International jewelry designer Colette Steckel is a master of stones. Gems, that is. Drawn to them at an early age, she has a mission to showcase gems in settings that reveal their true beauty through Colette Jewelry.
The Jewelry of Colette
Born into a French-Mexican family, Colette’s life has straddled both cultures and geographic locations. She manages to marry the more colorful, flamboyant imagery of Mexican and ancient native cultures with a more restrained French aesthetic. In Colette’s skillful hands, snakes are serpents from Eden, tempting rather than repelling us. Swords are bejeweled daggers whose charm doesn’t completely bely their danger. This is conversation-piece jewelry.
Each design starts with a premise, an idea of inspiration. Then she works through the process of detailed drawings and wax models, until finally the finished piece of jewelry is set and polished to Colette’s exact specifications. Then she physically wears the piece, living with it for a while until she deems it is perfect, covet-able, and ready to weave into her collections.
Her collections are somewhat prolific, and cover a range of themes: flies, flowers, skulls, even the celestial is inspiration. I could spend at least a day browsing through everything. Made of gorgeous materials, every single piece receives the same amount of exacting scrutiny. Colette is especially skillful at incorporating the mechanics of the item into the design: the sword wraps effortlessly and becomes the band. Of course, the real stars here are the stones. With Colette, it always comes back to the stones…
The Interview with Colette
idazzle: It sounds as though your initial inspiration came from coaxing color and light from stones that hadn’t been seen before. Have you moved away from that or is that still an inspiration?
Colette: I have always been in love with color, especially the colors you find in nature like the blues, greens and turquoises of the ocean, land, animals and their intricacies, rainbow sunsets and flowers. You can find the most special color combinations. I love to play with different color palettes, tones and hues. I like to work with stones that have amazing color saturation and then combining them with neutral colors such as diamonds. I am so inspired by colors and what surrounds me – especially when I travel. My latest collection that is currently in the works is largely inspired by the color of the sea in Italy and the magnificent dragonflies that buzz around – their wings are just sensational.
Can’t wait to see those! What does your creative process look like? Do you begin with the stones, or with sketches?
Once I have in mind what I want to create I start with a simple sketch, then I move to the real sketch which means a full drawing in color with all the specifications for stone sizes and type of stone. Usually when I get the inspiration of a collection, I already know which stones I am going to work with. It is a simultaneous process. After the proper drawing is finished, then I move to the CAD design, and once everything is perfect, I print a wax and it goes to casting. After that you finally get to see exactly how the design is going to look which gets me really excited! Then, I proceed to setting and finally polishing. The piece is ready. After I make sure everything is made to perfection including the setting, the gold, finish and polish, I wear the piece for a little while. With photography being one of my hobbies, I like to take the pictures of my pieces myself, which I do in different positions and with varying backgrounds. If I want to put the piece in my jewelry box, then I know it is perfect and ready to show!
You have a number of different collections, each with a central theme underlying. Do you have a favorite collection, something especially close to your heart?
The closest one to my heart is “feuille” because it involves so much of my personal life; it is the foundation of my business and thus my logo. The motif is a leaf that I found many years ago on Boulevard Saint Germain in Paris. I have always collected leaves and have a beautiful collection of leaves that I have found over the years. I love leaves because of their beauty and because they mark the seasons and that they fall from trees that represent life. Their structure also seems so elegant. And I want to immortalize leaves by making them into jewelry, setting them with different colored diamonds to represent each season of the year.
How does your heritage affect your designs?
I have lived between France and Mexico my whole life and I think that this cultural background absolutely has had an impact on my work. In Mexico, there is a great tradition of mysticism that comes from the ancient Azteca culture and a very vivid use of color that one can see in everyday life. My French sensibility I think has made me very in tune with elegance in design and simplicity of lines.
How do you decide when a piece is finished, complete?
I think that a piece is finished when I see that its design truly expresses the idea that I started with and after I have worn it and am confident that it is something that I would like to have for myself.
Do you have a current muse or obsession?
My current obsessions are insects and wings. These structures are so intricate and many times we look at them and do not really see them and to me they represent different sorts of mysteries.
Out of curiosity, what were the stones you worked with originally, that started it all?
The stones that I worked with originally are Peridot, Tanzanite, and Apatite.
Thank you so much, Colette, for a glimpse into your magical world!
To see more of her collection, or to contact Colette and her staff about a design, you can visit them at www.colettejewelry.com. You can also see her designs at several stores in the USA and Mexico, including Fragments at 116 Prince Street, New York, New York, or call 212.334.9588.