Silvia Furmanovich and Her Creative Approach to Jewellery Making
An exclusive interview with the renowned Brazilian designer
“My inspiration comes from nature, and nature is a reflection of the Divine.”
“Our work is not so much about creating beauty as it is about seeking it out and recognizing the beauty that already exists in all things,” says Brazilian jewellery designer Silvia Furmanovich.
After searching the globe for inspiration, her intricate pieces—earrings, rings, necklaces, and clutches—have won several awards, including the prestigious Couture Design Award for Innovation (2015, 2016, and 2019), and the Town & Country Jewellery Award (2018 and 2022).
Furmanovich has been forging new ground in her field, designing pieces with materials that aren’t typically used to make fine jewellery, such as wood, bamboo, and fabric.
“You don’t use jewels just to embellish yourself. You use materials that have a more profound meaning,” she says.
Master from the jungle
On a visit to a museum in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Furmanovich discovered a small box depicting a charming parakeet in wood marquetry. Her treasured find led her on a quest to find the man who carved it.
She soon found that the artisan, Maqueson da Silva, lived in Acre, the most dangerous state in Brazil. But that didn’t stop Furmanovich. She travelled by airplane, car, and boat to find him.
“I went by myself, very scared, to meet him for the first time,” she says.
Furmanovich soon learned that da Silva had been born in the rainforest, sheltered from the influences of modern life. When he was 16 years old, a priest working in the Amazon saw his talent for carving objects out of wood. Nine years later, the young man went to Germany to learn the trade of marquetry.
After a four-year apprenticeship in furniture, da Silva returned to the rainforest and set up his atelier, designing marquetry for homes and museums. Today, he employs 25 artisans, each specializing in one aspect of the craft.
When Furmanovich visited da Silva and explained that she wanted to translate his work into jewellery, he refused. He didn’t like the idea of shifting his artistic focus. Her project requirements were also challenging, requiring small-scale creations with fine precision, which differed from the large walls and screens he was making.
But Furmanovich was determined. “You have to convince the artisan that it’s possible. You must have patience,” she says.
Once da Silva agreed, he began testing out the process of adapting his artisanship to jewellery making, stumbling many times in the process. Mixing precious metals with raw materials was also challenging.
Other artisans who collaborate with Furmanovich have experienced similar difficulties. It takes these artisans one or two years to break through the production challenges and master the miniature marquetry technique.
Furmanovich says it’s worth the effort. She’s not only creating innovative jewellery with deep symbolism but also helping the artisans make a better living.
The process itself is also fulfilling.
“I know the story of each piece; this is the value of the jewel for me. It’s not only about the sum of the materials involved, such as the number of grams of gold or the carats of a diamond. I know how many hands touched this piece before the client buys it.”
Enraptured by Japan
On a visit to New York City, Furmanovich went to a store specializing in 19th-century Japanese antiques. There, she discovered an old box. The seller opened it to reveal 250 swatches of handwoven silks designed for the royal women of Kyoto during the Meiji period (1866–1912).
“It was the most beautiful fabric I’d ever seen,” she says.
Inspired by these textiles, Furmanovich developed her Obi Collection, incorporating symbols from traditional Japanese culture—cranes, sparrows and bamboo shoots—into her pieces.
She used the crane—a symbol of good fortune, longevity and immortality—as part of a clutch design. The bag incorporated gold, diamond, green tourmaline, and vintage obi fabric into wood marquetry. The Crane clutch subsequently won the prestigious 2019 Couture Design Award in the Innovation category.
While the inspiration for the Obi Collection came from the sashes of traditional Japanese dress, the pieces were crafted by Furmanovich’s artisans in the Amazon.
“Our skill is to adapt what’s already there. My inspiration comes from nature, and nature is a reflection of the Divine,” she says.
Furmanovich also found this principle in Japan with its rich culture of craftsmanship and well-developed spiritual legacy.
“When you arrive in a Shinto temple, you see that beauty in the paintings on the wall, in the silence, in the incense, and in the sun pouring through the paper windows. Everything is there—you don’t create anything. You just put things together to make something new and innovative.”
It’s a legacy Furmanovich aspires to carry forward with her brand.