A lthough she began her business in just 2014, after being selected as the premiere jewelry trade show JCK’s “Rising Star,” Neha Dani has proven to hone more artistry and artisanal craftsmanship than many jewelers develop in a lifetime. Producing just fifteen to twenty pieces a year, the New Delhi-based jeweler makes each a bespoke collector’s piece and the manifestation of her colorful, feminine and symbolic dream world. Sotheby’s is thrilled to present two immaculate jewels by Dani in In Bloom: A Selling Exhibition of Floral Jewels (3–24 May, New York). Dani spoke to Sotheby’s about the painstaking old-world technique she used to set thousands of pinks diamonds and create mesmerizing undulating forms in her Brassica earrings and Amarante bracelet – a year in the making – as well as her varied sources of inspiration, which range from her Indian heritage to Frank Gehry’s architecture.
How did you develop an appreciation for highly technical, bespoke jewelry?
I come from a very creative family who traveled often. We spent a lot of time in museums looking at handcrafted objects. I remember seeing great jewelry collections, as well as traditional Indian jewelry. In India we have a lot of intense handicrafts, like the weaving of saris. We make very intricate and complicated patterns, so my heritage inspires me. Creating something beautiful and perfect has been my driving force. My pieces tend to be larger in scale but still very detailed, delicate and feminine.
Why do you prefer the older technique of wax carving?
Computer production has become more common, but wax carving gives you much more freedom to express yourself. It’s about taking an old tradition into the future because a lot of these hand-making techniques are slowly dying out. We hand carve all the waxes in India, which is a painstaking process. The Amarante bracelet, for example, has 68 petals, and none look alike. Everything is made individually so you can try different petal positions to see what looks best. We often believe we are done, and then we think something else would look slightly better, so we change the wax. I think that’s about being an artist – you’re never satisfied.
What are some of the challenges you face with constructing your jewels in this way?
The setting process is very complicated because I design my jewelry to be three-dimensional, meaning they are set all around and can be viewed from every angle. Like with the Amarante bracelet and Brassica earrings, there are many curves in their forms, so to set properly, you have to keep turning the piece. A lot of these pieces are set in parts then soldered together because you’re setting on the underside of the petal.
Do you always create jewels with symbolic significance, like these two pieces?
Yes, everything has a deeper symbolic meaning. For instance, Amarante is a blooming flower, but it’s not just about the flower in bloom – it’s about the blossoming part of our life. The piece has eighteen flowers, representing the age of adulthood.
What is the deeper meaning behind the Brassica earrings?
Brassica is a purplish leafy plant that blossoms during winter, even when the weather is harsh. Every season has its own blossom – not just spring, so this jewel represents how no matter the circumstances you’re in in life, you can still be blossoming.
Given the vibrancy of your jewels, what are some of your favorite stones to work with?
I really enjoy working with all stones. There’s always that excitement with pink diamonds because they’re so rare and special. With the Amarante bracelet, I used only natural pink diamonds with various shades, from very light to Intense. However, I also love moonstones, opals and other gems.
Are there any designers you look to as inspiration?
There are a few I really look up to because they stretched the boundaries of the imagination. Every piece made by Mario Buccellati is so detailed, I can’t imagine the patience that went into that perfection. JAR is everybody’s inspiration because of the amount of colors he worked with, and he turned very simple inspiration [like vegetables] into beautiful objects. Although he is not a jeweler, Frank Gehry inspires me. There is so much fluidity in his buildings and at such a large scale. Dale Chihuly also inspires me with his beautiful and colorful glasswork.