CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY, HANDMADE FROM VINTAGE + ANTIQUE METAL MESH
"I have equal love for a clean, modern line and a dirt-tarnished patina—don’t make me choose."
Former graphic designer and lifelong maker, Maral Rapp's focus on detail and craft, commitment to personal style, and obsession with vintage objects are much of what drives her. She happily lives them all daily in the creation of this singular, metal mesh jewelry. Forever drawn to the flashy, fluid metal of Mid Century and Art Deco mesh purses, Maral was inspired to incorporate the iconic bags in a more wearable, contemporary style. Working from her Oakland, California studio, she presents swatches of the reclaimed mesh as small jewels, as artifact, detailing them with precious metals. Rich in history yet decidedly modern, the resulting pieces allow the wearer to appreciate this storied material in a fresh, accessible, and ultimately more personal way.
The work is greatly informed by process itself. Working exclusively in the medium of metal mesh, this articulated fabric brings challenging physical properties—any successful designs are executed within a variety of exacting constraints. Encouraging the fluid material into pleasing, stable shapes is an ongoing study of tension and release, always with a focus on gravity.
Metal mesh from vintage and antique purses is cleaned, deconstructed, and re-engineered. Framed Mesh pieces draw lines of dark, oxidized sterling silver chain—all hand linked—around the borders of gold mesh elements, delivering graphic impact but also providing finish and structure to the mesh shapes. Joinery around these elements is all soldered or welded directly chain-to-chain—no bulky jump rings—drawing slim, uninterrupted lines throughout the work. Most earrings display the mesh held open in a flat plane, suspended from hand hammered armatures, Detailing is always minimal and discreet, focusing attention on the form of the piece and the inherent beauty of the vintage materials.
Hand-carved bracelet clasps are cast in sterling silver and brass. These clasps were carefully designed and created as two distinct halves, allowing them to be easily hooked with one hand.
Pieces are finished with oxidized sterling silver, 14 karat gold fill, 22 karat gold plated sterling silver vermeil, and select vintage brass. Mesh may also be custom plated with .999 fine silver, 14k + 18k yellow and rose gold. Earrings are 14 karat gold filled or sterling silver.
Reclaimed metal mesh is vintage brass, often with silver or gold plating, carved exclusively from signed, Whiting & Davis and Mandalian purses dating from the 1890s through the 1980s. All were manufactured in the United States or Canada. Chipped, torn, tarnished bags are sourced from antique dealers, estate sales, and flea markets—the mesh selection ranging from antique, heavily worn patinas to newer, bright finishes. The earliest versions include colorful enamel designs, hand-painted by groups of women gathered in Massachusetts at the turn of the last century. Think quilting bees, but for painting mesh—the industry was booming.
Select pieces may employ new metal mesh, also exclusively Whiting & Davis, which is still produced in Massachusetts on the company's original machines dating to the 1930s.
Even if you love a rustic patina, it's always best to remove the mesh jewelry before sleeping, swimming, or bathing. Definitely apply lotions, perfumes, and all grooming products before jewelry.
We have washed the vintage mesh before use but if you ever need to clean it, just lightly buff the pieces with water, mild soap, and a cloth, or use a soft toothbrush, if necessary. Rinse and dry well. Thorough drying is very important, particularly for the older mesh. To dry the inside of the links, use light heat from a blow dryer or place in bright, direct sunlight.
Earrings are best stored alone, protected in their own spot or hung on a hook. While metal mesh is not particularly fragile, the individual links do have very small tines that can become bent. In addition, some of the older enamel paint finishes may continue to wear over time. Necklaces can be stored any way you choose, but a hanging necklace is always less prone to tangle.