By Reema Farooqui
Stella Flame's mother instilled many fine qualities in her daughter, but it was a love of jewelry that really took root. "My mother's love of pearls, coral, and turquoise spawned my interest, and specifically, my love of pearls," says Flame, who debuted her eponymous jewelry brand in 2008. At university, however, Flame secured an undergraduate degree in cinema studies, and later a master's degree in public administration. Somewhere in between, she landed a part-time job at Barneys jewelry department under Phyllis Pressman, wife of the late Barneys chairman Fred pressman, who introduced Flame to the stylistic and technical intricacies of jewelry design and craftsmanship.
For a career, she went into apparel and interior décor design before a trip to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul reignited her passion for jewelry. She couldn’t resist intricately crafted jewelry pieces that blend a Western jewelry aesthetic with Ottoman and Byzantine craftsmanship, so she set upan office in Manhattan and, more recently, a jewelry gallery in the Hamptons. All her designs are based on her own sketches and are handcrafted by master jewelers in Istanbul. “With 5,000-plus
years of jewelry making under its belt, Istanbul continues to give birth to some of the finest jewelry artisans in the world,” observes Flame.
Her DNA is loaded with symbolism. “My signature style features motifs with symbolism that are found in nature, such as primroses, butterflies, and serpents, all symbols of new beginnings, transformation, and hope,” explains Flame. Her pieces feature large South Sea and Tahitian baroque pearls as well as responsibly sourced coral, colored gemstones, and diamonds.
Components are either hand fabricated or cast and then finished by hand in 18K gold or sterling silver with 18K gold, although some pieces—like her cuffs—feature 24K gold accents. Platinum is a newcomer to the collection, and the use of more uncommon metals is on the horizon. "The jewelry world is constantly evolving," notes Flame about plans to incorporate titanium and carbon fiber in her line.
Why are pearls your favorite gem?
Pearls are created by a living organism and are the result of self-soothing on the part of the oyster!
What is your best pearl memory?
One of my most intense pearl memories is visiting the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2013 and finding myself at their Pearl exhibition, face to face with a precious pearl earring worn by King Charles I who was beheaded for treason in 1649.
Who was your pearl mentor?
Terry Castro educated me on the use of pearls in the history of mankind’s adornment and as a political statement, lessons that pushed me over the pearl edge and inspired me to start using baroque pearls in my designs.
Does someone famous own your pearls?
Founder and CEO of Glam 4 Good, Mary Alice Stephenson Maxwell, who is also a world-renowned style commentator and philanthropist, loves her baroque pearl and jewel-encrusted 18k gold Stella Maris 7 pearl statement neckpiece!