By Aisha Hassan on June 9th, 2021
Written in the stones
For Karista Krishna, color is at the heart of the matter: Sri Lankan blue topaz resembles a sunlit sky, Canadian prasiolite reflects the Northern Lights, and Nigerian aquamarines remind her of the Olympian god Poseidon. “Everything depends on the stone because the stone is the star,” Karista, founder of Argent Studio 925, says.
Karista was born and raised in Bali but both her parents are Javanese. Growing up, toys weren’t allowed but books and fables, as well as trips to ancient landmarks — like Java’s Borobudur — were. Karista’s ensuing love of myth and travel still influences Argent Studio 925 to this day. The Aurora Ring is inspired by the magnificence of the Aurora Borealis during the Spring Equinox, for example, while the idea for the Celleste Ring and Celleste Earrings first took hold after a trip to Sydney.
“It was such a bright day, and everything like the Sydney Opera House and the water and the sky, was just blue blue blue...I had to make it into jewelry,” Karista says. And beyond selecting the perfect stone, she’s also mindful about what the handmade jewelry should evoke before she begins to design. “I’m very visual so I imagine the color first, so it goes from the eyes, down to the heart, down to the feelings, and then I start sketching.”
A family affair
“I work with an amazing team of artisans,” Karista says. These artisans learned their skills from generations of craftspeople before them, and those ancestors have often worked with Karista’s great grandfather. “He was the court jeweler for the Javanese sultanate,” Karista explains, and she reached out to his contacts when she started her own brand. “Their sons and grandsons are still doing jewelry.”
These artisans from across Surakarta and Bali are responsible for Argent Studio 925 pieces and a separate namesake fine jewelry line, Karista Krishna, which can be found in Aman Resorts across Indonesia. Karista, who studied at the Istituto Europeo di Design in Milan and Jewellery Design & Management International School in Singapore, says she learns a lot from her artisans, who advise on everything from specific methods to a material’s value. Their expert craftsmanship is also what makes the smallest details, like the twisted rope effect on the ring shanks, come alive. “It usually takes three weeks for samples,” Karista says, “and it has to be perfect.”
Apart from carefully choosing semi-precious gems, Karista is also selective about how she uses silver and gold. Argent Studio 925 pieces are demi-fine gold vermeil, meaning that they are of higher quality than gold-plated fashion jewelry but are shy of solid gold fine jewelry. Karista chooses Italian Sterling Silver as a base metal because of its malleability and slow pace of tarnishing, and uses a thick coating of 2.5 to 3 microns of gold for each piece to create the right shine and durability. The handmade nature of each piece finishes it off.
“Especially working with raw stones, you cannot mass produce and you need the human hand because every stone is abstract,” Karista says. “If it’s mass produced there’s no feeling, but with handmade jewelry you can see someone actually spent their time working on the piece.” In addition to the manual craftsmanship required, Karista knows that conceptualizing the design is an essential but difficult task too. “There are so many dreams in one human brain and you have to put them on a piece of paper...that’s not easy,” she says.
And yet, creating something exquisite that makes you feel like “you can conquer the day,” Karista says, is worth it. “I get to create beautiful things, I get to touch them and see them and feel them, and that gives me a reason to get up.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aisha Hassan is a writer, journalist, and co-founder of Dia. Previously, Aisha worked for Quartz in New York and Harper’s Bazaar in Malaysia. Her fiction has been published in international literary magazines. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Language & Literature from the University of Oxford, and a master’s degree from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism.