Both my grandmothers taught me the value of craftsmanship. They were incredibly strong creative influences.
One of Brazil's hottest jewelry designers talks crystals, crochet, and creative collaboration.
“Glamorous meets edgy" is how Claudia Arbex describes her jewelry. "I'm inspired by strong women who have made a mark on society: Princess Diana and Miuccia Prada are two names that spring to mind. And also fashion visionaries like style blogger Miroslava Duma."
But the Brazilian designer's earliest influences were closer to home. Like many women of their generation, both Claudia's grandmothers were skilled at knitting and crochet. "They taught me the value of craftsmanship," she says. "They were incredibly strong creative influences."
After graduating from fashion college, Claudia's first job was with Rose Benedetti, a pioneer of fashion jewelry in Brazil. A spell with luxe designer Serpui Marie followed, where she learned about working with precious materials and different finishing techniques.
Brimming with ideas and keen to develop her own creations, Claudia used her savings to produce designs under her own name. She took them to a trade fair, and since then has never looked back. Twelve years on, she's an internationally renowned brand.
Crystal is an important part of her work. "It's not just because the cuts, the colors, and the effects are stunning in themselves," she explains. "The psychology of crystal is something special. I find the idea that crystals have positive energy and are supposed to have a purifying effect on the soul very appealing."
Claudia's mastery of her materials is jaw-dropping. Some of her statement pieces are extraordinarily intricate: collars with dense layers of crystal that resemble plumage, or necklaces where seed pearls are sinuously interwoven with crystal mesh. Other designs, such as her cuffs and bangles, are bold and architectural.
While the vision is distinctly Claudia's, the design process is highly collaborative. "I work very closely with my team of three," she says. "One takes care of the planning and technical approval. Another interprets my ideas and turns them into sketches; the third brings everything together and turns it into a prototype. But I'm involved in 100% of the design process, from the message and meaning, to the materials, stones, and colors of each piece. It all begins and ends with me."