Parkes’ Life: Gabriella Parkes Jewellery
The difference between Gabriella Parkes and a classic heist heroine in the cinematic forms of say, Charlize Theron in the Italian Job, or Faye Dunaway in the Thomas Crown Affair, is that Gabriella takes ownership of jewels to create something even more beautiful than their original form.
Jewellery is undergoing a glamour revival reminiscent of the golden era of Hollywood. Far from the minimum sparkle of previous years, this year’s Oscars was awash with stand out statement pieces. With jewellery trends capturing the costume drama of heist movies, Gabriella’s statement pieces take centre stage.
If she is the new heroine taking the stylised jewellery movement hostage then hers is a constructive heist…. She knows precisely where to source her exquisite stones and how to craft them into polished masterpieces, having trained as a gemologist and diamond grader in specialist stone grading school in London, Gem A. As a designer, she’s self taught, as is Solange Azagury Partridge, former Creative Director of Boucheron.
The Faye Dunaway and Charlize Theron comparisons are not altogether far-fetched. Gabriella possesses a statuesque Hollywood beauty, which seems incongruent with modern, minimalist designers. The magic of her creations has made her the dazzling star of her show. Like those dazzling leading ladies, who have carried off the most ornate pieces with aplomb – Theron wore a $15m dollar necklace at the Oscars – she understands the theatre and narrative structure of jewellery. Gabriella takes risks with her pieces, but they retain a classic beauty. She is a craftswoman with an innate understanding of how jewels work and move together – skilled and knowledgeable in her art, which is what makes her an artist and storyteller as well as a gemologist. It is as though a script unfolds within each precious piece, which subtly express messages and hold secrets of the owner.
I visited Gabriella at work in her Holland Park studio. The fixed look of concentration on her face as she designs is reminiscent of Dunaway anticipating her checkmate in The Thomas Crown Affair. The studied admiration of Steve McQueen is transported many times to the face of any man fortunate enough to gaze at a woman wearing one of Gabriella’s pieces. And now with the imminent launch of her collection for men, it won’t be long before those male admirers are wearing one of her lapel pins or a pair of solid silver cufflinks.
The cinematic appeal is most evident in her ‘Shew-Stones of Angels’ necklace, wherein a rectangular gold chain weightlessly bears a two-tone tourmaline Axe and an obsidian looking-glass. The mirror is framed with 47 round, two trillion cut, and two square-cut rubies.
“Obsidian was crafted into mirrors by the Aztecs for various magical purposes”, explains Parkes. “They were used by priests in séances and ceremonies, and by the court astrologer of Elizabeth I to communicate with spirits.
“Obsidian is especially empowering. It disperses negativity. Tourmaline is such a delicious stone. Its colour changes with the light direction. I just love that. It’s mysterious and magical.”
There is a deliberate dichotomy to the piece. “The Axe and Mirror together are symbolic of breaking chains from the past, and outdated or destructive ideas of who we are. They are in contrast with each other and yet fit together so perfectly. The ‘shew-stone’, one of many polished translucent or reflective objects used in sorcery, contains the mark of a spirit angel. It represents fresh beginnings. It is liberating”.
It is impossible not to be captivated by the moving parts and natural rhythm of her rings and necklaces, which clients describe as having a kinetic quality. Certainly, Parkes acquires an understanding of her bespoke clients’ traits and desires. It is also evident that she has studied the human form intricately before creating each individual piece, breathtaking in its detail and instinctive in its execution.
“People are tactile. Women inadvertently play with an earring or twist a ring around their finger. I like jewellery to have movement and sound, the tinkle of a stone against gold, or the clink of silver charms on a bracelet. Like talismans and amulets, my jewellery protects. The sound of ringing metal keeps evil spirits away!”
It may keep evil spirits away but customers are flocking. The hypnotic appeal of her creations draws even non-jewellery wearers towards the lure of her pieces. Born in Arabia but with Scandinavian and British heritage, Parkes’ influences are globally and historically widespread. She creates bold pieces with a bespoke or narrative twist, incorporating mythology, astronomy, magic and ancient faiths. Her unique Norse designs are influenced by her roots and cleverly combine Eastern influences with western origins.
Each of her pieces tells a story that strongly resonates with both the wearer and the viewer. Parkes explains, “Each has a profound meaning to match the beauty and magnificence of the stones themselves”.
They are not for the wilting wallflower. Parkes emphasises the fact that her jewellery, while high-end, is not elitist. Her customers range from city lawyers to stylish stay at home mothers.
A piece of Gabriella’s jewellery will transport them to a scene of their choosing; if props enhance acting these transcend it.
Her Winter Rose two-part knuckle ring, comprising a classical styled ring and a second complementary ring to be worn on the lower knuckle, is “dark and beautiful”. Yellow diamond and 18ct yellow gold stamens combine with black diamond petals in 18ct rhodium-plated gold and Tsavorite leaves. “I love this flower that flourishes against the cold and dark”, enthuses Parkes.
The wings of her celebrated Hoopoe pendant are set with Tsavorites and diamonds. With more than a hint of ancient Egypt, a book of wisdom is hidden in its chest. Parkes’ pieces seamlessly merge past, present and future, embracing all generations in their creation.
The Stag Beetle ring features an 18ct rhodium-plated gold pair of stag beetles with brown diamond eyes. They hold up an armillary with an engraved planet earth turning on its axis. The spectacular Full Circle Ring is made to adorn a little finger. It features an 18ct gold kinetic hare leaping over an engraved gold-veined quartz ring.
Parkes’ work is influenced by classic Cartier pieces with an awe-inspiring modern twist. She works with all precious stones and ‘one off’ stones, sourced from all over the world. Her inspiration comes from her extensive travel and she delights in discovering a rare stone or metal that has great significance to its people’s history and culture, such as obsidian, a volcanic glass.
Culture and literature are imbued in Gabriella’s jewellery. “Books and paintings are full of symbolism, reminders and beauty. I try to celebrate love and faith in each creation”.
Prose and symbols meaningful to the wearer, are engraved in her gold, silver and platinum settings. Her Origin ring and Life Story pendant feature constellations of planets at the time a baby is born; at the moment a couple fall in love or become engaged.
Her Heritage line comprising the Origin ring and Life Letter pendant, a platinum carved turquoise pendant backed with a silver letter, are designed to be treasured for generations, to be passed down the bloodline. The narrative is secretly embedded in engraved prose or symbols individualised to the wearer, making each Heritage piece a deeply personalised accessory.
There is no single piece of jewellery that possesses more drama than a choker. Seeped in history and intrigue, the choker made a star appearance time and time again at Fashion Week this year. Theron and Naomi Watts both sported diamond chokers at the Oscars.
Gabriella’s two most popular styles are her Winter Fern Agate seed in gilded silver pod on a waxed cord choker; and Chrysocolla seed in gilded silver pod on a waxed cord choker. Equally beguiling is her gold leather choker adorned with pink sapphires and 18ct yellow gold petals. Daringly the metallic-looking choker appears to have a serrated edge but in fact this clever and beautifully crafted piece of neck armour is soft and luxurious on the skin. Parkes’ chokers incorporate gold and silver, diamonds, sapphires, tsavorite and garnets.
“A choker has a split personality,” points out Parkes. ‘Its overt sexual appeal has an interesting dichotomy which amuses me. On the one hand, it indicates a woman who is aware and in control of her femininity and on the other it suggests a submissive vulnerability. No other necklace form alludes to this mischief-making playfulness.
“In addition, a woman’s neck, one of the most beautiful parts of the body, is both admired and sheathed by the choker simultaneously”.
The choker has indeed enjoyed a chequered history. During the French revolution, women wore red ribbons around their necks to pay homage to those meeting their deaths at the guillotine. In the 1860s, the choker was the uniform of prostitutes as illustrated in Manet’s celebrated 1863 painting, Olympia. Chokers later became markers of the elite with Alexandra, Princess of Wales, wrapping her neck in velvet and pearls to cover an unseemly scar. In the 90s, we adorned ourselves with the Tattoo choker and Rihanna regularly chooses to express her sex appeal by wearing one.
This January, chokers adorned the necks of Jean Paul Gaultier’s runway models. Brought sharply into 2014, Gabriella Parkes’ chokers, along with her pendants and rings are all scene-stealers for spring/summer 2014.
Prices on application – bespoke orders by personal appointment. www.gabriellaparkes.com.