Botanical themes are nothing new to art and jewelry. Ancient Persians, Chinese and Egyptians carved, wove and painted flowers, vines and trees on everything from furniture and tapestries to body adornments in veneration of nature’s beauty and perceived mystical powers. David Lee Holland and Yannis Kyriazis, New York-based jewelers with a growing Sarasota connection, are continuing that tradition—one that they believe is more important than ever before in history.
The design team behind the David Lee Holland brand creates astonishing solid gold jewels to highlight their deep concern for the growing vulnerability of our natural world. “Gold is the medium; nature is the message,” explains Holland, who donates funds from his nature-inspired jewelry sales to ecological charities, including Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and the Central Park Conservancy in New York City.
Indeed, Holland and Kyriazis have donated two custom hand-crafted designs valued at $10,000 to Selby Gardens for auction at the 31st annual Orchid Ball on March 31. Introduced to Sarasota during special appearances at Saks Fifth Avenue, where his jewelry is sold nationally, Holland spends about a month a year here now. “I adore discovering Sarasota and I love the Gulf Coast. We look at real estate every time we visit. I want a home here,” he says.
Taken under the wing of Selby Gardens’ CEO Tom Buchter, the second-generation master jeweler was shepherded not just through the gardens but to beaches and preserves to see plants in their natural habitats. A native of Selma, Ala., who lives in Manhattan, Holland was particularly smitten by sea grapes growing along the shore. “The sea grape leaf is beautiful and intriguing,” he says, and Holland breathes life into a sculpted golden one, a pendant appointed with a natural red spinel for auction at the Orchid Ball.
This year’s theme is an Evening at Versailles, and the team’s second design for Selby Gardens is a pair of Oncidium orchid earrings of solid 18K gold with two diamonds and two blue sapphires—the color of the Bourbon royal family. David Lee Holland pieces, which start at $4,000-$5,000 for earrings and climb to $20,000 up to $60,000 for custom bracelets and pendants, are serious jewels sought by celebrities and socialites for their incredible workmanship, quiet elegance—and commitment to eco-preservation.
“I don’t sell jewelry,” Holland says. “I just show it to people.”