Our current interview is with Town & Country Editor-In-Chief, author and style maven, Stellene Vollandes.
Q&A with DomusAurea’s Mariana Antinori and Town & Country Editor-in-Chief, Stellene Vollandes
Mariana: What was the first piece of jewelry you remember being important in your life?
Stellene: The first piece of jewelry that was important in my life was my first piece of signed jewelry, which I actually still have. Growing up we always had jewelry for different occasions, so I would get a charm or a little ring from a local jewelry store once in a while. But when I was about 13 we were in Athens at the Hilton and there was a Lalaounis store there and I bought (laughing- well, I didn’t buy it, my parents did of course) a very sort of dainty small gold ring with a miniature cabochon emerald. That was really the first piece of important jewelry that I ever had. I just wore that ring to a lecture I gave at the Lalaounis Museum in Athens.
Mariana: Do you remember your first purchase?
Stellene: My first purchase was another Lalaounis ring, which I also still have. It is a very heavily carved gold ring and it has sort of a flat ruby cabochon. I bought it in celebration when I got my 1st job as an assistant in publishing at Vogue.
I grew up in a family where important milestones were celebrated with jewelry, so jewelry has always been associated with turning points and new chapters in my life. Most of my pieces are infused with great meaning.
Mariana: Why is jewelry so important to you?
Stellene: Jewelry is important to me because it has always been intertwined with family and tradition. Every year on Christmas Eve, my father and I will run to the city to buy a piece of jewelry for my mother. But jewelry really took on a larger dimension in my life when I realized that it could be part of a grander cultural and historical conversation. And so I no longer saw jewelry as just an adornment, but something I could engage with on an intellectual level.
I was recently at the Getty Villa in Malibu and was amazed by the role jewelry played in ancient Rome. They had so many laws about which pieces could be worn and which ones could not, that it was clear jewelry was much more than a simple adornment for them.
It is when I learn things like that that something clicks in me: yes, I love wearing and receiving jewelry, but when I really question a piece and think about it I notice a deeper and more personal connection. Same as when people ask questions about art and clothing, but I don’t think most people see jewelry as a part of a larger cultural dialogue and I do believe it belongs in the historical conversation.
Mariana: What do you look for in a piece?
Stellene: Someone recently asked me how do you know when you want to buy a piece or when you want to write about it.
There is something that is visceral when I know this is something I want to have, and generally when I want to buy a piece it connects to my personal history in some way. Sometimes it’s because it’s Greek or because it has a certain talismanic property. Sometimes is because I know the designer and is someone I loved and admired as a person so I want to wear a part of them.
But I think jewelry in a larger context becomes interesting when it tells a story. You know people like to say every piece of jewelry tells a story - and it does - but what really fascinates me is when it can tell a story that transcends personal or sentimental feelings and paints a bigger picture. So when I can connect the stone to a significant moment in time or civilization is when I really become attached to it.
Mariana: Which is your favorite piece?
Stellene: A very hard question to answer. I wear a piece of jewelry every single day, even on weekends or when I workout, which drives my niece crazy. But there are pieces that I choose if I know I am going to have a tough challenging day.
I would say that almost every day I wear a Lalaounis piece and an evil eye for protection; I also have a Verdura Maltese pendant that I bought when I got this job which is very important to me as well as the Sidney Garber rolling bracelets that I like to wear. I admire Brooke Neidich so much that it makes me feel like I have some of her power & compassion when I wore it.
Mariana: A favorite designer?
Stellene: There's never been more talent in jewelry that there is right now. There are so many young creative designers that it makes me so happy.
I am actually very excited about a new Belperron Collection that is premiering next month, something I wrote about in the T&C Nov issue. I am always impressed by her designs, but even more so by her story and vision. She has a unique point of view and is nothing less than a pioneer, being one of the few women working in jewelry in the early 20th Century.
She was a fearless woman, fighter, and survivor, filling her pieces with an incomparable boldness. Every time I see a new piece created from her original designs I just can’t believe all that talent.
Mariana: When did purchasing a piece of jewelry make you the happiest?
The moment I decided to buy the Maltese Verdura pendant. I remember it well because I had borrowed it the week before I was named the Editor of T&C. I heard I got the job while wearing it at an event and decided to buy right there and then. It was such a wonderful week and I wanted the pendant to stay with me.
Mariana: How has the way we wear jewelry changed?
Stellene: What I’ve realized - and what has made me so happy - is that more people are talking about jewelry than ever before. Is a turning point. The idea that jewelry is something that you can only go see at a vitrine has disappeared. Instagram has been a revolution in jewelry because it has allowed everyone to learn about the art of jewelry and see how the actual jewelers interact with their pieces.
Also, companies like Gucci are inspiring people to pile on rings and be adventurous. A diamond ring is so much more than just a stone and there are also cameos and intaglios; there is sometimes a forgotten wildness to jewelry that I think is becoming more noticed nowadays.
So I think what has changed is that nobody is afraid of jewelry anymore, that they are enjoying and appreciating it even if they are not wearing it. That is always been my mission, to make jewelry something that can be studied, admired and appreciated even if you never buy a single piece.
Mariana: Who are some of your favorite Greek designers?
Stellene: There has been a revolution. If you attended the Las Vegas couture show: it had a whole section of Greek designers. It was such a joy for me to see how this very ancient tradition in the country has come out after the post-crisis; a creative spirit has taken a whole new generation with wonderful jewelers at its center.
I think of Nikos Koulis, Elena Votsi, Ileana Makri, the Lalaounis sisters, Eugenie Niarchos, Lito, Liana Vourakis and Yannis Sergakis. There is also a wonderful jeweler named Theodorus that I wrote about in the October T&C who is doing unique, wild pieces. The ancient tradition is becoming new once again, and I think there is a wonderful chapter being written in Greece right now.
Mariana: What do you love most about working at Town & Country?
Stellene: Everything that I love to do in my own life is a part of T&C. What I love most is that the magazine really covers the best of everything and it allows me to learn every single day. I get to meet amazing people that I have admired for years. Our readers are also something I love; I have never worked for a magazine with a more devoted readership. I am very proud to be associated with them.