In the world of high jewelry, we will always know and love the mainstay houses and their iconic offerings. But we can’t resist the bespoke experience of the quintessential boutique brands. Here, Quest explores a cut of the more niche jewelry life—and the influencers who are elevating their craft to new and intriguing levels.
Hand-crafted in New York City and Italy by local artisans, Cadar jewelry features yellow gold and diamonds, and reflects the vision of its creative director, Michal Kadar. Based on an ethos of purity of form, symbols—of light, water, and life—figure prominently in the designs. Each piece is conceived with a reverence of these elements, while embracing subtle visual references, including Art Deco, Art Nouveau, spiritual geometry, and Japanese artistic motifs. “My collections are inspired by the immeasurable beauty of nature and the world that surrounds us,” Michal Kadar explains. “Each collection tells a story and is highly symbolic, embodying themes such as light, water, and life. Movement is central to Cadar—through each piece I strive to capture fleeting moments and translate them into lasting physical form. My goal is to create pieces that are both modern and timeless, that inspire a deep emotional connection.” The result is a collection that embodies bold minimalism and elemental beauty, notable for its proportion and balance.
Marina B was established in 1978 by Marina Bulgari, the granddaughter of Bulgari founder Sotirio Bulgari. She famously invented her own cut—aptly called the Marina B—by taking the triangle and softening it with organic, sensual curves. Though the company has passed through several hands since Marina’s original hold on it, new life is being breathed into Marina B by current chairman and creative director Guy Bedarida, a pillar himself in the jewelry world, from stints at Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels, and John Hardy. For Bedarida, it’s a thrilling career moment to awaken this “sleeping beauty” that made him dream during his youth. At the time, Marina B was the exclusive brand that women knew from Monte Carlo, Geneva, Paris, London, and New York. Bedarida, with his love for unusual color associations and unusual stones, is poised to build on the ultra-chic legacy of a brand for women truly in the know.
Christina Lang Assael
For nearly five decades, the house of Assael has been synonymous with magnificence. It has reliably procured the most sought-after pearls in the world— those of impeccable quality, highest luster, and unwavering consistency. This commitment to and passion for exquisite pearls is the unique legacy of Salvador Assael, the late legendary “Pearl King” and son of James Assael, who founded the company in the 1920s in Italy. Today, Salvador’s wife Christina Lang Assael continues the legacy as CEO and president. “Assael is in a class of its own,” attests Lang Assael. “Our strength lies in the supreme quality of our gems and in our extraordinary people. We have an unparalleled array of magnificent Gem Pearls and exquisite, rare Gem Coral. And the service-oriented culture of our amazing team makes an enormous contribution to our success.” The house continues to seek out new materials for its customers. “We are now introducing the uniquely beautiful Fiji pearls in the United States,” Lang Assael confirms. “There is always something new to get excited about here at Assael!”
Alexandra Mor grew up in the multicultural mélange of Israel. From a young age, she was exposed to the concept of hand-crafted design by her French-couturier mother. Although she started as a filmmaker, it was in 2004, during a jewelry bench class, that she found her true passion and calling. She launched her first eponymous jewelry collection at Phillips de Pury in New York in 2010. Then, after a decade in New York City, Mor moved to Bali in 2016 to search for new inspiration. She set out to create a more meaningful, spiritually connected, and eco-conscious practice. Alexandra Mor designs are for discerning clients looking to build one-of-a-kind collections. Her personalized service allows clients to witness the entire process, from preliminary sketches and gem selection to the final unveiling. Clients who pursue made-to-order pieces enjoy exclusive access to an extensive inventory of diamonds and precious stones of unparalleled quality. Touted as an heirloom jewelry maker, Alexandra stands out for her singular work in the world of haute joaillerie.
“You’ve heard the expression that fashion changes, but style remains?” asks Nico Landrigan, president of Verdura and Belperron. “Fulco di Verdura and Suzanne Belperron epitomized this, so it’s no wonder the pursuit of style and beauty always leads us back to their two amazing archives,” he says. “We know when to take a design risk with a fantastic new piece, and when to allow simplicity and classicism to suffice.” As president of these two fabled houses—Verdura, the offspring of the Sicilian aristocrat who’s been hailed as the most original and protean designer of the 20th century, and Belperron, the French house founded by the first woman in the pantheon of master jewelers—Landrigan continues to evolve the legacies of these two incomparable maestros. “We hunt for beauty wherever we can find it,” he explains. This means rare and wonderful gems, from an exceptional ruby or emerald to a beautifully cut gemstone from a new mine. Or, a new shade of tourmaline or apatite or tsavorite. “Mother Nature cooked these crystals over millions of years and new pockets of them are always being discovered,” Landrigan says. “We are lucky to have what I think are the two richest and most relevant jewelry archives and it is our privilege to marry beautiful stones with exceptional design. I wouldn’t trade spots with anyone.”
Vhernier opened in 1984 as a goldsmith’s workshop in Valenza, in the Italian
region of Piedmont. It began with a passion for gold, a fascination with gemstones, and a quest for the unconventional. “Vhernier was born with the desire to create a contemporary jewel, unlike any other,” says Carlo Traglio, the chairman of Vhernier. “This founding philosophy is what has always distinguished the brand and has set us apart from our peers.” Over the years, Vhernier creations have become true icons: the Calla necklace, for instance, or the Pirouette ring. “Our jewels are appreciated for being understated, yet require a manic pursuit for detail,” Traglio explains. “My aim has always been to create contemporary high jewelry where I can combine the most precious stones with innovative materials. A recent challenge was working
with titanium, a technique that took three years to develop in order to create the perfect lightweight jewel, which employed all of Vhernier’s fundamental skills.”
James de Givenchy
Since 1996, James de Givenchy’s New York–based house, Taffin, has been breaking boundaries of both design and materials. “I like to embrace the unusual, and am attracted to the beauty of imperfection,” Givenchy explains. “While creating jewelry, I look for charm, and stones that are not flawless. It is important to me to design pieces that can be worn every day, and I enjoy playing with unconventional materials, such as steel, rubber, wood, and ceramic to create contemporary designs.” In fact, he pioneered the use of ceramic in 2006 and continues to reshape it in the most extraordinary ways. “Right now, I can’t get enough of ceramic,” he says. “Experimenting with new materials that may not have been used in jewelry before, and finding new ways to work with them is always very exciting for me. It takes not just artistry but intellect and logic to create well-crafted and unique jewelry, and you must always be developing new ideas from here.”
Maja DuBrul’s Austrian roots lend her collection, established in 2005, a decidedly European flavor. The influence of art history, which she also studied and taught, lends her pieces a global appeal with an “enduring style”—the core of her company’s philosophy. True to the lifestyle of contemporary women, her exquisitely crafted jewelry is versatile enough for both the elegant and informal. DuBrul pays close attention to gemstones and edits them for their charm, rarity, or value. “They are individually chosen for their own character and peculiarities,” she tells me. “They may be precious, semi-precious, or non-precious, but they are always utterly unique. There is nothing commercial about this very small and exclusive line.” All of her jewelry is one of a kind and made in New York City. These unique statement pieces combine DuBrul’s 18th-century-inspired aesthetic with current trends of Middle Eastern jewelry: ear cuffs, large ornate backs, and piercings. The result has generated some very exciting designs. “I am also working hard on my gold collection,” she says. “Large gold earrings that are not plated and do not look like Dolly Parton wore them in the ’80s are hard to find. Yet they are the most elegant and should be a staple in everyone’s collection. I have come up with some stunning solutions…at least that is what they tell me!”