This week on Jewellery Pursuer, we meet Anita Mandal, founder and jewellery designer at Anita Mandal Art Jewels. Anita, a plastic surgeon with a thriving practice in Palm Beach, Florida, very unexpectedly discovered her love and flair for jewellery design. It was almost like an epiphany, but one which tapped Anita’s artistic instincts in highly gratifying ways.
And it happened something like this…Anita, a keen jewellery lover herself, had requested a custom piece from her jeweller in Israel. However, even after several long-distance sizing and fitting sessions, the piece would just not sit properly. Something had to be done. So Anita travelled to Israel to get her jewel fitted in person and it was there when it dawned on her that jewellery design and jewellery making was what she was meant to follow. The Universe opened a door to a new and exciting place and Anita stepped inside, ready for all the adventures that lay ahead.
Anita's imagination is boundless and is her greatest source of inspiration. She's a sculptor with a natural ability to create fabulous objets d'art pieces. Anita's design aesthetic is all her own, distinctive and bold. She constantly challenges herself to create unique designs and her ideas are a seamless fusion of organic ideas and technical precision. Her very creative and unconventional jewellery pieces are a result of her unique approach to jewellery design. Anita tries, and succeeds, in designing and crafting jewels that speak a language all their own, unfettered by the rules and norms of conventional jewellery design. Her jewellery pieces are mini-sculpture that instantly forge a connection with the wearer. Undoubtedly, Anita Mandal Art Jewels are carving a special place for itself in the hearts of people who love to wear jewels that stand apart from the crowds, jewels that say “look at me” and we do!
When I sat down with Anita, we spoke about her journey of self-discovery as a jewellery artist, the challenges and triumphs she has seen as a jewellery designer and what sets Anita Mandal Art Jewels apart from other jewellery brands.
From Sculpting faces to carving art jewels and designer of one-of-a-kind by appointment only handmade, luxury pieces, please tell us how did your love affair with jewellery begin?
I was very content living my passion as a plastic surgeon. Knowing at the age of 5 that I was going to be a surgeon, plastic surgery was a natural choice given my love for aesthetic balance and proportion, the ability to create with my hands and a desire for intellectual challenge. My love affair with jewellery began innocently and quite unexpectedly after 20 years of being in practice as a plastic surgeon. I had commissioned a bespoke piece from my jeweller in Israel. After shipping it to me multiple times, it still would not sit right. So he offered to host me in Israel to have it fitted. But between my plastic surgery practice and the constant speaking engagements around the world at plastic surgery conferences, I had no room in my schedule for a visit. But my jeweller insisted given that I was to be lecturing in nearby Barcelona. Within a day, I managed to seamlessly reschedule an additional week of patients and rearranged my flight and travel plans. The next thing I knew I was on a plane to Israel. The day I arrived, there was this heightened sense of how I unexpectedly came to be here and how exceptionally smoothly the events leading up to this trip had gone to make it happen….that there was more to this journey than the mere custom-fitting of my choker. I was overcome with a feeling that one, I was meant to be here and two, while I didn’t know why, in time, the universe would reveal the reason. My jeweller hosted me for a week. He booked me a lovely resort hotel and hired a private driver and tour guide to show me around…and all this for a 30-minute visit to his design centre to have a jewellery fitting. Since I was visiting his 50,000 SF jewellery design centre, I thought I might as well have a few more custom pieces made. There was one particular piece of jewellery that I had been in search of most of my life yet still had not found quite the right one.
I never cared much for floral designs but had always been captivated by the Calla lily. Its clean simple yet elegant contours were unlike any other flower. A long time ago, one of my patients who was a professional photographer presented me with a book filled with photographs she took on her international travels. Seeing my love for this flower, she gifted me with images of the beautiful Calla lily which means magnificent beauty. Whenever I was sculpting a face, I would envision creating the same clean elegant contours I appreciated in the Callalily.
The Callalily was symbolic for me and my ability as a creator, artist and surgeon. - Anita Mandal
The black diamond Calla lariat earrings and pendant necklace, 3-dimensional curves envelop Indonesian golden pearls capturing the calla lily's magnificent beauty. Handmade in 18k gold, black diamonds and pearl.
When I shared with my jeweller the idea of creating several black diamond calla lily pieces, he was intrigued and let me work with his team. So instead of touring Israel, I spent most of the trip working in the design centre singularly focused on creating these special pieces. It was here that I first learned of the lost wax method in jewellery design. Upon returning to Palm Beach, I took a basic 4 day wax modelling class and carved a dramatic calla lily lariat. When my jeweller saw it, he invited me back to Israel, hosting me once again. I worked long hours with his team to put the models together in one week. Upon returning home, it took nearly 9 months to manifest the finished piece while I directed them from overseas. So this is the unexpected manner of how my love affair with jewellery began. It all started with my love for the Callalily and what it signified to me. The Black Calla lariat was my very first wax carving. Little did I know how complex of a piece I had designed. My jeweller kept saying I was gifted, that he has not come across as such a natural talent. Given how easy it was for me to create these models, I didn’t believe him at the time.
What most fascinated me was the intellectual process of creation. How it begins with a silly idea in one’s head, is translated into a more refined mental concept which is expressed through one’s unique visual language to manifest as a finished product. It was not only about coming up with the concept of a design, sketching it on paper, carving it in wax, selecting the stones and gems but most exhilarating was the problem-solving behind a complex design, the visualization and foresight needed to allow all the colours, forms, textures and contours to come together harmoniously, giving way to a finished piece that flowed and whose craftsmanship could be appreciated from all angles. The more I discovered about this process, the more compelled I felt to learn every aspect of it.
Callalily Ring, Callas Bracelet. Two sculptural calla lilies with vibrant centres meet in an embrace. Handmade in 18k gold with rubies, Callas Bangle and earrings captures the black and white hues of winter in this contemporary bracelet in white gold, diamonds and south sea pearls.
The more knowledge I gained, the more I came to see that this creative process required the same visual, aesthetic, technical and problem-solving skills that I had cultivated as a plastic surgeon over the last 20 years. My eye for detail, the innate sense of balance and proportion, the intellectual and technical skills used within the human form were simply being applied in jewellery form.
At the age of 5, I knew I was going to be a plastic surgeon…and that chosen career was a straight line from which I never wavered. Each day of my life I was grateful to have been blessed with the gift of earning a living by doing what I had loved. Then one day, after having achieved all that I could accomplish in my chosen field, the universe opened a door to a place I never knew existed…and I felt compelled to create the jewels…against the logic of my life…it was like I was that 5 year old little girl all over again who simply knew, with all of her heart, that this is what she was to do. This is why they refer to it as a calling….…you do not choose it…it chooses you. You are driven to it and instinctually know that it is what you must do.
You once said, "A True artist always evolve and this journey represents my evolution". Please talk us through this evolution, the challenges you have encountered while translating your skills into highly crafted art jewellery.
By “evolving”, I was referencing my journey from working within the constraints of the human form, with all its regulations, to moving beyond those limitations to express my creativity in jewellery form. As a plastic surgeon, I had reached the pinnacle of success in my practice as well as being an international speaker, teacher and lecturer. There were no challenges left. And while I wasn’t looking for something else to do, I think the fact that things were at a happy status quo created room in my mind, allowing me to be receptive to the jewellery when it did come along. This is what I meant by evolving as an artist, as a creator. It’s very different from the rigid rules I was used to as a plastic surgeon. With the jewels, my imagination has very few limits…there’s incredible freedom for creative expression…I think when it happened, I was ready for it - it was nearly seamless. For me, there is a distinct difference between artistry and creativity. An artist does not necessarily evolve, but it is the natural progression of a creative person to grow, to experiment, to challenge themselves. As Albert Einstein pointed out - creative people push themselves to go beyond their comfort zones. They think outside the box and are problem-solvers. These qualities serve as a foundation for innovation.
The kind of challenges I deal with now are, to a large extent, self-imposed. I’m focused on some complex designs that are challenging to manifest into reality. It often entails a considerable amount of problem-solving, visualization and technical expertise. I have some very talented and experienced people working with me, but they are not used to thinking outside the box and not with my 3-dimensional mindset. It can be challenging to come to a meeting of the minds as they come from one direction and I come at it often from the opposite direction. We eventually always get there, but it’s rarely in the expected time frame. Another challenge is the internal tug of war I face with wanting to stay true to my aesthetic vision and creative philosophy for the jewels. There’s pressure to mass-produce, repeat designs and follow the typical consignment model of the industry, none of which I am enthused about. So I’m constantly thinking through how to balance my vision for the type of jewels I want to create with the various aspects of running a jewellery business.
Arch Rings. Handmade in 18k gold, coloured stones and natural hued Tahitian and south sea pearls.
How does creating these beyond the realm of fine jewellery work? Is it the gemstones, the design or the concept is the stepping stone?
As you know, jewellery design has traditionally focused on the centre stone and its monetary value with the design being secondary. In recent years, we’ve seen a trend that is more design-oriented. But despite the emphasis on design, the value is diminished by mass production and repetitious themes - floral, nature, animals and the list goes on. I feel there is a need in the industry to create pieces where the gems and the design work synergistically to result in jewels with greater aesthetic relevance. This requires more than an in-depth understanding of the stones, materials and techniques. It entails more than a knowledge of how to incorporate various shapes, sizes, colours and textures to achieve architectural balance. Of higher relevance are the carefully considered thought process and mental constructs behind the design. This is what can elevate the jewel’s intrinsic value so that it is perceived more as an authentic art form that transcends the financial value of the centre gem or individual design components.
What sets Anita Mandal Art jewels apart from other jewellery brands?
I am constantly challenging myself to create unique pieces….if I come up with an idea, I research to see if it’s been done before. While many designers get ideas from other designers, I want to know what’s been already done to avoid repetition. I also don’t like to repeat my designs, preferring to create something different each time.
My approach is unconventional in that I’m untouched by the norms and traditions of the jewellery industry. Not having learned the “rules” makes it easier for me to think outside the box to create designs as well as come up with solutions for complex pieces. The late Alexander McQueen used to say “You've got to know the rules to break them.” I once told a friend: “Maybe I should learn some of the rules to jewellery design.” She responded with: “Why do u want to learn the rules? You are just going to break them.” I suppose if you haven’t bothered to learn the “rules”, you have nothing to break.
As a plastic surgeon used to sculpt the face, I’m used to thinking and visualizing in 3 dimensions. I gravitate towards pieces that can be appreciated from all angles. The back or hidden surfaces of a jewel should be just as curious, aesthetically pleasing and well-crafted as the obvious aspects. Most of the organic 3-dimensional pieces, I hand-carve in jewellery wax. I like to add depth, dimension and layers to give them fluidity and the illusion of movement.
I come from a background that requires a sharp eye for detail, a keen sense of balance and proportion and technical perfectionism. From an aesthetic standpoint, those are the principles I have lived by and infused into each jewel.
As an individualist who is unafraid to go against the norm, I am a firm believer in the co-existence of the feminine and the masculine, of softness and strength, of tradition with forward-thinking. This multifaceted, paradoxical harmony should be celebrated. I want my jewels to embody this philosophy in visual form. I strive to make even the most delicately, feminine jewels audacious and unapologetically individualistic
The Candelabra Ring is handmade in 18k gold, white diamonds, a south sea pearl and custom cut rock crystal briolettes. the Savannah Ring, Handmade in 18K gold, custom cut green sapphires and a pistachio Tahitian pearl with green tourmaline drops.
You're a sculpture with a natural ability to manifest and create these fabulous objets d'art pieces. What is the main source of inspiration?
I don’t look for inspiration… it just comes to me. One’s imagination has no boundaries and if you are aligned with it, it can be a source that is unmatched by any external entity or experience. Aside from having had a career as a surgeon that I love, I have lectured around the world, travelled to many exotic places and been passionate about learning about other cultures and their history. These beautiful experiences shape my perspective, thoughts and inspiration.
Do you have a favourite piece of jewellery you like to wear and why?
I have always seen my purpose as being that to use my god-given talents to make others happy. As a plastic surgeon, I focus on making patients beautiful. When I see how my work as a plastic surgeon makes someone happy inside, it’s the most gratifying feeling. The same is true with my jewels. Since I began my jewellery line, I am less inclined to wear the pieces myself. It is a greater pleasure to see how my clients enjoy owning and wearing my pieces. Picasso said: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” I have been doing exactly that all of my life and see no reason to do any different. My designs are quite diverse and don’t follow a singular concept. Each piece is infused with some aspect of my aesthetic philosophy and/or life experience, making each a small part of the whole. I can’t single one out as a favourite since each one resonates with some part of me. They are all my favourites but for their unique reasons.
For your next full circle creation, are you looking for any stone, in particular, to work with?
I am moving in the direction of incorporating rarer and unusual stones, gems and materials into my pieces…. I’m also working on some complex designs that require many of the stones to be cut to certain specifications to achieve the architectural harmony that is an integral part of my aesthetic philosophy.
Olympus Ring - This regal statement ring, named after Mount Olympus, is handmade in 18k gold, pigeon-blood rubies and lustrous south sea white pearls.
What advice would you give people entering the realm of jewellery design today?
The word NO does not exist in my world. I have always believed in following my heart. I did so when I was 5 years old in deciding on a career as a surgeon and I’m doing the same at this stage in my life. But I do believe that if you want to follow your passion, it’s important to first be aligned with your heart’s true desire. Once you’ve identified that, one must have the patience, courage and perseverance to relentlessly pursue even in the presence of fear or obstacles. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t. Surround yourself with those who believe in you. You can achieve anything you desire, against the perceived odds, once your actions are aligned with your inner vision.
What's Anita Mandal like at home?
I’ve always been a creative person so, for me, there is no distinction between work, home or play. When you earn a living by living your passion, you don’t require that boundary. I am the same person at home as I am at work. I’m always working on something creative whether to make a face more beautiful or to create a uniquely beautiful piece of jewellery.
What're your proudest moments?
The ones that I most cherish are unrelated to external achievement or success. The “proudest” moment in recent memory was related to my decision to move forward with launching a jewellery brand. Becoming aware of my newfound passion, also put me in a most challenging predicament. For someone who knew, since the age of 5, that she was destined to be a surgeon, had followed this straight path to achieving that success and was passionate about a career she believed that she would be doing it well into her 80’s, my entire foundation was shaken. It didn’t help that family, friends, patients and colleagues alike all thought I was out of my mind. They questioned why someone highly educated and who had achieved so much, wanted to create jewellery. Everyone felt I was taking a step down. I had to search deep inside and realign with my heart's true desire. I struggled to put away those external and internal voices and all the expectations of others and those that I had of myself. Being able to do this has, by far, been one of my most proud moments.
La Petite Callas Ring and earrings. A spiral of baby calla lilies handmade in 18k gold, Japanese Akoya pearls and champagne diamonds.
What can we look forward to next?
I hope to make more complex pieces and work with more unusual stones, cuts and materials. My current focus is on creating original, authentic pieces that are aligned with my aesthetic philosophy, more daring ideas and bolder pieces that are technically challenging. I am used to being an innovator, always at the cutting edge of my field as a plastic surgeon, so it's quite natural to have a similar approach to these jewelled creations.
So, if you are looking for a piece of bespoke jewellery that has a bold, distinguishable personality and has been crafted with care and imagination, Anita Mandal Art Jewels may be just what you're looking for. Beautiful jewels that make you reflect on the art of jewellery, Anita Mandal crafts heirlooms for the future to be enjoyed today!