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Sotheby’s Open History-Making Exhibition Of Black Jewelry Designers

Sotheby’s Open History-Making Exhibition Of Black Jewelry Designers


Over the past few years, fashion houses have celebrated the under-appreciated work of artists and designers of color across disciplines, yet there remained a noticeable absence of exhibitions featuring contemporary Black jewelry designers—that is, until now. This week, Sotheby’s New York unveils Brilliant and Black: A Jewelry Renaissance, the first-selling exhibit of its kind featuring Black designers.

On Friday, September 17, the international auction house will premiere the first exhibition exclusively featuring Black jewelry designers, followed by a sale that runs in person and online until October 10. The sale will be a long overdue history-making moment for the industry, elevating 21 Black jewelry designers to a global stage for the first time. The exhibition features 63 works, including both designers’ signature pieces and custom creations for the exhibition, that showcase their different styles and techniques. The exhibits are remarkably diverse in style, artistry, and price points, with pieces starting at $1,500 and going up to $1 million for Maggi Simpkin’s pink diamond ring.

Picture of the Maggi Simpkins’ $1 million dollar pink diamond | Photo: Karla Ticas

Exhibit designers include the top contemporary Black jewelry makers, as well as the historic jewelers Art Smith and Winifred Mason Chenette. Artists include Harwell Godfrey, Shola Branson, Winifred Mason Chenet, Lorraine West, Marei New York, Mateo New York, Lola Fenhirst, Jariet Oloyé, Maggi Simpkins and Shola Branson.

The exhibition is the brainchild of London-based Black jewelry author, editor, and stylist Melanie Grant, who specializes in luxury with a focus on jewelry and was galvanized by the Black Lives Matter movement to find a way to make a difference in the jewelry world. She decided it was time that the often-overlooked Black talent had a forum. “Suddenly, we were talking about things that we never spoke about publicly, like how hard it can be and the barriers we faced as people of color,” she says.

Grant’s goal was to amplify talented Black designers—those creating artistic, limited-edition, and one-of-a-kind pieces—and to tell their stories in the same way that fine artists are introduced in galleries and at auctions. She brought the idea to Sotheby’s director of jewelry Frank Everett, who championed the effort without hesitation.

Photo: Sothebys | Instagram

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