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It might not be the biggest show of the jewelry year, but it’s a gem on the calendar that draws industry professionals and the public to Switzerland’s second city. It’s probably also the only one whose founders can be found agonizing over layout at the 11th hour, to make sure that everyone gets a fair placement; testament to an approach that keeps exhibitors and visitors alike coming back, year after year.
“This show is made for exhibitors, by exhibitors,”says co-founder Ronny Totah, who started GemGenève in 2018 with fellow jewelry and gem insider, Thomas Faerber. Since then, they have held four events, and welcomed a total of nearly 13,000 visitors. “Above all, we want everyone – designers, gemstone dealers, retailers, collectors and the interested public – to be able to come together and share their passion.” Usually held in May, this extra event was created in response to “market demand from exhibitors who wanted a show in the run-up to the end of the year” as the market for fine jewelry and gems remains high.
Visitors wandering the aisles will be dazzled by a rainbow of stones from dealers all over the world. Enthusiasts can learn about gems through a partnership with The Gem Museum Singapore, and enjoy the latest offerings from some of the brightest designers working in jewelry today, including emerging and established names like Toji Jewelry (Thailand), Sean Gilson (US) and Leyser (Germany). From megawatt gems to vintage treasures, here’s what not to miss this weekend.
Mark Nuell’s custom-cut peridots for Fuli Gemstones
Super cutter and goldsmith Mark Nuell has been let loose on Fuli Gemstones’ marvelous peridots, and the result is two glorious gemstones of superior radiance. Mark, who comes from an Australian sapphire mining family, cut 160 facets into each stone – three times more than usual – to intensify the deep green of Fuli’s iron-rich gems. Opening in 2023, Fuli Gemstones are aiming for the Yiqisong Nanshan peridot mine in China to be zero waste and are planning on channelling the by-products of the mining process into industry. The host rock, basalt, can be used in construction, and olivine sand in metallurgy, once they have been removed from the mine.
Joseph Marchak vintage Ukrainian jewelry at Strong & Precious
Considered the ‘Cartier of Kiev’, several antique pieces by Joseph Marchak are on show at the Strong & Precious stand in the Designers Village, including this late 1930s gold bangle. Born in Ukraine, Marchak moved to Paris after the revolution of 1917, where his jewelry house thrived until 1974. Strong & Precious was set up in April to support Ukrainian jewelry designers through a number of initiatives, the proceeds of some of which go towards helping rehabilitate those affected by the war. For GemGenève, the team has curated a showcase of both historical and contemporary jewelry, including jewels from Gunia Project, Rockah and Bevza, a brand which has also taken part in Tripolar in Paris.
Treasures of the Tsars by Fabergé
To mark its 40th anniversary, the Igor Carl Fabergé Foundation has pulled together over 160 pieces of jewelry, ornaments and other objects in a special exhibition for GemGenève. Three Fabergé eggs are also on display to the public, two of which for the first time, in a very special opportunity to get close to the exquisite workmanship on which Carl Fabergé built his name. From bookmarks to bell pulls, color charts to pill boxes, the installation takes visitors inside Imperial Russia and shows that despite their significance, there is much more to the storied name of Fabergé than the emblematic Easter eggs themselves.
The Vivarium Quartet showcases jewelry all about emotion
MAD Joaillerie Paris, Elena Okutova (Moscow), Philippe Lauras (Paris) and Alexandra Jefford (London) are the four designers chosen by jewelry historian Vivienne Becker for this edition’s Vivarium Quartet. Becker believes “we are at a major turning point in contemporary jewelry design. This selection is very much about emotions, we’re seeing a subtle but significant move towards more stylization and capturing the emotion generated when we look at something rather than representation.” Alix Dumas is a “case in point” who manages to capture how rolling waves make us feel, in her bold forms and intricate openwork, while Elena Okutova embodies our responses to a rich mosaic of inspiration rooted in folklore in bold jewelry that evokes a magical world. Philippe Lauras’s fluid ribbons are “alive with movement”, but it is perhaps modernist Alexandra Jefford who best embodies the theme, with the Susan’s Five collection, a personal homage to her late mother, who would not doubt be immensely proud of her daughter’s elegant exploration of form in her name.
Mindblowing neoclassical micromosaics
Micromosaics are under the spotlight in a special exhibition that places the dialog between culture and jewelry front and center. The display combines fragments of Ancient mosaic art from sites including the Roman town of Aventicum, in modern-day Switzerland, with Neoclassical 18th and 19th century micromosaic jewelry which saw the what was originally wall and floor art concentrated into an incredible 800-1000 tiles per square centimeter. Contemporary pieces, including this wood carbon, pink gold and diamond cage bracelet, with micro mosaic detail by Vamgard, show the development of the art form.
Wallis Hong’s incredible micro-carved titanium
The art of Wallis Hong is quite spectacularly detailed. His openwork, micro-set butterflies almost quiver with movement, while his spiky sea shell earrings, above, have a contemporary space age feel to them. But his watch faces are especially breathtaking, in vibrant colored titanium, hand-carved under a microscope to create tiny, staggeringly intricate underwater worlds, where coral sways, dolphins dive and miniature seahorses mark time. Surely a collaboration waiting to happen.