Master goldsmith Annie Fensterstock fuses traditional materials with modern design

Known for completely original designs, Annie Fensterstock is a jeweller who does a whole lot of good too, most recently in Afghanistan with Future Brilliance.

Annie Fensterstock gold and blackened silver Cleopatra cuff featuring diamonds, rubies and pink sapphires.

By Rachel Garrahan in Los Angeles

Designer Annie Fensterstock has been making beautiful fine jewellery for more than 20 years. And even though she now enlists the help of several goldsmiths in creating her eponymous line, the Long Island-based jeweller still likes to get her hands on every piece. "I select all the stones we use and I do some goldsmithing on everything. I also make all the custom pieces myself," she says 

With her sketchbook always at hand and eschewing the use of moulds, Fensterstock creates collections based on gems such as the opal pieces pictured here, but ultimately prefers the freedom of creating one-of-a-kind gems. "I have a hard time locking into one design and just repeating it," she explains.

This is a bonus for Fensterstock's fans, who appreciate the uniqueness of her work with its distinctive aesthetic, combining ancient techniques and a modern edge, and using contrasting materials like gold and blackened silver, intricate lines and vibrantly hued gems including unusual rose-cut sapphires and diamonds.

The designer's first love, though, is gold, and particularly the richness of 22 carat yellow gold. Trained at the University of Michigan and then New York's renowned Jewelry Art Institute, she learned her craft using this metal. "I love its colour and it's lovely to work with, it's like butter," she adds.

She added silver to her line when the price of gold exploded, giving her the freedom to make large pieces, such as her signature cuffs. The Cleopatra cuff, pictured here, is a wonderfully unique design with oxidized silver as the base material, but with no expense spared on the labour-intensive layering of yellow gold and diamonds, and richly coloured rubies and sapphires.

Fensterstock recently shared her considerable expertise with Afghan students in Jaipur, India. The month-long trip formed part of a course organised by the UK charity, Future Brilliance, to give the jewellery apprentices hands-on experience in design, fabrication, stone-cutting and business development. The students then returned to Afghanistan to create Aayenda, a fine jewellery collection that they will market and sell themselves, with a view to creating a viable and sustainable jewellery industry in the war-torn country. 

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