A New York artist whose mastery of jewelry design was self-taught, Michael Bondanza embraced the revival of platinum jewelry and created styles that bear his indelible footprint.
Painting and sculpting were among Michael Bondanza’s first loves, tempered with interest in math. He sharpened his skills in these arts over time. On a whim, he decided to try his hand at jewelry design.
Bondanza’s jewelry career started in New York City in the early 1970s, when he designed a western-style belt buckle. He was initially inspired by Native American art, but his burgeoning skills pulled him in new and unique directions, and soon his personal style began to emerge. Two of his favorite jewelry designers were Georg Jensen and (early-era) Cartier.
It takes at least ten years to get grounded, to gain enough skill and experience to begin to tackle something with real meaning. -- Michael Bondanza
In Search of Signature Style
Early on, Bondanza experimented with sterling silver, 18 karat gold, and rosewood. The enthusiastic reception these jewels received encouraged him to stretch his talents, creating innovative and imaginative concepts. Soon, he fell in love with platinum, and this precious metal became his go-to setting for most of his works. Combining platinum and 18 karat gold, he attracted fine jewelry retailers to his atelier.
Demand for Bondanza’s designs grew, and in 1974, he began offering his jewelry to several of Fifth Avenue’s finest retailers, most notably Cartier. In 1977, his business was incorporated with the trademark “Platinum Redefined.” His designs reflected his personal vision, taking this precious metal, which hadn’t yet recovered its pre-World War II popularity, and fashioning designs that appealed to a younger generation of jewelry aficionados. It may have been his fascination with math and problem solving that led him to tackle the problematic nature of platinum, a metal that can be difficult but rewarding to craft into jewels.
Bondanza’s platinum creations incorporated repeating patterns and a distinct Asian-inspired look, with waves or vines in various forms and combinations, decorated with diamonds and colorful gems, including opaque stones such as onyx. Each of his collections of rings, bracelets, and necklaces employed a specific design motif.
Over the years, Bondanza continued to create new and striking designs, perfecting his craft by utilizing new ideas and experimenting with modern techniques. As well as handcrafted pieces, Bondanza has experimented with CAD software to expand his creative approach to jewelry design.
While his love of one-of-kind pieces fueled Bondanza’s success, the designer also created bridal collections that employed the signature design elements of his bespoke pieces.
Awards and Accolades
Bondanza has won several international honors for his creative use of platinum, and his pieces have gained him fame and praise within the design community. Among the awards, he’s received the coveted Triple Zero Award from the American Gem Society.
A Jeweler’s Jeweler
Praise for Bondanza’s jewelry has reached across the industry. One such admirer was Harold Tivol, of Tivol Jewelers, a highly respected multi-generational establishment. On a trip to New York, Tivol attended a showing of Bondanza’s jewelry. Tivol’s wife, who was already a fan of the designer’s earlier works in sterling silver, was the catalyst for their visit. It was only when she said Bondanza had begun designing in platinum that Tivol became interested.
In a small showcase, Tivol beheld four bracelets designed in a combination of platinum, 18 karat gold, and diamonds. He declared Bondanza a genius, saying he had never seen jewelry like it. He immediately perceived the amount of time and talent it took to pull off the intricate, sculpted designs. Without asking for the price, which was substantial, Tivol purchased all four bracelets.
Michael Bondanza is a master storyteller. His most memorable handcrafted pieces have been commissioned by clients who wanted to give a unique gift, one that told their own personal story.
Bondanza has always exhibited a talent for creating unique bracelet designs. Heralded for their expert technical precision as well as their captivating style, each of his bracelets is a true masterpiece. Over the years, he has also designed bespoke bracelets for his clients, which have been named “Story Bracelets.” Most have been produced to commemorate a wedding anniversary or birthday or another special occasion. Each bracelet featured elements of a person’s life that had special meaning for them…a place they loved, a memorable vacation, or an activity that was dear to their heart.
The Bring Your Own Coin Events launched during the holidays in 2017, but Bondanza had been designing coin jewelry since the mid-1980s. Fueled by a passion for coin collecting, the designer created an assortment of coin jewelry for two prominent retailers. He realized that ancient coins, particularly Roman and Greek, made ideal centerpieces for his jewelry designs. What surprised Bondanza was the number of clients who approached him, asking if he could incorporate a coin that had sentimental meaning to them. In fact, so many people were interested, Bondanza decided to create an event where his customers could bring in their own coin to be set into a Bondanza design. And thus, the BYOC event was born.