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Julie Cohn and Percossi Papi: Two Approaches, Natural Beauty

There are infinite ways to go about creating a design in jewelry. That is why it is art. There are no universal guidelines to follow that will result in good - or bad - jewelry, just as in art and culture. That is the reason it is art. The creator, the visionary has the reins and can take from the elements of the Earth whatever he or she pleases to execute that vision in design.

Even the most practiced and lauded critics will occasionally disagree over what makes an aesthetic appealing or unappealing. There are personal tastes and experiences to consider. And so, in jewelry, as in fashion and in art, there is an infinite number of colors on the same palate from which to choose.

It’s the reason we have such diversity in different designs. Two designers might have one vision and craft entirely different pieces, even out of the same medium. There are designers who strive for intricacy, for finery, for brutality, for simplicity. Some designers are inspired by natural themes, some by concocted themes, and some by decided surreal inspiration. Some designers like to create perfectly measured, cut, and polished pieces of jewelry and others like to let the raw material do the talking. There is an infinity in it all.

Here we will take a look at how two very different designers with different backgrounds have drawn inspiration from the wells of nature and culture, and how they create designs from them. Diego Percossi Papi and Julie Cohn, two different designers from separate ends of the Earth, have both drawn inspiration from nature and natural beauty and created designs building on those inspirations. Their designs are different, but both individually stunning.

Two Different Approaches

Julie Cohn’s education as it respects jewelry is largely of her own making. Though her professional background lies in painting and printmaking, she also studied bookbinding and box-making. Her diverse interests have led her through a colorful past that addressed many different areas of design.

When it comes to creating jewelry, however, she is largely self-taught. Unlike many other designers, she doesn’t start with a sketch or a carefully hashed out idea. In a manner of speaking, she likes to let the natural materials take the lead when it comes to her designs. Out of their natural forms, she allows the final vision to become apparent.

She is, however, finely inspired by the natural world, but history and culture. She allows her interest in these things - and their effects on her - to guide her hand as she creates jewelry that exposes the inner nature of the world and all of the fine details that go into discovery.

By simple contrast, Diego Percossi Papi has been crafting fine jewelry since 1968 from a small studio in Rome. He also places a heavy emphasis on the importance of natural and cultural themes, and he works off of practices of the past, refining and perfecting them before incorporating them into his designs. They can’t be called fully modern, as they draw from the practices of the past, and yet they are not antiquarian either.

For example, he has taken from the practices of goldsmiths and enamel workers of the past to create works enameled in gold. Enamel has fallen out of popularity in some circles of design today, being instead supplanted by precious and semi-precious stones. Yet Diego Percossi Papi has taken this art form and elevated it to the echelon it once occupied. A look at some of his jewelry will reveal designs so finely crafted that one would mistake his enameling for precious stones anyway.

Here are two very different designers who both take inspiration from the natural world and from the influences of culture and of the past - so what does this look like in practice. Here are a few defining features of the pieces of each designer and how they pull off their effects.

As stated, every person’s vision for a piece is different and will be impacted not only by this perception but by method, material, and technique. That will result in a dazzling diversity of different designs within and across catalogs. Keep your eye out for these.

Complexity vs. Simplicity

One of the first things that a lay observer might notice about the designs of Percossi Papi is their absolute, ornate intricacy. While his designs all accomplish this effect by diverse avenues, it is definitely something typical of his designs. By contrast, many pieces of Julie Cohn Jewelry are fabulously simple. Let’s see how each designer approaches a similar theme and how they recreate it in their jewelry. Consider the gulf that exists between Julie Cohn’s Illumination Earrings and Percossi Papi’s Sun and Moon Earrings.

Both of them seem to take encouragement and inspiration from the natural world. Indeed they both even seem to go a step further. While the device of bringing forth light might take on a different form in each piece, the theme of luminosity is well revealed, both in their construction and, if any doubt remained, in their names. Yet each of these pieces of jewelry, though likely inspired by the same themes, represents an entirely unique character.

First, consider the elegant simplicity of the Julie Cohn design. Her Illumination Earrings are pleasantly simplified, with plenty of natural beauty. As we stated earlier, she likes to let her raw materials guide her hand and that is evident in this piece. Made of bronze that has the character of gold, these earrings seem soft yet sharp at the same time, and nearly fluid. The studs appear to take on the shape of stars and one cannot help but fancy seeing rays of light in the points that emanate from them.

As respects the medallion that dangles from each, it is like a compressed drop of bronze, wafer-like but resplendent with light, in which there is a semi-precious stone affixed. It would be a lie to say that it doesn’t seem like this is a pair of eyes looking at you.

Yet they only appear to be eyes. The effect is a suggestion and not a literal representation. Also, one cannot help but wonder about the nature of illumination. Do the stars illuminate because they produce light in the same way that the eyes illuminate through sight and comprehension? These are questions for a philosopher and not for a designer - but those questions arise from an investigation of jewelry like this. As you can see from this design, Julie Cohn takes more than one approach to representing a theme like light. The elements she chooses are natural and the beauty comes from the simple harmony of the design. This part is important - the design is simple - make no mistake about that.

By contrast, we also have a piece like Percossi Papi’s Sun and Moon Earrings, which address the natural theme of light by a slightly different vein. In his work, you can see the pains he took to create a vibrant, elaborate recreation of the many natural avenues we have for observing and receiving the beauty of light.

In his Sun and Moon Earrings, you can see a pleasing element of asymmetry, which is actually something that is more typical of Julie Cohn jewelry, but nonetheless he has executed it here. Moreover, he softens this effect with a rich and finely polished detailing of the sun and the moon. As you can see by looking at them as well, the amount of detail in each of them is simply overwhelming. One would need to take the same amount of time to really absorb and appreciate these and would be required to appreciate a fine complex piece of art by Goya or Shalcken.

These earrings are finely crafted in sterling silver and then accented with 18k gold along with a plethora of precious and semi-precious stones. Among the mix are Amber, Blue Topaz, micro seed pearls, and Cloisonné enamel. One can easily tell the lengths to which he went to encapsulate the different, natural, beautiful lights of the sun and moon.

It’s no coincidence that gold and silver both went into the making of these earrings. The sun’s light is bright, almost overbearing, and warm, whereas moonlight is silky, comforting, and even somewhat cool. Gold, like sunlight, announces itself, whereas the silver is more understated, and more importantly - hidden by the gold Vermeil.

Perhaps this is because, as you know, the moon does not produce its own natural light but relies on the sun for this. They are bound by fate, which is perhaps the reason for the fact that both of these are included in this piece. The sun and moon are joined forever, with the sun taking the dominant role and the moon assuming its position of distinction only at night.

In addition, the Percossi Papi gives the warmth of amber to represent the vigor of the light of the sun, whereas the blue topaz and micro seed pave pearls represent the gentility and soft nature of the blue light of the moon. It is no mistake that these elements were featured in juxtaposition and likewise no mistake that they were chosen in such order and size as they were. Every single element of these earrings smacks of complexity, planning, insight, and devotion to capturing, fully, the beauty of this corner of the natural world.

Even taking a step back without dissecting its parts too closely, this pair of earrings is wondrously ornate. The number of small stones and the precision with which they were set in the earrings is enough to overwhelm the senses for a short window of time. This is a set of earrings that by no accident has taken on such complex form, as has been shown.

These two different designers have taken inspiration from the light of the natural world, whether it be from the stars, the sun, and moon, or metaphorically from the light of life that comes to and from the eyes. The eyes are the windows to the soul, or so they say.

As you can see, these two designers have taken their own approaches to very similar natural themes, and each has been inspired in very different ways to create a visual representation of those themes in the form of the jewelry they produce.

This is only a small, superficial look at a single piece of jewelry from each of their catalogs - much more could be said of each designer’s portfolio and a much more complete analysis could be drawn, but it is sufficient to say that though they are defined by the inspiration at the fonts of nature and culture, they are driven to create different designs from that inspiration.

That being said, it is entirely typical of a piece of Julie Cohn Jewelry to be as simplified and as softened as the Illumination Earrings we investigated. Many of the pieces in her catalog key in on one or two design themes and say almost as much by what is not there as by what is. As for Diego Percossi Papi Jewelry, even a cursory introduction to his collection will overload the senses with details and colors. Like a fine painting, it takes a respectable amount of time to become familiar with the intricacy and symbolism he captures in each and every piece of jewelry.

This is only a short look into the works of each designer and a quick analysis of some of their designs. Each of them could have an entire volume dedicated to their craft, and we welcome you to take a look through our catalog to find the jewelry that speaks to you. That is what shopping is all about, after all.

Additionally, feel free to reach out to our team for suggestions, advice, and insight. We have some of the most in-depth collections of rare and exquisite jewelry on the internet and pair it with an intimate knowledge of these designers and their designs. Give us a call at 555-555-1212 if you have any questions - we’d love to hear from you.