It’s no coincidence, jewelry designer Ippolita Rostagno says, that so many fine goods come from Italy.
“Everything is so beautifully crafted,” she observes. But then, she adds, Italians don’t make distinctions among design, art and craft. It’s all of a piece.
You could say the same about her delicate, sensuous works – which are sold at Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus stores, including the Neiman Marcus in The Westchester, White Plains – and at her flagship on Madison Avenue at 67th Street in Manhattan. An Ippolita (ip-POLE-it-tah) piece might be a cocktail ring in which an Australian pearl “egg” nests in “branches” of bright 18-karat gold and diamonds. Or a signature gold chain given a modern twist with irregular oval links of varying thickness. Or a necklace of graduated, faceted London blue topazes that are the color of her eyes, which offset her lush, dark hair, swept back by a feathery headband.
There is no question that Ippolita jewelry – which is crafted all over the world, although the design studio is in Manhattan – puts the art in artisan. Begin with the fact that the designer herself started out as a sculptor, earning a degree from the Istituto d’Arte in Florence, where she was born and raised, the second child of an American artist-mother and an Italian-intellectual father. (She also holds a degree in English literature from Occidental College in Los Angeles, where she founded the alternative dance company Rime, dedicated to exploring the relationship between dance and poetry.) No wonder her wavy metal works have a certain dynamism to them.
Though some are hammered silver, Ippolita is known for her particular brand of 18-karat gold, among the creations she graciously showed us during her recent trunk show at Neiman Marcus in White Plains.
“I like using the colors of antiquity,” said the woman whose name is Italian for that of Amazon queen Hippolyta.
Eighteen-karat gold, she explained, is 75 percent pure gold, 25 percent alloy. The alloy blend gives it its color. Ippolita uses a good deal of silver in her alloy, which lends her gold a special brilliance. She’s also noted for using gems in a painterly way, layering a blue topaz with mother of pearl for a heightened effect or juxtaposing amethysts with smoky topazes, evoking Byzantine mosaics.
But her favorite stone is turquoise, her birthstone (December), and she sources Kingman turquoise from a mine in New Mexico.
Given that Ippolita jewelry is sold all over the world, it’s not surprising she’s always on the go. But her Italian trips have a special place in her heart, and not just because these are sentimental journeys. She’s spearheading a save-the-craft initiative to draw attention to the potential loss of many artisanal businesses – traditionally family owned and now aging out as younger generations move on to universities and corporate careers.
A peripatetic traveler such as herself must have ideas on what accessories to pack, so WAG put the question to her:
“A long gold chain. You don’t go wrong with that,” she said, looping the one around her neck and fingering some of her new charms – including a tiny memento mori skull, among the objects in Renaissance still lifes; and an amusing cameo for foodies with a knife and fork instead of the traditional female bust in profile.
Dangling earrings are another must – “anything with movement.”
But whether you’re accessorizing at home or abroad, it’s worth remembering her philosophy.
“For me, jewelry’s not about how you look in it but how it makes you feel.”
Most Ippolita creations at Neiman Marcus range from $400 to $5,000. For more, visit ippolita.com.