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The jewellery anthropologist

The name Temple St Clair is intriguing, but it’s authentic, just like her jewels! 
Before they came to Scotland, the Saint-Clairs first went to England, with William the Conqueror. The name was originally ‘Saint-Clair’, which was a place name. Richard of Saint-Clair and Brittel of Saint-Clair are both mentioned in the Domesday Book.
Temple is based in Manhattan, but she was born in Virginia. She grew up traveling and adventuring around the world, going on deep-sea expeditions with explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, trekking through Mayan ruins in the Yucatán and studying literature in northern Italy.

Her journey into jewellery design was pure serendipity. Temple was in Florence in the 1980’s studying art and literature and her mother came to visit.  She wanted to find an ancient coin to set with a jewel. No mean feat, but at a local antiquities dealer, Temple found her a rare 4th-century BC Carthaginian coin.

She left Temple with the task of having her dream piece of jewellery made. It was at the antiques dealer that Temple discovered the hidden world of the Florentine artigiani. She was, and still is captivated by the story of gold and jewellery. She has, she says, her mother to thank for setting her on that path

Temple pieces are created from heart-felt inspiration. Derived from painting, architecture and textiles, to dance, music, and mythology. And, of course, the incredible creatures that inhabit the natural world. 

Creating jewellery offers Temple a way to explore the things she loves. That includes beautiful and exotic rare materials, working with exceptional craftsmen and an endless storybook of topics that the world around us offers. She repeatedly returns to nature as a source of inspiration and guidance. There’s an innate twist to her jewellery too, it’s rooted in history and tradition, yet its ethos is contemporary.

Women typically collect Temple St Clair pieces for themselves, as their own personal ‘talismans’. The jewellery seems to touch people in an emotive way, in a way that only a true jewel and keepsake can.
Not surprisingly, Temple has her own personal jewellery box, full of evocative treasures. You’ll find ancient Greek and Roman coins, both loose and set in rings. Her very first Rock Crystal Amulet; her first gemstone ring – a cabochon emerald in one of her classic settings – angel pendants engraved with her sons’ names. Her serpent ring and treasured Australian Lightening Ridge Black Opal Tolomeo ring.

If she wasn’t designing jewellery ……Temple would still be a Renaissance woman! A naturalist, an explorer, a painter, a yogi and a linguist. (She speaks Italian and French, and Japanese is next on the list.)

In tune with the creativity that underpins Temple jewels, ultra-fine craftsmanship and legacy are paramount to her collections. The themes for the collections develop through research and fine attention to an amalgam of images, colours, patterns, theory, and storytelling.  It can take years for these initial concepts to actually take shape as jewels.

The collections all bear a unique distinctive signature. The ‘connoisseur’ High Jewellery collection celebrates with one-of-a-kind pieces born out of an ongoing quest for the rarest stones, such as the iconic Royal Blue Moonstone.

Haute Couture Jewellery explores themes through a lens of whimsy and discovery. Mythical Creatures, from The Golden Menagerie collection, made its début at the Louvre Museum in in January 2015.
The second chapter, Wings of Desire, was presented at the Salon: Art + Design at the Park Avenue Armory in November 2015. The final chapter, The Big Game, was exhibited in December 2016 at the prestigious DeLorenzo Gallery in New York City
The Fine Jewellery collection features iconic rock crystal amulets, triple granulation and archer's granule, all signature brand elements.

Temple encourages her collectors to nurture their pieces. Temple gems deserve knowledge and care. They’re delivered in signature pouches and boxes as a safe storage place for while traveling, exercising, or out and about working. 

Temple’s alphabet of gemstones. The collection sparkles with a veritable A-Z of treasures, from Alexandrite to Zoisite and from Blue Moonstone to Australian Black Opal, to every color of sapphire and rock crystal.

Going for gold. Temple St Clair is not all about gemstones and is known for fine gold work. It is a fascination with this precious metal and its history that first inspired Temple to explore jewellery, back in Florence.  Indeed, Temple went on to establish the company there in 1986 beginning a collaboration with the world's finest goldsmiths, the centuries-old Florentine Goldsmiths' Guild.
Temple jewels are made in 18K gold, with a special ‘formula’ of gold, silver and copper to create what has become their signature warm yellow hue.  Every piece is marked with the ‘temple’ hallmark of authenticity.

There are clear parallels in Temple’s work with the Gladstn London brand – fine craftsmanship, imagination and innovation, attention to detail, creativity and, of course, Italian origins.  Caring for your leather trolley case  - Temple loves the Gladstn London Mad Dash - in her signature blue, of course! “It feels like it was made for me” she says, “and is super chic and perfect for all my professional dashing from continent to continent.” 

The Mad Dash cabin trolley from Gladstn London
The Mad Dash cabin trolley from Gladstn London

Magic kingdom. Forever the nomad, Temple’s extensive travels in China, Japan, Italy, France and the Maldives and India have inspired her work. Several years ago, she realised her dream to visit Bhutan, the tiny Buddhist kingdom nestled in the Himalayas. She took with her a travel journal by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a 17th century French jeweller and gem dealer

Three centuries ago, Tavernier travelled extensively through Asia and along the Silk Road documenting stories and observations along the way.

Temple St Clair’s home in New York City is a ‘backdrop’ to all the personal treasures she’s collected on her travels. “I have many favourites, some old, some new. My dining room is the natural history room covered with Audubon prints from my dad and early bird prints and gifts from my mom pre-dating Audubon.  Other favourite art possessions include paintings from my friend, Caio Fonseca, Nancy Lorenz and a new acquisition from Marcel Dzama.  Another recent find is a large ceramic vase from the 1950’s that I found in Venice.  It’s at home now but I may end up using at my new NYC shop.”

It has a totally eclectic vibe! “I love for my environment to reflect my personal interests and passions.  My home reads like a book or travel journal.  There are bits and pieces from my family, from my travels, from my husband and sons.  It all works to together, layer upon layer to tell a beautiful life story.”
"I’ve authored two beautiful books. Alchemy, A Passion for Jewels was published by Harper Collins in 2008 and Golden Menagerie was published by Assouline in 2016. 

Both were created to be a piece of art in themselves and of course are very much at home in my home!"

Temple’s favourite pieces of clothing. “Have to be vintage Phoebe Philo Celine pants and CDG Black turtleneck.  I’m currently living in my Nike Air Max/CDG collab sneakers – great for walking all the NYC miles that I do every day! And, for jewellery, my yoga hoops, classic temple ruby ring, and my rock crystal amulet on a leather cord.”

And go-to haunts in NYC …….“I’ve been based in NYC for decades so have lots of favorites old and new.   Restaurant-wise, The Odeon in Tribeca; Omen in SoHo (for Kyoto country cooking), and Buco Alimentari in NoHo (great Italian).  In my East Village neighbourhood are Rosella sustainable, sushi and sake from Brooklyn, and foodie’s delight Soda Club with vegan pastas and biodynamic wines.”

“Art wise, I love the Neue Gallerie uptown, the Joyce Theater for dance, and of course the Whitney, especially great since it’s across from what will be my new shop on Washington Street in the Meat Packing District.”

To find out more about Temple St Clair's work visit her website
Temple kindly shared her story with Denise Barrett, Guest Editor and
author of Handbag Homage

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