Loren Nicole: The Ancient’s Defender
o quote Indiana Jones, “If you want to be a good archeologist, get out of the library!” I wonder if it was these words that echoed through the mind of Loren Teetelli when she set out to create her studio Loren Nicole in California. However, unlike Indiana who hunts for treasure in Amazonian jungles, Loren spends her time digging up lost and dying gold-smithing techniques to bring them back to life through her one-of-a-kind creations.
Loren Nicole's Origin Story
While interning at the American Museum of Natural History and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Loren developed her jewellery career by devoting her weekends to gold-smithing courses. Originally intending to grow her understanding of the metal objects at work, her passion for connecting history with jewellery quickly eclipsed her academic path, and she decided to relocate to California to open the Loren Nicole studio. Loren explained, “It really became this place where I get to do everything now. What’s more exciting is that I’m immediately getting to share my knowledge of history with clients and the public; I get to see the excitement as they talk about their trips to Egypt, or about a memory from a childhood school trip…it’s very fun getting people excited about history.”
Like the ancient civilizations before her, Loren works primarily in 22-karat gold and has become known for her use of texture, lusciously carved gemstones, and complex techniques. While many jewellers have turned to computer rendering and 3D printing, you will find no modern technology in the Loren Nicole studio. As a custodian of antiquated jewellery techniques, Loren brings together a blend of modern forms and old world craftsmanship.
This technique is believed to have originated in Sumer 5000 years ago. It is a delicate dance of finding the perfect temperature and just the right amount of time to equal a bond. The difficulty of mastering this technique has caused it to become scarcely practiced today. When mastered, it becomes a beautiful element to subtly texture the surface. Finding the unique balance between honouring this ancient technique and making it relevant in today’s modern aesthetic is a skill Loren has certainly mastered.
Chasing & Repoussé
Chasing and repousse is the most expressive and the newest technique Loren has incorporated into her designs. It is a form of metalworking that has a long history throughout ancient times, but truly found a home in the Florentine region of Italy, where it is practiced by master artisans today. It involves working a sheet of metal from both sides, using a hammer and handmade tools to push forward or raise the design from behind and then shape and refine the details on the front or exterior surface. For more advanced pieces it’s not unusual for Loren to first work in a non-precious metal, such as copper, to work out the most problematic areas. A single bangle will take up to eighty hours of work to complete. But, the process is worth the effort as Loren says, “It’s like magic.”
Loren Nicole’s roman signet rings are a hollow form raised from a flat sheet of 22-karat yellow gold, fitted to perfectly house a one-of-a-kind gemstone. Once the general shape is roughed out, Loren uses her antique Roman hammer to apply a rough natural finish, reminiscent of the patina of time.
Each of these techniques has their own unique challenges, but as Loren explained to me some are more complex than others, “Everyone expects me to say granulation is the most difficult technique I currently use, however it really is chasing and repousse. The piece needs to be conceptualized in all dimensions before you start, with each step planned out. The Hippo Bangle is one of the most difficult pieces I’ve made to date; created from a single sheet of gold it’s very difficult to get the forms that high without [the sheet] breaking…I spent a good two days moving metal from the outside of the sheet to the centre. Additionally, you begin with the Repousse (working from the reverse) and it can be hard to judge if the piece is where I want it to be before I remove it from the tar and see it for the first time.”
The Viking Trove
While Loren has in the past turned to her Greek heritage for inspiration, the latest collection consisting of fifty-five unique jewels delve into the treasure troves of the ancient Vikings, and explores the cultures important relationship between land and sea. The Viking Trove collection culminates in an epic object in the form of a golden Viking Longboat which disassembles into wearable jewels. Shields become earrings, the woven sail takes the form of a bracelet, and the dragon figurehead can be worn as a stickpin.
Loren explained to me, “I was inspired to create the collection because I kept thinking about the shape and idea of a Viking ship. It occurred to me that I could make a ship that comes apart and is wearable as jewelry. I wanted it to have function.” The ancient Viking culture held a close relationship between the land and sea. They were deeply connected with the earth, and buried their treasures and ships on land. The shape of the longboat is reflected throughout the collection. Delicate blue-green tones of the sea are captured in ancient bronze elements which shimmer against rock crystal. To discover the complete collection, follow this link.
A Gift to the Future
With each jewels she crafts, Loren gives collectors a rare opportunity to own a piece of modernized history, crafted with the same detail and passion as her ancient predecessors, and made to be passed through and cherished by generations to come. As Loren continues to search for techniques to add to her repertoire, she dreams of going back in time to observe Mme. Belperron in her workshop – but also plans to study with contemporary designer Giovanni Corvaja, a very exciting prospect! For more information about Loren’s work, visit her online and follow her studio on Instagram.
Thank you to Loren and Sarah for their assistance in making this article happen. To discover more people like Loren, please visit the People page.