By Isabelle Kellogg
Rosior, Lisbon's most esteemed jeweller, has a jewel box-size boutique (three people and it's full) in the lobby of the city's premier luxury hotel, the Four Seasons Hotel Ritz. I wasn't aware of Rosior jewellery until I was invited to visit the hotel recently, and the boutique caught my eye as I was ushered into the dining room to meet my host.
The Four Seasons Ritz Hotel is housed in a post-modernist building, and is dedicated to providing the effortless, first-class service from days gone by, which leads me into my story about Rosior.
The hotel and jeweller complement each other very well. It has a lot to do with the respect and reverence that the Portuguese have for the past, and how they go about preserving their heritage, without compromising on freshness and vitality.
My host had arranged for me to meet the owner of Rosior, José Manuel Rosas, who was born in 1949 into a family of goldsmiths and jewellery makers in Oporto, the centre of jewellery making in Portugal. In 1979, Rosas founded Rosior, with a mission to take the skills and knowledge of his grandfather, utilising the old-world jewellery-making techniques and the skills of the artisans to bring about design innovation. Rosior designs each piece of jewellery in classical 18 carat gold or platinum, and then tweaks the design to achieve new forms that display more light and volume.
Articulated flowers and butterflies are the speciality of the house, as well the extraordinary bejewelled "Gem Dreams" evening bag that Rosier created in 2009 - an elaborate tribute to colour, craftsmanship and jewellery. According to Rosas, the bag was designed to raise awareness among the Portuguese who are not used to such extravagant designs, especially considering its current economic climate. The evening bag is indeed a work of art.
Made of 105.80g of 19.20 carat gold (the traditional Portuguese 800% alloy) and 641.90g of sterling silver, it is covered with 4,732 gems, which came from Rosior's inventory. The rainbow of colour includes 1,839 blue sapphires, 962 fancy-coloured sapphires, 380 rubies, 312 emeralds, 239 amethysts, 206 coated topazes, 186 citrines, 93 blue topazes, 88 smoky quartz, 25 aquamarines and 402 diamonds. The total gemstone weight is more than 423 carats, and the setting of these thousands of faceted stones took about 900 hours, out of a total of nearly 1,200 hours of hand-crafted work.
Rosior has won enough design awards in Europe to give it valuable recognition in the industry for its creative approach to design. Each piece of Rosior jewellery is made using labour-intensive techniques, such as the illusion setting of coloured sapphires to achieve an ombré pattern on a ring or bracelet. We discussed how long each piece of hand-crafted jewellery takes to make, since Rosior's does not skimp or cut corners. According to Rosas, this would be dishonourable to the family's jewellery name and the "100% Made in Portugal" commitment.
Although Rosior doesn't exclude using technology for making and crafting its jewellery, it has definitely succeeded in introducing a modern look to traditional Portuguese gems, making them relevant for today's consumer, and even the Portuguese are taking notice.