S otheby’s is delighted to be working with legendary, globally-renowned jewellery designer Fabio Salini, whose intricate designs will be on offer in two Sotheby's Art Of Wishes charity auctions in September, to benefit the Make A Wish foundation. Both initiatives are spearheaded by philanthropist and collector Batia Ofer, whose Make-A-Wish Foundation UK seeks to fulfil the wishes of seriously ill children.
Fabio Salini, known to the cognoscenti for his intuitive use of materials, has donated more than 50 pieces, including a sapphire bracelet with pavé-set diamonds and a white gold “Telaio” choker with rose-cut sapphires to the sales, a selection that foregrounds his creative journey, over the decades.
Through his work, Salini prefers to both to present jewellery as an art form in its own right and to defy traditional representations of the feminine as delicate and fragile. Instead, he presents the feminine as bold and dramatic through conceptual, futuristic design.
Here, Fabio tells us about his unique approach to jewellery design, why unusual materials are at the heart of his work and how he intends his pieces to make women feel "brave, confident - and dare to be different".
Jewellery Creations by Fabio Salini: A Charity Auction for Art of Wishes
How would you describe your jewellery making philosophy?
I have always been led by creativity rather than business. When I began my business 20 years ago, most designers were driven by the urge to grow and expand, but I found myself pushed by the very opposite desire. It has always been important to me that my jewellery is something of a discovery and differentiated from what you see everywhere. And so, rather than opening my first store in a commercial area of Rome that has a high footfall, I chose to begin in a very elegant, but more secluded area, with the aim of feeling like more of a discovery for those clients who like to go off the beaten track. My work is the same - I explore different materials and play with many different themes in my pieces, never conforming to the classic codes of jewellery.
You are known for using unexpected materials in your work. Why do you choose to do that and what impact does it have?
My creative journey is best seen through exploration of different materials; from leather to straw and carbon fibre, each material presents its own strengths, and challenges to work with, which constantly pushes my work to new dimensions. I have always wanted the objects I create to be surprising and unexpected, and through my understanding of contemporary art, I am always questioning the accepted norms of jewellery-making, so I can approach it in a more conceptual way.
I don’t speak with flowers and bows. I use carbon fibre, rock crystal, titanium, and mirrors. I love coral branches because of their wild strength. The same goes for rope, leather, and horn - all the elements that give power and that represent my way of making the male and female worlds communicate.
"The idea of jewellery as something which adorns a woman like a doll, delicate and weak, to me is out of touch with the women of today"
I started working with carbon fibre a few years ago and love how the smooth black serves as a riposte to gold, symbolising the ‘absolute void’ in which anything can happen. Carbon fibre, with its silky, shiny texture, is also symbolic of technology and ultra-modernity, communicating my desire to break with paradigms and introduce a message of total evolution. To me, the use of carbon fibre brings with it many different meanings. In modern times, it might instinctively be associated with vehicles – that idea of a masculine, technological world – but to me it is a tribute to the strength of women. The idea of jewellery as something which adorns a woman like a doll, delicate and weak, to me is out of touch with the women of today. My use of carbon fibre aims to reflect the modern woman by subverting an industrial material which has long been associated with the masculine.
And what are the challenges of working with such materials?
These materials certainly present challenges when it comes to constructing my pieces. Most of the materials that I use cannot be soldered, cannot be put to fire, cannot be placed in the acid that would be traditionally used for polishing. They therefore require an entirely different approach, so you are forced to re-engineer the making process.
With my carbon fibre work, for example, I found myself having to do something revolutionary, in replacing the structural function of gold. The hinges and clasps of the pieces are made with carbon fibre, and the role of gold decorative rather than functional. To me, this contemporary approach has a strong effect. I am speaking a new language with jewellery, by constructing it in a way it has not been done before.
How did you become involved with the Art of Wishes sale?
I initially reached out to Batia just to discuss with her my idea of donating a selection of my jewellery. But once we connected, the idea of doing this project together was ignited. I am a strong believer that everything that is meant to happen, happens eventually, and we were definitely meant to work together. I of course knew of the fantastic work of the Art of Wishes and also have huge respect for Batia as an authority on contemporary art, so it felt like a natural collaboration.
"I hope that attending the auction will be like taking a trip through the journey of my career"
What can you tell us about the pieces you have donated?
Over the years I have been putting aside pieces for my own collection that I felt represented my journey as a designer - signature works, if you wish. Many of these are in the auction, which is why the selection is quite varied; there are some more classical pieces, as well as some of my more innovative works. I hope that attending the auction will be like taking a trip through the journey of my career.
Do you have any favourites?
I love all of them, of course. They are my children after all! There are a few that are not necessarily more valuable than the others, but maybe more interesting in terms of their design. The big, oval titanium earrings in pink are really striking, and mark a moment in my career when I felt the urge to be particularly daring. I only hope that they find the right ears and neck to wear them because they are certainly big and bold!
Another favourite of mine are the carbon fibre branch earrings with opal and sapphire flowers. To me, they are special because they were my first carbon fibre pieces, and were so hard to create, as I’d not worked with the material before and doing something so organic in carbon fibre was not easy.
"My pieces are designed to make you feel special, strong and unique, just like the pieces themselves"
How do you hope that people might feel wearing your designs?
My creations are designed to make you feel as special, strong and unique as the pieces themselves. It is certainly true that my more recent work had been produced with the idea of the strong woman in mind; it has all been inspired by bold personalities, with the hope of imbuing a similar kind of strength in the wearer. I don’t believe that femininity has to be expressed through the language of flowers, butterflies or bows. To me, this imagery corresponds to the image of a doll-like woman, without autonomy or purpose. I hope that the people who wear my designs feel brave, confident and dare to be different.
What advice would you give to a collector looking to buy a Fabio Salini piece?
As with my jewellery, every collector has their own individual personality. I cannot recommend or advise on a piece if I don’t know the person. To me, the jewellery they purchase has to not only reflect their aesthetic taste, but more importantly, their personality and mood. It’s a personal choice and everyone must listen to their instinct as to what might work for them.