I vividly recall when I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, and a carved rock crystal and gold bracelet stopped me in my tracks. Was it an antiquity from some museum collection? Was it a newly created piece? I honestly couldn’t tell, so I had to investigate…and that led me right to Loren Nicole Jewelry. Loren Teetelli, the designer behind the collection, was going to be making an appearance at the Couture show in Las Vegas. Meeting her and seeing her work was at the top of my list!
Not only is her jewelry simply stunning with it’s ancient feel, but Loren is a veritable font of information. With her extensive background in art history and anthropology, combined with her talent as a goldsmith, she has created a singular line rife with history. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the following interview with Nicole.
After seeing your work, I was SO not surprised to learn you have a background in archaeology. Can you please share how this prepared you for your career as a jewelry designer?
I have degrees in art history and anthropology, with a focus in archaeology, one of the 4 branches of anthropology. I have had a lot of practical experience as an archaeologist, having worked as a field archaeologist in Peru, Mexico and Vermont, and as a lab technician in the North American Archaeology Lab in the Anthropology Department of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City (it’s a mouthful). I later worked as a conservator in the Objects Conservation Lab at the American Museum of Natural History and Conservation Lab in Africa Oceana and the Americas department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Art history has provided me the advantage of an extensive depth of knowledge of civilizations throughout history focused on many mediums, while archaeology trained me to think about the material culture, both art and domestic objects, from a practical viewpoint. Studying both disciplines has allowed me to recognize pattern, to the point where I can look at a selection of mixed objects and at the very least divide them up geographically. Aside from my academic interests, I have always been drawn to craft. I have been painting and illustrating for as long as I can recall and have studied pottery, weaving, glass blowing, printmaking and so on. My natural inclination towards making tied into my archaeological interest because it’s all about the objects we made and left behind. Understanding how they were constructed, the technology used to make them, the sources for their materials (trade), and eventually how they were then used.
Now, working as a goldsmith, my interests in understanding the science of an object is the foundation of my design process. Studying and working in the original technologies used to make the pieces I am representing, allows the collection to “feel” ancient. When beginning a new collection, I am fortunate to have a large mental library of different civilizations to pull on. I typically begin with one or a few key visual elements (like the “heart” and oval shapes of the Silla collection), and recognize what technology was used to build those pieces. If the goal is to replicate the feeling of ancient jewelry, it is not possible to do so by only copying the patterns or symbols, it needs to be constructed using the same methods. Since I am currently working on an Egyptian collection, I will give this example; a lot of Egyptian revival jewelry is enamel usually depicting King Tut’s Scarab, the Eye of Horus, etc. While many of these pieces are fun and beautiful in their own right, we understand the reference, but they don’t have the feeling of something that emerged from an ancient Egyptian tomb. They haven’t gotten to the core of ancient Egyptian Jewelry. If instead of enamel, those colors were inlaid stone (cloisonné), then they would be doing something interesting, something more true to the history of the design and using a technique contemporary to the original source.
Is there a certain period in history that most influences your work?
My love for art history lies with anything pre-dating the Northern Baroque period, with a particular interest in civilizations that we refer to as “ancient”, for example, Greek, Egyptian, Scythian (Eurasian Nomadic Peoples), Moche, Chimu, etc. I also love a few outliers, such as Agnes Martin, Axel Vervoordt (not necessarily an artist) and Mark Rothko. I would say that my designs are a combination of these two interests, as is my favorite ancient period. Cycladic art, while having been made as far back as 5000 years ago, is so contemporary in its design. Civilizations of archaeology are in my heart. There is so much mystery still surrounding them and there is always a scavenger hunt when discovering a new piece. These civilizations worked in 22k yellow gold, my preferred medium, and the technologies I have studied from them, such as granulation and chasing and repousse, are my favorite to work in. I love jewelry where you can see the hand of its creator — it is more warm for me than something that has been machined using electric steel tools. That being said, there is a power in minimalism and being able to convey an emotion with as few elements as possible. Agnes Martin has been my greatest teacher of this. Applying what I have learned from studying her work to my jewelry design by taking the time to edit out what is unnecessary, while still retaining the core feeling of the civilization I am representing, has been the greatest challenge and most rewarding. While I am replicating the past, I am not creating replicas.
I am a huge fan of the pieces I saw from your new Silla Collection. Can you please tell me a bit about this collection?
I first discovered the Silla while working at the MET. They hosted a temporary exhibit of their work primarily showing pottery and jewelry. I have always been fascinated by trade in the ancient world, because in the structure that we are taught, we usually don’t think of these ancient civilizations trading, learning and adopting practices from each other. What originally struck me was the quality and large scale of their granulation, a technique that originated with the Etruscans in present day Sicily and made its way across the Silk Road with the Greeks stationed in Bactria and then spreading to India and further east, where it is still practiced. When approaching this lesser known civilization to develop a collection, I resisted the instinct to include granulation because that is something that was learned, I needed to identify what was unique to them and their history.
There were two elements that stood out; the application of gold discs and key shapes, such as the oval, “heart” and trapezoid. There were two key jewelry styles that needed to be represented to honor their history as nomadic peoples, the belt and the crown. Several belts in a style similar to our Nomad Belt were discovered in burials, adorned with charms representing both domestic and spiritual purposes. For example, the cut-out piece is a scissor and the fish may have been an amulet to avert evil. The belt is also a nod to this civilization’s history as nomadic peoples, where wealth needed to be portable and rank needed to be easily identifiable. Since there has has been so much interest in the fish, it is actually a personal joke, my version of uniting the ends of the Silk Road. I took the Silla design for a fish and married it with the idea of Rock Crystal fish that the Ancient Greeks occasionally made and then suspended them all from a modified Ancient Greek woven chain (present-day). I still can’t believe this is the most popular piece from June, it was the only design I was super unsure of. Both this necklace and the belt are available at Stanley Korshak.
I’m completely obsessed with all the charms you make. How do you envision clients styling them?
It is a joyful part of our collection that encourages interaction. People love color! Few people don’t love rummaging through a pile of candy-like gems and arranging their favorites to carry with them everyday. We can change them with our mood, layer them up, put them on different chains. They are so versatile. There is something for everyone. It is all about wearing layers of color stories that are meaningful to the wearer. I personally like to wear 5 on long leather cord and change the color story with the seasons.
They were designed to be a fun way to incorporate color and offer a more accessible entry point into my collection. What I had hoped and what my clients are doing is starting with one or two pieces and slowly adding more to their set, typically wearing them all together. They fit on all of our necklaces, most of our bracelets and new leather cords that will be released soon. All of our charms are either cabochons or carved stones that have been ethically sourced and are set in our signature 22k yellow gold brushed finish (We use recycled and Fairmined gold), so they inherently have that ancient look to it, but I choose more playful colors to make it modern. They have also been a really fun education point between me and my clients. It is opportunity to share a deeper story about the history of a gem, its origin, what gives it is color, who cut it and the amazing history of Idar Oberstein represented in our carved gems.
What sort of woman do you see wearing your jewelry?
Be it young or more mature, the woman that purchases my jewelry is a collector. She loves art and history. She is not interested in trends. She is confident in her own style and has her own criteria for recognizing quality of craftsmanship.
What do you find is the most rewarding aspect(s) of being a jewelry designer?
I have been given the opportunity to share my love of ancient history with people that may not necessarily have been exposed to it or haven’t previously shown an interest in it. I absolutely love when I have opportunity to speak with men, whether they are shopping for themselves or their significant other, because I have found that they are typically interested in the science/more geeky specifics of my jewelry, which gets them excited and offers a connection to jewelry that they don’t always have available. The women tend to be more perceptive to the aesthetics and art history of the piece. If they connect with that aesthetic, they get it immediately. What is universal, is when people discover my chains and once they learn that many of them have been made for over 3000 years and then can find them on display at world renowned museums, they are immediately hooked. Then they feel the weight of a solid gold chain, usually for the first time, and they see how it moves and suddenly they discover a new relationship towards jewelry. It is so much fun to watch that moment in a person’s face transform from a slight interest into complete wonder. I also really love when my jewelry is mistaken for an antique. I feel like I have done my job as a designer and a goldsmith when that occurs.
Can you share one of your most recent pieces?
I am currently working on our new collection, Nebu, which will launch at Couture next summer. Nebu is the the ancient Egyptian word for gold. They are the only civilization I am aware of that believed gold had divine power. They had over 30 types of gold, which is amazing considering how rudimentary their tools were. I am finally going to be showing off my skills as a goldsmith with this collection. There will be a lot of granulation and chasing and repousse.
Here is a photo of a chaising and repousse crocodile cuff bracelet that is currently on my bench.
And here’s an oversized hoop that was completed last week. The hoop has a small granulation halo around the Mandarin Garnet with Cats Eye Pink Tourmaline and Morganite (one from Brazil and the other from Mozambique) decorating the bottom edge. The design originated from an Egyptian wall painting. I have yet to discover a jewelry example of this design; however, that doesn’t mean that it was not used. With some of the earliest styles, there aren’t always actual objects discovered representing what was depicted. I have another one-of-a-kind version of this hoop on the bench next week!
On that note, I want to thank Loren for all the incredible information. I cannot WAIT to see the Nebu collection in Las Vegas next year!! You can check out more of Loren’s work on her website and Instagram.