Based in New York, Cicada Jewelry is rooted in the city’s rich history of precious ornamentation, making show-stopping pieces from unique gemstones
Cicadas, whose chirping song provides a distinctive soundtrack to warm summer days, can spend years underground as nymphs before emerging fully formed into the daylight. The name resonated with the founders of Cicada Jewelry, who had been making bespoke, high-end jewellery for select clients the world over since the 1980s.
The family firm was founded by Arsavir Zarokyan and Aras Tirtirian. They established a reputation for working with precious and semi-precious gemstones in dynamic cuts, set in painterly colour combinations. Cicada also became known for its original designs inspired by art nouveau and art deco jewellery. “Those styles require a level of craftsmanship that is sometimes missing in contemporary jewellery,” says Aras.
Cicada makes its own distinctive range of rings, necklaces, earrings and brooches, ranging from wearable everyday elegance to red-carpet showstoppers. It also sells its collections to prestigious jewellery boutiques and department stores around the world.
Rather than following fashion trends, Cicada follows the beauty of a particular stone or pearl. “We are inspired by the unique qualities of a stone, how the light catches it, the possibilities of its shape and depth of colour,” says Arsavir. “We often find a stone we love and we design around it. There could be an opal with certain colours inside it that just beg to be paired with other coloured stones like aquamarines and tourmalines, and this guides the design process. However, there are also times when we have an idea for a particular piece of jewellery and we need to search for the perfect stone to make it work.”
Cicada is based in the heart of New York’s jewellery district on 47th Street. Every one of its creations is designed and manufactured in its own atelier. “We have three floors of offices, design and manufacturing ateliers,” says Aras. “Our team includes model-makers, stone-setters, polishers and enamellers.” Many of the artisans involved in creating Cicada jewellery have been with the firm for 20 or 30 years. “It takes a long time to train someone with their calibre.”
The firm’s reputation gives it access to highly desirable stones. “We source mostly from local suppliers here in New York City, companies we have been working with for decades,” explains Aras. “They are great at finding the best gems in the world and to our standards. They often come to us first with special stones.”
The traceability and sustainability of the stones and metals it works with is a core concern for Cicada. The workshop is certified by the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), an internationally respected organization based in London whose rigorous audits ensure the ethical sourcing and traceability of every gemstone and precious metal that Cicada handles.
Arsavir Zarokyan is the designer behind Cicada’s pieces and collections, assisted by his daughter, Melissa Pashalian. His eye for an unusual stone or pearl is evident in pieces such as a brooch of a gold-headed Poseidon that uses a baroque pearl for the god’s muscled torso. Under Arsavir’s inventive watch, another wonderfully globular pearl becomes a snail shell embellished with delicate pale green garnets and pink spinels mixed with white diamonds.
Arsavir’s designs might mix cabochon, faceted and brilliant-cut precious and semi-precious stones with dazzling skill and an artist’s eye for colour combinations, such as the cranberry and warm pinky browns of a necklace of cabochon and baguette-cut pink tourmalines, faceted morganite drops and polished opals. “Almost all of our jewellery is bespoke and one of a kind,” says Arsavir. “We don’t like repeating designs – we never want to become bored by doing the same thing.”
As well as its bespoke pieces, Cicada produces several themed jewellery collections, such as its dragonfly plique-à-jour brooch collection and the Egyptian Revival Collection. The latter showcases the enamelling as well as the stone-setting skills of the Cicada craftsmen with a range of rings and cuffs based around the turquoise, lapis lazuli and yellow-gold motifs of ancient Egypt.
Even within a collection, each piece of Cicada jewellery is unique. “Each piece fits a theme, but no two are exactly alike,” says Arsavir. “The colours might vary or we will set the piece with a different centre stone. We never want to find ourselves doing the same thing.”
The variety and individuality of its jewellery allows Cicada to tailor its range to the exclusive boutiques and department stores it sells to. “The stores we work with have great jewellery experts who know their clientele well and request the sorts of pieces they know they will appreciate,” says Aras. “Our company is unique in that our extremely wide breadth of models allows us to cater exactly to those customers’ needs. Tastes vary between, say, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, the United States and the UK.”
In the coming years, Cicada anticipates an increase in brand awarenss and will maintain its exclusivity as creators of one-of-a-kind designs. “Like our namesake, the Cicada, in recent years we have come to the surface to bring our love of jewellery and bespoke designs to jewellery lovers everywhere.”