Chapel Hill, N.C. Aug 12, 2019. It was a Monet exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007 that got Travis Kukovich, owner of William Travis Jewelers in Chapel Hill, N.C., and a CPAA member, thinking differently about parasols.
Golden pearl parasol necklace from William Travis Jewelers
He admired the ones in paintings like Woman With A Parasol and thought about how they would twirl playfully in real life. Then he thought of the caps for pearl pendants that he was already making with a small jewelry lathe in his custom shop and how parasols, pearls, and twirling pendants could unite into single jewels. The combination would produce a lighthearted and distinctive look that wouldn’t be found anywhere else. To wit, his line of Pearl Parasols—pearl pendants with ornate levels of gold, silver, and gemstone caps and adornments—was born.
Tahitian pearl parasol jewel from William Travis Jewelers
“It’s a simple concept, but that helps to make a great jewelry design,” he explains. “Our Parasols are sort of like a chandelier or carousel because of the movement.”
The process of making them is as whimsical as the finished products. With his lathe, Kukovich creates ornate, four-inch long miniature table legs of sorts in wax that he cuts into about six different pieces. Each is cast is a variety of metals—think silver and rose and yellow gold—before being randomly paired up with caps that clutch pearl or gemstone focal points. Many are made for stock.
Carved Tahitian pearl parasol from William Travis Jewelers. This piece was a finalist in the 2018 International Pearl Design Competition from the CPAA
Some Parasols seemingly drip light blue sapphires like raindrops from drop-shape Tahitian pearls, while other pearl Parasols have opals and orange sapphires for company. More Parasols feature golden South Sea pearls suspended from oxidized silver chains with two-tone karat gold caps, while another carved Tahitian pearl with black diamond beads and briolettes nabbed a finalist award in the 2018 International Pearl Design Competition organized by CPAA.
Parasol jewels from William Travis Jewelers
Kukovich has made so many now that he’s lost count. Retail prices range from $600 to $10,000, all with 32-inch handmade chains in oxidized silver with karat gold accents.
“They’re collectibles,” Kukovich says.
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