Inventory Number WEJ199
Size 5.38h x 2.38w in
Material Rubies, Black Diamonds, Brazilian Hematite, Red PVD plated German Silver
Country of Origin United States
Year Made 2012
Status Available, $22,000
Ehrlich conceived of a unique design strategy that would allow the jewelry to have architectural underpinnings. He engineers his pieces like this Ruby Chrysanthemum Pinwith multiple layers of metal, much like topographical models, and tiny posts separate these layers. His system of creating forms is akin to a building’s construction, with columns in between floor plates. Separating the individual thin pieces of metal by short posts forms a structure—the construction method for buildings becomes the same as the structure of the jewelry. Paisleys, flowers, and lightning bolts are among his recurring motifs. This unique vocabulary creates a light, open style, which Ehrlich explores and develops in new directions.
When the jewelry designer William Ehrlich juxtaposes sketches of flowers, Arts and Crafts motifs, and his own abstract forms, a design for a new piece of jewelry evolves. “It’s about being intuitive, spontaneous, creating in a fluid way,” he said, during a summer 2018 interview in the Manhattan townhouse that he designed, which is filled with contemporary art.
He and his wife Ruth Lloyds have four grown children and seven grandchildren. They share the house with their four dogs and three cats, and yet sections of flooring made of poured white epoxy remain pristine. At the family’s more rustic country home in upstate New York, the focus is on Arts and Crafts decorative art and furniture and especially the iridescent French Art Nouveau ceramics made by Clement Massier. The jewelry reflects Ehrlich’s interest in all these areas of design, which continue to influence the ideas that he has fabricated in metal and gemstones.
Ehrlich, a Long Island native, trained as an architect at Harvard and worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and then he ultimately moved into real estate development. These professions require time and compromise to achieve a final product, with “much of the decision-making by committee,” he said. “I missed a more immediate creative process that was based just on my ideas.”
About ten years ago, Ehrlich conceived of a unique design strategy that would allow the jewelry to have architectural underpinnings. He engineers the jewelry with multiple layers of metal, much like topographical models, and tiny posts separate these layers. His system of creating forms is akin to a building’s construction, with columns in between floor plates. Separating the individual thin pieces of metal by short posts forms a structure—the construction method for buildings becomes the same as the structure of the jewelry. Paisleys, flowers, and lightning bolts are among his recurring motifs. This unique vocabulary creates a light, open style, which Ehrlich explores and develops in new directions.
He downloads the drawings into AutoCAD files, a computer-based graphic software program used by architects, and sends them to be laser-cut from sheets of German silver, a copper alloy laced with nickel and zinc. Multiple delicate shapes are cut to make up the finished works. These small parts are assembled by hand and richly set with stones. The design is not visible when viewed from the side, but it does become clear when seen from the front. The metal is then plated in black or white rhodium or PVD—the acronym stands for “physical vapor deposition,” a high-temperature vacuum coating process that deposits a very thin color finish which can be black, blue, red, or white.
“I wanted to dematerialize the metal and make it part of a more neutral armature for the extensive use of gemstones,” Ehrlich explained.
His knowledge of, and sympathy for, the ideals and aesthetics of the Arts and Crafts movement provide a meaningful historic link for the work. His major influences include William Morris and Gustav Stickley, who made strong statements against their era’s dehumanization of society and the workplace. Ehrlich aims to make similar statements with his work, by combining handcraftsmanship with the most sophisticated technical processes that utilize laser and computer technology. A rejection of factory-made mass production speaks to his moral and spiritual commitment to the creation of these unusual, one-of-a-kind, sculptural objects for personal adornment.
Teams of fabricators construct the layers and cover the surfaces with diamonds, sapphires, and rubies, as well as semi-precious stones like aquamarines, tourmalines, moonstones, and zircons, accented with chunks of hematite, pyrite, and chalcedony. The mother-of-pearl backings on some of the larger stones endow them with an opalescence reminiscent of Ehrlich’s collection of Art Nouveau vases. Each piece of jewelry is unique. Basic forms may reappear, but each work has its own individual set of colors and details. He achieves fresh takes on very classic forms, and his evident joy in risk-taking imbues his work with aesthetic power and structural interest.
Ehrlich has found a way to utilize his skills as an architect to realize a pure and direct expression of his vision for jewelry. Handcraftsmanship, combined with a sensitive use of color to heighten the complex designs, insures that this jewelry is set apart, on its own.
Ehrlich’s jewelry has been exhibited in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, London, Maastricht, Basel, and New Delhi.