Eddy joins Sotheby’s exhibit of world’s best Black designers
In New York on Friday, Melanie Eddy will show her jewellery at a Sotheby’s exhibit highlighting prominent Black designers from around the world.
The event was curated by Melanie Grant who directs luxury content for 1843, The Economist’s lifestyle publication.
“It is very exciting,” said Ms Eddy. “I knew [instantly] the significance of the opportunity but the journey to prepare pieces for this exhibition, and the reception it has had even before opening, has exceeded any expectations I had.”
Brilliant and Black: A Jewelry Renaissance was born out of the research Ms Grant did for her 2020 book, Coveted: Art and Innovation of High Jewelry.
“Jewellery artists of African descent have been largely ignored in favour of African-inspired design over the last century although so many of the resources to make jewellery come from the continent,” said the author, who visited Bermuda with Ms Eddy last week.
Meanwhile, Black designers tend to get lodged in the commercial space between fashion and fine jewellery, she said.
She approached Sotheby’s believing the profiles of 21 designers including Ms Eddy, Catherine Sarr, Harwell Godfrey, Thelma West and Vania Leles, needed to be elevated.
Her hope is to see a Black designer’s work sell for more than $1 million at auction.
“We have someone in the show who is selling at that point but I can’t think of anyone who has [reached that at auction] in my lifetime. We need to shift a few goalposts.”
Ms Eddy’s work usually sells for anywhere between $2,000 and $7,000.
Her big ticket item at the Sotheby’s exhibit is a $37,500 ring crafted from 18k rose and white gold with a dark amethyst stone with a carat weight of 14.65.
“The ring is quite dramatic,” she said. “It is inspired by palmetto berries which go really, really dark purple.”
A pair of earrings priced at $29,500 are made from 18K rose gold, tapered amethysts and mauve triangular sapphires.
“The colour and tone of them is reminiscent of a Bermudiana flower,” Ms Eddy said. “They were made specifically for the show.”
For $9,000 she is offering sterling silver bangles inspired by her 107-year-old grandmother, Myrtle Edness. Two were made for her master’s degree show at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London in 2007; she created a third for the Sotheby’s exhibit.
When Ms Eddy started out she didn’t think she was being held back by racism, she just assumed the industry was tough to break into.
“In time I continued to see contemporaries and former students move forward at greater speed than I was able to and it became a bit more acute – the realisation that there were bigger barriers for some of us than for others,” she said.
Ms Grant and Ms Eddy met through an online jewellery forum although they are both lecturers at Central Saint Martins.
Making the pieces for the Sotheby’s project pushed the designer forward. She usually creates her high-end jewellery on commission.
“These pieces are bigger and more ambitious than I would normally make,” she said. “The opportunity to do these pieces is the first time in quite a while where I have just been able to create just for the sake of creating,” she said.
The exhibit has featured in The New York Times, Vogue, Forbes and other publications.
“There has been spectacular momentum,” said Ms Grant, who attributed part of it to the Black Lives Matter movement. “I have been quite shocked by the intensity of the interest.”
For Ms Eddy, news that she had been selected for the exhibition came at just the right time. She had just moved to the English countryside when the pandemic hit in March 2020 and was unable to get into her studio in central London for several months.
“It gave me some space and some time to reflect on what was really important to me,” she said.
After she completed her studies in 2013, Ms Eddy was hired by the British Council to curate an exhibit showcasing contemporary jewellery and stones from Afghanistan.
Two years later she was hired by the Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan to advise what materials and equipment the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme should invest in for their enterprises.
She was working on her entry for Brilliant and Black as foreign troops withdrew from Afghanistan, ceding control to the Taleban.
“It felt really weird to be working on something that is really exciting for me and seeing what was happening in Afghanistan,” she said. “I spent five years off and on working there.”
Ms Eddy has created a more affordable line which sell at Tabs on Reid Street. Prices range from $130 to $2,000.
“I wanted the pieces to be relatively accessible to people here,” she said.
While in New York she hopes to talk to galleries and stockists to break into the local market.
“I have a couple of US clients here and there but I don’t have an established presence there yet,” she said.
Brilliant and Black: A Jewelry Renaissance opens Friday at Sotheby’s New York and runs until September 26. Designs are available for purchase online, from September 17 until October 10: bit.ly/3A8s762. For more on Melanie Eddy: www.melanieeddy.co.uk. Follow @MelanieEddyJewellery on Facebook and @mne_eddy on Instagram