Ortaea: the new ‘Imperium’ collection is an homage to Russia’s birch tree

Russia has provided inspiration for numerous artists from all over the world; and this influence is reflected in the work of many jewellers. One of the latest collections inspired by the country, ‘Imperium’, was launched by the London-based brand Ortaea, and is dedicated to the tree most strongly associated with Russia: the birch.

Several rings, earrings and the collection’s hero piece - a cuff bracelet - are comprised of different colours of gold and encrusted with gemstones. Four jewels have been made with two alternative colour schemes: a pair of drop earrings, a pair of hoop earrings and two different cocktail rings. One of the colour combinations used is based on play of contrasts between black gold, rubies and colourless diamonds - the other one in rose gold with colourless and champagne diamonds exhibit colour shades that complement each other.

Ortaea 'Imperium' earrings in black gold with rubies and diamonds

A unique feature of each jewel is the handmade abstract lineal texture on the gold surfaces. The delicate lines cutting across the metal are reminiscent of the patterns with which mother nature has decorated the birch tree’s trunk. Some of these look like parallel lines, others bring to mind elongated, undulating arrangements. The rose and black gold of the ‘Imperium’ collection are thus covered with multiple delicate wrinkles that serve to soften the rings and earrings.

The ‘Imperium’ collection was created by the founder of Ortaea, Mita Vohra, in collaboration with the artist Prince Rostislav Rostislavovich Romanov, a descendant of the imperial Romanov family. Two years ago, they met through a mutual acquaintance, and immediately began to cultivate the idea of collaborating together on a project. The artist wanted to create something special for 2018 to mark the centenary of the death of Tsar Nicholas II. “We wanted the ‘Imperium’ collection to be not just about beauty. Mita’s creations tell stories and have meaning, they are not just pretty accessories. Their meaning runs deeper than fashionable jewellery, so she seemed like a perfect companion for this project,” says Rostislav.

Ortaea 'Imperium' earrings in rose gold with diamonds

So why did the birch tree become the starting point for the Imperium collection, when there are so many other visual symbols associated with Russia? The Russian-British painter thinks the tree possesses a charming beauty, and both the Prince and Ortaea's inspirations are firmly steeped in nature. When I met Rostislav at the collection’s launch, he remarked: “The first time I can clearly remember seeing birch trees is when I went to Russia for Tsar Nicolas II’s funeral in July 1998, I was instantly fascinated with the silver of the trunk, the transformation of the bark, how it peels off as if birches shed their skin and become rejuvenated. It’s a wonderful sight! Many eras in Russian history have come and gone, but the birch tree has remained an eternal symbol of nature as Imperium.”

Practically all of the pieces in the new collection are abstract interpretations - the hoop earrings and matching organic ring were inspired by forms within Rostislav's paintings - though the large ring and earrings were drawn from images of the actual layers of peeling birch trees as they shed. The collection’s pièce de résistance, a cuff bracelet, is the result of a truly intrinsic collaborative process: Rostislav created a painting of a cuff, inspired by the ring, which had in turn been inspired by the peeling birch. This painting then finally became the basis for the design of this spectacular jewel!

The symbols depicted on the cuff bracelet simultaneously combine white, black and rose gold. Mita initially wanted to adorn it with diamonds and rubies but she decided to leave the surface of the metal unpolished and undecorated, so that the bracelet could better mirror Rostislav’s slightly rustic artistic style. Part of the fluidity of this collaboration is that when Rostislav and Mita saw the raw version of the bracelet, they loved it, and decided to leave it that way. The 'Imperium' collection will be expanded on this raw line into ring and earrings, and the full ruby, black, champagne and colourless diamond version of the cuff will be released as well.

Prince Rostislav Rostislavovich Romanov and Mita Vohra

The new creations were displayed for the first time on 21st November 2018 at a private event in Harvey Nichols, London, where they are now available to purchase.

Send enquiry about featured jewellery.