The historic city Budapest Hungary seems an unlikely place to discover a jewelry designer who has created designs that are very contemporary and also revolutionary. In fact, he has a patent pending on his technology. Miklos Varga is a Hungarian born goldsmith who designs in platinum and white and yellow gold in 14K, 18K and 22K gold. (He also has a smaller segment for silver).
His masterpieces are made in the patented “mesh technique”. Imagine a fine spider web but in gold and platinum shaped into various airy forms, oval, round, oblong etc. Often, these spined looking cobwebs have captured South Sea and Tahitian black pearls or rare coloured gem stones and diamonds varying in size and shape. His inspiration is definitely from nature.
For almost 40 years his studio and workshop has evolved and grown and the handcrafted items have won prizes at international exhibitions.
About 15 years ago, jewelry in Hungary became a fashion statement. “Suddenly, jewelry was closely linked to fashion,” Varga states. “So our designs become more modern.”
At about that time, he also discovered that although platinum is very expensive because it’s 40% heavier than gold, this precious metal worked well for the development of his technique “which has never been done before”.
With his staff of 8 goldsmiths, the hand made pieces are at a disadvantage since there’s only the possibility of a small production.
“I really don’t want to mass produce, even if I could,” says Varga, a nattily dressed, soft spoken, 50 something man. However, his limited editions attract attention worldwide. Not only does he have a following of tourists who have discovered or sourced out his jewelry designs but a number of royal families around the world have been admirers and purchasers.
When asked about his jewelry education, it was a first for me to hear that he learned his profession in the National Money Mint. “At the time,” he tells me through an interpreter, “you weren’t allowed to work on your own with high quality metals. If you were enthusiastic about learning the profession ad I have been since I was a small child, being at the mint was the only chance I had to handle gold.”
Located in the fashionable Fashion Street (Haris koz 6) in central Budapest, the first impression entering the small boutique is that it seems so much larger than reality, so clever is the loft-like architectural design by Varga. The boutique seems somewhat out of place in the midst of the other usual non- inspiring formula- styled stores. It’s a breath of fresh air from the other conventional interiors. Here is a stainless steel circular open staircase which leads up to the private salons filled with Varga’s modern and pricier designs and there’s an unexpected burst of colour. The unique and whimsical seating arrangement under a large crystal chandelier is amusing in fuchsia, purple, yellow plush velvet plus the moss green velvet based glass table. These highlight and even make the encased precious gems stand out.
Seated in a small corner under the main floor’s open stairs housing the ever present Hungarian coffee loving nation’s espresso machine, the immaculately dressed Varga is not only shy but also modest about his incredibly unique jewelry designs. Here in the cozy area is where we start our discussion through an interpreter and get a close up look at the golden spider webs.
A mesh Horn of Plenty certainly has plenty good stuff that oozes out perfectly round, high nacre, cultured pearls. Another round pendent seems to have snagged a large impressive and rare Mandarin garnet and if that wasn’t enough, it hangs from a strand of perfectly matched champagne coloured Tahitian pearls.
What looks like the scales of a fish, a textured ring with a stunning pear shaped ruby (another similar one has an oversized black pearl) is unexpectedly comfortable on the finger. It’s hard to imagine but a larger than marble size mesh ball hanging from a fine chain looks as though fine threads are interspersed with small diamonds. This design comes in various sizes and also is shown as closures on the pearl strands.
A most impressive marine life looking anemone pendant is studded with diamonds and topped with white pearls juxtaposed to a strip of approximately 25 point diamonds. Even the Gingko plant doesn’t go unnoticed. These graceful uneven edged leaves with their textured ridges have been made into gold brooches and bracelets often with a single, perfect pearl at the tip of a leaf. Another favourite is a neckpiece of oval gold mesh mixed with twisted bands of solid gold links and even though it doesn’t have insets of any gem stones, it certainly makes a statement on the neck on the bank account. It retails for about $10,000.
Asked if there’s any resistance to his prices, he says “They are not high for Americans or foreign buyers. They know exactly that these are individual designs and they want something special.”
Even Hungarians, he tells me, don’t have a problem with price “but they are the small percentage of wealthy people.”
I also learn that there are summer and winter gem stones. For example Hungarians only wear aquamarines in the summer.
One of my choices is an intricately conical shaped meshed pendant studded with small diamonds and spilling out one large glorious perfectly rose white pearl.
However, I’m soon to see the seriously expensive ands stunning designs hidden in the vitrines on the upper level.
Encased is an opened ended neckpiece with three hanging attached mesh soft triangular shapes featuring some of the largest Tahitian pearls (approx. 15mm).The other end also features an unusually large black pearl. “This design didn’t start with Chanel, “when I suggested that Chanel has a design not dissimilar, “but in the 1920s,” he tells me.
Another similar piece has large diamonds. Nothing is simple nor magically is it gaudy or overdone. Price points are over $25,000CDN and up to about $60,000CDN.
A wide platinum pave diamond encrusted bracelet featuring the open mesh detailing is certainly one of his very special and eye catching items at approximately, $50,000CDN.
Obviously from the amount scattered throughout the shop in various metals, heart shape designs are his signature. Mesh studded with diamonds and gem stones, they’re made up as pendants, rings and earrings.
Stones come from his supplier in Germany with whom he has had a very long business relationship and the pearls are sourced by another merchant. He does admit, however that he looks forward to selecting his own pearls, some day, in Tahiti.
And it’s unfortunate that the only large outlet to purchase Varga’s cobwebs is in Budapest since there “just aren’t enough pieces to export.”