Forget your basic baubles. With modern silhouettes and stunning jewels, a new generation of jewelry designers are emerging among the Caribbean Diaspora, creating timeless pieces that feel both graphic and unique. These new designs run the gamut style-wise, from delicate and refined, to bold and bright. They also use materials in unexpected ways, from unusual gemstones to recycled materials encrusted in gold. Such unique designs attract serious attention from in-the-know Caribbean fashionistas seeking something special. So we’ve rounded up our favorite Caribbean jewelry designers, from industry stalwarts, to exciting up-and-comers. Be sure to add these stunning gems to your wishlist.
Winner of a prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award in 2011, American-born designer Monique Pean has long made waves for her sculptural, organic pieces featuring globally inspired materials and silhouettes. As a child, she frequently travelled around the world with her Haitian father, who worked for the United Nations. The designer attributes her unique style to her childhood exposure to diverse cultures. For each collection, Pean continues to travel to unique destinations, researching regional design and collaborating with local artisans. All materials used are ethically and sustainably sourced, which often leads to unconventional features, like fossilized walrus ivory, recycled metal and dinosaur bone.
Matthew Harris was just 16 when he moved to the U.S. from Montego Bay, Jamaica to study hospitality management. But soon the glittering New York City inspired him to explore jewelry design, and he later launched his own brand in 2009. His delicate, minimalist designs with innovative use of gemstones and pearls quickly racked up attention, including at the CFDA. The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund hand-picked Mateo New York as one of the prestigious finalists for 2017. The Smithsonian Museum also selected his gems for sale at the African American Museum of Art and Culture in Washington D.C in 2016, and at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum of Contemporary Art in 2017.
When you want to make a bold graphic statement with your jewelry, a piece by Puerto Rican jewelry designer Marcia Budet proves a safe bet. A University of Pennsylvania-trained architect, Budet brings a structural flair to her designs, with geometric inlays and shapes. Budet also loves to use bright, juicy gemstones like lemon quartz, citrine and amethyst. Or she likes to make a dramatic black-and-white design in onyx and moonstone. This perfectly suits her design motto “elegantly bold,” and her desire to make women feel both feminine and powerful in their jewelry. Her vivid designs certainly captured the attention of the design world, where she won several industry awards, including the Design Center Editor’s Choice Award for “Best in Show.”
Jamaican-born designer Anna Ruth Henriques pulls from nature to create her organically influenced fine jewelry. Inspired by spiders, she weaves delicate webs of gold into elegant bracelets and pendants. Or Henriques inlays rich gems like tourmaline and opal into glittering mosaics for her abstract floral earrings. The designer carves and finishes all her artful designs by hand, using natural gemstones to create miniature works of art. Such artistic designs comes natural to the accomplished painter, whose paintings can be found in permanent collections at New York’s Jewish Museum, El Museo del Barrio, as well as the National Gallery of Jamaica.
Jewelry by Dominican Republic designer Monica Varela lives somewhere between weird and wonderful. Using traditional techniques and 3D printing, she combine gold, silver, precious stones, and technicolor microscopic fibers into whimsical designs. The jewelry itself feels simple and understated, with clean lines and smooth spheres. But inside each groove and crevice lies a honeycomb of vibrant fibers. This unique combination marked a eureka moment for the designer, when she became enraptured by the vibrant colors hidden inside electrical street wires. Such creative juxtaposition came naturally for the designer, who’s also the daughter of famed Dominican artist Fernando Varela. Monica also keeps close ties to her native island, working closely with master artisans in the Dominican Republic.
Somehow the bold jewelry of Trinidadian designer Josanne Mark feels both ancient and space age. Inspired by organic elements, Mark often incorporates rich, complex texture into her pieces, from her iconic driftwood cuffs to her see fan earrings in sterling silver. Instead of sparkle and shine, the designer embraces grit and character, preferring crushed pryite and freshwater pearls over perfectly symmetrical gemstones. Industry insiders have fallen in love with her unique approach to jewelry. She has showcased her pieces at the Studio 66 Art Gallery in New York, and at the esteemed Ganoskin Project.
Check out other amazing designers from the fashion world with our round-up of favorite Caribbean-American designers from New York Fashion Week.