I discovered Natalia & Sergey’s store, WingedLion, in late spring of 2011, and have since been an eager follower of their work.
Initially, they caught my attention as craftsmen of quality jewelry with a unique style – a refreshing find amidst the monotony of offerings at Jared’s, Macy’s, Kay Jewelers’, etc. (And, I gotta admit that our shared Slavic roots definitely augment my devotion as a fan). As I’ve become more familiar with the jewelry industry, I’ve grown to appreciate WingedLion as role models. Natalia and Sergey lead a creative lifestyle, and sustain themselves financially through their artwork. Their success is encouraging and up-lifting – it gives me confidence that my own goals fall within the realm of the attainable. Consequently, seeing WingedLion continue to expand their portfolio and thrive gives me immense pleasure.
One of the things I find curious about WingedLion jewelry is its easily recognizable look. How is that curious? Well, consider that both Natalia and Sergey contribute the designs, but that each has a distinctive style. Sergey tends towards a detailed sculptural quality. Natalia’s designs are heavily influenced by the technique of her main medium, linocutting – as they focus on 2D visual elements, and work with an abstracted depiction of human or floral elements. However, the feel of the jewelry in their shop is cohesive! I theorize that they achieve this by sticking to mythological motifs as their inspiration, and by aiming for a rich level of detail in their pieces. The result is ornate statement jewelry, deserving the epithet of “wearable art”.
As a customer, I exist on the very edge of WingedLion’s target market. (This places me in an enviable position of being able to obsess over their work without becoming broke over it, heh). First, I most readily invest in earrings, while ~80% of WingedLion’s offerings are rings. Second, WingedLion mostly targets the bridal market; this lets them work with time consuming designs and top-notch materials – but also effectively prices their pieces out of my range. Third, their designs tend toward being thick and tall, making them most suited for dainty hands or long fingers (my own hands are pretty bulky looking). Finally, I’m pretty rough on my jewelry, and prefer pieces that won’t catch on corners as I swing my arms while working at the studio or experimenting in the kitchen. For someone like me, the size of WingedLion’s pieces is unideal for casual/daily wear.
All that said, I faithfully visit WingedLion’s shop at least twice per week, and wear my collection of their pieces as regularly as my own work.
My first acquisition from WingedLion was the GERTRUDE Sterling Silver Pendant with Peridot and Tourmaline – a piece I fall in love with over and over. It’s got the perfect balance of everything, really. It’s a sizable presence on my neck that catches attention without screaming for it. The gemstone colors are neutral, yet fresh and springlike. The overall shape is pleasing, and the design sports just enough swirls and flourishes to make me feel like royalty.
Also, check out that bail (bale?). It totally holds its own! Large enough for a hefty chain or a cord, and such a seamless complement to the pendant body. *Blissful sigh* As an extra perk, the pendant is an unmistakably handmade piece – the cast metal reflects the tiny asymmetries and strokes of the original wax carving. I can picture the fabrication process, and end up valuing the beauty of the result all the more for it.
My second acquisition arrived several weeks ago – for my 26th birthday, my parents kindly gifted me an indulgence, the POMEGRANATE Sterling Silver Earrings with Garnets and Amethysts.
These rock. As most of WingedLion’s work, I believe they were created using the Lost Wax Casting process. In fact… psst! I think 2 of the 4 pomegranate halves on the bottom left of this photograph went on my become my earrings. *Beaming*
Interacting with Natalia via the Etsy Convo system to place the order was a breeze. She was prompt to respond to my questions, and answered in a tone and with detail that makes me believe that she gives her full attention to each inquiry. Overall, previous experience tells me that WingedLion aims to create long term relationships with their customers: over a year ago, I bothered Natalia for a quote on for a piece with a customized gemstone. For a couple of weeks, we went back and forth discussing gemstone options – sizes, vendors, pricing. She was open to educating me and included photos of the gemstones they had in stock. In the end, I never pulled the trigger on the project, and Natalia did not push me to continue. When I recently resumed contact on the new topic of Pomegranate Earrings, Natalia was just as forthcoming and friendly as I remembered her – and I felt very taken care of.
Other aspects of the transaction also left a great impression. Natalia notified me when my order and payment came through, confirmed my e-mailing address, and brought my attention to the shipping notifications Etsy would be sending me automatically. Because she estimated a 2-week turn around time, it was a pleasant surprise when the earrings were ready in 7 days. The earrings were shipped using 2-Day Priority Mail ($100 automatic insurance, Signature required upon delivery), and arrived in incredibly sturdy and inconspicuous packaging.
I love how small and light these are – tiny cuteness! And pomegranates! Gotta love them – to eat, to look at, to associate with symbolism of fertility or womanhood or abundance. The french hook earrings wires are thick and comfortable; their tail looks steeply curved, but doesn’t actually come into contact with my skin.
I suppose that the only downside of this design is the closed setting for the gemstones. Amethysts and garnets are fairly color intense stones that tend to black out in most lighting. Being cabochons and having oxidized silver behind them limits the amount of light passing through the stones – so when I look at myself wearing these, they look dark and homogenous (as in, I can see the color play of purple and red). I wonder in what lighting conditions and from what angles the full detail of the earrings can be seen by an outside observer. Also wonder whether any effort-low alterations exist that would aid in making the stones look brighter – such as a polished look for the silver background. Perhaps the best visual alternative would be to use rubies or orange garnets (spessartites, or mandarins, etc) – though, of course, that would really increase the price tag for these earrings.