In 1999, Ippolita Rostagno founded her own personal line of jewelry with a goal to address a certain void in the world of fine jewelry. At the time, jewelry was primarily traditional and worn only on special occasions. Ippolita was determined to design pieces to be worn every day and for all occasions.
“I wanted to create handcrafted jewelry that women want to wear all the time, that’s easy and makes you feel good – not intimidating, simply transforming,” says Ippolita. “There’s no right or wrong way to wear my jewelry, so I invite women to feel comfortable without having to give it much thought, to mix, match, layer, and stack in a way that makes them feel beautiful.”
Although she didn’t originally set out to design jewelry, arts and culture have been a significant part of the artist’s life since birth. After growing up in Florence in a family of artists (her father as an experimental theater director and her mother a decorative painter), the young creative attended art school, where she studied sculpture.
Right: STARDUST 18K Gold Crushed Ring with Diamonds ($9,000)
At just 20 years old, she moved to America and settled herself in Los Angeles, where she received a degree in English Literature from Occidental College. After completing her studies in California, Ippolita moved to New York City, where she was inspired by the dazzling cityscape and first realized she wanted to pursue a career in jewelry design.
“I was young and wanted to translate my love of sculpture into a form of wearable art,” says Ippolita. “I started making jewelry for myself and quickly realized that this could become a lifelong passion.”
PBI.com recently had the chance to chat with Ippolita about her jewelry and the inspiration behind her timeless designs.
PBI.com: Where do you find inspiration for your themes and designs?
Ippolita: I would have to say that I am most influenced by other works of art. I take palettes from paintings and shapes from large scale sculptures and then filter them through a jewelry lens. From a pop culture perspective I am constantly looking to fashion as well as to street style, though I always go back to my design credo, which is to create pieces that are “cool enough to covet, yet classic enough to keep.”
Which collection was the most challenging to design? Which was most rewarding?
The most difficult pieces to design are often the most rewarding. The CHARMED bracelet is a great example of this. CHARMED was challenging because it brought together seven of the most important contemporary female artists to create one unique collaborative piece of jewelry-art. The project called upon each artist to create a charm, a small talisman that considers both her personal history and her artistic vision. In the end, the bracelet turned out to be one of the most personally meaningful pieces I have ever created.
Above: SENSO Pavé Pendant in 18K Gold and Diamonds. ($12,500)
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What can you tell me about your new venture of body casting? How will it individualize your jewelry?
The aim of SENSO was to redefine how jewelry is designed, crafted, and worn. An Italian word that implies sensuality and intimacy, SENSO was inspired by the softness of the feminine figure. With my passion for art and sculpture, I wanted to find a way to make gold feel luxurious and rich without losing its natural organic qualities, and so returned to my original technique of body imprinting to create textures that were literally lifted from the body. I take sheets of wax and press them on various parts of my body so the wax is literally imprinted with the softness of flesh. I then cast these very delicate waxes in gold and silver and use the pieces to create the models for bangles and necklaces. The texture in the metal as a result of this process both embodies and echoes the wearer’s sensual side, and the result is a fresh, organic aesthetic that brings out the elemental beauty of gold and silver.
|SENSO Disc Ring in 18K Gold and Diamonds ($2,495)||SENSO Snowman Earrings in 18K Gold and Diamonds ($7,495)|
Do you have a favorite or signature piece of jewelry you wear every day?
My personal favorite is the Sophia necklace. It can be worn three different ways with charms or without, and easily layers with other necklaces. It pulls every outfit together. I’m also never without a great stack of gold bangles.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time, I travel to my native Italy to locate artisans for my high-end craft website Artemest.com. I enjoy spending time with master artisans, watching them create and adapting their techniques for the jewelry world.
What’s next for you and your brand?
There’s my ongoing commitment to keeping craft alive through Artemest, the e-commerce platform that I created to give a voice to some of the most talented Italian craftsmen, and then of course there is the constant search for the next great idea. We are also at a great place with the brand as we are finally emerging with a clear identity and are planning a big campaign for spring.