Austria's Grafenegg Castle, an ominous structure built over seven centuries ago, is currently the center of annual, cultural events that include the Grafenegg Music Festival. Austria is also home to featured jewelry designer Tomasz Donocik.
With his dark, shoulder-length hair, slight build, and penetrating gaze Donocik's cherubic good looks resemble a somewhat hard-edged version of Orlando Bloom or Tobey Maguire.
The designer, who is presently living in London, creates the most striking and flamboyant men's jewelry that I have seen.
His no-holds-barred design approach explores unconventional materials, as well as traditional ones, in creations that revolve around male-oriented themes such as hunting on horseback, the accents of military uniforms, and stately leather sofas.
The alum of London's Saint Martins College of Art and Design, and Royal College of Art, where he specialized in goldsmithing and jewelry design respectively, set out to change the face of men's jewelry.
"I would like to see men's jewelry flourish becoming more prominent and establishing itself in the luxury sector," he says. "My work is about breaking boundaries between jewelry and fashion and introducing new styles for men to wear jewelry. This allows me to push creativity to the fullest."
Inspired by Mikhail Lementov's novel A Hero for Our Time, Donocik's Russian Aristocrat Collection highlights a bold arm piece called the Chesterfield Bangle that is an opulent semblance of the puckered leather of Chesterfield sofas made with real leather and gold-plated sterling silver.
This piece is not subtle providing a striking contrast to the more understated, and functional offerings commonly associated with men's jewelry. This piece, as with the whole of Donocik's collections, reflects the conquering, masculine spirit.
Reinforcing this ambitious spirit is Donocik's use of horse head motifs, made from gold-plated sterling silver and rhodium, many of which are suspended from authentic, Siberian horsehair.
"Because the collection is based on a Russian aristocrat hunter using real animal fur is something I like implementing. The Siberian horsehair makes the hunter aspect more relevant and a talking point."
Other pieces from this collection, such as the cascading neckpiece Beef in Black Bean Sauce, and the suspender-like Stable Boys Braces is wonderfully theatrical but not over-the-top (in my opinion, anyway).
Animal fur is also prevalent in his Central St. Martins' Collection that, among others, features a Cat O' Nine Tails neckpiece evoking an ardent and forceful movie hero with its thin, leather strips suspending golden citrine spheres.
"The jewelry in this collection plays with the fascination we have with decoration," Donocik explains. "I mainly work in leather using it to symbolize a second skin. A representation that we use jewelry almost as armor which both protects and restricts."
On the other side of the spectrum is his Rising Star Collection, which highlights a bit more subtle aesthetic featuring a star motif. "The military uniforms of the Soviet era, and the platonic architecture of post-Soviet Russia provide inspiration for this collection. My use of the iconography of the star is a point that creates a more angular silhouette."
This is great jewelry. Up until now, I had not seen any men's jewelry this avant-garde. It is stylish and sophisticated in an almost regal way.
Admittedly, not every man will appreciate the grandeur of some of the pieces, but Donocik's intelligent and innovative conceptualization really makes these pieces endlessly fascinating.
For more on the designer, check out a brief, impromptu interview with Donocik at Lasting Fair TV.com.
Photo 1 (top right): Beef in Bean Sauce Neckpiece
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold-Plated Sterling Silver and Leather Chesterfield Cuff