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U.S. Protagonists event: High Jewellery Talents Revealed

Eight Jewellery 'Protagonists' Show Their Artistic Genius in High Jewellery

U.S. Protagonists: an exclusive event showcasing a selection of the best contemporary fine jewellery designers in the U.S., organised by Vogue Gioiello in partnership with Bonhams‘ international jewellery department. A glimpse on American design genius, for both established and emerging talents.

More than 300 guests from all the backgrounds (media, dealers, connoisseurs, collectionneurs, and bloggers like me) gathered at Bonhams for a cocktail reception, to admire these eight outstanding talents who represent today the excellency in jewellery art and craftsmanship.

A night where to feel the inspiration, touch the creations and breath the art informing these one-of-a-kind pieces. Here is a video released by Vogue Gioiello on highlighting the evening’s mood and energy – and where I had the honour of being featured, amongst all these great artists.

In the words of Susan Abele, Jewellery Director USA at Bonhams:

“These are jewellers of the 21st Century,” she said. “It’s your responsibility to meet them, to hear their story, to find their inspiration, and to touch the jewelry—pick it up, try it on. To understand what the artist was trying to do…. Pick out what you like. There’s something in every taste and for everyone.”

The eight talents were: Alex Soldier, Alexandra Mor, Heidi Gardner NYC, Hoorsenbuhs, K. Brunini Jewels, Suzanne Kalan, Sylva & Cie and Temple St. Clair.

Alex Soldier, a self-taught jeweller, and a former engineer, applies a technical approach to his work, which results in extreme attention to details, and in true miniature sculptures in jewellery.

He is actually renowned for his capability of engraving metal, by using tools and techniques of his invention, to make it look just like fabric. What I found quite astonishing, although far from my personal taste, is his capability of creating unique sculptural jewels composed by several and often moving parts, perfectly fitting together to form a complex world which is up to you to interpret and decode. Stylized shapes and elements from the natural world around us: all build up to Mr Soldier’s dreamy universe.

In 1997 Alex Soldier was commissioned by the Russian World Gallery to create a special gift for one of the greatest cellists and conductors of the twentieth century, Mstislav L. Rostropovich for his 70th birthday. The statuette consists of 35 separate parts of gold and platinum with rubies, sapphires, diamonds and pearls. A removable ruby ring completes the masterwork as its 35th component.
Haute Couture creation by Alex Soldier.
Alex Soldier at US Protagonists. Image courtesy of Bonhams.
Alex Soldier at US Protagonists. Image courtesy of Bonhams.


Alexandra Mor is by far my favourite among these eight artists, and one of my favourite jewellery designers overall. I just feel her creations, and this goes beyond technicalities, or gemstones, or settings.

What I especially love about her jewels is that they are indeed bolt statement pieces, but at the same time they always maintain great elegance and sophistication. Also, Mrs Mor’s creative impulse and soul are palpably present in her pieces, which thus become truly unique and endowed with a personality in their own right.

Alexandra Mor at US Protagonists
Alexandra Mor at US Protagonists. Image courtesy of Bonhams.
Alexandra Mor Andean Blue Opal and Diamond Ring
The superb Andean Blue Opal and Diamond Ring Alexandra Mor wore at US Protagonists.


Heidi Gardner describes her work as “dangerous and delicate” and for good reason. In her own words:

“Each of my creations has its own biography – a backstory that touches on love, sadness, happiness and humor. It begins with the idea of a creature. It’s my desire that people connect with my creatures and that these creatures provide them with strength, comfort, and happiness when they need it.”

heidi gardner at the event
Heidi Gardner showcasing her creations at US Protagonists. Image courtesy of Bonhams.
Heidi Gardner jewels
Heidi Gardner’s jewels at US Protagonists event. Image courtesy of Bonhams.


Hoorsenbuhs, founded by another self-taught designer, Robert Keith in 2005, specializes in fashion-forward hand-made luxury gold jewels. The company is best-known for its tri-link rings and its partnerships with a number of celebrities.




Katey Brunini of K. Brunini Jewels takes inspiration from the primitive to the modern and uses materials one would never associate with jewellery, such as cow bones, which she fashioned into large, milky white flower brooches that she wore at the event.

A multi-layered personality, Katey Brunini infuses her pieces with her travelling experiences, her spiritual moments and with the inspiration she finds in Nature. With Ms. Brunini, the primitive acquires a modern splendour and preciousness – faceted and uncut gems, precious metals bound together with wood and bones, all give life to powerful shapes which bear the distinctive signs of Sicilian’s goldsmithing traditions and of the island’s rough landscapes.

Katey Brunini at Us Protagonists. Image courtesy of Bonhams.
Brunini 2
An admirer trying on Brunini’s jewels at US Protagonists. Image courtesy of Bonhams.


A true eye-catcher, Sylva & Cie’s creations are something special in the way they successfully manage to combine vintage allure (found in the use of ad hoc alloys, soft-colorer diamonds and the presence of those same pieces Sylvia herself has been collecting) with a contemporary feel, accented by a “rock ’n roll” flair that, in turn, is but the flamboyant interpretation of Art Deco in a contemporary way.

Sylva & Cie
Sylva & Cie at US Protagonists. Image courtesy of Bonhams.


I have been following Suzanne Kalan on Instagram for quite some time now but, out of this group, she has proven to be a new discovery. Both Suzanne Kalandjian and her daughter, Patile, are well known for their “Fireworks” collection, my all-time favourite, which features baguette-cut diamonds placed scattered in the jewel, sometimes paired with coloured gemstones, and sometimes not. A sparkling and harmonious chaos.

Temple St. Clair found her passion for creative expression in gold and precious gemstones over 30 years ago. St Clair founded her company in Florence, Italy, beginning her partnership with the world’s finest goldsmiths – the centuries-old Florentine jewellers’ guild.

“I have a strong appreciation for the ancient practices that goldsmith use. techniques and tools have been handed down through generations, and it imbues each object they make with the weight of history”.

Barneys New York inaugurated their fine jewellery department with St. Clair’s first collection in 1986. In 2016, Temple St. Clair was awarded the GEM Award for Jewellery Design, the jewellery industry’s most prestigious honour.

temple st clair
Temple St. Clair at US Protagonists. Image courtesy of Bonhams.

A dazzling ensemble of talented artists, who will not fail to surprise us with their creations. Until the next U.S. Protagonists event. CC

Post edited by Claudia Carletti, Jewellery Through Time. Credits to Vogue Gioiello for the designers’ profiles, and to Bonhams for the pictures taken at the event.

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