Rapaport Magazine
Style & Design

Achieving transcendence

Spirituality is more than a motif for Ark Fine Jewelry designer Ann Korman; it’s a lifestyle.

By Rachel Taylor

Images: Ark Fine Jewelry.

Ann Korman is a deeply spiritual person. Unlike so many of the jewelers now turning to symbols of higher power just to stay with the zeitgeist, she is a true believer. In fact, her evolution to jewelry designer started with a bona fide guru.

After switching coasts from New York to Los Angeles 25 years ago, Korman — who had worked in editorial and styling before getting a master’s in art and becoming a painter — found herself drawn deeper into spirituality. She studied kabbalah, Buddhism and meditation, and became a qualified yoga teacher and nutritionist. During this journey of self-exploration, she met a self-proclaimed guru who would divert her destiny.

They connected over conversations about the divine feminine, and Korman decided to travel to India with him to broaden her understanding of meditation. “I loved it,” she recalls of her first six-week stint. “We were in Rishikesh, where the Beatles studied [transcendental meditation].”

While soaking up as much spiritual knowledge as she could, Korman also found herself exposed to India’s other famous export: jewelry. Her guru’s family was in the trade, and on discovering that Korman had a passion for jewels, he suggested that they team up to create a brand of yoga-inspired jewelry.

Like most stories that involve a guru, things did not end well. “He ended up not being a good guy, and ripping me off. My kids say it was the opposite of Eat, Pray, Love,” says Korman with a good-humored laugh that deflects the seriousness of her experience. Still, “it was a good life lesson; perhaps it was the life lesson I was supposed to learn.”

A divine debut

Back in Los Angeles, Korman took stock. “I had gone head deep, started learning how to manufacture, meeting as many people as I could,” she remembers. “I knew so much that my husband said: ‘Make lemonade out of lemons. Keep going.’”

And so she did, launching Ark Fine Jewelry in 2017. Rather than repackaging staid iconography as per her guru’s plan, Korman struck out in a new direction. Ark launched with luxurious one-off pieces that offered an abstract spirituality, one that would appeal as much to seasoned yogis as to those simply seeking a beautiful article of jewelry. Crafted in Los Angeles, her heavy gold rings with Shri Yantra engravings, her diamond-set pendulum lariats, and her moonstone rings had price tags ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.

After launching on Instagram, Ark was invited to showcase at the JA New York show in its debut year. Months later, the brand went on to win Texas jeweler Ylang 23’s TheNextNow competition for emerging designers, beating 32 fellow finalists. This forced Korman to get serious, developing line sheets and creating a more commercial offering.

“I did want to make myself accessible to a larger audience, with a price point that the younger girls doing yoga could buy,” she says. She moved her production from Los Angeles to a network of ateliers in New York, Hong Kong and Thailand during the pandemic, and it is now possible to pick up a pair of 18-karat gold Ark earrings for $650.

Ark is currently represented by the For Future Reference agency and is available at stores including Twist in Portland, Oregon, The Vault in Nantucket, Massachusetts, Reinhold in Puerto Rico, and Broken English in New York and Los Angeles. One of the latest to stock her jewelry is philanthropic online retailer Olivela, which donates 20% of all sales to its partner charities — a policy that resonates with Ark.

“I’m not a designer who wants to be in a lot of stores,” says Korman. “I want to be in a tight group that really supports me as an artist and knows that I’m growing and my vision is growing.” What she would like is a geographically balanced spread of stores carrying her products across the US, and she hopes one day to expand into Europe.

Making dreams a reality

After a debut that offered something different and unknown, Korman now finds herself in a marketplace where fine jewels with spiritual symbolism are highly commercial. She hopes her abstract take on such symbolism (“If you’re going to do a Ganesha, don’t just do a Ganesha”) will allow her to transcend this fad and stay a few steps ahead of the growing competition.

Her latest collection, Dreamscapes, which launched at the Couture show last year, is a good example of this offbeat approach. Tantric sacred geometry provides the inspiration for the delicate gold frameworks she’s filled with purposely bright yet softly translucent plique-à-jour enamel — a look that works wonderfully for earrings.

She created the collection as a contrast to the heaviness that had entered our lives during Covid-19; she yearned for something light and colorful, and took inspiration from the stained glass that so often features in spiritual buildings. The technique, which took two years to perfect, also reminds her of the watercolor meditation she does each morning, blowing paint across paper to center her mind.

For others, of course, Dreamscapes may simply be an upliftingly chromatic line of fine jewels with a great price point (from $1,000), rather than a spiritual experience. But it can be both, and that is its charm.

Following its positive reception, Korman intends to expand on Dreamscapes. She also has plans to revive the one-off luxury designs and bespoke commissions that first jettisoned her into the spotlight, as well as some more experimental work that she hopes to debut at Couture this year.

While she recalls how unprepared she was for her brand’s swift acceleration when she was first starting out, the designer is finding new confidence. “I’m really looking forward to expanding my business. I’m wearing my yellow sapphire for expansion,” she laughs, referring to the Indian tradition of wielding certain gems to help achieve life goals. She is at last finding her voice, she says, and the authenticity of that voice is what she hopes will protect Ark from getting lost in the now-crowded spiritual-jewelry market. In that sense, it seems that Korman is her own talisman.


Article from the Rapaport Magazine - February 2022. To subscribe click here.

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