NEW YORK — Two and half years ago, when Michael Aram was walking on the beach in Bridgehampton, N.Y., with his two children, he fixated on something most people would have hardly noticed.
“I saw this sleek, windswept black feather, about six inches long, that was so ravaged by the weather yet still so graceful, so beautiful, and powerful in its way,” Aram recalled. “It really touched me.”
It became one of his design inspirations for the fine-jewelry collection that Aram launched Monday at his namesake flagship at 136 West 18th Street here and on a new Web site, michaelaramjewelry.com. The jewelry launches at Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s later this month, and in September at Louis Anthony Jewelers, an independent jeweler in Pittsburgh.
The 135-piece gold and silver fine-jewelry collection has five groupings — black orchid, molten, feather, enchanted forest and botanical — reflecting Aram’s creative process. It’s rooted in a realistic take on nature, not a fantasized one. “My whole work is finding the beauty in imperfection,” Aram told WWD.
Aram is widely known for his tableware, decorative home objects, metal work and sculpture. He points out that the company is 25 years old this year, and that expanding the design repertoire into jewelry is a fitting way to mark the occasion.
An American of Armenian descent, Aram visited India in 1988, when he walked the back streets of New Delhi and discovered craftsmen working with raw metal and creating buckets, scissors and shovels — everyday objects to some people, but to Aram, art. He started collaborating with the craftsmen on his designs, incorporating their techniques. Aram maintains a workshop in Noida, India, and another workshop above his Manhattan store. Jacmel is licensed to manufacture Aram’s jewelry.
He continues to utilize traditional methods, creating rings, for example, with stones backed with different sheaths of 18-karat gold to give the stones unusual auras. The technique, Aram said, is inspired by old Indian jewelry backed in metal foil.
Overall, the jewelry plays off the botanical motifs seen in Aram’s “twig” cutlery, “river rock” votives, and metallic web screens and other home products, rich in inspiration from the woods, gardens, mountains, ponds and oceans, and often literal in their interpretations, be it a banana or monstera leaf or a bird feather.
In the jewelry collection, Aram incorporates the feather motif, for example, into cuff bracelets, earrings, rings and necklaces created in 18-karat gold and black rhodium–plated sterling silver with black or white diamonds. There are also rings with overlapping botanical leaves in yellow gold; “vine” earrings with rose gold, smoky quartz and diamonds; and sterling-silver “bark” bangles with black diamonds. Prices range from $325 for a sterling-silver ring to $16,900 for an 18-karat-gold feather cuff with diamonds.
“Michael has translated his iconic home goods into jewelry and that really is the key to the success of the line,” said Charles Levy, Bloomingdale’s divisional merchandise manager for fine jewelry. “Michael’s jewelry will appeal to new customers and there will be a crossover customer. Michael has a very large following in our stores. A lot of his clients are collectors. They just don’t buy one piece.”
Bloomingdale’s is primarily purchasing Aram’s 18-karat-gold pieces, which have molton, handcrafted beads and accents of diamonds and will be housed in fine jewelry near Roberto Coin, Temple St. Clair and Marco Bicego.
Neiman’s, on the other hand, will emphasize the sterling silver. “We were really intrigued by his entry into jewelry,” said Ann Stordahl, Neiman’s senior vice president and general merchandise manager over precious jewelry, designer jewelry and beauty. “Both his talent and craftsmanship are unusual in his use of organic materials and shapes. There’s a good synergy between what he does in home and in jewelry. The quality of the merchandise in sterling silver, 18-karat gold and precious stones is excellent. All of his pieces have meaning behind them. There’s a lot of symbolism.”