IN­FLU­ENCER: Alan An­der­son, The Cou­ture Cos­tume Jew­eller

DINE and Destinations - - CONTENTS -

DINE You were a suc­cess­ful se­nior vis­ual pre­sen­ta­tion tech­ni­cian for a ma­jor depart­ment store. Why did you start de­sign­ing jew­ellery? Alan An­der­son It was a trip to Rhode Is­land with a friend and prom­i­nent cos­tume jew­ellery de­signer, Robert Sor­rell—who did Thierry Mu­gler’s runway jew­ellery—to source crys­tals for his pieces. I was ab­so­lutely crazed by the crys­tals and stones. I bought rhine­stone chains, set­tings and stones but had no idea how to use them. So I sat at my kitchen ta­ble night af­ter night teach­ing my­self. The work on some of those first pieces looked like some­one took a pas­try bag full of solder to them.

DINE You still de­sign by hand… A.A. In my Toronto stu­dio. There are no molds and I don’t sketch. Rather I work from an im­age in my head then sit with clay, vin­tage stones, cop­per find­ings and a hot sol­der­ing gun to cre­ate one-of-a-kind pieces.

DINE Why cos­tume jew­ellery? Why not gold and di­a­monds? A.A. I find fine jew­ellery bor­ing and small. I like the scale of stones and “show” of big, bold cos­tume jew­ellery. I heard an ex­pres­sion in Dal­las, Texas—“if you can’t see it from the high­way, don’t bother wear­ing it.” Per­fect. I’m hap­pi­est to see women wear­ing my pieces dur­ing the day, for no spe­cial rea­son other than their own de­sire to feel good... and stand out.

DINE What in­spires your creations? A.A. I have vivid mem­o­ries of my Aun­tie Marie, my mother’s sis­ter, step­ping off the plane from Eng­land in full fin­ery and pounds of jew­ellery—both cos­tume and real, in­clud­ing a 10 carat emer­ald ring that she bought in Is­tan­bul. She was friends with Nor­man Hart­nell, the Queen Mum’s cloth­ing de­signer, and so “over the top.” I love the glam­our of 1930s Hol­ly­wood. And vin­tage Cartier, the pieces of Pauld­ing Farn­ham who worked for Tif­fany at the turn of the cen­tury and Fabergé for the Rus­sian Im­pe­rial Court.

DINE How did El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor—hol­ly­wood roy­alty—come to own one of your pieces? A.A. I re­ceived a call from Har­rice Miller, the woman cu­rat­ing the El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor col­lec­tion for Christie’s. She in­quired about a pur­ple bracelet I had made for House of La­vande in Palm Beach in 2005, but wouldn’t give de­tails. At that time, House of La­vande was work­ing with Henri Ben­del’s in New York so I be­lieve some­one bought it there and gifted it to Dame El­iz­a­beth. It was only when the Christie’s cat­a­logue for the El­iz­a­beth Tay­lor auc­tion came out, that I knew. Shocked! Thrilled!

DINE De­scribe your col­lec­tion. A.A. My col­lec­tion is about big, bold, state­ment pieces, in­ter­est­ing colour com­bi­na­tions and rare vin­tage ma­te­ri­als. It’s kind of Cartier-meets-aladdin’s trea­sures, but with a mod­ern twist. There are ba­sics, but each sea­son has its own punch of colour, and I usu­ally don’t re­visit them, just be­cause of the avail­abil­ity of the ma­te­ri­als. Once a won­der­ful vin­tage stone is gone, it’s gone.

DINE What makes Jewels by Alan An­der­son unique? A.A. I think that it’s hand­made, like a cou­ture dress. It’s not mass pro­duced or made in a fac­tory. And, it is truly a Cana­dian brand. I’ve dis­cov­ered there are a lot of women, from age 16 (our youngest client to date) to over 80, who just want some­thing unique. They have no de­sire to ‘blend in.’ In the 1950s, there were about 1,000 crafts­men in North Amer­ica who made this type of cou­ture cos­tume jew­ellery. To­day, there are only about seven of us, so I really feel I am keep­ing a craft alive. —Jill Killeen

I love the glam­ourof 1930s Hol­ly­wood 1930s 'Chi­nese Jade' and 1950s Swarovski crys­tal Ja­panned plated col­lar

1950s rose gold Siam Red Ruby and Aus­trian Rose crys­tal bracelet

1950s rose gold­plated Siam Red Ruby and Aus­trian Rose crys­tal ear­rings

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