Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The Fitzgerald family once owned the 12th century fortress Kilkea Castle, located in Ireland. It presently serves as a hotel; however, the structure is closely associated with one of the family's Earls, Gerald, whose fascination with alchemy earned him the reputation of being a wizard. Ireland is also the birthplace to featured jewelry designer Tom Binns.

Jewelry is most often purchased in celebration of something, an engagement, or an anniversary. Jewelry is often seen as an expression of joy.

However, designers like Stephen Webster (England), Hanna Hedman (Sweden), Delfina Delettrez Fendi (Italy), and Justin Giunta (USA) take daring approaches to their aesthetics creating highly provocative, unconventional pieces.

A graduate of London's Middlesex Polytechnic, Binns implements irregular combinations of materials and forms. Though the designer has jokingly stated he wanted to make jewelry "to meet girls," the 20th century anarchic style of the Dada Movement motivates his aggressive aesthetic.

His bold, haute couture collections, composed of 18-karat gold and rhodium plated sterling silver, and Crystallized Swarovski Elements, are vividly complex speaking to the designer's strong sense of individuality and fearlessness.

"In terms of usage within a design, I can treat diamonds with complete negligence, while making a piece of beach glass central to the design," he says.

"You are not dealing with reason, you are dealing with attitude. Even if jewelry is not made with gold and diamonds, it is a treasure. It should always have that sentiment."

Since the company's official launch in 2004, Binns' edgy yet stylish designs have adorned such women as Julia Ormond, Jessica Alba, and First Lady Michelle Obama. But the designer also has a sensitive side, as they say.

Such pieces as his 24-karat gold plated Faith in Fate Pendant, and his Raj Drop Necklace display his deft capacity for minimalism. At the same time, nonetheless, the safety pin that pierces the heart of his Faith in Fate Pendant instills an undercurrent of angst.

I like his inclusion of the safety pin, the uneasiness of it. For me, it is a metaphor of the makeshift ways incorporated to keep emotions under control while clinging to faith for a particular outcome. The insertion of the pin, a thoughtful detail, brings a different, weighty meaning to the heart symbol.

In addition to creating his personal collections, Disney approached the Irishman for a collaboration project: to create bijouterie inspired by Tim Burton's film Alice in Wonderland. Binns' unorthodox aesthetic was a perfect match to Burton's distinctive filmmaking style.

"Disney showed me some images and I let my imagination fly," says Binns. "My main focus was on the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the Tea Party, and the White and Red Queens. So I tried to create jewelry pieces that had the personality and nature of these five major points.

One of my favorite pieces is the Smashing Time Necklace, based on the tea party scene from the film. To make this piece I got teacups, and tiny knives and forks from dollhouses, and put them on a necklace.

The Red Queen is one of my favorite characters and the items I did for her were not sweet but dark. One necklace features hundreds and hundreds of little hearts that are just packed on. The idea for the arrangement is it figuratively suffocates the wearer."

The 2006 winner of CFDA's (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Accessory Designer of the Year award, Binns' audacious cyclical collections can be found at such high-end stores as Maxfield, Nieman Marcus, and Colette, and is sold at
Photo 1 (top right): Sparkling Jeweled Floral Cuff
Photo 2 (center): Alice in Wonderland-inspired 14-Karat Gold Keyhole Ring with Photo Inlay

Photo 3 (bottom left): Pearl and Swarovski Crystal Earrings
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