Heavy Metals By The Luxury Channel

The new titanium jewellery collection designed by Solange Azagury-Partridge for American Express is revealed….

Heavy Metal

American Express sought out acclaimed jewellery designer Solange Azagury-Partridge when they commissioned a special collection to celebrate their new Titanium card. Azagury-Partridge’s pieces adorn the necks of celebrities and fashion icons worldwide, but she has always wanted to work with the notoriously difficult metal titanium. She spoke with The Luxury Channel about the strong and versatile collection she calls “Black Rainbows”, and her collaboration with American Express.

What was different about working with titanium?

Titanium is very unforgiving – it is not a metal you that can patch up, you can’t solder anything onto it and you can’t repair any mistakes. If you’re working with titanium and you make a mistake when you are setting the very last stone, you have to throw it away and start again. It is very labour-intensive. I kind of liken it to the days when you had a typewriter and made a mistake at “Yours Sincerely” and you had to start all over again.

You don’t seem to choose conventional materials or methods – why is that?

I want to explore all methods and all materials that exist in jewellery. Many have died out but some of these skills do still exist – like enamellers, there are not many people who can do great enamelling. I make it as difficult for myself as I can – I could make it easier for myself but it wouldn’t be interesting. I try my hardest not to make things that have existed before.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I had always had a bit of a creative angle to me, but I never really expressed it until I left college, having done a language degree. I started working for a jewellery dealer, kind of 20th century fine art jewellery, and I got to see the most incredible pieces by Cartier, Van Cleef and Bouchon from the 1920s, 30s and 40s. They really fascinated me and when I got engaged, I designed my own engagement ring. The ring was a big dome of gold with an un-cut diamond growing out of it, very organic, quite a dull diamond but a perfect octahedron. My last collection was called Platonic – The Truth and Beauty of Mathematics, because one of the mathematical shapes in nature is an octahedron.

How did you create the Black Rainbows collection?

By marrying a theme and a concept to a method of manufacturing. I discovered a lot about titanium this time. It was named after the Greek god Titan and the planet Titus. I also found out that star sapphires – which are the stones that I’ve used here as well as diamonds – have a star effect, called asterism. It’s created by titanium particles in the stone. That’s why I chose star sapphires; it is not a random selection. I suppose that’s where these mini planets come from, you have craters and rocks, and the rocks are diamonds. Two of my pieces are named for Titans, Cronus and Gaia, and Xanadu is an area on Titan; I think it might even be a crater. The rainbow is based on the colour-changing effect of titanium that I wanted to explore by using all these different coloured stones.

How long does the whole process take?

It’s like having a baby, it’s about a 10 month gestation period in all from conception to birth, maybe longer. I start by making sketches, getting the concept down on paper, writing down the ideas, doing some shapes and then getting them done either graphically on the computer or by hand with an illustrator. Then we decide who the best jeweller is to work with. This time I was with Francis Mertens in Antwerp. We had quite an involved meeting with them to make sure they understand what we like and then leave it to their great skill, really.

Are you pleased with the results?

Yes, the collection is amazing, beautiful. My favourite piece is the black rainbow cuff; it has the most colour in it. It is quite joyful.

American Express Centurion commissioned this collection to celebrate the launch of their Titanium card. How many pieces will you make?

The card is only available to a very small group of people. We will make as many as we can – but they are all handmade, they are all individually made to order. If it doesn’t fit you, they will be made to fit you.