Passion Points: Style
Whimsical, specialized and deeply personal, London-based jewelry company Symbolic & Chase was founded by Martin Travis whose love for gorgeous antique design and craftsmanship is at the heart of the company’s vision. Travis provides his clients the care and attention found in retail outlets but with the value usually only available when buying jewelry at auction. The by-appointment-only firm, which specializes in the important French jewelers from the 1920s and ‘30s, recently started offering a small selection of contemporary pieces as well. Indagare spoke to Travis, whose hunt for jewels has taken him all around the world, about vintage and contemporary jewelry and some of his new discoveries.
What type of jewelry do you specialize in?
Our collection includes examples of jewelry from around the world, created between 1900 to the present day. However, our real focus is on important French jewelers from the 1920s and 1930s.
What are some of your favorite pieces in your current collection?
My favorite piece at the moment is also the smallest: a tiny flexible diamond ring by Cartier from the 1920s. I tried but didn’t succeed in buying the ring five years ago from the collection of Doris Duke. However, it recently reappeared on the market and a friend who had remembered how I loved the piece, brought it to me.
What are some of the periods and designers that you find most inspiring?
I find most periods in history have inspiring individuals and concepts, especially when taken within their context. Stylistically, I get most excited about the French artist jewelers of the 1930s: Templier, Sandoz, Depres, Boivin, Belperron, Ostertag and Fouquet. Their innovation and dedication to design is something that I find very exciting. These artists created the mindset that jewelry is not just transportable wealth, but small and wearable art.
What are some pieces or designers that you would like to see more of?
We are constantly scouring the globe to find vintage pieces from the long-standing jewelry houses. I also admire many contemporary jewelers and would love to showcase their pieces alongside our antique and vintage works, as we have begun to do with Viren Bhagat. I have loved the eclectic mix of clients that this combination has drawn. Contemporary jewelry collectors are usually interested by the history and surprised by how easy to wear the vintage pieces are. Vintage jewelry collectors are amazed at the innovation to be found in contemporary works.
What are some of your biggest challenges?
The main obstacle to our trade these days is the shortage of truly important jewels. With a focus on pieces created decades ago, we suffer from so many of life’s accidents. When I think of all that can happen: loss, theft, dismantling for parts, family feuds, accidental crushing… I marvel that there are any vintage pieces left.
Do you think the heyday of fine jewelry making is a thing of the past or are there contemporary designers who are still pushing boundaries?
It can be easy to look back in history and be convinced that there is nothing of comparable skill or design being produced today. But remember that from each period only a few names stand the test of time, and many artists are relatively under-appreciated in their day. One contemporary jewelry house that has reached deserved reverence is JAR. In each of their creations, you can feel the attention to detail and artistry that can be lacking in many contemporary jewels. Like all exceptional jewels throughout history, JAR’s pieces are a testimony to accumulated technical knowledge coupled with the wonder of contemporary design.
What are your favorite travel destinations and why?
What I look for in a destination is a place or experience that will jolt my mind but not shatter my comfort levels. I can appreciate most things as long as I have a little realm of comfort to retreat to where I can mull over all I’ve seen. I’m also semi-aquatic, so where there’s water, I’m smiling. My most memorable break has to be cruising the islands of Croatia for a week by boat, that checked all the boxes. Diving in the ocean to find an octopus for the chef to cook with a black ink risotto was incredible. And I can’t forget my visit to the Maldives! That was the best, although while surfing I came across an 18-foot shark which was enough to keep me out of the water for 24 hours.
What are your favorite hotels and why?
There are many hotels I love but the Park Hyatt in Shanghai recently blew me away. The rooms are on the 79th to 93rd floors, offering one of the most impressive views of the city from the comfort of your own pillow. Plus, the service was truly exceptional.
What is your most treasured possession from abroad?
I must admit this changes frequently, however currently it is a beautiful shell I found on the seabed off Patmos, Greece last summer. It had caught my eye in an otherwise barren seascape, but an octopus had also found it to be a treasure. After unwittingly scaring it off, I waited quite a while to see if it would come back for the prize, but convinced it had gone on to better shells, I allowed myself the souvenir.
Are there places that you travel to that you find particularly inspiring or renewing and why?
Whenever the frustrations of earthly life are weighing me down, I jump on the Eurostar and head to Paris. After a bicycle tour of the breathtaking city, I enjoy a drink and some of the world’s best people-watching in the Parisian splendor of Hôtel Costes.
Visit the Symbolic & Chase site: symbolicchase.com
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