Passion for the arts runs deep in the sap on both sides of Ariane Zurcher's family tree: her maternal grandparents, Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, spearheaded Aspen, Colorado's development and founded its cultural underpinnings (the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Aspen Design Conference), while her Swiss father was curator of pre-Columbian and African art at Stanford University. So it's no surprise that when Zurcher turned her hand to designing and making jewelry, much of her inspiration came from years spent absorbing art's resonance throughout human history and across cultures.
It's also immediately apparent in the way she talks about the collection. The pieces may bear her name, but, despite her training and skill (she's a true bench jeweler who can shepherd a design from wax model to finished product), she seems to think less about her part in their creation and more about the raw materials, the civilizations, and the artists that inspire her.
For example, there are gorgeous rubellite-and-diamond earrings with removable indicolite tourmaline drops, that might have been discovered in King Tut's tomb; bold rings with a faceted amethyst, rubellite or star sapphire mounted in large, 18k brushed gold "pre-Columbian" bowls (some with raised scrolls that hint at Calder's squiggles); a blunt "Brancusi" necklace of big gold beads interspersed with mixed beryls; and the Samadhi group, based on intricately-linked gold discs (like Japanese rock gardens) that are punctuated by candy-colored stones.
This January, the Fashion Group International annointed Zurcher a "Rising Star of 2009" in the category of fine jewelry. Visit her website to see more of her work, plus a schedule of trunk shows (there's one in New York on Friday, March 6, followed by visits to Aspen, Tulsa, and Washington, D.C.). Just think of it as the perfect guided tour: shopping and cultural outing, all in one.