Italian artists are well known for combining their innovative ideas in design with traditional and timeless techniques that have been passed down from their ancestors.
Just take a stroll down a typical bustling street in any one of Italy’s major cities and you’ll find strings of characteristic stores with intricately handmade products: brightly colored ceramic dishes, delicately crafted gold jewelry and expertly stitched leather handbags all made by hand, all channeling the strong-rooted tradition of artisan crafts.
Tucked away in the heart of Milan is the shop and studio of James Rivière, Italian jewelry designer and goldsmith.
Rivière’s classic and timeless space in the famous Via Manzoni in Milan features his unique jewelry pieces along with several other prototypes found in prestigious museums around the world. Throughout the design world, he has become known as an artist who has a deep passion for creating eccentric and at times difficult jewelry.
“My jewelry is composed of strong pieces,” explains Rivière. “For those who want to distinguish themselves with a truly unique and distinctive piece, my jewelry takes center stage, it is made and meant specifically for that.”
For Rivière, the inspiration for such unique pieces starts with the materials and his own artistic imagination.
“Every piece of jewelry in my collection comes from an inspiration on how I can combine the materials, stones and metals so that they represent something original, something that, when put together, become worth more than the single stone or metal by itself.”
Not only does the inspiration come from the imaginative combinations of the materials but it also comes from Rivière’s personal experience.
“The name of each of my pieces was not chosen at random. They draw inspiration from a city, population, place in the world or natural elements like the pieces that make reference to the sun, moon and solar eclipse.”
Known for being an eclectic and original artist whose skills fall beyond a jewelry designer and goldsmith, James Rivière began his dynamic career at a very young age. Rising to fame over the years, his pieces have become permanent collections in world-renowned museums. One of his defining characteristics in his jewelry is the use of titanium polychrome.
“Throughout my career I’ve always tried to diversify my work in order to enrich the pieces I’ve created but also to experiment. In fact, it was an experiment with my friend, a chemist, that ended up leading to my titanium polychrome jewelry collection.”
It was with this collection and using this material that Rivière was able to distinguish himself and his pieces due to the natural color effects given off by the titanium polychrome. When it comes to the Rivière of today, contemporary is key.
“More than anything I like contemporary lines and bright colors that are representative of the Mediterranean like blue, orange, yellow and red. I also appreciate geometric forms. None of my collections follows the trends of the moment. For me, jewelry is a masterpiece and shouldn’t follow the current but should be created to be timeless, last forever.”
Rivière follows the classic goldsmith techniques like casting in cuttlefish bones and lost wax casting. He obtains the three-dimensional effects you see in his jewelry by pouring liquid metal into cuttlefish bone containers, a traditional and at times primitive method used for jewelry as it can withstand high temperatures and easily be carved.
In order to achieve the decorations and shapes that so uniquely define Rivière jewelry, he uses the technique of tracery, which consists of perforating and emptying a sheet to create the “chiaroscuro” (dark light) effect and also serves to make the jewelry more lightweight.
Finally, the engraving techniques used by Rivière give his jewelry a captivating personal touch and at the same time channels ancient Italian culture, as engraving techniques find their roots in Italian, especially Florentine history.
James Rivière owns a shop and studio in Via Manzoni in Milan and in addition to having his work on display in Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the Vatican Museums in Rome, he also collaborates with the Rome-based e-commerce boutique, Capolavori, Italy’s avant garde platform for Italian craftsmen to display and sell their work to those with an eye for handmade art all over the world.