Silvia Furmanovich (Est. 1997) In a January 2019 interview that appeared in Couture Notebook, the author asked Brazilian designer Silvia Furmanovich, “Why do you continue to seek out new craftsmanship?”
Furmanovich answered, “I like the change and I do like the research process. In 2016, I saw a small exhibition of Indian miniature paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York… You had to use a magnifying glass to see the detail and I was very impressed. I started researching and found an art school in Udaipur [India] that is preserving this ancient technique. I visited it and saw how they were still using natural pigments from stones like malachite, lapis lazuli, and they painted with brushes made with camel eyelashes or squirrel tales. Now I’m working with them to create jewelry with miniature paintings on small slivers of camel bone.”
Since launching her brand, Silvia Furmanovich has become one of the most visionary artists working in fine jewelry. She was born in São Paulo, Brazil, into a line of Italian goldsmiths. As a child, Furmanovich spent hours working beside her father in his atelier. She established an appointment-only jewelry business in 1998 and opened her first stand-alone boutique in São Paulo in 2009.
Jewelry runs deep in the family. Her Italian grandfather and great-grandfather were also goldsmiths, the latter for the Vatican.
Her father, whom she observed while taking notes as he worked, made beautiful things. He was a huge man with huge hands yet he made little things. He taught her what she needed to know about the importance of craftsmanship, finishing, and details one doesn’t readily see.
Furmanovich works beyond metallurgy designing with what can be called a multi-media approach. Using carved turquoise, lacquered mosaic, Murano glass: her combinations are uncommon and spectacular.
In 1997, Furmanovich set up an atelier to create her own pieces. Her search for novel materials is one of her trademarks and is seen in the inventive spirit of her collections. Working with gold became her signature. Even when a goldsmith produces her pieces, she is still part of the entire process. Her most singular pieces are bracelets woven out of porcelain beads, adorned with gold and precious stones. This exceptional technique clearly demonstrates the quality of her work.
Furmanovich’s first fine jewelry creations were intricately woven bracelets with porcelain beads, secured with gold clasps she made while taking a goldsmithing class. These bracelets remain in her collection which has grown to encompass a vast array of bold, yet feminine, vibrantly colored pieces.
She was an early proponent of mixing precious materials like gold and diamonds with Brazilian semi-precious colored gemstones such as tourmalines and blue topaz, as well as with natural materials including seashells, wood, and orchid petals preserved in lacquer.
In subsequent creations she incorporated craft items including antique, hand-carved wooden netsukes (carved miniature sculptures used in clothing in Japan) as well as Rajasthani miniature paintings she commissioned from artists in Udaipur.
In a New York Times interview in November 2018, she said, “I’ve always collaborated with artists and artisans to make something new. In this technological world, everything is being made by machines and we must all fight to keep traditional handicrafts alive.”
According to the article, in 2014, she was at an exhibition in Brazil when she saw the work of an artist based in the country’s remote northern region of the Amazon. The artist was born in that region and had learned the art of wood marquetry as a young man, when he was sent to Germany by priests who recognized his artistic potential.
As soon as she saw his work, she knew she had to meet him and, after she did, she invited him to collaborate. Together they worked out how to miniaturize his and his team’s work from large-scale pictures and furniture to the scale of jewelry. The initial result was a collection in which the marquetry mimicked geometric patterns and the play of light found in cut gemstones. These miniature artworks were suspended from diamonds and colored gems, including amethyst and citrine, for earrings, cuffs, and minaudières.
The marquetry artist incorporates minute slivers of wood in many colors in the work. These include native ones such as red muirapiranga, yellow tatajuba, purple roxinho and blue carvalho. These are not dyed to achieve their vibrant effect although sometimes the artist’s team intensifies the colors through a process (which they won’t share, even with her) that causes chemical reactions in the different woods.
Today, each Silvia Furmanovich collection is designed in her personal atelier in Brazil and created through goldsmithing practices that she oversees. Her design aesthetic is informed by ancestral techniques and contemporary inspirations that strike a balance between tradition and innovation. Each Silvia Furmanovich piece showcases impeccable quality gold in combination with ivory, coral, turquoise, woods, and precious stones.
Her collections are named Botannical, India, Marquetry, Egyptian, Japan, Porcelein Beads, Netsukes, Opal, Organic, Stone, Sun, Treasures, and Italy. While every piece is daring – in terms of both scale and imagination – there is also a sense of pure opulence found in the balance of unusual materials (copper, wood, and carvings, among others) and 18-karat gold, diamonds and dazzling gemstones. These highly specialized creations – many of which are one-of-a-kind – are grounded in ancient Egyptian and Native American iconography yet still appropriate for a fashionable woman.
Especially notable pieces found in her collections include an Italian micro-mosaic bracelet in yellow gold featuring light brown diamonds ($47,500), Japanese art on lacquer earrings with brilliant-cut diamonds, rock crystal and citrine ($15,300), a Muirapiranga marquetry cuff with a 22.65ct Rio Grandense citrine and light brown diamonds ($17,100), micro-mosaic earrings with light brown diamonds, rubellite, blue topaz and grey pearls ($20,800), and a Murano glass ring featuring a 2.71ct tsavorite surrounded by light brown diamonds ($11,800).
Her most recent collection Botanica is inspired by the illustrations of the German-born naturalist and scientific illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian and the British botanical artist Margaret Mee. It captures the spiritual essence of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest in all its beauty and splendor. The incredible detail and skilled marquetry with its rich tones and textures of indigenous salvaged wood paired with rare and precious gems, gold, and diamonds inspire wonder.
Until this collection, Silvia had focused on clutches and two-dimensional jewels. The Botanica collection possesses a lifelike beauty with unique creations available in limited collections that increases the value of the jewels.
Furmanovich has said, “I hope to communicate through each piece my feelings linked to my aspirations.”
Each collection evokes a particular moment in the designer’s life and there are no rules that truly define her work concept. Each piece is a fragment of a story, told in way that is both magical and extraordinary.
Today, Furmanovich’s collections are the result of her ongoing evolution. While blending unexpected materials has remained a constant, she has produced an innovative catalog of styles and shapes: galactic swoops, assertive symmetry, and exaggerated deco.
She attributes her constant growth to her “desire to create bold and beautiful jewelry,” as well as her dedication to “discovering new ways of manifesting the beauty that already exists in nature.” Of her continued process, Furmanovich remarks, “I have become more confident along the years, and I am much more fearless than when I started.”
Ever curious about the endless permutations of beauty in the world, Furmanovich has created a body of work reflective of it while imbued with seemingly infinite possibility.