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Ming Lampson is one of the new names in this year’s  Designer Vivarium, presenting the work of individual, independent designer-jewellers from around the world. Based in London, Ming was born in Hong Kong – hence her name – and drawn to gemstones from an early age, as so many of the designers were, she went on to study gemmology and learn about stones in Jaipur. She set up her own business, in 1998, as a bespoke jeweller, only working on commission, but in the last few years she has created two collections, both inspired by the East, by Asia and her roots. 

 

The first collection, Oriental Garden, was conjured from Ming’s personal fantasy of an Asian garden, stylized, manicured, filled with fragrant, exotic plants and alive with winged creatures. The designs, as always with Ming’s work were highly stylized, abstracted, evoking emotions rather than depicting realistic images, a pool of lapis in which floats a single green tourmaline, representing a lotus leaf, a caterpillar translated into a ripple of emeralds encased in rose gold, an opal dragonfly ring with openwork wings wrapping the finger. Her second collection, Reverence for Nature, revolves around the Japanese preoccupation with the seasons. Ming explains, “I wanted to capture something fleeting in materials that last forever”. Again the designs are stylized, and gemstones are the focal point of each jewel; blossoms, for spring, a rendition of the traditional ‘Mons’ style flowers, in lace-like diamonds on ring; wintry aquamarine ice flowers, cold, sleek and sharp shards of ice; ripe, succulent berries for autumn, vibrant turquoise flowers for summer. She says she has explored the stones, their colours and associations, and pushed herself to technical challenges, in the construction of the jewels, bringing fluidity, and a strong sculptural quality, particularly for her earrings in which she experiments with line and form, “dressing the ear”, blending the classicism of the subject with a very modern edge. Each jewel is one of a kind, and all are hand-made in Ming’s atelier in London.

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Three decades after Donna and Alex Vock, of ProVockative Gems, New York, launched their business in 1990, they have become leading international dealers, with a magnificent inventory of signed ‘legacy’ jewellery, mostly 20th century, natural ‘pedigree’ gemstones and natural pearls. 

Alex’s expertise and reputation are such that he often advises governments and museums around the world. While Donna also operates a consultancy business, Donna Vock Design.  Donna tells how she was a geology graduate working in the retail jewellery business, just to earn some money, she says, when she met Alex, who had learnt about pearls from his uncle, Salvador Assael, and about diamonds at Lazare Kaplan and who was working for the same retailer, to gain experience. 

She explains that they share a deep intellectual curiosity about gemstones, natural pearls and gemstones. “What makes our business so special,” she adds, “is its complex mix of science, art, history, geopolitics. They are so many layers and interwoven subjects.”

Some 85% of ProVockative Gems’ business is wholesale, selling to the trade, to retail stores, while in her design consultancy, Donna Vock Design, she also deals with private clients. Through the ProVockative Gems customers, retail jewellery stores who often branch into selling vintage jewellery, she notices how young people are increasingly interested in vintage jewellery, “they are eager to understand the stories behind the jewellery.” The same is true for natural pearls, she feels. “There is a new level of awareness of natural pearls versus cultured pearls,” and appreciation of their extreme rarity, and beauty, especially at this time when global warming is having an adverse effect on the oceans and on the lustre of pearls.

Donna Vock talks authoritatively on gems and jewels, the art and science as she gives us a guided tour through the panoply of jewels on offer, so extensive, and diverse in age and style, but all connected by a focus on superb quality, fine materials, a certain distinguished style and presence. There are trays of Art Deco diamond bracelets, several by Cartier, a pair of natural pearl earrings by Boivin, 1935, 1950s jewels by Schlumberger for Tiffany, and an eclectic choice of more contemporary creations, from the 70s to the present day, including for instance a 2009 mother-of-pearl necklace by Bulgari. As well as modern jewels designed by Donna herself; she shows her signature natural pearl and pink and white diamond tassel earrings, the tassels detachable, converting to stud earrings. Her enthusiasm and passion are infectious. She says: “It’s a long road, but people who love jewellery and gems have a real passion. They stick with it”.

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