Rapaport Magazine

Earthly Delights

Irthly Jewelled Adornments redefines the meaning of precious.

By Amber Michelle

Pendant from the Cardinal collection.
Gold, silver, platinum, diamonds and gemstones…we all know they are precious. When designer David Alvarado launched his company Irthly Jewelled Adornments in October of 2012, he had a mission to change the way others view what is precious. 
   “I wanted to reassess what is valuable and introduce new elements as precious. I believe that the notion of precious is undergoing a revaluation. I want to be part of that process by introducing elements of the environment that are often taken for granted, but play a crucial role in the ecosystem, into precious jewelry,” says Alvarado, who got his master’s degree in comparative philosophy from San Diego State University and draws upon that background for inspiration. “I wanted to create something that is nurturing. The womb is nurturing, so I needed to find something that represents the womb. I found the Tagua Nut.”

The Seed
   Alvarado uses the Tagua Nut as the primary element in his designs, which incorporate precious metals, diamonds and colored gems. The Tagua Nut, also known as vegetable ivory, is actually a seed from a palm tree found in the rain forests of Panama, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Alvarado sources his Tagua Nuts in Ecuador, where they are harvested by vendors who are members of the Fair Trade Federation and are Green America approved. This ensures that purchase of the Tagua Nuts benefits the local people and economy. The Tagua Nut is extremely hard, can be carved and is strong enough to stand up to a lot of wear. When the nut is peeled, it is a creamy white color and lightweight, with a natural graining similar to ivory.
   “My use of seeds in jewelry is intended to raise awareness of the value of seeds, both because they are necessary and opulent, as well as rare and controlled,” notes Alvarado, who debuted his company at the JA New York Summer Show and won Runner-Up honors in the 2013 American Jewelry Design Council’s (AJDC) New Talent Awards. He has also won an MJSAVision Award.
   In order to be used in Irthly Jewelled Adornments, the Tagua Nut goes through an extensive refining process. First the nut is sliced in the direction that makes the most use of the material. Once the nut is open, the perfect nut for jewelry must be found — some of the nuts are not pure white, or they have too much graining, gaps and cracks. Likening it to buying diamonds, Alvarado searches for the nuts with the purest color, beautiful grain and without cracks or holes.
   Once the nut is selected, it is shaped and cut to the specifications of the design and then polished to give it a shine. Next the nut is fitted with recycled gold or other metals and set with conflict-free diamonds or fair trade colored gemstones using lasers, advanced casting and other high-tech machinery combined with hand craftsmanship. The jewelry is all made by skilled jewelers in Los Angeles, California.
   Working with the Tagua Nut is challenging as it is affected by heat and Alvarado’s standards are exacting. Alvarado’s father Noe Alvarado is a master jeweler and taught his son the trade. “I want to make sure that each piece is enduring. I wanted the metals integrated into the nut, and the diamonds too. We don’t use glue to hold the metal to the nut and that is a big challenge,” explains Alvarado, who notes that the Tagua Nut should be cared for in the same way as pearls, opals or emeralds.

Meaningful Look
   The design aesthetic that Alvarado brings to Irthly Jewelled Adornments starts with basics and moves to the more complex as he introduces different techniques and elements to his creations.
   “The Art Deco period is a favorite era of mine for its design and architecture. It was an era that introduced new technology and new places in the world. The world became more interconnected. There were a lot of different materials, ideas, cultures and technologies being introduced,” notes Alvarado. “Now I want to introduce the idea, and awareness of, other elements and materials as fine. I want the symbolism of something that affects the world in a karmic sense.”
   Drawing upon his background in philosophy, Alvarado has created each collection within the line to have a specific meaning. Cycles is about blending opposites in interplay. Affinity is vintage inspired and romantic. Parallel is all about balance and the pieces juxtapose finishes and draw upon Art Deco for inspiration. Return is about returning to the root of the earth, Nurture highlights the four Ps — produce, provide, parent and protect. It is the signature collection of the line as it captures the inspiration of origins and symbolizes the womb. The Cardinal collection points people on their life paths.
   “At Irthly, our purpose is to elevate and promote elements and concepts of our world that are just as valuable and precious as fine jewelry. We stand firmly on the notion that fine jewelry and ‘the precious’ in general can be reconstituted to celebrate other precious organic elements and notions,” concludes Alvarado. “We are proud members of this wonderful community of fine jewelry craftsmen who utilize and showcase diamonds, metals and other precious gems. We want to add other elements to this elegant mix of materials that are just as precious.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - October 2013. To subscribe click here.

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