I recently spoke with Nancy Alexander, founder of Terrene Jewelry, to find out about Terrene and how Nancy finds some of the stunning jewelry she offers there. Terrene features unique hand-crafted artisanal jewelry from around the world.
How did you come to develop your philosophy that 'jewelry should be art'?
I think that like you, I see jewelry as an expression of individuality and creativity – both by the maker and the wearer. Stuff that’s mass-produced and generic can be lovely, but it says nothing about a woman except for where she shops. To me the most appealing jewelry has more layers – emotional, cultural or even historic references that make it worth contemplating and discussing – like any other kind of art.
On your website you say that you didn't wear much jewelry unless it was an unusual piece from places outside the U.S., like Guatemala, Russia, etc. What is it about jewelry made in other countries that has attracted (and still attracts) you?
I just love jewelry that has a story behind it. For example, many international designers I work with combine centuries-old traditions with fresh ideas. In the material or the technique, they often maintain a thread of their heritage in what they do. Or some have or had other lives - as architects, sculptors, school teachers – you name it. Their jewelry often reflects that. And of course, I love to travel, so wearing a piece from a special place I’ve discovered keeps that adventure with me. Any piece that has a tale to tell or a journey to recount – that’s beautiful to me.
Suwanee and Somchok of Thailand: Lolite and garnet cuff with woven sterling silver. Hand weaving and stone setting takes ten hours.
How did you get the idea for Terrene Jewelry?
I visited Thailand in 2007 and went to a jewelry show in Bangkok. I noticed a lot of small design houses displaying unique workmanship and was particularly moved by one sterling silver cuff that took ten hours to produce. All that work for one piece! It really caught my imagination, and I wanted to bring special jewelry like that back home.
What does 'Terrene' mean to you?
The definition of Terrene is “pertaining to the earth; earthly, terrestrial, worldly.” It’s a little bit about being a global company, but it’s also about how this jewelry is produced. It comes from people’s hands and hearts, not a factory.
How do you decide which countries to visit to find new artists?
I travel when I can, but I also conduct a lot of research online, locating interesting pieces and designers. And of course, there are designers who reach out to us. We recently located a few designers in South Korea who display their work with art galleries, and we hope to work with them.
Maria Jose of Portugal: Ring with deep golden citrine stone and hand-worked silver.
Is there one country or artist whose jewelry is most exciting to you right now?
There are so many! Turkish designer Sura Jewelry is always a favorite, as are the designs by the Polish designers of Mysterium Collection. Any day now, we’re expecting the Song Dok cuff in sterling silver from Gavang of Thailand, who never disappoints.
What kind of jewelry do you wear on a daily basis? Do you rotate or wear favorite pieces every day (like I do!).
I tend to keep it simple, wearing something that reflects my mood. People often comment that for someone who does jewelry for a living, I’m not overly adorned!
What new things might we see from Terrene this year?
This year we plan to work with two designers in Argentina. And in the late fall, we are travelling to Eastern Europe to meet with jewelry and handbag artists. But the best part of doing this for a living is finding something fabulous when you least expect it, so who knows!
I'm so impressed with the range of traditions and styles that Nancy finds from around the world. Many thanks to Nancy Alexander for sharing her insights with us.
You can go to Terrene Jewelry to see more.