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Emmanuel Tarpin (Est. 2017) has had a remarkable and fast trajectory in the world of high jewelry. A native of Lake Annecy, France, situated between Lyon and Geneva, he took his initial artistic inspiration from the rural alpine surroundings of his home. After graduating from jewelry studies at Geneva’s Haute École d’Arts Appliqués, he worked for three years in Van Cleef & Arpels’ high jewelry business in Paris, learning his craft from some of the most respected masters in their field.
Tarpin draws his main inspiration from nature, working in a poetic, naturalistic, sculptural style, focusing on floral forms, which he interprets with an unusual sensuality. He also experiments with surface treatments of metals to achieve surprising colors and texture. Recently, Christie’s sold a pair of earrings he designed that depict Geranium leaves, organic, romantic, in deep green tinted aluminum, edged with diamonds.
Tarpin set up his high jewelry atelier in Paris in 2017—when he was 25—and it was by the end of the year that his Geranium Leaf aluminum earrings were offered at Christie’s. Words like wunderkind were used to describe him, at first, as a sculptor whose work exhibits the strong lines and innovative use of materials. He produces only a few pieces a year, each one an optical illusion that mesmerizes with depth, texture, and color.
According to The New York Times, when it profiled him in November 2019, “Nature has always been Mr. Tarpin’s primary inspiration. Growing up in the affluent town of Annecy … he hiked through the area often so he got to know the mountains and local flora, developing a near-naturopathic passion for plants.
“An interest in sculpting surfaced early on: When Mr. Tarpin’s parents, both notaries, discovered that he had been hoarding modeling clay from school, they signed him up for sculpture classes. He became fascinated by minerals and crystallization, scoured local markets for his budding collection and obsessed over royal jewelry in the magazine Point de Vue. Even so, influences gleaned from family vacations in Asia — on the trans-Siberian railway, with home stays in Japan, China, Mongolia and elsewhere — now inform a vision of luxury that he describes as “cultural more than material.”
Now 27, the French jeweler doesn’t adhere to conventional rules. Forging large-scale, sculptural designs in aluminum and gold that play with contrasting color and texture, he creates a new language in high jewelry that is more like contemporary art: Each piece is valued not for the weight of its stones but for the entirety of its design.
“Color and sculpture have been my passion since childhood,” he told the Robb Report in 2018. The young designer’s affinity for sculpture informs his large, imaginative jewelry designs.
Inspired by British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, Tarpin spent more than a decade forging sculpture in a variety of mediums. “Kinetic sculptures and nature inspire my designs,” he says. His curiosity was further peaked when studying at HEAD, Geneva’s prestigious school for art and design, where he gained a deep appreciation for form, color and design. After honing his technical skills at Van Cleef, he was ready to start his own venture where he could freely express his sculptural concepts and play with designs, juxtaposing unexpected colors, textures and shapes in a single artistic expression. He collaborates closely with artisans in Paris to execute the voluminous yet remarkably lightweight, one-of-a-kind pieces.
He has already felt increased pressure to produce more than just a handful of pieces a year. “I take my time with each piece,” he says. “I sketch each design, source the stones and work closely on every model.”
In 2017, when his earrings were sold at Christie’s, was the moment when he made the transition from “one to watch” to a sought-after name in the rarified world of high jewelry.
Within the two years that followed, he received the “Rising Star” award from Fashion Group International and was named “Designer of the Year” at the Town and Country Jewelry Awards.
He has also earned an impressive reputation for developing a range of sculptural styles, some of which are abstract in nature. In addition, his work has attracted widespread attention, from Rihanna wearing his matt black aluminum Seashell earrings to being on the shelves of the prestigious New York dealer Siegelson.
His material of choice is aluminum, which can be produced in multiple colors and shapes (such as folds, ripples, dimples, textures).
In October 2019, Forbes Magazine reported, “Luxury jewelry brand, de Grisogono, unveiled a capsule collection of high jewels designed by its first “Artist in Resident,” Emmanuel Tarpin. The collection known as “Prologue,” is the first of three collections that the partnership, which began in May, will produce during the year that the 27-year-old, award-winning jewelry designer will be creating for the Swiss company.”
Pieces already created include earrings in 18K white gold set with 955 white diamonds (8.66 cts) and 963 black diamonds (9.26 cts).
The concept of the six-piece collection is based on the twists and turns of a ribbon using diamonds and gold in contrasting black and white colors. But the simplicity ends with Tarpin’s artistic flourishes combined with the skills of the artisans at de Grisogono’s Creative Studio inside its Geneva headquarters.
All of the pieces show contrast and volume. Long, asymmetrical black and white diamond earrings represent two ribbons in a coiled shape that give the illusion of going through the skin using 18k white gold paved with white and black round diamonds on all sides. This design theme and use of materials continue with a ring and bracelet in which the twisting fluid lines continue beyond the base of the jewel.
The other set of pieces—composed of hoop earrings, a bracelet and a necklace—are even simpler in concept, consisting of a two interlaced 18k white gold cords paved with black and white diamonds. The braided pattern symbolizes love showing that two lives that are linked together. The tiny cords used for the earrings and bracelet become looser and tighter “like in the flow of life,” says Tarpin.
The necklace is the largest and boldest piece of the collection with its black and white intertwined cords coming to a rounded point. According to de Grisogono, Tarpin gave its craftsmen the technical challenge of creating a piece that would sit sensually around the neck, expressing a fluid movement, but that would also retain its shape.
The use of materials and the design concept were a conscious choice in more ways than one. Black diamonds and the Chiaroscuro art technique of using contrasts between light and dark are the signatures of de Grisogono.
“I think we are very complementary,” Tarpin said in a statement. “There is a unique connection between my vision of jewelry and that of de Grisogono. I like the Maison’s notion of volume as well as its exuberance, which makes each of its pieces so interesting.”
He adds that he particularly likes de Grisogono’s ability to be “independent” and “daring,” saying it is a “very rare” trait these days.
“I find there is a similarity between the contrast of shapes, colors and textures in de Grisogono’s creations as well as in mine. The volumes really come to life, not just thanks to the actual shapes of the jewels but also because of the stones and the craftsmanship with which it all comes together. We also share a common notion of innovation and design and a love of delighting with surprise. I very much need to experiment, and I am looking forward to carrying out these experiments within de Grisogono’s ateliers.”
The Prologue collection will be followed by the “Chapter 1” and “Chapter 2” collections in 2020.
Tarpin’s residency is the first part of de Grisogono’s “Creativity in Resident” program designed to ensure that the luxury brand builds “on its daring creativity essence by inspiring, unleashing and fostering creativity.”
In May 2019, Tarpin participated in Sotheby’s “In Bloom” exhibition of new and vintage floral jewelry. In October 2019, Tarpin was honored for his work by receiving the Breakthrough Designer of the Year award at the Town & Country Jewelry Awards.Sell Emmanuel Tarpin All Artists
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