Zurcher’s jewelry creations gain notice despite recession
August 13, 2009
ASPEN – Ariane Zurcher has learned to be flexible. A grandchild of modern Aspen founders Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, Zurcher put the rest of her life – including her career in advertising – on hold when her daughter, Emma, was diagnosed with autism.
When she was ready to return to work, she chose an occupation – jewelry design – that would allow her to express her creativity and also devote sufficient time to her family.
The 49-year-old Zurcher was just beginning to gain a foothold in jewelry in the last year. She was among 11 designers selected by the World Gold Council to work with celebrities on a philanthropic Leaves of Change project; Zurcher created a gold-and-diamond necklace for actress Marcia Gay Harden, with proceeds given to the environmental group, the Waterkeepers Alliance. In January, she earned a Rising Star Award from Fashion Group International: “It was sort of my Oscar moment. It was at the Rainbow Room; I had to give a speech,” Zurcher said.
But while the recognition was coming, the economy was tanking, with high-end items like jewelry among the hardest-hit.
“It’s a tough time to launch a jewelry business,” she said. “But it’s what I love to do, so I have no choice. I have to think of as many innovative things as I can.”
Her latest innovation is flexible jewelry. Zurcher has designed a collection, Transitions, built around moving parts: Diamonds can be unhooked from a necklace and reattached to a bracelet; earring pieces can be hooked together to be either close to the ear, or hanging.
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The collection launches in New York at the end of September, and gets a preview in Aspen. Zurcher grew up near San Francisco and now lives in Manhattan, but has always considered Aspen a major part of what she thinks of as home. She will have a trunk show Thursday and Friday in the Library at the Hotel Jerome (which her grandfather once owned). Ten percent of the proceeds from the show will be donated to the Aspen Institute.
Zurcher has already used her jewelry to help with the renovation of the Aspen Institute building that bears her family name. At last week’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Institute, she donated a one-of-a-kind necklace – 18-karat brushed gold with natural Venezuelan pearls and 224 carats of aquamarine – to be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the rebuilding of Paepcke Auditorium. (Like everyone in the family, and few outside the family, Zurcher pronounces the name “PEP-kuh.”)
At the anniversary celebration, Zurcher’s mother, Paula, gave a talk about family and the generations of Paepckes that have contributed to Aspen. Paula’s talk emphasized that there were still Paepcke heirs making their mark on the town. “My mother said we shouldn’t just honor the past, but also future generations,” Zurcher said.
Zurcher, however, was still connected to the past. She chose aquamarine for the necklace she donated because it matched the color of the eyes of her grandmother, Elizabeth “Pussy” Paepcke, the Aspen matriarch whose legacy includes the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.