the brilliant life of Frédéric Zaavy

Tells the story of the brilliant life of Frédéric Zaavy, his unique craftsmanship, and the enduring legacy of his aesthetics and works

  • 20 years of preparation, visiting 11 countries to record and unveil the artistry and fluctuating fortunes of the master jeweler
  • Spanning over 240 pages, renowned still life photographers John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler’s compiled a visual narrative on Zaavy’s works, weaving together hundreds of images of his creative inspirations, atelier, and domestic settings
  • Monograph debuts the last 11 works made by Zaavy, which were never revealed during his life-time

After nearly 20 years of preparation, the first monograph dedicated to Parisian artist-jeweler Frédéric Zaavy (1964-2011) has been launched, titled Stardust: The Work and Life of Jeweler Extraordinaire Frédéric Zaavy (Stardust).

The monograph presents a portrait of an artist who strived to paint the beauty of the universe in precious stones. Zaavy considered himself heir to the legacy of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, gem dealer to Louis XIV, and was chosen as the exclusive jeweler for the 21st-century revival of Fabergé.

Inspired by nature, quantum physics, philosophy, art, music, and literature, his poetic sensibility saw him create daringly intricate pieces with hundreds or thousands of tiny gems that came together like pointillist objets d’art. The monograph is dedicated to commemorating a talented jewelry artist, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of Zaavy’s passing.

Zaavy’s masterful approach was to paint with jewelry. He used gemstones akin to colors on a palette to present visions of nature and light in his creations. He drew inspiration from ginkgo leaves, lava-flows, icicles, and gnarled twigs, to create densely encrusted pieces that highlight the subtleties of color gradation, and the depth of nature’s palette. For example, the Iris Bracelet (2011) perfectly replicates the draping petals of a white and yellow iris, through its composition of a central vivid yellow diamond enveloped in purple, yellow and white diamonds, sphenes, demantoids, tsavorites, palladium, gold, and silver.

Many of his works were also inspired by the Impressionist movement, and these such pieces have been regarded as ‘sculptural forms of impressionist paintings’. Signature works include Nymphéas Bracelet (2005), an evocation of Claude Monet’s renowned “Water Lilies” murals.

This astonishingly fluid and dream-like bracelet is studded with thousands of white, blue, yellow, violet, pink and black diamonds, as well as other gemstones to round out this platinum, yellow gold, and sterling marvel of design, creating a floral abstract. In 2011, Frédéric Zaavy completed 11 works for 5 series: Iris, Legend, The Ribbons, Space and Lava, drawing a perfect ending to his life. These renowned works showcase Zaavy’s virtuoso technique and boundless imagination.

The high-end custom jewellery atelier Frédéric Zaavy was founded under the same name as the jewellery artist. The workshop is devoted to inheriting Zaavy’s design aesthetics and providing customers with exceptional and precious jewellery.

Floréal Ercilla, the lead jeweler of Zaavy’s Parisian atelier, together with other jewelers, wax model makers, and setters, create hand-made and unique jewelry for customers according to the design manuscripts left by Zaavy. To create these pieces in the workshop, it requires more than hundreds or thousands of hours of production time, thus highlighting the ultra-complicated design of Zaavy’s works.

Leading New York-based still life photographers John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler – whose work has featured in over 300 books focusing on works of art, architecture, jewelry, and antiquities – have created the visual narrative for the monograph.

Featuring text by acclaimed French writer Gilles Hertzog, Stardust unveils the exquisite artistry and fascinating career of a master jeweler whose life was cut too short. Evocatively framed by his imminent mortality, the book gathers accounts of Zaavy from his closest allies, both personal and professional, looking directly into the darkest moments of his adventurous and precarious career. Taylor and Dubler’s photographs for the book shine a light on Zaavy’s work, weaving in images of his creative inspiration, atelier, and domestic settings among images that immortalize the jeweler’s creations.

The publication of the monograph has received unconditional support from Lisa Chen, the co-founder of Daring Enterprise (the founding company of the brand Frédéric Zaavy) and Zaavy’s life partner.

Chen said: “Frédéric and I embraced common dreams. We both endeavored to create moving artistic jewelry, which can be passed on from generation to generation. Frédéric worked non-stop for 18 years, burning his life to creating 204 works for an excellent line-up of French royal crafts and arts. He created jewelry that worth billions in total. We look forward to recording, sharing, and inheriting Zaavy’s life and his aesthetics through Stardust. This monograph brings together the hearts and support of everyone, and we have been working tirelessly for 20 years to make it happen. We hope that every reader appreciates the heart-warming stories.

John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler, photographers and friends of Zaavy, have said: “Stardust is the origin of all matter in the universe, including the diamonds Frédéric “painted” with and loved so much. He was fascinated that, in addition to their beauty, diamonds resonated deep time. However, he was undaunted by time and space, which he deemed to be inconsequential. He thought of time in eons and knew his moment here would never be enough. Months before he died, he said to us, “I am already dead,” but then carried on as if he would live forever! He often acknowledged that he had been here before and would someday return.

About Frédéric Zaavy

Frédéric Zaavy (b. 1964, Paris, d. 2011) was the third generation of a family of diamond merchants. After a classical French education in which he studied at several art schools including the École des Arts Appliqués and the École des Beaux-Arts, he decided not to enter the family business and instead, at the age of 20, began travelling the world.

Time spent in East Africa, South East Asia, New York, Tel Aviv, Antwerp, and Bangkok saw Zaavy learn and develop his trade in precious stones and diamonds. His expertise and rich knowledge of rare gemstones were reflected in his jewelry designs. His use of tourmalines, garnets, spinels, and aquamarines in the early stages of his career, which were not favored in the market at that time, show his visionary perspective.

In 1994, he began creating one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, working together with his partner Lisa Chen with whom he founded the Daring Enterprise Co. In 2000, he established his first atelier, and in the following years’ defined new standards of craftsmanship in the world of jewelry making. Following a 2007 exhibition of his work at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York, in 2008 he became the exclusive jeweler for luxury firm Fabergé allowing him to open a larger atelier near Place Vendôme, Paris. In 2010, with the knowledge that his life would be taken from cancer, he began actively working with John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler to create Stardust.

Source: Media OutReach


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