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Inside the Vault

Contemporary jewelry designers are the focus of a new book penned by Stellene Volandes, editor in chief of Town & Country.

By Amber Michelle
“Jewelry is part of our world and is meant to be seen and worn,” says Stellene Volandes, newly appointed editor in chief of Town & Country magazine and author of the book Jeweler: Masters, Mavericks, and Visionaries of Modern Design, published by Rizzoli this month. Volandes went behind the scenes with 17 of today’s most innovative and influential contemporary designers and reveals their stories and the importance of jewelry to who we are as a culture when the piece was created. The book showcases the unique ideas, intricate processes and inspiration behind the work of this select group of designers that includes jewelers from around the world — some well known and others not. Volandes chatted with Amber Michelle, editor in chief, Rapaport Magazine, about the inspiration behind the book and her own journey with jewelry.

Amber Michelle: Why did you choose to write about contemporary designers for your book?
Stellene Volandes: Contemporary jewelry designers are a rich and talented pool right now. I am a student of jewelry history and a lot has been written about the past. I wanted to look at jewelry designers who create very modern jewelry using traditional techniques and unusual materials.
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AM: What was the criteria used to select the designers in the book and was there a commonality between them other than being contemporary designers?
SV: Rizzoli and I worked together to create a list of global jewelry designers. The first criterion was that they had to be alive and working today. I wanted to show jewelers who have created their own aesthetic and stayed true to that aesthetic. It takes courage and some stubbornness to stay true to your own point of view. To work only in wood or Bakelite or aluminum is very brave. All the designers in the book have a signature style. As Suzanne Belperron used to say, “My style is my signature.” I also wanted to include jewelers who are small, who may have only one store, but who have made a great contribution to design.

AM: Why is the story behind a piece of jewelry so important and what impact does it have on the wearer?
SV: There is such romance to jewelry and gemstones. A piece of jewelry is a product of someone’s imagination and someone’s hand is carved into every piece. To know about the maker is important because a part of that person is imprinted into each piece and each piece has an inspiration. Designers can tell you how a stone was found, or how it had to be cut three times to be right. It brings an appreciation of how the piece was made. The result is the maker’s belief in how beautiful the materials can be.

AM: In your opinion, what makes good jewelry design?
SV: Great jewelry is signature as well as singular. A design can — and should — have a point of view that gives it a great aesthetic based on the materials used. There can be amazing brilliance in materials that others might overlook — wood, Bakelite, agate…anything can turn into a brilliant piece.

AM: What is the one piece of jewelry in your personal collection that you cannot live without?
SV: I wear jewelry every day — even to the beach. My first piece of real jewelry came from Lalaounis in Greece. I bought it while vacationing there. That is where I first saw that jewelry can be inspired by the past but turned into a modern piece. Jewelry reflects what is happening in the world at a point in time; it is a part of our culture, not just a frivolity. Every time I go to Greece for vacation I buy another Lalaounis piece. They are totemic for me and when I know I am going to have a tough day I wear a Lalaounis piece. 

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - September 2016. To subscribe click here.

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