Rhody Maker: Jewelry Designer Priyadarshini Himatsingka
Himatsingka crafts elegant works of art inspired by the wabi-sabi tradition.
“It’s a grand thing to know life changes and, in small ways, jewelry changes with it,” says Priyadarshini Himatsingka, who designs extraordinary necklaces, rings, bracelets and bridal jewelry out of her studio on the Pawtucket/Providence line.
Himatsingka’s eponymous collection nods to the Japanese tradition of wabi-sabi, which celebrates the beauty of natural forms and their myriad imperfections. Such is why this master of metal, who works in both gold and silver, relishes the latter. Gold is beautiful and stable — and she deploys it often — but she equates working in silver to “a poetic experience.”
“In a way, silver does what you don’t want it to do,” she says in a phone interview last week. If she gives a pair of earrings a brighter finish, it will someday tarnish. And if she oxidizes them, the blackness will eventually disappear to reveal bright silver beneath. “Silver is challenging. There’s nothing like it. It’s a delight to work with.”
Himatsingka is no stranger to change. The artist, who was born in Calcutta and grew up in Bangalore, India, studied at Parsons and at New York University, earning degrees in photography and philosophy. She then enrolled in a jewelry and metals program at Rhode Island School of Design “on a whim,” she says, as a special student. She graduated in 2000 and, four years later, Himatsingka Jewelry was born. Today, her designs are offered for sale on her website, in scores of boutiques and museum shops across the globe and, here in Rhode Island, at her storefront, pH Factor, on Hope Street in Providence.
She jokes that she feels like she is having an affair — the jewelry business is the older spouse she’s on the verge of divorcing while pH Factor is the hot young thing luring all of her attention. The shop, a bright and highly curated space that opened on the East Side in 2019, features hand-picked new items and vintage wares from her travels. Amid the pandemic, her mother, who still lives in India, would scout items for her and send them to the United States.
Himatsingka was raised in a textile family and, once clients learn this about her, they can often pull a thread between her work and her family’s business.
“My dad has been wagging a finger like, ‘You can run away from it, but you can’t hide,’ ” she says with a laugh.
RISD’s Germanic tradition, including its concentration on metalwork, also left an impression. But Himatsingka’s artistic instincts have remained steadfast. She remembers a teenage war she waged against a pair of tiny sparkly diamonds her mother gave her to wear. To this day, she eschews traditional diamonds. She prefers to work in older cuts, as they weren’t subject to the molecular-level precision that creates the uniform white florescence we know — and many love — in today’s diamonds.
“These are smokier,” she says. “They have built-in inflections, which I personally love a lot, so it has the qualities of diamonds that we like but they’re not as bling-y or flashy. There’s a quiet power to them.”
The designer’s work leans minimalist but, in recent years, she’s tried to break away from simplicity in favor of the more opulent form — “the idea of ornamentation at its fullest,” she says. She relies, as she always has, on hand-fabrication and castings to create new pieces, only deploying 3-D printed models if a project calls for it. She finds the technology “too precise” — even for diamond pieces. She fabricates those in her studio and prefers to set them in silver.
“Traditionally, diamonds are not set in silver,” she says. “There’s a reason why a fourteen-karat band is the most popular wedding band. It’s basically indestructible.”
A diamond ring set in silver would certainly withstand some scratches, and Himatsingka says this has value, too. She recalls a RISD professor with a wedding ring that, over two decades of marriage, had taken on dings and divots.
“Most people wouldn’t want this because it’s not the same ring, but you couldn’t recreate it. It was almost like a piece of art,” she says. “There’s great beauty in things morphing and changing as your life goes on.”