It’s every jewelry lovers dream to wear the most exquisitely rare and breathtakingly beautiful jewels that only the select few can obtain. Fortunately, Temple St. Clair, one of the most influential jewelry designers who is based between Florence and New York City, invited us to a private one on one showing of her newest collection, Wings Of Desire From The Mythical Menagerie, where we spoke to the lovely designer about her creations. A Renaissance woman in her own right, she has enlivened the jewelry industry in Florence by working closely with the goldsmiths and setters of the trade, collaborating together to bring the most bejeweled fantasies into a glittering, opulent, and bespoke reality. Her newest collection, and the second chapter in her design trilogy into the high jewelry arena, is a reality that took four years to complete. But, it was worth the wait as each of the handcrafted highly collectible pieces has a unique life of its own. The haute couture collection is a gilded treasure of unexpected delights. Her first collection, Mythical Creatures From The Golden Menagerie, was a flight of fantasy where flying fish swim in a Paraiba sea, crystalline jellyfish with black opal rainbows, and serpents who shed their scales in favor of a thousand emeralds. In her vision’s second evolution she explores the wings of nature, from piercing falcons to magical griffins, the imagination soars. This holiday season jewelry connoisseurs will have visions of Temple St. Clair’s newest exploration into the fabled wings of freedom where Pegasus and Chimera prance in the air as they set a coarse to a gilded paradise of legendary proportions, proving once again that she isn’t just a jewelry designer but a dream maker.
1. You are known for your unique style as a jeweler. What inspired you to
make jewelry a part of your life?
After almost 30 years of designing jewelry, I can appreciate that jewelry has been
my vehicle for creative expression. Originally jewelry fascinated me as an
anthropological testament to diverse eras and tastes. I was inspired by the
history of gold and the raw elegance of the material. It can be worked in such
refined detail like clay in the right hands. Gemstones are like pigments for me. I
love playing with the juxtaposition of different tones and hues. I treasure the
individuality of each and every natural stone that comes my way.
2. Why did you choose Florence to begin your career as a jeweler?
I was first in Florence to study the Renaissance, both its literature and art.
Florence was quite different 30+ years ago, not the luxury shopping mecca that it
is today. While studying there, I lived and breathed the 14th century city and
upon entering the artisanal world, it was as if I truly went back in time. I didn’t
exactly choose Florence; its world of artisans drew me in providing me with
everything I unknowingly desired.
3. Did you always envision taking this step into the pinnacle of
the jewelry art form?
I am forever a student so over the years I have striven to constantly refine what I
do, learn more, move in different directions, reach new heights. With the
Mythical Creatures from the Golden Menagerie, and now the Wings of Desire, it was about going in narrow and deep with the things I love most. I have combined my passion for nature, and fantasy while pushing my goldsmiths and setters beyond anything they have
done before. It is a natural succession for me, and just the beginning of a new
and fruitful chapter.
4. Where do you see this new venture taking the Temple St. Clair brand in
Personally, I will continue to deepen the quality and creativity of what I do and
love. As for the brand, I believe this further communicates the gravitas of what
we create with regards to craft and materials. I see my brand as a house of fine
jewelry in the traditional sense similar to a Cartier or Bulgari in the 1930’s or 40’s,
except that Temple St. Clair is a brand designed for modern women by a very
5. In this glamorous industry what keeps you grounded as an artist?
Taking care of myself physically and mentally – Ashtanga yoga, T.M., long walks
on the East River with my handsome German Shepherd, Max, travel to new
places, and lots of alone time to research, design, and create.
6. Each animal in your collection was carefully chosen from your life
experiences, which one speaks to you the most?
The creatures became more and more complicated as I developed them. I love
each one for various reasons but I would say that the Medusa Moon Jellyfish from my first chapter probably speaks to me the most. Not only does it incorporate actual material
ideas that I wanted to experiment with such as cutting and setting a crystal lens
over the opal and using the gem, hauyn that I’ve never seen used in jewelry, but I
feel that it embodies the feeling of the magic of the ocean. It glows with a
combination of colors that you can only experience in a beautiful coral garden
under the sea, all captured in a ring that you can wear on your finger!
7. Do you have a favorite precious stone?
So hard to pick but… my favorites are of course, royal blue moonstone, a
signature stone for the brand for the past 20 years, and because I love the
individuality of colored gemstones, I would say that Australian Black Opals
epitomize the idea of uniqueness. We work with only the finest of these –
Lightening Ridge Black Opal of museum quality. It is among the most unique
materials the earth has ever created!
8. Many jewelry Maisons are multi-generational and have family at the
core of their business, do you hope to see your children co-designing with
you in the future?
My husband and I have been running Temple St. Clair for the last 20 years. We
are a unique team in that we are not completely divided in our roles. My
husband was a modern dancer and is an artist at his core but also spent years
running cultural institutions. I am an artist at my core but also an entrepreneur by
nature. We complement one another and are endlessly passionate about the
materials and craftsmanship, and the story behind what we do. Our sons have
grown up spending time in Florence, even at the jewelers’ benches with my
artisans. They are both very creative individuals. My greatest desire is that they
are each as lucky as I have been in finding their own passions in their life’s work
whatever that may be.
9. What has been your most exciting or rewarding moment as a
One of the most rewarding moments as a designer was early on when pop artist,
the late Roy Lichtenstein started collecting my pieces for his wife. Another was
when Tiffany & Co. chose my work from the crowded world of designers to invest
in my company. It has also been extremely rewarding to have a book published
by Harper Collins and to be asked to contribute articles about my work and
travels to a number of prestigious publications such as Architectural Digest.
10. Do you have any advice for up and coming jewelry designers?
I don’t have specific advice. I have noted that every successful design company
seems to create its own model. I would say don’t be afraid to do it “your way”.
To Explore The Full Collection Visit: TEMPLE ST.CLAIR
Written By: Alicia Kunkel
Photo Credits: Temple St. Clair
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