DALLAS — “I hate symmetry. Perfection bores me to tears,” declares Dian Malouf, urging a customer at a trunk show to buy a sterling cross pendant inscribed with uneven oxidized zigzags. “This is a wonderfully offbeat cross. I think if jewelry is perfect you should throw it away.”
Malouf’s penchant for the unusual is a hallmark of her jewelry designs, which mix sterling and gold with minerals, antique beads and found objects.
In recent travels to gem and ethnic art shows in the Southwest, she picked up the elements that distinguish her latest collection: Big mother-of-pearl mosaic beads from the Philippines, African multicolor glass trade beads and miniature religious icons handpainted on tin in Mexico.
Many of the pieces made of exotic materials and inlaid stones are one-of-a-kind. They wholesale from $450 to $1800. The bulk of Malouf’s sales volume, however, is done with cast sterling rings, earrings and bracelets that wholesale from $33 to $110.
“Three years ago, I started getting into a lower-priced line, and it’s made a big difference — about half a million dollars difference,” Malouf points out. “We did just under $700,000 last year and could hit $1 million this year.”
Striated oxidized silver rings that can be stacked are among her best-selling lower-priced pieces. Other motifs include hearts, crosses, stars and arrows.
Malouf, who has a home in Santa Fe, N.M., has a strong fascination with the heritage and style of the Southwest. It inspires not only many of her jewelry designs, but also her work as a writer and photographer.
Having published “Cattle Kings of Texas” in 1991, Malouf has since written and photographed a second historical chronicle of south Texas cattle ranchers. She’s at work on a third historical narrative based on interviews with people who knew early 20th-century artists and writers in Santa Fe and the scientists who built the atom bomb at nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Back at the trunk show at Ann Hartley, the customer is impressed and leaves a wish list for her husband with a sales associate. “All of it is fabulous,” she extols. “Tell my husband to get his tail in here and buy me something.”