This large collection of carved tourmalines, topazes, garnets and more, set in eighteen karat gold, were hand selected by proprietor, Mr. Charles F. May. His career as a flight attendant often brought him to Brazil, where he developed a deep admiration for gemstones and built a relationship with jeweler, Haroldo Burle Marx, resulting in an impressive collection of custom made jewels.
About Haroldo Burle Marx
Known for his free form carved gemstones and uniquely delicate patinas, Haroldo Burle Marx’s Modernist designs are unmistakable. The jeweler, recognized internationally for his innovative lapidary techniques, distinct aesthetics and fine craftsmanship, is widely considered one of Brazil’s finest jewelers.
Haroldo Burle Marx was born to European Jewish parents, Wilhelm Marx and Cecilia Burle in 1911 in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The distinguished family was known for their artistry. Wilhelm owned and operated one of the world’s largest tanneries. Walter Burle Marx was a revered composer of the Rio Philharmonic and Roberto Burle Marx was a world-renowned landscape artist. Roberto, whose art spanned many disciplines, included jewelry collaborations with brother, Haroldo. Time Magazine even calling the family “-the most amazing and talented brother act in Brazil” in a 1967 article.
Haroldo studied gemology in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, the center of the gemstone cutting industry before opening his shop at Rodolfo Dantas, 6 Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro in 1954. There he employed a small team of Brazilian and Italian craftsman, including master goldsmith, Bruno Guidi. Guidi, whose signature can be found on some of the workshop’s pieces, is a master engraver responsible for much of the fine silk-like gold textures synonymous with the workshop.
About the Designs
Crafted in eighteen karat gold, Haroldo’s jewelry displays an exceptionally soft patina, attributed to the use of sterling silver as the principal alloy. Each piece was handmade, often set with tourmalines, topazes, garnets and rubies, all gemstones native to Brazil. Much like a sculptor, Haroldo allowed the gemstone's structure to dictate how they were carved, resulting in his signature forma livre or free form cuts. In a 1983 article with Connoisseur Magazine, Haroldo described gemstones as “-a product of nature as clouds or trees”. This perspective is evident in the soft curves and contours of his carved gemstones, which appear almost organic in form.
The jeweler’s impressive designs and craftsmanship gained significant attention in Brazil, prompting a series of commissioned gifts for visiting dignitaries such as Empress Farah of Iran, Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, Queen Elizabeth I of England and more. During a visit to Brazil, Alta Leath, wife of a United States Representative, met Haroldo, later inviting him to exhibit his work in the U.S. at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. in 1982. The shop would be named the Altomar Collection. It was there that Haroldo’s jewelry first became available in the United States, attracting clients such as Oscar de la Renta, Sammy Davis Jr. and more.
Haroldo’s innovative lapidary and goldsmith techniques proved an excellent vehicle for Modern design. His distinct aesthetic, in conjunction with fine craftsmanship, gained international attention, including some notable clientele.