Yesterday, Town & Country editrix and jewelry connoisseur Stellene Volandes invited guests to celebrate her project that was two years in the making: a book with Rizzoli called JEWELER: Masters, Mavericks, and Visionaries of Modern Design. After signing every copy on-site at Rizzoli’s NYC flagship (it sold out by the night’s end!), she gave us the scoop on her tome that’s devoted to elegance, craftsmanship, and contemporary brilliance.
You’re a self-professed jewelry lover, but what triggered you to create a book about it?
Rizzoli approached me almost two years ago with the idea of doing a book on contemporary jewelers—they had already done so many with historic jewelry houses. Right now, the contemporary jewelry world is filled with so much talent, unlike any time before. Part of why I wanted to write the book was to show people that jewelry is something not to be hidden away or to be approached with intimidation. The jewelry world is welcoming and really open. Jewelers want to share their craft and their stories.
How many jewelers are included?
We had to narrow the focus down to not only contemporary jewelers who are alive and working today, but to jewelers who might not be as well-known to the layman, so to speak, but to the jewelry world, are certainly worthy of attention. I chose a group of 17 that span the globe and whose work has a distinct aesthetic.
Was it challenging to narrow it down?
Yes! That was the hardest part. I could write about jewelers all the time—it’s something I love to do. This is definitely not a list of favorites, though. It really highlights those who have a distinct aesthetic and have been courageous enough to maintain it in a market where there is pressure to be palatable to all. They’ve been brave and steadfast in their point of view, and I’m so proud to include them.
Carolina Herrera wrote the forward—why did you choose her for it?
I knew that she was a fan of some of the jewelers I featured, and she’s someone who believes in the power of jewelry. It was important to me that someone who is a fellow believer write the forward.
When did you become truly obsessed with jewelry?
It’s been a presence in my life since I was young. Our family always marked occasions with jewelry. I began to understand that there were people behind it in high school. I shopped with my dad for my mother’s presents, and then I became interested in getting my own jewelry. I once lived above a jewelry gallery called Primavera Gallery on Madison Avenue, and the woman who owned it showed me that you could ask questions about jewelry that I had never thought to ask before; that it’s a beautiful and bright and shiny object, but it has depth and dimension and meaning and history behind it. Not long after I got to Departures, Richard Story put me in charge of jewelry coverage. A lot of magazines shoot it; not many write about it. Departures was one of the only magazines, along with Town & Country, that did both.
Do you have any family heirlooms?
I don’t know if I’d call them heirlooms! [Laughs] But jewelry is a very important part of my family tradition. In our family, it’s communal. I borrow my mom’s, she borrows mine, my sister-in-law borrows from me. Now our publisher Jennifer Bruno is part of that family circle. I wear jewelry every single day, and any time someone admires something, and I trust them enough to let them borrow it, I do.
How large is your personal collection?
It’s not endless, but I wear jewelry seven days a week. I wear these Sidney Garber rolling bracelets every single day. I almost always wear a piece of Lalaounis jewelry. I have some really special pieces that are collectable, but I also have pieces that I love because I know the jewelers who made them and they’re a friend. When I wear those pieces, it’s like having an army behind me.
Where do you recommend we shop for jewelry these days?
Department stores in the past 10 years have become such great gatherings of historic houses, but also up-and-coming discoveries. Going into Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman or Neiman Marcus, you can find names that you know, but the buyers have worked so well to create these spaces of discovery. In Bergdorfs right now, there’s a huge vitrine of Silvia Furmanovich’s marquetry collection, which was the talk of the jewelry shows. They had it there very soon after. That collection is really something to behold.