An Interview with Luxe Jewelry Designer Temple St. Clair
Temple St. Clair has been afflicted with wanderlust her entire life. A southern girl who grew up spending summer vacations in Morocco and Bavaria, went to an International Swiss boarding school for high school, and received a masters in Italian literature in Florence, St. Clair has been traveling her whole life. Her vast knowledge of art and mythology coupled with her travels to the ends of the world to find rare gems makes her process and collection entirely unique.
We spoke with St. Clair, who still retains her charming Southern accent, about the inspiration for her stunning and elegant jewelry collection. The Temple St. Clair line is not for every woman. It's for a woman who doesn't follow the rules, in fashion or in life. It's for a woman with an endless search for knowledge and adventure, a woman with an innate sense of class and elegance, a woman a lot like Temple St. Clair herself.
When did you know you wanted to be a jewelry designer?
It wasn't a clear-cut decision. It was something that sort of evolved in my life. I lived in Italy for about twelve years. I started living there after I'd been living in Italy in the 80s and I started having a few pieces made for myself. My background is in Italian Renaissance literature, Italian art history, and I was inspired by the things I was studying that were around me in Florence. My goal was to make a few things for me and then other people started seeing them and friends and family asking me to make things for them. And it grew from there, and supported me continuing to live in Italy and travel and study. It wasn't an exact moment that I decided. Life decided that for me.
What were your early influences?
I had my masters in Italian Renaissance literature so I was reading Dante and Boccaccio, so I was spending a lot of time in the museums there. So early on I was looking at everything around me in Florence. I would say early inspiration was certainly Mediterranean. I was traveling a lot in Turkey and North Africa and of course all around Italy, so definitely the early influences came from there.
Who is your ideal customer?
I think my ideal customer, it's not like, I can describe to you what kind of woman is attracted to my collection. My customer has certain characteristics, typically, and they usually are very confidant women, very secure in their own individual styles. They don't let fashion dictate to them. They like to put their own mark on things, and put things together for themselves. And my collection lends to that. And you know, that's how I feel about fashion and life in general. You know I prefer to be more of an individual and I guess that translates through my jewelry and attracts that kind of woman.
Your collections feature a lot of really unusual stones. How do you source materials and pick different stones?
I've become known for my use of really beautiful and unusual color and fine gemstones. I do use a lot of different colors of sapphires. I do use a lot of different aquamarine and tourmaline and really rare pieces, which really are quite difficult to work with, because sometimes I can only get one stone of a certain kind. So that very much differentiates what I do from a usually jewelry manufacturer that might be making everything in colored quartz for example, where you can get all you want.
So the sources for these materials are widely distributed around the world. I work with cutters in Germany. I work with Indians. I work with Australians. I have people bringing stuff out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which is particularly difficult these days, as you could imagine. I work with really beautiful tourmaline coming out of Mozambique, minerals coming out of Madagascar, just really, really interesting unusual material. One thing I always say is, it certainly doesn't make it easy when you're working on some new pieces, just sourcing materials is very, very difficult, but that's the way I like it.
Is that what sets you wide apart from other lines?
I think so in many ways, because otherwise it's just too difficult. It's not a practical business model, let's say. But I think I come to things from a more artistic perspective, and a more historical perspective where I sort of see myself in the history of jewelry. If you look back at important jewelry, things weren't produced in multiple, multiple pieces. You have one special piece, pieces like Elizabeth Taylor has collected, that were owned by some great European monarch who collected centuries before. Those pieces weren't made in the dozens. So I think a little bit, I work in that way, that I'm really creating these treasures to be passed down. A lot of people refer to them as modern classics. I like that. These are pieces that will stand the test of time.
What's your work process like once you have an idea to the time that it's actually being created?
I work on a fashion schedule. I present two collections a year, a spring and a fall collection. At the same time, as I find interesting stones, they'll be other pieces that I'll add in during the year. Typical these days I'll be working on a seasoned collection, nine to twelve months ahead of time. That doesn't necessarily mean that's how long it takes a design to happen. I am constantly working on different designs. And if a scene comes along that strikes me, I'll go in deeper on a particular design.
I have a few different collections that are somewhat thematic. One that's celestially inspired, that takes into account some old drawings of constellations and have some astrological motifs, old almost pagan motifs from studies of astronomy and astrology. I love myths and stories and legends, so I'll go in deep and not only read the stories, but look at old drawings and things.
I find inspiration, just out of my imagination, and you know references already existing in the world. So it depends. Some times something hits you and it's very fast, and other times it's something you're sort of working on over a period of time. So, it works both ways. And sometimes it's just I'll get a beautiful stone and everything will come from that stone. I'll just be motivated to set it a certain way.
Is there one piece in your collection that you think every woman should have?
In my collection, typically the most signature, iconic piece is my rock crystal amulet. And that tends to be the piece that, if someone is just getting to know my collection, that's the piece that they tend to be drawn to. That's the piece that I encourage as a starting collectible because it is so versatile. It can go with anything, and at the same time, with the rock crystal amulet, I add several new ones with each new collection. So there are many to choose from. So it goes back to that idea of the customer wanting her own personal individual item, and she can find that with her choice of the individual rock crystal amulets.
To read more about how Temple St. Clair's worldly life influences her gorgeous designs, check out her expansive book Alchemy: A Passion For Jewels. It's a must-have addition to any art book collection. Click through the gallery to view more amazing pieces.
Gallery: Temple St. Clair Jewelry