BREAKING THE RULES
Bold, geometric shapes, blocks of colour and blurred edges are not often associated with fine jewellery. But Atsuko Sano is no ordinary jewellery designer. Her contemporary brand, AS by Atsuko Sano, is fresh, free and full of juxtapositions. Encompassing both masculine and feminine design elements, the pieces are made for both men and women to wear and enjoy.
Contemporary shapes such as circles and arrow-like triangles feature strongly in the AS collections, alongside an unusual blend of coloured gold and brightly hued precious stones, making for pieces that are delightfully androgynous. While the designs may appear somewhat at odds with traditional jewellery design, Atsuko has typically ethereal reasons behind her style. “I feel that geometric shapes are the basics of design,” she says, “the framework of human beings.”
Atsuko takes inspiration from classical architecture, music and art, and while a Japanese background influences her design philosophy, it doesn’t dictate her design style. “I feel I have my own DNA with my own ethnicity,” she says. “Plus, in the world of jewellery, the influence of an artisan tends to outweigh that of a designer. The earnest nature of Japanese artisans is strongly echoed in how the pieces are polished and formed.”
Highly reflective, chunky surfaces and delicately cut gems often appear on the same piece, and her Rin and Architecture series are particularly striking, with each range inhabiting an immersive narrative. “The ground design of Rin is composed of five elements,” says Atsuko. “Rin is formed with five Chinese characters, and is the founding collection of the brand.” The first Rin, which is the key to understanding Atsuko Sano’s style, represents the heroic quest of the samurai; the second represents the micron unit or precision; the third represents passion and burning flames; the fourth represents reincarnation; and the final Rin represents ethics.
With this founding spirit, Atsuko explores elements of larger design in her small-scale works of art. “Though there are various methods, I try to pare down the characteristics of form and beauty to something very simple,” says Atsuko. “As with architecture, meticulous calculation is essential for jewellery to bear light, shadow and time. It is also vital that it provides comfort and passion to people.”
The impact of these influences results in stunning pieces: black gold characters, bevelled diamond shapes set with tiny stones are reminiscent of art deco style with a daring, modern edge, and the brightly coloured stones in the men’s Architecture series soften the oversized shapes using different shades of metal.
“In the world of jewellery design, it is classic theory to place gems depending on the quality of the jewellery itself,” says Atsuko. “At AS, aside from when we use top-quality gems, we focus on the free, bold and fun placement of gems. We decide the balance depending on how comfortable it looks, even though the balance itself may be unstable at times. This is something very sensuous – hard to explain theoretically.”
With elements to satisfy all the senses in one design, Atsuko Sano’s jewellery presents an intriguing prospect for contemporary jewellery collectors: at once masculine and feminine, smooth and sharp, bold and classic, they’re miniature artworks full of pleasing contrasts. “The concept behind simple beauty is one of omitting the unnecessary and keeping what’s necessary,” she concludes. “I prefer communicating definitely and impressively, over gently and gradually.”