Saturday, May 23, 2009

TEMPLE ST. CLAIR

I love the smell of roses and as we stand in The Rose Garden of the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Virginia, the aroma of over 1,800 roses overcomes us.

From here, we venture to The Sunken Garden where we will find a Roman-theme environment with flowing water and dry-laid stone walls. Virginia is also the birthplace of jewelry designer Temple St. Clair Carr.

Carr's journey to becoming a jewelry designer is the stuff of Hollywood movies. Born in Virginia, Carr spent most of her life living abroad and her exposure to literature, art, and museums would heavily influences her design approach.

Carr eventually made a permanent home in Florence, Italy working as a fledgling marine biologist accompanying Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques) on underwater research projects.

Already an avid collector of ancient coins and beads it was not until she viewed portraits by Italian artist Bronzino that her career path changed. "It wasn't so much the jewelry in the paintings but the suggestion of it. I wanted to re-create the feeling,” she says. In 1986, she founded her company Temple St. Clair.

One year later, Barney's New York took notice of her striking pieces that featured Carr's signature gemstone, Blue Moonstone, and brought her Italian-made fine jewelry to New York. Carr broadened her designing options by featuring medieval, astrological, and celestial motifs. Accordingly, Neiman Marcus and Fred Segal then followed suit as the newest retailers of her collections.

Carr works primarily with 22-karat yellow gold, and marvelous stones such as pink tourmaline, green beryl, emerald, and citrine. "My designs are a reaction against what is trendy. The jewelry is meant to be kept forever," she says.

In 2002, Tiffany & Co. (USA) made a strategic move by investing in the Temple St. Clair brand through East Pond Holdings. Tiffany's spokesperson, Linda Buckley, had this to say, "We have been watching Temple's business for a long time, and believe there are opportunities for her to grow the business. We can provide her help through investments and consulting."

The collections of the Temple St. Clair brand feature incredibly fanciful and otherworldly designs inspired by medieval charms and amulets, constellations, angels, and mermaids. Carr wrote a memoir outlining her love affair with jewelry titled, Alchemy: A Passion for Jewels. "I'm passionate about my pieces being significant and about striking the perfect balance in materials and design."

You can browse pages of Carr's book at HarperCollins.com,
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Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Gold, Blue Moonstone Bombe Ring
Photo 2 (bottom left): 18-Karat Gold Sea Star Rock Crystal Amulet Pendant Necklace
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