Thursday, December 3, 2009
I was delighted the other night to attend a private viewing of the Tamsen Z jewelry collection designed by Ann Ziff. The event was held at the Alexander Gallery on Madison Avenue at 74th Street, across the avenue from the Whitney Museum of American Art.
I was quite taken with the Alexander Gallery, located on the second floor, which specializes in American and European paintings and antiques.
Salmon color walls, offices with fireplaces, art and antiques everywhere – what a swell place to work.
The view from the party down to Madison Avenue.
In a central gallery, the lady of the hour was showing, and selling, her work to her friends. Ann Ziff started collecting precious beads and stringing them on to necklaces. Her artistry and expertise grew, and now she designs all kinds of precious and semiprecious jewelry. The displays were quite dazzling.
A giant ring featured a glassy green pariaba tourmaline that was cut in an abstract, modern shape and surrounded with diamonds. There was a breathtaking bracelet of white, yellow and brown diamonds on gold filigree so thin it almost seemed like fabric. This is a bracelet of pink sapphires with yellow and white diamonds.
I even like it out of focus: a sparkling confection of riches.
Thin, dangling earrings were made out of sliced meteorite. A dramatic necklace combined opals with Pre-Colombian gold. This necklace of boulder opals is timeless and classic but at the same time the color combination is unusual and exciting.
The designer is not constrained by traditional notions of jewelry. When I ask Ann Ziff about her design style, she says, ""Off the wall' is a little too strong, but I like the unexpected. I'll combine any stone with any stone as long as it looks good." In Spring 2010, she will be opening her own store on Madison Avenue, in the former Bulgari boutique, to be eponymously called Tamsen Z; Tamsen is Ann's first name. I ask her how she feels about opening a jewelry boutique in a troubled economy, and she replies, "My husband was in publishing and he always said that during a bad economy is the best time to advertise." Ziff's late husband, William B. Ziff, Jr., who passed away in 2006, famously built his family's publishing company, Ziff-Davis, into a hugely successful business based on niche publications like Car and Driver, Popular Photography, and PC magazine. The Ziff family sold the publishing group in 1994.
Her husband had encouraged Ann to begin collecting precious gems of her own. Now, she works continually on her designs, traveling with her gems between her homes on Fifth Avenue, in Aspen and Florida. Ann Ziff is her own best advertising. At her party she wears earrings of her design made of three descending discs of emerald, ruby and sapphire pave. They're set off by her dark hair, which is combed back and cut at the chin. Her emerald green silk blouse has a wide collar which frames the face and leads up to her green eyes. Not a lot of makeup. It's simple, refined, beautiful style; modern but romantic too: a Sargent portrait.