ANCIENT MODERNISM

Byline: Wendy Hessen

NEW YORK — The task of creatively combining ancient elements into a modern piece of jewelry is Maria Grazia Baldan’s passion.
And this passion is vividly illustrated in a special showing of her work at Bergdorf Goodman, launched Thursday evening in the store’s seventh floor decorative home department.
Vicki Haupt, senior vice president and general merchandise manager, discovered Baldan’s work at her stores in Milan and Sardinia.
“Maria Grazia’s designs have a timeless quality that comes from combining history and either nature or culture,” said Haupt. “There is a meticulousness and striving for perfection that imbues every aspect of her work.”
Haupt said it was Baldan’s unusual mixing of jewelry and found objects, like pieces from a centuries-old horse bridal or a nugget of coral from a Chinese hairpin, that attracted the store’s interest.
For 20 years, Baldan has traveled to Tibet, China, India and Afghanistan searching for components to bring back to her atelier. She creates an idea for combining the found pieces with gold, pearls or colored gemstones, then turns the pieces over to her seven-member staff, which restores them.
Because most of the collection is one-of-a-kind, Haupt said, it has taken Baldan two years to complete enough pieces for the show, her first in the U.S.
Roughly 161 pieces — rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings and watches — were introduced at Bergdorf’s, retailing from $500 to $255,000. Among them is a $14,000, 12-strand necklace of tiny pearls, anchored by a piece of 19th-century Chinese carved bone that was originally the base of a woman’s fan. The bone is accented by a 13-carat Keshi pearl and a pink tourmaline from the Ching Dynasty.
There are key rings made from old Chinese military passes and Swiss-made, 18-karat gold watches with oxidized coin faces and jade stems, for $975 and $9,000, respectively. For real statement lovers, there is a pair of 91-carat Colombian cabochon emerald earrings trimmed with 12 petal-like diamond and emerald accents, at $100,000.
Before the event even started Thursday evening, two pieces already had been sold for $7,200.

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