Johnny Nelson first came to jewelry when he was a punk rapper known as Johnny Matchsticks, a nickname he earned by stabbing a match into his pierced earlobe before shows. When he wanted to switch to a gold matchstick earring, he couldn’t find one – so he decided to figure out how to make his own.
After finding a mentor in New York’s diamond district and learning how to carve molds and pour precious metals, Nelson introduced both punk and political designs to his nascent line: razor blade rings, All Power Fist nails and civil rights portrait. pendants, pieces enlightened by his experience of the underground music scene and victim of police brutality. “I knew I wanted to use my platform to raise awareness of the injustices we face, but I wanted to do it through the powerful statement of something like a four finger ring,” he says.
When the Black Lives Matter protests erupted last spring, orders for Nelson’s work exploded, so he spent his days cycling between his Brooklyn studio, the protests and the Diamond District, while producing pieces that were then worn by similar people. by Colin Kaepernick. “I realized that people needed it,” he says. “People who are going to fight on the front lines want their Malcolm X ring to give them that extra boost.” It was an extremely emotionally trying time for Nelson, but it also galvanized a renewed sense of purpose: “The work I do inspires others to fight. Combat our to fight.”
Ancient forms, modern heritage
When you first pick up a Prounis pinkie ring or bracelet, you might think you are handling pristine ancient treasure. The high-karat gold designer that Jean Prounis uses has a deep, ethereal luster, meant to evoke the tone of jewelry in the Greco-Roman galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The shapes too seem smoothed over by generations of touch, and the stones seem downright elementary – Jean prefers rougher rocks which are more about personality than perfection.
John’s conservative approach is informed by his family’s Greek heritage and his grandfather’s extensive library of the art, architecture, and antiques of ancient Greece. “When I was younger he would show me his books,” she says. “Whether I listen or not, I’m not sure, but it definitely spread when I started making jewelry.” A delicate woven chain, for example, is secured with a clasp that echoes the design of a Mycenaean-era safety pin, and a granulated gold pyramid nail is inspired by second-century Roman earrings discovered in Cyprus.
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