I recently had the distinct pleasure of meeting designer Paul Morelli and viewing his latest collection at a Neiman Marcus trunk show. Although I was somewhat familiar with his work, experiencing an entire selection of the jewelry first-hand was astonishing. Of course I was prepared for beauty of his creations, the high quality of the gemstones featured in each piece, and their exceptional craftsmanship, but I was astounded by the diversity of design.
Usually a designer is known for one or two areas of expertise. Such-and-such jeweler is known for his use of colored gemstones and perhaps his variations on a theme, but many times that's the end of the story. Others may have a look that they have created, using specific combinations of precious metals, and then it is tweaked endlessly until it no longer feels fresh. Still others get into jewelry design through a particular niche or concept, then once that is established, try to broaden their scope, often with limited success.
Paul Morelli seems to be the antithesis of this. I've never seen such range, but most importantly, I've never seen it all done well. How does one person come up with endlessly appealing concepts, using such varied precious materials, and keep it looking new, exciting, and so desirable?
The self-effacing Morelli can't explain it. It's just the way he is. The ideas never stop coming. He says he had no formal training in the fine jewelry business, so when he imagines a concept, he doesn't necessary follow whatever traditional rules there may exist to create it.
That's how his understated, golden Spiral Mesh collection came to be. Fine matte gold earrings that "read" as gold were filled with diamonds set from the rear, so that they sparkle subtly after the impact of the first glance. No one had set diamonds in this manner previously, so Paul just did what he imagined, with enchanting results.
His whimsical Confetti collection plays out in white diamonds set in various colors of gold, and a black/pink/yellow diamond colorway in black gold, so why not reimagine the entire concept in super-lustrous, small, perfect, white pearls, and then supersize some of the earrings for maximum drama, and make a statement version of the necklace, but also create smaller, playful, chic versions of earrings for every day? The variations seems endless, and each as special as the next.
"Did you see the purple spinels?" he asked, quietly excited about a collection of magnificent rings, each designed specifically for a super-bright gemstone. He obviously loved them all, as jewelers will do. With a look that definitely wasn't amethyst, nor purple sapphire, they glinted enticingly from the case. Although these were more traditional pieces of fine jewelry, the designs were still fresh and new, with none of the stodginess that sometimes accompanies rare gems.
"I've never seen someone's work that is so diverse yet consistently beautiful," I gushed, only to receive a smile and a simple "thank you." I guess when you've heard compliments like this for almost 30 years, it would be easy to expect them, but this gracious, talented gentleman seemed genuinely pleased that someone appreciated his work. I look forward to seeing all of his yet-to-be-imagined jewels in the seasons ahead.