While other college students spent their summers goofing off, Jean Prounis, 29, was studying chain making, granulation, and bezel making. “I just fell in love with it,” she says, smiling. “I found it a very meditative process.”
For the New York–based Prounis, the muse can alight in strange places: The curved legs of a Greek funerary bench encountered in a museum in Pella, for example, inspired a pair of exquisite earrings of rock crystal and lapis—rendered, like all her work, in 22-karat gold—among her latest creations. (Grace Wales Bonner and Kaia Gerber are fans.) The Roz ring, this author’s favorite, offers a single stone sunk in a hammered frame.
“Everything is made with purpose, to be worn with purpose,” Prounis declares. Then again, she admits, “I do like to infuse some laughs.” She wiggles the looped bracelet on her wrist, confessing that its design was actually based on the colorful rubber bracelets she and her high school friends wore. “I haven’t taken it off.”
It was never Castro Smith’s plan to become a jeweler. He fell into it in London, where he learned engraving and the strict discipline of heraldic carving; he studied metalwork and patination in Japan. But when he began his signet ring business, also in London, “I didn’t want to follow the traditional ways,” Smith, 34, says. “I wanted to play around with ceramic, vitreous enamel, different patinas, and with the texture of the metal.”
His pieces are beautifully executed, but it is their subject matter—sometimes quirky, sometimes slightly spooky—that sets the work apart. An early ring he made for Dover Street Market features the image of a skull, purloined from instructions for paralyzing a foe. Another piece takes that most conventional of symbols, the heart, and shows it complete with pulsing arteries. He describes a ring he made memorializing a couple’s first date, a tiny piece of sushi engraved on the inside. “It’s their little secret.”
When Darius Khonsary was five, her Persian grandmother gave her a custom-made pendant that she describes as a “magic square.” It was the beginning of an intense love affair with jewelry. “It’s magic and history and my culture, all tied together,” says the LA-based
Khonsary’s work is both delicate and slightly rough-edged, with everything rendered in satin-finished 18-karat gold. (Zendaya is the proud owner of an exquisite custom diamond-and-sapphire necklace.) Her horoscope series breathes life into that hackneyed category; rings flaunt audacious color combos. The Sisters necklace is based on a motif from an ancient cylinder seal. If the roots are archaic, the result is wonderfully modern. Khonsary, among the first openly trans women working in fine jewelry, wants her creations to speak for themselves—“but there is no separation between my work and who I am.”