By Rachel Garrahan in Los Angeles
The joy of wearing Arman Sarkisyan's jewellery is such that a piece can still be revealing its myriad secrets long after it is first worn. "I am a sucker for detail," laughs the Armenian-born, Los Angeles-based designer, who started his training under the watchful eye of his goldsmith father at the age of 12. "Everything is detailed, even the back and bottom of my pieces. You could discover something months after wearing it - that's part of the pleasure," he adds.
Take a look at the designer's award-winning Sacred Heart locket. With his signature use of richly contrasting gold, oxidised silver and deeply hued gemstones, the engraved exterior features ocean-blue sapphires and diamonds on a magnificent string of kyanite beads, opening to reveal a flaming heart-shaped rubellite surrounded by an engraved burst of light, enhanced by micro-pavé diamonds.
Creating wearable art that combines centuries-old jewellery-making techniques with a modern sensibility and boundless imagination, Arman briefly studied architecture after his family's arrival in California more than 20 years ago. It is perhaps the engineering skills learned then that explain his love of the hidden mechanisms in the lockets and bracelets for which he is renowned. "I love the technical challenge of a complicated piece," he says.
A keen student of history, the designer takes inspiration from diverse places, including great designers such as Fabergé, René Lalique and JAR, as well as the Byzantine churches of his birthplace, the Russian renaissance, French baroque and even the hair lockets favoured by the Victorians.
And while detail is central to his work, his success lies in knowing where to stop. "You have to have the balance - you can't overdo it," he explains. His two-sided rubellite and ruby locket is a case in point: one side is Victorian-inspired and heavily engraved, the other is more minimalist in style. It is designed to be worn either way, depending on the mood of the wearer, The clasp also detaches so it can be worn with a chain or beaded necklace.
Most of all, though, it is Arman's enduring passion for making beautiful jewellery that comes through in his work. His chandelier-style ship earrings, featuring tiny gold Conquistador vessels with micro-pavé diamonds afloat on a sea of lapis lazuli, took nearly a year to make and were such a labour of love that he cannot bear to part with them.
For those jewels that Arman has fortunately made available to us, they can be found in boutiques across the US as well as Liberty of London, Golconda in Moscow, Artisan in Japan and luxury e-tailers Ylang 23 and Stone & Strand.