Jewellery design is a whole art unto itself, melding together personality and character, and letting the two wend their way through metal and decorative accessories to speak about their wearers.
Nina and Mila Pikova are two Russian jewellery designers, who work at some of the most famous jewellery houses in Rome and Geneva. The pair has the uniqueness of being twins, adding an extra twist to their creative partnership.
Born into a family with a history in the jewellery industry, the Pikovas also boast relatives who founded the Russia Sharonows School of Jewellery Design.
Nina and Mila Pikova sat down with Daily News Egypt to talk about their careers, and their take on jewellery design.
We were born in a family of jewellers, in Russia, and from childhood we were surrounded by books on art and jewellery. We had a jewellery workbench at home, and we often played with our parents’ collection of stones. Jewellery and art is something that has always been a part of our lives, even if we have not really thought about it.
When we were children, our mother taught us to draw, talked about artists and showed us their paintings in books. We often went to exhibitions, including jewellery exhibitions and shows. When it came time to choose a profession, we did not particularly need to think about it. Our uncle and aunt are the founders of Russian Sharonows School of Jewellery Design and Artistic Metal.
For six years, we learned jewellery design and technology from them. We learned the stages of creating jewellery, from concept and idea to the final embodiment. It was during these six years that we finally realised that jewellery art is something we would like to connect our lives with.
Within five years of graduating from university, we managed to live in different countries in Europe and Asia, in Moscow, Bangkok, Milan, Paris and Geneva, to receive additional education at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and at the Creative Academy in Milan. We collaborated as designers with many jewellery companies around the world, including the largest jewellery houses. At the moment, we are designers at one of the most famous jewellery houses in Rome and Geneva and it is a great honour for us.
You two are twins, how has this affected your work?
The fact that we are twins and both share the same passion, of course, helps us. Despite the fact that we are the same, we have a rather different approach to design and different styles. We learn a lot from each other, and each of us could not find a better partner in work, we are very lucky.
How did you turn the hobby into professionalism?
We prefer to believe that professionalism is what we should always strive for. The jewellery industry is so vast that the horizon is simply not visible. We still continue to study, including the history of jewellery, to constantly comprehend changes in design and new trends. We work a lot, almost every day, and try to set ourselves increasingly challenging tasks.
Did you receive a scholarship to study jewellery?
Yes, we both received a scholarship from the Richemont Group to study at the Creative Academy in Milan, Italy. There we studied the design of watches, jewellery and fashion for a year. In the process of training, we undertook projects for major watch and jewellery brands, and also took internships with Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre.
We participated in many international exhibitions and competitions, especially when we were students. A couple of years ago, Mila won a jewellery design contest in Singapore, but since then we have not taken part in any competition. We like to work on real collections of jewellery more, and let our clients be judges.
Tell us about your design style. What makes your collections unique?
The main goal of a jewellery designer who works for jewellery brands with a huge history and their established style is to create a collection that will meet the DNA of this brand. Our design style is very dependent on what brand we make it for. In our free time, we draw for ourselves, because it is very important to find your own style. I personally am very inspired by the prehistoric attitude towards jewellery, when it was more an amulet and a source of strength, a reminder of something more important than just jewellery piece. I am very inspired by this idea and it greatly affects my personal style in design.
What is your most favourite creation of jewellery and why?
Unfortunately, we cannot speak about the many projects that we have done, because of the Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) that we have signed. So, let us just say that our most favourite jewellery collection remains to be done.
How many collections have you created so far?
We never thought, although after this question, even we, ourselves, wonder how many! We can’t count, although we have made quite a lot of jewellery collections and individual pieces.
What are your favourite materials to use?
We like to work with a variety of materials, sometimes combining materials that, at first glance, are not compatible. Precious with non-precious materials, colour with monochrome, and even combining very different forms of stone cuts in one piece.
What is your favourite diamond cut?
Recently, I have preferred a heart cut shape, as there is some kind of kitsch and cliché in it, so it’s funny. All other cuts are too serious.
What has been the strangest design request you have ever received?
Again, we cannot answer this question, specifically since we cannot divulge the nuances of our work with individual clients. But let’s say that it happens when a client wants to have one piece of jewellery stones matching their horoscope, sacred symbols, date of birth, initials, or family coat of arms, the result is usually strange.
Egypt has always been a great source of inspiration for jewellery designers, especially in the 20th century. We still see echoes of this era in Art Deco style jewellery. Therefore, one way or another, some Egyptian influence is sometimes felt in our designs.
As designers, where do you draw your inspiration from?
First of all, inspiration of course comes from your own rich imagination, which, to us, was formed in childhood. We always read a lot, and it is books, certain words and images that are our source of inspiration.
What are the upcoming trends in the jewellery design industry?
To understand the upcoming trends in the jewellery industry, it is enough just to observe what people are wearing right now on the street, what clothes and what accessories. In a sense, all the trends appearing at fashion shows and in jewellery boutiques are born on city streets.
Who are your favourite designers?
Out of all the jewellery designers, we really like Suzanne Belperron and Alma Pihl, what they did in the 20th Century still looks very modern. There are also many designers in the fashion industry that we are following. To call someone your favourite designer means to say that you like everything they do. We often like just one or two things or collections, a couple of ideas from one and the other designer.
What challenges do you face in your work?
Perhaps the main challenge is to create something new each time, with the same initial material. Customers often ask for a very simple classic design, but the fact that they turn to the designer suggests that they want to get something special. So it is important to look at the same material with different eyes every time, to remain original and not repeat what has come before.
As an interesting observation, until recently, when customers come with a large expensive stone, they no longer want a cocktail ring that they will only wear a few times a year. Instead, they want something very casual and elegant. Now the view on this has changed a lot, if people buy an expensive stone, they want to see it every day, and not store it in a safe. I like this approach, jewellery requires interaction with a person, for this they are created.
What are the international awards you have received?
We have received a lot of awards since we started participating in contests when we were students. Mila won the SJDA (Singapore Jewellery Design Award) twice.
What are your upcoming projects?
We always work simultaneously on several projects, one smoothly flowing into the other, so we will just continue to be in this rhythm. In addition, we are working a lot on learning French and Italian, as it is necessary for our work.
What advice would you give to aspiring jewellery designers?
That’s a good question. We are often asked about how to learn to draw, while keeping in mind some kind of “secret” or “magical way” to quickly learn. Our most important advice, and we have been following it for many years, is to draw and design every day. You yourself will be surprised how effective this simple and banal advice is.
Go to exhibitions, read books, watch a good film, all this in the end can work for you. It is not necessary to go only to jewellery exhibitions and read only about jewellery art. If you have a good look at a good design of a car, a chair, a poster, and so on, your eye will get used to what makes a good design and you will broaden your horizons. And besides, it’s just interesting. At the end, in terms of practical advice, learn to draw on a graphic tablet, the world does not stand still and this will allow you to draw faster.