This September Sotheby’s will launch the first online-only sale of bespoke jewels created by renowned jeweller Michele della Valle. Designed specifically for this collaboration, the sale includes Michele’s signature pieces of animals and nature as well as a fun and eye catching take on the modern emoji. Ahead of the sale, we caught up with the jeweller to find out about his inspirations, favourite gems and the unique gift he gave to Sophia Loren.
Sotheby's: Do you have a customer in mind when you're designing pieces?
Michele delle Valle: Not any longer. In the past I've been inspired by some great personalities that I have much loved , my myths. I published a book called Jewels and Myths, featuring Maria Callas, Queen Elizabeth, Rudolph Nureyev, Sophia Loren, my mother and many others, dedicating a jewel to each one of them. Nowadays, it is the very stones I use that provide me with creative inspiration.
S: What are your favourite gems to work with and has that changed over your years of experience?
MdV: Many years ago my favourite gemstones were rubies and multicoloured sapphires. Today I no longer look at the value of a stone, but at its beauty. There are semi-precious stones that attract me and communicate strong emotions. I like color combinations and I don't hesitate to surround a precious emerald with beautiful amethysts . Green and purple is a wonderful juxtaposition!
S: What advice do you give people buying jewelry as a gift, or for someone else?
MdV: As a gift a jewel must contain an explicit or non-explicit message. A brooch with the color of your loved one’s eyes for example; a heart-shaped pendant... I had the wonderful pleasure of giving Sophia Loren a small bracelet which spelt – with a line of diamonds and in Neapolitan dialect – the words “A GUAGLIONA CCHIU' BELLA RO MUNNE” (the most beautiful girl in the world). Precisely what I think of her.
S: This collection has a real sense of fun - do you ever think that the jewelry world can be too serious?
MdV: I have always thought so. Jewelry must bring joy... The word gioia in Italian clearly says so! The same word stands for joy and for jewel as well. So yes it must bring joy and beautify those who wear it. This collection wants to demystify classical jewels, that nowadays can be very difficult to wear.
S: What have been some of your most recent influences and inspirations?
MdV: When I work I try to transform my emotions into jewelry. More and more often, I notice that these emotions are conveyed. As in a painting or in a statue or in a song. If the piece has been inspired by a strong emotion, this energy is perceived and the jewel will be successful. In this period I'm in a happy mood and I have noticed that I continue to design joyful objects. It is a fertile moment for my creativity.
S: Your pieces are very bold and make a big statement - what kind of character do you think is attracted to your designs?
MdV: In the end I realize that my clients, the ones I know, are people I like and who somehow resemble me. Unconventional people, positive and full of joie de vivre. People whom I believe grasp the emotions I try to convey with my pieces.
S: What are some of the more unusual gems featured in this collection?
MdV: Unusual? I built a necklace with leaves made of engraved blood jasper and diamonds, I used kunzite, a beautiful light pink stone, I combined some wonderful ruby baguettes to a briolette of pink quartz for some earrings, but I also used ebony wood set with diamonds for a necklace.
S: Why did you decide to incorporate emojis into your designs?
MdV: Despite my age, I am a boy at heart and am always interested in up to date and modern stimulations. When Sotheby's suggested the project of an online sale, I was delighted to take up the challenge. I think web communication is such a big part of our present and probably of our future. The first piece I designed for this collection was the pin with the smile. Pavé of yellow diamonds for the face, diamonds for the teeth, ruby cabochon for the tongue and finally two hearts of rubies as eyes . Then the "Like" and the “Kiss” emojis came to mind.
S: How long does it take to design and make a piece of jewelry, from conception to finished article?
MdV: It depends on the piece. Typically three to four months, but there are more complicated (complex) jewels that can take up to a year of work.
S: Even after all your experience, are you still surprised by new gems, colours or techniques?
MdV: I never cease to be surprised and to fall in love. It is part of my character. I'm very open to any new gem or material like silver blackened in acid that I used for a pair of diamond earrings. I'm more conservative about technique. I love handmade jewelry even if sometimes it is less accurate and perfect than that made with castings from 3D designs. Perfection is often boring and lacking emotions.
S: How important is the provenance and story behind stones for you?
MdV: I do not care whether a stone is historical or whether it belong to an Emperor. I care that it is beautiful.
Jewels by Michele della Valle is open from 21 September until 1 October.