Ara Vartanian has the kind of pleasingly linear and apt backstory that makes biographers blush. Raised in a family of artists he learnt his craft first-hand and was inured to the rigorous discipline of an artist from an early age. His brother Jack became a renowned purveyor of fine jewellery who took his collection to New York, Sao Paulo and Rio. Both brothers seemed to have inherited some congenital ability to create beautiful and unique art. Ara in particular was a bold proponent of innovation, celebrated for his use of the inverted diamond, as well as two and three-finger rings. Throughout his life his style continued to evolve and he began to experiment with unpredictable settings, carefully framing the singularity of each and every gemstone he used.
At first glance it might seem as though Ara’s road to success was seamless, but this would belie his start in life, namely his time as an Economics graduate fresh out of Boston University. After that he worked as a trader for NASDAQ in New York. Then eventually he left the financial market and answered the call of jewellery design. It wasn’t long before his works were snatched-up and seen throughout the international market. Consequently he became well-known in a relatively short space of time, securing various commissions from high-profile clients like Naomi Campbell, Liv Tyler and Kate Moss. His name had surfaced in all the right places and it seemed like his jewellery, prized as it now was, was suddenly being used a mirror for his persona, like a collection of microcosms, within which a smooth fragment of his character was stored and kept intact. So what persona is that you ask? Well, you only have to look at the man’s atelier to see the effortless cool and retro charm with which he is now continuously associated. The space is decorated with vintage cars in glass cases, metal sculptures shaped with neat symmetry, like little astrological instruments, carpets pinned under a coffee table made from an airplane tyre, wood-panelled walls, shallow padded armchairs, low-lighting and fresh flowers on a glass table, ringed by stacks of books. Seeing these luxurious details one feels as though one is taking the inside track to understanding the virtuoso himself. Then there’s that long table at the back of the room, where he supervises a skilled team of artisans and the assembly of his creations.
Over the years Ara’s diverse designs have featured a palette of saturated colours that are both bold and luxurious, reflecting the lively allure of the designer’s native homeland of Brazil. Look closely and the pieces convey the colourful, samba-fueled vivacity of Rio de Janeiro, coupled with the rich maritime calm of Salvador. He favours coloured gemstones cut into geometric shapes that evince a lucid, worldly glamour. In recent years Ara has also earned a reputation for tracking down the rarest and most sought-after gems in the world, including incandescent Brazilian Paraiba Tourmalines and Pigeon’s Blood Rubies. He confessed that he feels an irresistible pull towards rare gemstones and always keeps a keen eye ready for the next new discovery.
“I just have to have it,” Ara laughed, in an interview with The Jewellery Editor.
Drawing upon the mystique and allure of natural treasures, Ara specialises in crafting coloured gemstone pieces with a touch of attitude and sex appeal. Amongst his handmade portfolio so far is a ring embellished by a bold, purple-blue Tanzanite, then encircled by a neat diamond frame. In addition he’s also used an outsized Kunzite that protrudes from his octopus ring, alongside sinuous tentacles of pave black and white diamonds. His work hitherto could be characterised as innovation imbued with confidence, intended for similarly confident women. However, such delicate artistry does not come without some slight snags, like the fact Ara is always hard-pressed to part with his work. He joked that he knows when he and his team has done a good job because it pains them to part from the finished product.
“I like it when it causes me pain to give them away,” he said.
When it comes to selling his finished pieces Ara Vartanian has adopted a similar approach to New Zealand-born designer Jessica McCormack. Understanding the importance of storytelling and environment when it comes to purveying jewellery, Jessica opted to sell her collection from her exclusive Mayfair boutique in London, where the customer is greeted with a room bathed in a natural wedge of light that spills through the tall glass entrance. On either side the walls are adorned with grand paintings, while the floor is dotted with gold-rimmed display cases mounted on marble plinths. Ara has also arranged his business around an intimate and pleasant customer experience. His refined collection is available exclusively at only five stores in five major cities (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Los Angeles and Bodrum,) ensuring that each and every piece is presented in an appropriate setting.
In a recent interview the ever-charming Ara elaborated on the thinking behind this decision –
“One-of-a-kind jewellery has to be explained to the customer so they understand the artistry, the value,” he said, before adding; “In my hand the jewellery sells.”