Inspired by the vivid colors of her South Asian heritage, Indian-born and -based jewelry designer Neha Dani is showcasing her full portfolio of “high jewelry” – contemporary, timeless and sculptural high-end rings, bracelets, earrings and necklaces – for the first time at The Palm Beach Show in West Palm Beach, now running through Feb. 22.
Also making its debut at the show is her new collection, La Pluma (“Feathers”), consisting of four pairs of earrings, two bracelets and a ring. Designed using lightweight titanium and jewels such as emeralds, rubies, tanzanite and amethyst, Dani was inspired by the birds in flight she saw outside her window during the pandemic and captured their free spirit in her designs.
“We are thrilled to have Neha Dani join us from India as a solo exhibitor to showcase her high jewelry collections,” said Scott Diament, CEO of the Palm Beach Show Group, in a prepared statement. “She is a true artist, and the pieces she creates feature a stunning array of diamonds paired with rare or unusual stones.”
Dani began her career informally by creating bridal jewelry for friends and family in India, where it’s customary to bequeath jewelry, especially gold, symbolizing wealth and prosperity, and large diamonds to bejewel the bride.
In 2014, Dani launched her international career at the JCK Show, the top industry trade show in the United States, winning the show’s Rising Star Award and earning recognition.
A self-described rebel (not a description you’d imagine for an Indian woman born into a traditional culture) and not one who designs high-end bespoke jewelry for high-end clients.
But Dani, 46, is obviously not bound by tradition.
Her passion and determination to follow her heart and leave India for California to study at the Gemological Institute of America meant she was postponing marriage and family.
After graduating from GIA, she went on to become a Fellow of the Gemological Association of England, returning to India to work as a gemologist at International Gemological Laboratories, all of which informs her aesthetic and global perspective in design.
Married at 34 (way past her family’s expectations for her) to a corporate lawyer, Dani now has a 10-year-old daughter, Anushree, her biggest fan.
“I never did anything that was traditional,” she says in her artist statement. “I want to create something new and mesmerizing, layers and movement, always with joy inside.”
Her designs are a reflection of her rebellious and passionate spirit, and ones she hopes will inspire confidence in the women who wear her pieces.
Growing up, Dani traveled the world with her parents visiting many museums, which she says led to her journey as a jewelry designer.
Not from a jewelry-maker’s background (she has a bachelor’s degree in commerce), the handcrafted artifacts she saw in museums and galleries around the world trained her eye for the intricacy needed for her detailed work.
In Delhi, where she is based, Dani sculpts each organic dimensional form in wax herself in detail, creating every angle in three dimensions. After the form is complete, she adds the gems and colors she feels will complete the piece.
She selects each gemstone personally, painting and carving the wax to position it in place to express her vision. Her palette is bold and unconventional, using contrasts of colored metal and gems, pairing together yellows with reds or pinks with blues.
One of the most satisfying aspects of the process for Dani is the realization of her vision, from conception to creation. “When I see my thoughts turned into a reality, it’s a feeling of accomplishment and very satisfying,” she says.
Inspired by the likes of Italian jewelry designer Mario Buccellati for his detailed and textured engraving techniques, René Lalique for his enamel colors and Carl Fabergé for his “impeccable and intricate” designs, which often included an element of surprise, Dani is forging her own path – one inspired by her Asian heritage.
“I design for people with an eye for collectible pieces,” she says. “My pieces are created with passion, the influence of nature and color and my inner self. I want a client to connect to the piece and treasure it.”
A showstopper is her one-of-a-kind cuff bracelet titled Amarante, or “Eternal Flower,” created with more than 11,000 round purple-pink and natural light and medium pink diamonds set in 18-karat rose gold blossoms, which took more than one year to make.
Each of the 18 blossoms is centered by a certified, fancy intense purple-pink round brilliant diamond.
Her Kephi collection, named for a Greek word meaning inner joy, consists of six rings and earrings, one bracelet and a statement pendant, all designed to bring positive energy to the wearer and add an element of fun, Dani says.
She created the Moonstone collection inspired by the glaciers in Alaska, using blue moonstones to represent the ice. Her signature Aialik Cuff, named after a glacier, comprises 11 moonstones, weighing 163 carats, and custom cut for the bracelet. Pavé diamonds set in 18-karat white gold symbolize the ice crystals found on the glaciers.
With bold, statement pieces, such as the Amarante and Aialik cuff bracelets, Dani says her desire is to empower the wearer to feel strong and self-confident.
“Each time you wear a piece you will discover something new in it,” she says, alluding to the sculptural quality and three-dimensional aspect to her pieces.
“The sculptural quality enables each piece to reveal itself in various ways from different angles,” says Dani. “If you look at the La Pluma ring (created with gray titanium feathers, Mozambique rubies and diamonds) there’s an element of surprise to it.”
She finds inspiration in nature.
“It’s not just the nature itself,” she says, “but how you feel when you’re in it.”
Having just flown in in from New York City on the Wednesday before the show, and her first time in Palm Beach, Dani says the ocean air and the wind blowing through the palm trees all add to her feeling of relaxation.
A spiritual person, Neha feels the universe or an external power has guided and protected her in her career.
“Finding my own way in this competitive field of high-end jewelry design, I felt there was a presence guiding me,” she says.
As an Asian woman entering into this elite business, what would Dani tell other aspiring women jewelry designers?
“For me,” she says, “it is a journey of passion, patience and perseverance. It gives my heart joy to create.”
“I love what I do and would tell anyone: Just give it your best and keep giving it your best!”
The 19th Annual Palm Beach Show runs through Feb. 22 at the Palm Beach Convention Center, 650 Okeechobee Blvd. Visit Neha Dani Fine Artistic Jewelry in Booth No. 733.
Dani and Karen Stone Talwar, founder and CEO of Adventures in Art, will appear at 4 p.m. Sunday in room 1BC to discuss the rise of jewelry art and the creative process behind designing a collector’s piece. Dani will share insights into her collection. Visit.palmbeachshow.com and NehaDani.com for more information.