Called “Brilliant & Black: The Age of Enlightenment,” the London edition is bigger in scale than the first New York exhibition, which took place last year, and showcases more than 70 pieces from 25 contemporary designers.
Jewelers taking part have created at least one new piece in response to the Enlightenment, the movement that swept through Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, and focused on individualism, intellectual reason, and scepticism.
Sotheby’s worked with the jewelry expert, curator and journalist Melanie Grant to put together the show, which is on view at Sotheby’s until Sunday. The pieces will be on sale throughout Black History Month in the U.K., which runs from Saturday until Oct. 31.
Prices range from $420 to more than $1 million, and Sotheby’s has already sold some pieces, including a ring by Shola Branson.
Manhattan-based jeweler Sheryl Jones said she was honored to be taking part in the show.
“Historically, Sotheby’s has represented the curation and presentation of the highest quality and excellence throughout history, and their role is integral in creating generational wealth and value. As they showcase designers like me in shows like ‘Brilliant & Black,’ they are expanding the ‘tent,’ and are partners in creating a valuable legacy of Black designers for generations to come.”
Jones, who created three pieces for the show, said she is “excited to be at the beginning of that legacy and to have an opportunity for a wider audience to see my work, and its quality.”
Jones’ pieces include Deco Duo cufflinks, which are made from emerald cut sapphires, Colombian emeralds and white round brilliant diamonds.
She has also created a set of Moonstone Cascade earrings, which feature two blue sapphires set with moonstones, aquamarines, blue sapphires and diamonds. Her third design is the Green Goddess earrings, made from pear-shaped Brazilian opals set with green tourmalines from Nigeria, and diamond accents.
Jones said she likes working with stones that are not commonly seen. Of the Green Goddess earrings, she said the “natural, spectacular, neon green color of the opals drew me along with their natural pattern. The various shades of green garnets help to bring out all the shades of green in the opals.”
In a separate interview, Frank Everett, senior vice president, Sotheby’s Jewelry in New York, said the first exhibition “Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance,” which took place last year, was successful on a variety of levels.
He said it created a sense of community among the jewelers, and also helped to promote them in a ferociously expensive — and difficult — business.
“If you’re working with traditional, glamorous diamonds and stone-centric jewelry, it’s very expensive to get those materials. You’ve got to get people to back you financially” or find other sources of funding, said Everett.
He noted that jewelers, when they are building their businesses, don’t “go out and just buy a big 10-carat diamond.” Instead, they work with suppliers, who will eventually get a cut of the final sale.
“That business is done on a handshake, and it’s very insular. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge for jewelers getting started,” he said.
Everett pointed to other challenges, too.
“Sheryl has set up shop here in New York City in the Midtown Diamond District. She’s not only fighting against being Black, but also being a woman in that male-dominated industry,” he said.
All of the pieces in the show are available for purchase, either in person, or on Sotheby’s Buy Now marketplace at Sothebys.com.