Renowned South African jewelry designer Kevin Friedman has captivated both the local and international jewelry trade with his one-of-a-kind pieces which use an innovative combination of high caratage gemstones and precious metals with ordinary everyday “found objects”.
Kevin is a renaissance man who draws on the world around him for inspiration and creativity.
His highly original, fresh approach to contemporary jewelry design, such as the extraordinary $16 million Ponahalo Necklace created for the Geneva-based Steinmetz group, is attracting major international interest. This extraordinary necklace - composed of a 316,15 carat diamond which was cut into five stones, combined with beads and 276 safety pins and made into a Marie Antoinette-style necklace - debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007. The necklace and other examples of Kevin’s cutting-edge designs featured in luxury US magazine LuxLife in 2008.
The Robb Report also devoted a page to this piece, saying that the necklace was “the most exciting piece of jewelry ever created”.
A lifelong fascination with the distinctive arts and crafts of South Africa has proved a valuable inspiration for his work, and he has been involved in meaningful community development projects with local crafters.
Proof of this is his well known Ndebele bead and diamond choker, modelled by Charlize Theron, which garnered Kevin a De Beers Diamond International Award in 2000.
Kevin’s custom-made pieces have featured in the “ultimate catalogue” Neiman Marcus Christmas book, as well as in Gumps magazine and Woman’s Day magazine. He also created a line of beadwork Christmas decorations for the Designers’ Guild in London. In addition, he has designed a line of pewter and wood desktop items for Tiffany & Co in New York.
Kevin travels extensively for both discipline and inspiration. He makes custom-designed pieces for corporate and independent clients all around the world, although his focus in on the United States. He has done trunk shows from New York to Pittsburgh through to the Napa Valley.
On the home front Kevin’s beadwork, in particular his iconic Ndebele treetopper Christmas angel, for which he won an award from the South African government, is now appearing in the eighth definitive issue of SA Stamps. “My angel will be flying all over the world,” he quips.
A recent highlight was the collaborative exhibition with Apple at their iStore in Johannesburg which was a resounding success. Each piece of art and jewelry was a one-of-a-kind using Apple components, now technologically redundant but revived through art. It was a unique concept.
Kevin has been director of design at Frankli Wild™ African Classics in Johannesburg since 1989 and has built up a blue-chip clientele. He is part of a seven-generation line of jewellers. His grandfather Jack Friedman, who was born in Riga, Latvia, set up a jewelry manufacturing factory in Johannesburg in 1934. Jack was a founding member of the South African Jewelry Council and both he and Kevin’s father Frank were extremely influential in the South African jewelry industry. Frank won many international awards set up by the Gold Council and the then Chamber of Mines.
Kevin says that his father was particularly encouraging during the course of his career, allowing him to experiment and to push the envelope, while teaching him that education is the starting point of strength.