By Tanya Dukes
A catalog of instantly identifiable signatures, from rock crystal amulets to charms in celestial motifs, are evidence of Temple St. Clair's place among the preeminent names in contemporary jewelry. And with the latest Temple St. Clair jewelry collection of one-of-a-kind designs, her ambitions have reached their broadest scope yet.
Dubbed Mythical Creatures from the Golden Menagerie, the capsule of nine pieces shows off the artistry Temple St. Clair has developed in more than 30 years of design. Her bestiary of extraordinary animals, including a Medusa Jellyfish ring featuring a rare, luminous Andamooka opal and a curvaceous Flying Fish bracelet in a cascade of moonstones, tsavorites and Paraiba tourmalines, plays to her strengths: refined gold technique and an unerring eye for colored gemstones.
The pieces are the culmination of three years of effort. St. Clair put the project in motion - first sketching preliminary designs, then sculpting models and choosing gemstones but readily acknowledges the team of artisans that helped to realise her vision. The intricacy of the work made their specialist contributions indispensible. "Many of the techniques and materials I used for this collection were unchartered territory for me," she admits. To achieve the textured, fur-like surface of the Sleeping Fox ring required the help of a Florentine chiseler who is "one of the last of his kind in the jewelry world". The Secret Garden Serpent necklace was assembled in several phases to create a skeleton of mobile gold vertebrae, disassembled so that a gem setter could place more than 1,000 stones, then put together all over again. The final cast of contributors included engravers, stonecutters, master setters, bookbinders and leather artisans.
Temple St. Clair enlisted fellow creative Nancy Lorenz, an artist whose work has been commissioned by names like Prada and Bottega Veneta, to contribute to the project, too. For each jewel, Lorenz crafted a wooden presentation box, individually decorated to complement its design, and embellished with precious materials like gold leaf, lacquer and mother-of-pearl. Joining forces wasn't a difficult decision; each was a fan of the other. "Nancy and I have been bartering for each other's work for years," she explains. "It seemed natural to do a project together. I wanted her to create beautiful boxes destined to be the world for each of my creatures."
The career milestones are going to keep coming. During Paris couture, she will display her latest, precious collection of Temple St. Clair jewelry at the Museum of Decorative Arts of the Louvre to celebrate the official debut of her new high jewelry collection, plus give a "sneak preview" of her latest project.