A vignette from Ippolita's art-filled flagship store in Milan. (courtesy of Ippolita)
A one of a kind polished Kingman turquoise necklace on display this week. Photo by Courtney Dabney.
The designer, Ippolita Rostagno, took PaperCity on a tour of her collection at Neiman's NorthPark on Wednesday.
Stunning hammered pieces from IPPOLITA's Goddess Collection, have remained a favorite.
For Ippolita Rostagno the material dictates the design, like these one of a kind aquamarines set in hammered gold.
For the first time in two years, the founder and notable jewelry designer Ippolita Rostagno returned to Neiman Marcus NorthPark for a personal appearance, showcasing her wide-ranging IPPOLITA collection. Designs from her latest collection were on display, as well as a chance for shoppers to meet the international designer in person. Her Dallas appearance was followed by two more pre-holiday opportunities in Arizona and California.
To these personal appearances, Ippolita also brings many one-of-a-kind pieces ― providing a rare opportunity to invest in an original piece, in addition to the thrill of discovering alongside the artist herself.
IPPOLITA launched in 1999, quickly carving out its niche, and filling the void that its creator found in the fine jewelry market ― high design and rare materials that could be worn every day.
The Florence-born founder took PaperCity on a tour of her collection, as well as a discussion about what sets her brand apart. A truly global and intensely thoughtful artist, Ippolita arrived at the Neiman Marcus jewelry counter with her hair slicked back, embellished by a flurry of black feathers, tortoise-shell framed glasses, dressed in a lapis-toned blazer. Her look was Italian from her colorful neck scarf, down to her golden Prada loafers.
How did she become a celebrated international jewelry designer?
“Accidentally,” Ippolita Rostagno tells PaperCity. “I was a sculptor first, and jewelry was a small enough scale to be saleable. When I started crafting jewelry, I fell in love with it and the brand grew quickly.”
Over the past 20-plus years, she’s become an expert in all aspects of the craft. Many of her fans are drawn by the simplicity, and practicality of her designs, which are fashioned with exquisite materials and elevated by true craftsmanship.
“I have a very broad line and that’s on purpose,” Rostagno adds, noting that the entire collection is designed to go together. And though you won’t spot an emblem or logo in the mix, IPPOLITA is instantly recognizable.
With her lifelong fascination with the female form, many of IPPOLITA’s silhouettes and sculpted designs get their fluttering shape from being imprinted directly on the artist’s body. It’s one of her hallmarks.
“Body imprinting creates those wavy designs, bringing more softness to a piece,” she explains. “They are both feminine and sexy.”
Regaining Her Creative License
Rostagno sold the majority share of her namesake company to a Boston-based venture capital firm in 2007.
“It sounded like a great idea at first,” she says.
The plan was to unload the business aspects of running the brand to an outside party, while still maintaining her creative control. But, that’s not the way it played out.
“You’re not understanding what divergent views on your brand might implicate,” she says. “It’s not even the emotional component. It’s that nobody knows and cares about your business like you do.” So, she bought it back in 2018, and Rostagno has been expanding the brand ever since.
IPPOLITA jewelry is sourced and crafted around the globe. The designer says you have to go where the best materials are and work with the best craftsmen. But, ultimately the material itself dictates the design, she says, pointing to a one-of-a-kind necklace on display ― an exquisite, palm-sized polished turquoise drop necklace. Rostagno prefers Kingman turquoise to that from other regions, noting that its ferrous veining gives the material a warmer blue. Another one-of-kind necklace on display nearby was set with a lustrous Australian-mined Boulder opal.
“I embrace color as you can see,” Rostagno says.
There were chandelier and dangle earrings, cuffs and bangles, sculptural rings, and necklaces in a variety of color palettes, but many were candy-colored collages, with names like Rock Candy and Lollipop.
“The materials are valuable traded commodities, so you have to understand the fluctuations of price for these rare materials,” Rostagno explains. “We cut all our own material, and we alloy our own metals. That’s why our silver and gold look brighter.”
Rostagno explains the process of presenting the best that each stone has to offer, set in regular perimeters, but with irregular cuts allowing each stone to refract differently. Some stones, the ones that really draw the eye in with their depth, are actually sandwiched doublets or even triplets, like an aquamarine with mother of pearl showing through its underside, giving it an otherworldly glow.
She showed me a fascinating Medieval-inspired convertible globe ring too ― as if it had been snatched from a cabinet of curiosities or a Leonardo di Vinci exhibit. The ring appears to be a simple pave diamond double band, but it transforms into a globe that can be worn on a chain as well. The ultimate fidget toy.
“I always say that my designs have to be cool enough to covet, but classic enough to keep. Fine jewelry is an investment. But, it has to have an emotional as well as a practical side. Each piece has to answer both questions,” Rostagno tells PaperCity.
“Over the years certain winners have emerged. Ultimately, the customer is the judge,” she says.
One prime example of this is her ever-popular Goddess Collection, which is filled with hammered pieces, that are then polished, giving them an ethereal quality. And “bangle stacking never goes away,” she adds, pointing to her own wrist shimmering with a variety of at least ten bangles of her own.
“When I started I loved doing a line that resonated with antiquity but with a contemporary feel. I am Italian after all.”
“Hammering is deceptively complicated,” Rostagno notes as she details the painstaking process. You cannot work on one side of a piece without flattening the other, so it has to be constantly rotated to achieve the right effect.
IPPOLITA jewelry is sold in the finest department stores as well as at her three flagship stores located in Milan, New York, and Chicago. Rostagno’s personal appearance schedule will resume in the spring.