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The Russian Diamond Line: We do not believe that gifted persons would win through on their own

28 january 2019

irina_slesareva_xx.pngThe Russian Diamond Line, a Moscow international jewellery contest of jewellery design, has been held for a decade already. At the end of the year, the results of the jubilee RDL-2018 contest were summed up, and on December 14, the prizewinners of the year were awarded the diplomas. Irina Slesareva, the Art Director of the Russian Diamond Line, one of the contest initiators and the Editor-in-Chief of the Yuvelirnoye Obozreniye (Jewellery Review) magazine, told the Rough&Polished correspondent about how the contest was set up and what the purpose was, how it has been changing and developing over the years.

At first, this project was meant as a contest within the framework of the Golden Ring of Russia jewellery festival in Kostroma organized by our magazine in 2000-2010, Irina Slesareva says. The International Jewellery Design Excellence Award was launched one year later in Hong Kong where the jewellery pieces - the prizewinners of the national contests held in various countries - took part, and the Grand Prix winner got the Champion of Champions title. In late December, we as the partners of the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show held in March received an offer from Lawrence Ma, the Director of this show and the IJDEA organizing committee Chairman, to invite the RDL prizewinners to this project, and some very interesting jewellery items, including the Bullfinches pendant by Ilgiz Fazulzyanov, were among them. I still remember how we met with our designers and interpreter in the office during the New Year vacations and sat up late filling-in the Application Forms and preparing the booklets for the jewellery pieces in English. In a month, we learnt that it was the Bullfinches pendant by Ilgiz Fazulzyanov that was awarded the Grand Prix - he was in the art competition with the jewellers from Italy, France, Thailand and the USA, and for the first time, the Russian design came into the spotlight at the international level. After that, we introduced amendments to the RDL concept and started to promote our laureates to other foreign contests and to integrate them into the international space. For that to happen, recognized European expert Gedimin Jablonski from Poland and Cynthia Winninayar, the editor-in-chief of the Swiss-US Trends&Colors, were invited to the contest jury. Their experience and solutions – sometimes rather unexpected – allowed us to choose those jewellery items that had chances to become trendsetters in the global jewellery industry.

After that, our designers repeatedly became the IJEDA prizewinners, didn’t they?

Yes, they did, the first victory in Hong Kong was followed by the second one – in 2013, the Swan ring by the Estet Jewellery House was awarded in the Distinction Award nomination, and two years later, the Life ring by Almaz-Holding was awarded the Grand-Prix and the Champion of Champions title, this ring was designed by Anna Teplinskaya and Timofei Teplinsky. This jewellery piece also received the Diploma in the Aesthetic Impression nomination – for the first time in the IJDEA practice.

In 2017, our designers took almost all the podium during the award ceremony – five Russian jewellery pieces were among the winners: the Firebird’s Feather set by Viktor Moiseikin, the For Form ring by Natalia and Tatiana Tarasova, the Firebird ring created by Alina Andreyeva for the CLUEV company, the Stella Maris bracelet by the Bronnitsky Yuvelir company. At that time, I was already one of the judges at the International Jewellery Design Excellence Award contest, however, as all the pieces were evaluated by the experts on a no-name basis, such outcome came as a surprise even to me. I still remember my feelings when our jewellers podiumed one after another and my foreign colleagues from the jury were amazed and asked: what, are all of them Russians, are these jewellery pieces from Russia?

Similar thing happened last year in China, when the RDL prizewinners Alexandra Neskreba and Nikolay Romanov ranked the first and the third at the Zhaojin Yinlou Cup contest. The organizers invited them to the award ceremony and granted them – in addition to their prizes that were a 100-gram gold bar for each - the tour to Shandong, a gold mining province that is focused on jewellery manufacture. The contest arranged with the assistance of the World Gold Union was oriented towards supporting the Chinese designers, but the result was that the main awards went to Russia. Was not it a success?

Definitely, it was. And how does the Russian Diamond Line differ from other jewellery design contests?

The major difference is that we do not believe that gifted persons would win through on their own, and we keep on promoting our laureates, at least, for the next two years after their participation in the contest, publish their works in our magazines on a regular basis. We send their jewellery pieces to other contests and tell about them at the workshops and masterclasses abroad whenever we take part in them. The RDL prizewinners take prestigious places at the exhibitions held abroad as it was this year in Hong Kong and Las Vegas.

Why is the line a ‘diamond’ one?

As for polished diamonds, they are the most eye-catching stones, and a Russian-cut diamond has already become an international brand. Polished diamonds blend seamlessly into the concept of our contest.

There is another circumstance – the idea and the concept came under the influence of the Diamond International Award, the polished diamond design contest held by De Beers from 1952 to 2000. We took the same procedure of deciding on the winner used at that very contest, there can be 20 winners maximum and all of them are equal laureates without ranking. Except for the Grand Prix, that is only awarded when some nominee is very prominent.

What do the polished diamonds bring to the jewellery piece? Do these specific features create difficulties to the participants in the contest?

If a designer uses diamonds, it means than he/she knows how to work with them and does not restrain himself/herself from using any creative brainchild and materials. Especially, if a designer creates something innovative and modern-day like the Waltzing Brilliance setting by Viktor Moiseikin that is informally called a ‘Russian’ one. He was awarded the Russian Diamond Line-2016 Grand Prix for this unique technique of setting the moving diamonds patented in Russia and the USA.

However, we do not require the diamonds to be used in a jewellery, to say nothing of any minimal total value as it was in case of the Diamond International Award. The main thing is the idea, style, individuality. The For Form ring by Natalia and Tatiana Tarasova that was among the awarded jewellery last year was made of pressed paper and amber but this bright piece stroke everybody all of a heap at first in Moscow and later on, in Hong Kong.

How was this jubilee contest organized this year, what was the difference as compared to the previous ones? Who was in the jury?

This year, Ekaterina Helvig, an Italian designer, evaluated all the entries together with me, Gedimin Jablonski and Larisa Poshekhonova, an art expert from the museums of the Moscow Kremlin. As usual, at the first stage, a shortlist of 25 jewellery items was made out of 73 pieces, and then the contest jury decided on the laureates - this time there were 14 pieces. The Microcosm collection by Dmitry Belman was awarded the Grand Prix for the unique innovation in the granulation technique that was the result of the twenty-year efforts, according to the jeweller.

This year, the principal difference was a great number of designer works presented with original solutions on style and the use of alternative materials. The Russian Diamond Line is not a thematic contest, but almost every time, one can trace common themes that inspire the designers – this time, for example, there were a lot of marine motives, cosmos and fantasy. It is of great interest to me, because, for example, quite recently, I have visited the exposition of contest works made by the students of the Trier University, Germany, and I noticed that the jewellers there studied the themes of the environment, violence and gender identity in their creative works.

Do the criteria for choosing the winners change with years? Does anything new appear in the design, technique, in cutting and polishing technology? What skills in the art become trends?

Traditionally, our jury evaluate the jewellery idea and aesthetics, craftsmanship and innovations. I think it a big luck when the designers come to us who really create something new that can be called the ‘design of the 21st century’. The contemporary jewellery art does not rest on laurels, designers all over the world develop new techniques, experiment with gamut of coatings, study new materials, mix styles, seek for new forms. One can see this from the results of the international contests.

Any innovation always arouses interest. That was the case with the pearls cut by Viktor Tuzlukov in the Butterflies jewellery set by Ilgiz F that looked in a different way and deserved the prize in Hong Kong in 2013. Viktor Moiseikin successfully introduces his Waltzing Brilliance setting into his collections changing his approach to design. This new setting allows bringing fancy forms to jewellery and increasing the number of stones – still, the jewellery is lightweight.

This year we learnt about the innovation introduced by Dmitry Belman that was implemented in the classical granulation technique, thanks to this innovation, the jewellery gain sculpturesqueness and volume. In the Microcosm collection awarded the Grand-Prix, one can see three applications of this technique – with industrial setting, with polished diamonds, and hot enamel as a background. It is a very modern idea and a very complicated work requiring skills and excellence.

In recent years, while working in the jury in jewellery contests of various formats – the International Jewellery Design Excellence Award in Hong Kong, Artistar in Italy, Zhaojin Yinlou Cup in China, Amber Trip in Lithuania, as well as studying the contest entries and talking to other experts, I noted such advantages of our designers as draughtsmanship, craftsmanship, and workmanship. I got used to hear the compliments from my foreign colleagues about our jewellery just for this – their professional sketches, high quality jewellery manufacturing. That said, our designers still need, to my opinion, fresh air, some influence of the contemporary aesthetics, which is possible through creative brainstorming and integration into the international space. It is necessary that today, in the 21st century, the ‘Russian school’ would no longer be associated with the Faberge epoch only and would rise to a new level.

What names of the Russian Diamond Line prizewinners can you call ‘brands’? What do the RDL laureates receive thanks to their triumph?

Certainly, over a decade there were many bright names - Ilgiz F with his enamels, CLUEV and designer Alina Andreyeva with her fairy stories and unique gems, Almaz-Holding and Anna Teplinskaya, who created the Life ring shape, Anna Dmitriyeva with her Russian Seasons transformer-rings, Nikolay Romanov, the fantastic jeweller from Nizhny Tagil using enamels to create premium class jewellery, Viktor Moiseikin and his collections with moving stones, as light as feathers, Natalia and Tatiana Tarasova with their right understanding of the forms, Alexandra Neskreba and her complex transformers, a kind of pieces of art by Tatiana Khromoseyeva from the Ballet collection, unique Vladimir Markin with his ironic jewellery and sophisticated mechanisms, and many others … . As I have already mentioned, the status of the Russian Diamond Line prizewinner is a pass to the foreign platforms, the possibility to work in the prestigious zones of the top exhibitions, and in spring next year, we also plan to publish our jubilee album where the works of our prizewinners will be collected.

Galina Semyonova, Rough&Polished