Brilliant & Black

Photos courtesy of Sotheby’s

When billionaire beauty mogul and style icon Rihanna chose to wear the ‘Rebel Black Ring’ by Thelma West Diamonds to The Met Gala on September 13, 2021 in New York, the jewellery industry was set abuzz.

Rebel Black ring Gold and black ceramic ring featuring a 5.01 pear-shaped D-color Diamond (Thelma West)

Last year the piece was a highlight from the New York Sotheby’s show “Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance” — the first-ever selling exhibition showcasing the extraordinary skill, imagination and craftsmanship of black jewellery designers from the 1950s to the present day. Sotheby’s collaborated again with celebrated jewellery writer and curator, Melanie Grant for the second selling exhibition dedicated to Black Jewellery designs. Entitled “Brilliant & Black: The Age of Enlightenment,” the London edition promises to be bigger in scale than the original New York show.

NOMOLI TOTEM MIS-MATCH Earrings 18kt Yellow gold, brilliant cut natural diamonds, emeralds and South Sea pearls (Satta Matturi)

The public exhibition will be at Sotheby’s London starting 22 September to 2 October 2022 and the celebration of Black History Month in the UK. The major exhibition at Sotheby’s in London show features over 70 designs from 25 of new generation Black Jewelers who have created one new piece in response to Grant’s theme of Enlightenment.

Enchanted Garden Diamond, Ruby and Rose Gold Flower Earrings ( Vaneles)

“As an exhibition, I think it did two important things. It turned the pain we all felt surrounding George Floyd into a lasting artistic legacy, and it provided a global platform for black jewellers to celebrate this new renaissance of African infused design. Now, in part II and this time held in London, we celebrate a period of enlightenment. In history, after the explosion and re-birth of culture and learning driven by artists that came with The Renaissance from the 1300s onwards, there followed an Age of Enlightenment. This was a time of growth, individualism, and intellectual reason as well as the freedom to expand and explore now the Renaissance had taken place and to really settle into a new era of creativity” Melanie Grant explains.

Cleopatra’s Vault Pendant and Snake Foundation Chain, Muzo Emeralds, Black and White Onyx and White Diamonds in 18k Yellow Gold (Harwell Godfrey)

Participating designers Melanie Eddy, Lola Fenhirst, Harwell Godfrey, Sheryl Jones, Vania Leles, Angie Marei, Satta Matturi, Johnny Nelson, Castro NYC, Jariet Oloye-Oduto, Jacqueline Rabun, Catherine Sarr, Maggi Simpkins, Karen Smith, Ten Thousand Things, Lorraine West and Thelma West from the Manhattan show will be in the London exhibition. This theory of expansion has been realized by the appearance of seven new artists, including Gina Love, Sewit Sium, Shola Branson, Roxanne Rajcommar-Hadden, Ndidi Ekubia, Disa Allsopp, Pascale Marthine Tayou via Elisabetta Cipriani gallery and Latoya Boyd added to the showing.

Univesrum Tsavorite Cuff in 18K Yellow Gold ( Catherine Sarr)

“The tsunami of interest we experienced in black creativity may be quieter now, but we cannot forget its lessons. There are fears that as things return to normal, our efforts to elevate black design will be eclipsed by more recent events but the work is too good and once seen never forgotten. I’ve witnessed a flurry of other exhibitions and had conversations with so many other black creatives following Brilliant & Black: A Jewellery Renaissance, that I truly believe a door has been opened. The jewels themselves act like artefacts marking our progress at this very moment in history” states Grant.

Isis Goddess Black Tahitian and pearl-green Tsavorite ring in 18k-black-gold (Angie Marei)

If you can’t hop over to the showing at Sotheby’s New Bond Street Galleries all Brilliant & Black pieces exhibited will be available for purchase, either in person, or directly through Sotheby’s Buy Now marketplace at Sothebys.com

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Yvonna Russell

Writer. I cover the arts, good causes and style. Will work for coffee, wine and Manolo Blahniks.