Houston-based designer Shelley Marks Weathers and her company Pontiel Jewelry have carved a place for themselves in the history of sustainable jewelry by repurposing rare and exquisite antique and vintage glass pieces into original and luxurious creations.st designs of the century. These are striking as they echo the glamor and historic designs of yesteryear, and are mostly set in sparkling sterling silver and vermeil. (Weathering can create 18k or higher gold pieces for bespoke clients.) Pontiel jewelry includes antique iridescent Egyptian Revival style scarab pendants, aquamarine glass plates of Art Era female figures Deco; gracefully etched sunbeams, flowers and other enchanting life forms. Sourcing rare materials from the United States and throughout Europe, Weathers sells her jewelry on her Instagram, @pontieljewelryon the Pontiel websiteand in the luxury department store in Houston, Kuhl-Linscombe.
While all Pontiel jewelry shines with fine glass elements that were crafted over the four decades before the outbreak of World War II, each contains rare or unique elements. Therefore, there is an intriguing historical aura, texture and presence of the past embodied in these ornaments. As Weathers explains, “I’m passionate about the intricacies and patterns in every piece of etched, molded, or drilled glass I find. The unique characteristics, tones, and colors of each piece are what make them intriguing, rare, and collectible. »
For example, drilled, etched, and molded glass plates were mass-produced in the years before World War II in various colors and sculptural shapes, such as pyramids, rhombuses, octagons, squares, or circles. These variously embodied highly detailed motifs such as female figures, long-legged waders, bouquets of flowers, succulent fruits, abstract cubist designs or radiant sunbeams. Weathers also collects and uses camphor glass in some of her jewelry designs. With a frosted, semi-opaque appearance and similar to sculpted rock crystal, the camphorated glass pieces were made during the Art Deco period (circa 1908 -1935). Its distinctive hazy effect was created by treating clear colorless, blue or pink glass with vaporized hydrofluoric acid.
All Pontiel pieces are handcrafted in Houston by three master craftsmen. When asked to name some of her favorite creations, Weathers immediately replies, “The Tamara bracelet. Set in sterling silver, the aqua-colored glass panels are sourced from Paris. The female nudes in the bath back to back recall the works of the great 20sand artists of the century Carl Werner and Tamara de Lempicka. Then there is the Astrid bracelet, set in sterling silver. “The glass in this piece is a quintessential example of the Cubist aesthetic in design,” says Weathers. “It is a unique angular and geometric piece influenced by Cubist painting and sculpture.” The rarest piece in his collection is a frosted glass pendant with intricately cast birds and leaves. Delicate and dramatic, it is a French piece from the Art Deco era, in the style of René Lalique. [Writer’s Note: in a 2003 auction, a 20-inch long, circa 1930 René Lalique necklace, featuring twenty-eight carved and frosted, colorless glass songbirds, each perched atop a rectangular-shaped clear glass link, sold for $28,680 at Christie’s.]
As it happens, “my absolute favorite piece is a perfect example of Art Deco geometry, mixed with florals and straight lines,” says Weathers. “Upside down, it looks like an Art Deco skyscraper. “It’s so fantastic. I hope to make a mold of it and reproduce it in the near future. A trained art historian, Weathers notes, “These pieces are more than glass. They are decorative objects of historical and cultural significance. They are symbolic artifacts of a slower era, when craftsmanship was highly prized, and reflecting contemporary art and design motifs of the pieces. Many of the glass elements that drive Pontiel Jewelry come from the multi-generational, family-owned glass studios that closed due to World War II. As Weathers notes, “The techniques used before the war remain obscure and unreplicated. One of my goals is to design and produce my own glass pieces using these traditional techniques.
Weathers serves its etched, drilled and cast glass in sterling silver, vermeil and gold jewelry. “Most of the factories that produced glass for jewelry and other accessories in former Czechoslovakia, France and Germany were either converted to produce materials for the war effort or closed down by their owners,” she notes. This period of chaos, along with the prolonged post-war recovery in Europe, brought an end to the mass production of etched, drilled, or cast glass items for jewelry.
According to Weathers, her favorite jewelry designers include Lalique, Buccellati, Elsa Peretti and Anabela Chan, with Shaun Leane, Ted Muehling and Lalaounis. As she says, “I’ve always been creatively concerned with color, light and transparency. I studied painting and art history at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where my fascination with the transparency of paint turned into a serious interest in glass as a jewelry material.
After graduating from Occidental, Weathers worked in various museums and galleries in Los Angeles and London. “In the 1990s,” she says, “I bought a fabulous pair of Art Deco glass earrings from Merola, a London boutique, and it got me hooked on vintage and antique glass like jewelry material.” Around the same time she purchased these Art Deco earrings, Weathers began designing luxury hair accessories adorned with glass elements and Swarovski crystals for her brand, Shelley Marks Accessories. “My pieces sold worldwide at Harrod’s in London, various Neiman Marcus stores across the United States and also at Barneys in New York and Beverly Hills, California,” she recalls. Weathers’ hair accessories have also been featured frequently in US and international editions of vogue and She.
After decades of accumulating vintage glass elements from around the world, Weathers created Pontiel in 2019 as a creative avenue to glorify the glass in its collection. As Philip Jelley, Senior Vice President and Senior Specialist in Sotheby’s New York The Valuations Department observes: “After all, collectors are the guardians of art and culture for future generations. Weathers agrees, adding, “I’m a collector who’s also a designer who breathes new life into these extraordinary vintage or antique glass elements.” Explaining the meaning of her brand name, she continues: “A pontiel is an iron rod used in glassware to spin the glass while it is soft. Because I am so intrigued and respectful of glass artisans, I named my jewelry brand Pontiel.
Like all geeks, Weathers is a dedicated detective who never reveals her sources. “Let’s say I have a network of suppliers all over the world,” she laughs. “I’ve been collecting for decades and right now I have over 500 pieces. The problem with people in the world of vintage glass,” she says, “is that they’re really secretive and protective of their sources. After making millions of phone calls,” Weathers recalls, “I finally found a woman who had been collecting vintage glass for 60 years. The breadth of great things she has in her collection is staggering.
Some of the most impressive pieces Weathers owns and sometimes uses in custom or retail jewelry include iridescent scarabs that emit vibrant colors that change with ambient light. As Weathers explains, “The word iridescent comes from Iris, the Greek goddess of the rainbow. Examples of naturally iridescent materials include peacock feathers, opals, blue Morpho butterflies, oil slicks and soap bubbles. Although Weathers has placed iridescent scarabs in earrings and pendants, she keeps some of the scarabs to herself, as she suspects they may have been made around the turn of the 20and century by the great New York jeweler Louis Comfort Tiffany. “These pieces look remarkably like Tiffany’s iridescent Favrile glass,” Weathers notes. “I cherish them.”
[Writer’s note: Favrile glass is a type of iridescent art glass created by Louis Comfort Tiffany. After patenting this process in 1894, he first produced Favrile for manufacture in 1896 in the “Tiffany Furnace” factory in Corona, Queen, across the river from New York City.]
“The magic of vintage and antique glass that I use in my designs is in the obscure but masterful craft techniques involved in making these things,” Weathers ventures. Applied arts experts like Jelley put Weathers’ work in a different light. “What Pontiel brings to the table,” he says, “is to preserve images and materials that have been lost in the firmament and bring them new relevance.”
“Glass is an amazing material,” says Weathers. “Since ancient times, glass has been designed to embody all the colors of the rainbow as well as gold, silver and copper, but glass can let light through and create dramatic effects “, concludes Weathers. “This makes it an ideal material for jewelry of rare beauty. I hope to expand my collection, indefinitely!