Diamond Designs

A shining example of contemporary diamond jewelry at the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum.

poster for

"A Night at the Opera" Exhibition

at Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum
in the Shinjuku area
This event has ended - (2008-01-25 - 2008-03-15)

In Reviews by Rebecca Milner 2008-02-19

Diamonds, with their extravagant opulence and dark origins, have long been a topic of controversy and intrigue. That the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum’s exhibition of award-winning contemporary diamond jewelry is as high on original design as it is on glitz is not.

Every two years, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre sponsors the HRD awards for creativity in diamond jewelry design, considered by industry specialists to be the most prestigious award in the field. The most recent edition attracted over 1,000 entries that were eventually whittled down to 38 — those now on display — based on the designers’ ability to incorporate both the natural beauty of the precious stones and the theme “A night at the opera.”

Hitomi Sasaki, 'Chrysanthemum' (Japan. 33.35ct.)

Naturally opera’s grandeur and theatricality make a fitting inspiration for jewelry creation, though among the winning entries the theme was widely interpreted. Pieces invoked everything from the steps leading into the famous Paris Opera house to the red lanterns that decorate opera houses in China, Mozart’s Magic Flute to the exoticism of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, corsets and curtains.

The highest accolades went to Alina Alomorean-Sossou of France for her Cape Indomptable, a glittering structure that invoked the caped woman of days past entering the opera house. Created from light galvanized iron wire and covered with a shower of 574 rough diamonds — rough cubes, polished cubes and pumpkin shapes — totaled an impressive 983,57 carats. The glitter and caratage of this, and other pieces, while certainly impressive, played a surprising second fiddle to the innovative creations, which incorporated a variety of materials, including the aforementioned iron wire, as well as velvet, silk flowers, plastic and gold.

Alina Alamorean-Sossou, 'La cape indomptable' (France. 983.57ct.)

Material manifestation of opera’s legendary soprano evoked her volume—both aurally and visually—as a few pieces referenced both the breasts and bustles of the leading lady in addition to her big voice, which was unanimously colored red by the jewelry designers. While almost all pieces used the women of the opera as inspiration, Belgian designer Anouck Van Puyvelde gets a special mention for being the only creator to recognize the male element. His piece, featuring two diamond-studded balls enclosed in a cage to be dangled from a silk ribbon on the wrist, is a tribute to Farinelli, one of opera’s most famous castrati.

The Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum has added its own touch with dresses designed both for the opera stage and the stands from the museum’s collection. On the second floor, the display begins with delicate lace dresses and heavy velvet cloaks from the turn of the last century, continues through the dropped waists and beaded bodices of the art deco period and the strapless hourglass glamour of the 1950s and finishes with custom designed ball gowns worn by Princess Diana in the late 1980s.

With the vintage look of these dresses and the contemporary gleam of the jewelry displayed on the floor below it is hard to imagine the two being worn together, though I am sure I am not the only one who relishes the opportunity to imagine dressing up for days gone by. The centerpiece gown, a Balmain from the 1950s, only enhanced the general ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ feel that a solitary weekday morning visit to the exhibition exuded.

Diamonds have become the unfortunate subject of many clichés, and it is certainly tempting to call the exhibition a “diamond in the rough” of Shinjuku’s gray expanse. Fortunately for the viewers however, the exhibition deals in neither clichés nor obvious opulence but rather in innovative, eye-catching, decorative design.

Rebecca Milner

Rebecca Milner. Born in San Diego, California in 1980, Rebecca studied modern English, French, and Spanish literature at Stanford University. She now works as a freelance fashion writer and trend scout, as well as doing occasional work as an interpreter, English teacher, and bar hostess. Happily infatuated with the mundane, she relishes making coffee, reading the newspaper, grocery shopping, and riding her bicycle. She is obsessed with all things urban, is an ambitious collector of magazines, makes terrible pottery, prefers graffiti to commissioned sculptures, has an unusual affinity for typefaces, and totally digs performance art. » See other writings

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