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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with jewellery designer and gemologist expert Milena Kovanovic

Jewellery designer Milena Kovanovic tells me about her inspiration from the depths of the ocean, and shares some unusual facts about gems.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Milena Kovanovic by Laura Hickman
Milena Kovanovic by Laura Hickman.

I was blown away by the unusual jewels of Milena Kovanovic when I first discovered her at The Craft Market last year, curated by Megan Taylor as part of Tent London during the 2012 London Design Festival. It’s taken me awhile to catch up with this Central Saint Martins graduate, gemologist and self confessed hoarder, who explores ideas of science and antiquity to create her unique designs – but I didn’t forget her. Her new Ursula’s Hoard Collection features rough precious gems such as Lapis Lazuli, Carnelian and Baroque Pearls set in swathes of bubbled gold, all inspired by the potential spoils of a sunken galleon: forgotten gems that Milena Kovanovic imagines lie encrusted in coral reefs on the depths of the ocean floor. Customers with a very healthy budget can commission from her high end Luxe Reef collection, featuring even more exotic jewels. I spoke to Milena about her inspiration, design process and knowledge as a qualified gemologist.

Tent London Oct 2012-Milena Kovanovic gem
Tent London Oct 2012-Milena Kovanovic
Spessartine Garnet and Smokey Quartz necklace from the Krystalline collection. Discovered at Tent London 2012.

When did you first realise that you wanted to be a jewellery designer, and what has been the best thing about following this career path?
I came across jewellery design whilst doing my art and design foundation course, really enjoyed working in metal and decided I’d apply to the degree course after my tutor convinced me I’d be perfect for it. It must have been fate as I used to make jewellery as a teenager and sell it at Greenwich Market to earn some extra cash, though I never considered it as a career at the time. The best thing about following this career path is that it encompasses all the things I love – making and gems and minerals.

Milena Kovanovic Ursula's Hoard red gems
What was the best bit about studying at CSM?
For me the best part about studying at CSM was the freedom you got to explore and experiment within your degree course. It also have one of the best libraries for books and materials that is an invaluable resource for any designer.

Milena Kovanovic Jewelry by Veronica Rowlands
Milena Kovanovic Jewellery by Veronica Rowlands.

The Ursula’s Hoard collection features gems that are encrusted with molten gold that looks like coral – how did you achieve this effect?
I enjoy exploring new processes and techniques in my work, so for my last two collections I have been doing a lot of electroforming. This is a process which uses an electrical current to take metal in a solution and deposit/grow it onto the surface of whatever you want. This method was perfect for the Ursula’s Hoard collection as I wanted the pieces to look like they’d been under the sea for centuries, becoming encrusted in barnacles and corals.

Milena Kovanovic Ursula's Hoard La Belle Ring
La Belle Ring.

Where do you go for inspiration when you start designing a new collection?
Inspiration can come from anywhere, it’s all around us. I’m very visual and take a lot of photographs of things that catch my eye, especially focusing on the details. Sometimes it can be from something I’ve read or an exhibition I’ve seen. I also love to travel which is a great influence for new ideas.

Milena Kovanovic Ursula's Hoard Golden Hind Necklace
Golden Hind Necklace.

Where did you study and how long did it take you to become a qualified gemologist?
I trained as a gemmologist at the Gemmological Association of Great Britain in Hatton Garden. They have a fast track course which combines the foundation and diploma into a 1 year full time programme, which is what I did.

Milena Kovanovic Ursula's Hoard rings
What amazing and little known gemological fact can you share with us?
The gemstone Tourmaline is pyroelectric – meaning that when it is rubbed or heated, it will develop a static charge that attracts lightweight particles to its surface like dust. This effect could be one probable source of it’s name, which originates from the Sinhalese word Turmali which means both “coloured stone” and “attractor of ashes“.

Milena Kovanovic Ursula's Hoard Mayflower Ring
Mayflower Ring.

What are your favourite kind of gems to work with?
That’s a tough one, there are so many it’s hard to choose! I’m really drawn to vibrant coloured gems such as Rubellites, Spessartine Garnets and Emeralds to name but a few. The gems are always the starting point from which I will create a piece of jewellery as they usually inform the design.

Milena Kovanovic Ursula's Hoard earrings
How and when are you able to use your gemological expertise these days? (apart from in jewellery design)
I regularly utilise my gemmological knowledge to source and supply gemstones for clients and trade, as well as offering specialised training in gemstones and jewellery production to staff in retail businesses.

I can’t wait to see what the talented Milena Kovanovic designs next. Visit her website here to explore her wonderful world of gems.

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