As a young boy, Vicente Gracia fell in love with jewellery in the family workshop, mesmerized by the precious metals, gems and techniques that sculpt these miniature works of art. Though his personal style as a creator of jewellery differs greatly from that of his father, the love affair with the fine materials and processes of his trade remains as strong as ever.
“My father produced solid, rather traditional jewellery,” says Vicente. “I may have diverged from this trail but it is certain that I got my grounding and indeed my love for the genre while growing up surrounded by gold, silver, rubies and diamonds.” Not one to follow the ‘fashion’ trends of the day, Vicente Gracia is someone who follows his own route, allowing inspiration to fire a creative streak that needs to run free. The result is a style of jewellery that is not only unique – but also highly sought after from New York and Valencia to London, Rome and the Middle East.
His success notwithstanding Vicente is essentially a romantic who draws much of his inspiration from the literature and imagery of the past. “I am a great lover of medieval literature, art and heraldry,” says the highly likeable eccentric who weaves the allegorical tales of love, suffering, conquest and loss into his works of gold, sparkling gems and brightly toned precious stones. “Each piece I produce is either a unique one-off or else forms part of a very limited edition series.” Many of his notoriously intricate pieces are largely created by hand, but all are conceived with a daydreamer’s mind and executed with heart and soul.
“For me, working on a great new piece of jewellery is like therapy, a process of immersion and fascination that starts with historical research, begins to take shape in freehand drawings, acquires its parts in the selection of materials and colours, and finally comes alive as a finished ring, bracelet, pendant or objet d’art.” The spark that ignites this creative sequence is more often than not rooted in a piece of art, literature or architecture. “In Spain we are fortunate to be the curators of a cultural-historical legacy that encompasses both West and East, European Christendom and Middle Eastern Islam. It is out of the confluence and conflict of these two opposite but remarkably complimentary traditions that great inspiration can be drawn.”
Perhaps the single greatest source of inspiration for Vicente is the fabled Alhambra palace in Granada. “The very first time I saw it, it set something loose in me, and I have visited it many times since.” How could a fairytale palace not appeal to a man with such a romantic streak? Walking into Vicente’s atelier is like stepping into his ‘secret garden’ – a highly personal realm where he feels at ease among an eclectic collection of fascinating art, costumes and artefacts. It is in this setting that his imagination is set free, fed by the classical poetry, literature and folk tales of Medieval Spain, Europe and exotic Caliphates.
The result can be seen in such iconic works as his fountain ring based on the famous fountain in the Alhambra. At its centre a drop appears to be falling in the water, sending out concentric rings towards an edge engraved in Arabic scripts from the Alhambra. As with all his jewellery, the ring is part of a narrative that chronicles life in its many forms and observations. The sheer size and detailed exuberance of his style gives Vicente’s collections a touch of Baroque grandeur, just the thing for a clientele that wants to move beyond the strict geometry of designer labels to something altogether more artistically flawed. “Our pieces are very personal and unique, and this appeals to our collectors, many of which come from the USA.” Although his pieces are for sale in New York and London, some of his best patrons choose to fly to Valencia, stay at Vicente’s chic little boutique hotel in the historic centre of the city, and pick out or commission their next pieces in person.
Vicente also enjoys a particularly close and personal relationship with Christie’s, who are great fans and supporters of his work. His work has appeared on many a Christie’s catalogue and has been exhibited from London to Dubai, with some pieces specially selected by Queen Sofia of Spain. “It all came about rather coincidentally,” says Vicente, who took a leading Belgravia beauty salon up on their offer to exhibit his work during an annual Christmas gala dinner and ended up meeting David Warren, head of Christie’s jewellery department. Renowned for his encyclopaedic knowledge, Warren recognised an individual piece in the Gracia collection from a feature in an American magazine several years before. Not surprisingly, the two struck up a friendship that has lasted to this day.
Another great influence in Vicente’s creative life has been Rene Lalique, to whom he pays homage through much of his work and indeed with his equally enthusiastic love of colourful semiprecious stones. “Before Lalique, jewelers were mostly master craftsmen. He infused this tradition with art and allowed a new generation of designers to explore new realms. Sometimes escaping the constraints of diamonds and working with the beautiful colours of precious and semiprecious stones is just a part of that process.” A recipient of international prizes and commissions from serious collectors around the world, Vicente Gracia is a creator of the kind of jewellery that allows us to take a flight of fancy and escape from the real world to a gentler romantic ideal. Surely that is what art is all about.