Diamond Week

What Does an Editor-in-Chief Buy Herself When She Gets a Promotion?

For Town & Country’s Stellene Volandes, it comes from Verdura and involves *a lot* of gold.

By: Laurel Pantin
Styling: Laurel Pantin
Photography: Alec Kugler

When you’re a bona fide jewelry expert (Rizzoli approached her to write a book on the matter), not to mention the newly minted EIC of one of our all-time favorite magazines, and you’re universally beloved within your (notoriously un-friendly) industry—what do you do to treat yourself? We might say, “Eat an entire pizza while soaking in the tub and binge-watching old episodes of Friday Night Lights,” or perhaps “Grab our two best girlfriends and head to Miami for the weekend.” Stellene Volandes, the editor in chief of Town & Country, has a much, *much* better plan.

When she secured the top spot at T&C and nabbed her book deal, she purchased herself a Verdura Maltese cross necklace, which she now wears every day. With more and more women buying themselves jewelry (a trend we’re 100 percent behind), we can’t think of a better way to celebrate your own accomplishments—otherwise known as treating yourself.

And that cross is in excellent company. From stacks of Sidney Garber rolling bracelets to a pair of Nina Runsdorf opal earrings (apparently opals are just now being used in jewelry again—for over a century they were thought to be bad luck based on a misreading of a 19th century novel...this is the kind of serious jewelry knowledge Volandes spouts), we’ve never seen anything like the contents of her walk-in closet.

Click through to hear about her personal collection, what sets Town & Country apart, and what buying yourself a piece of jewelry can do for you.

“When I first moved to the Upper East Side after college, there was a store on Madison called Primavera Gallery, and it actually happened to be in this building that I now live in. The owner was named Audrey Friedman, and she had a collection of jewelry unlike anything I’ve seen before. It wasn’t just diamonds and sparkly things. She really taught me to ask questions about jewelry that I didn’t think you could. Who made it? What year was it made? What materials were being used and why? Were there things happening in the world that were restricting the palette of the jeweler and why? That made me start to think of jewelry as artifacts, and I could piece together the history of the world through these beautiful objects. That is when I really got hooked on jewelry. I’d grown up buying jewelry for my mother with my dad my whole life, so it was definitely something that was part of our family tradition, but I think when it was presented to me in an intellectual and historical context, the beauty of it and the history of it seduced me completely!”

“This is a Laguna B glass, which are these wonderful handmade Venetian glasses that were done by Marie Brandolini. Now her son, Marc Antonio Brandolini, has now taken up the line. They are jewels themselves, and Venice happens to be one of the great jewelry cities in the world.

“The earrings are by Nina Runsdorf, who actually just opened this really beautiful atelier in the Upper East Side. What I love about them is that jewelers really rediscovered opals. For a long time no one really touched opals because every[one] thought they were bad luck. About five years ago, jewelers realized that was a myth based on a misreading of this 19th century novel! They also realized the colors are unlike almost any other stone, and there is such a myriad of colors. Those are great earrings for no matter what I’m wearing. If I put those earrings on, I feel dressed-up.

“The necklace is by Elena Votsi, who makes up a chapter in my book. I was walking in this upscale part of Athens, and I noticed these gold beads in a window. I just walked in off the street and found Elena there. Her jewelry is very almost primal in its simplicity but also in its power. Here you have these turquoise beads, but generally her pieces are almost all metal. She is known best for these really insane rings which are almost like torpedoes. But she has become, I would say, one of the strongest voices in jewelry. She does a booth at the Las Vegas Couture show, and it’s always one of the most popular booths at the fair.”

“At Town & Country, our staff and our contributors are experts in their fields. They are real authorities because our readers are very well versed in a lot of the worlds that we write about. We need to come to them with something they don’t know. When you are dealing with a Town & Country reader, who is one of the most sophisticated readers in the world, you have to come to them with a story that is thoroughly researched and is really knowing. I think that’s what we try to do, whether we are writing about a shoe or a piece of jewelry or a piece of art.”

“These were are all designed by really strong women with really, really strong aesthetics. The ones on the left are from a store on the Upper East Side called Creel and Gow, but they are Loulou de la Falaise earrings. Since her death, they are made by a woman named Ariel de Ravenel, but are still handmade in Paris. And you see that Moroccan YSL influence. The middle ones are wood and coral by Brooke Garber Neidich, who owns Sidney Garber, another really great jewelry woman. On the right are silk gold cord hoops by Elsa Peretti. I have to tell you, around holiday or birthday time I get a lot of inquiries from people about what to get for gifts. Sometimes I send them to Tiffany’s for these earrings because they are below $500 and they are a piece of Elsa Peretti—one of jewelry’s great collectibles.”

“These earrings are Coomi. I first met Coomi about 15 years ago when she came up to my office at Departures with jewels packed into Tupperware. Now the jeweler and artist’s pieces are more likely to be seen packing vitrines at Neimans and Saks. I love that we have known each other for so long, and I think about that moment whenever I wear these opal earrings. The jade pendant is Lalaounis. I wear it on a long and heavy gold chain. I try and wear a piece of Lalaounis every day. Their store in Athens was where this whole jewelry thing really began for me.”

“These are also Elena Votsi. Here you see a much more traditional Votsi earring, where it’s just all gold and the signature X on the top. Her home base is Hydra, which is this really beautiful simple island that has no cars but has one of the best contemporary art collections in the world. You see that in her work. There is a real sense of simplicity, but also such respect for material and for these sculptural shapes.”

“The first three are by my great friend Tito Pedrini. He is a really dashing figure in the jewelry world, but he also happens to be a certified gemologist, which is rarer than you might think in the jewelry world. He really understands stones and their properties and how to combine them. This combination of lapis and citrine is one of my favorites. My other favorite is turquoise and amethyst. The center ring is a rock crystal ring of his that I wear so much because it almost disappears on your hand, but it is so intricately carved from the inside that it is a real masterpiece. I always try to have an evil eye on me, whether very discreetly or in the form of this ring, not so discreetly! This ring is actually made by the mother of the Greek artist Konstantin Kakanias. It has all the color and wit of his work, and she has done very, very few pieces, but I was lucky enough to get this one when she was in New York!”

“This book is by Konstantin Kakanias, whose mother made that evil-eye ring. And this is his great character Mrs. Tependris, who is this cosmopolitan, wild, freewheeling Greek heiress. Accordingly she is wearing these great earrings by two sisters who have a small shop in Capri. It’s Grazia Marica Vozza. They also have a small selection at Bergdorf Goodman. I love their pieces because they are so voluptuous and they are not insanely expensive. I love these earrings!

“On the right are Lalaounis, and it’s so perfect that you put them on this great Greek artist. Lalaounis, I would say, is where this whole jewelry bug really began for me. My first piece of signed jewelry was from their store in Athens, and it’s also where I began to see how jewelry works. Ilias Lalounis was really inspired by the findings of Heinrich Schliemann at Troy, and so he would show you his jewelry but then show you all these books of the excavations that were found. Now looking back, seeing that connection between an artist's inspiration and the jewel that resulted in it made me start to see jewelry differently. His daughters have now taken over, and I think what they are doing with the company is fantastic!”

“This is my Verdura Maltese cross, which is one of my most prized possessions. I borrowed this for special occasions for about a year, and I do a lot of events with Verdura. So every time I would host an event with them, I would wear this, and finally, when I got my promotion at Town & Country and signed my book deal, I took the plunge and I bought it! It means a lot because I love the people, the Landrigans who own Verdura, and I think what they’ve done with Verdura and with Belperron is to really preserve the two great legacies of 20th century jewelry. They are also just so warm and wonderful.”

“These rolling bracelets by Sidney Garber I wear almost every day. I love gold, so I love having all that gold on me. I also love them because they remind me of Brooke Garber Neidich, who is a great, great woman. They are a bit of a good-luck charm when I have them on!”

“I’m so happy when I hear how many more people are buying themselves jewelry. I consider myself a jewelry evangelist, and part of my mission is to make men and women really understand that jewelry should not be hidden behind a vitrine. You should go into jewelry stores and ask to try things on even if you have no intention of buying it, because that’s how you know what to buy when you do decide to buy something. I wanted that Verdura cross for such a long time, and every time I wear it—I wear it almost every day—it feels like so much a part of me because I bought it for me.”

“[Writing my book] reminded me that one of the wonderful things about jewelry is that it takes its time. You cannot rush jewelry. I think today, where everything seems so rushed and sometimes so disposable, the fact that James de Givenchy has citrines that he’s had there for twenty years—and until inspiration strikes, until he can figure out the metal that will work with those citrines, he leaves them there. The luxury of time is something that adds another layer to the mystery to why I love jewelry so much.”

“These are actually one of the first pieces of more serious jewelry I ever got. Fortunoff used to be on Fifth Avenue, and they actually had the best vintage jewelry counter. There was a woman there who was another one of my great jewelry teachers and taught me about art-nouveau jewelry. These were there, and chandelier earrings had just come back. I remember how much I wanted them, and I got them one Christmas.”

“Verdura was this wildly collaborative and very, very social jeweler. He was at every important 20th century party. He famously collaborated with Coco Chanel on these amazing Maltese Cross Cuffs, but also did a wonderful collaboration with Salvador Dali. This year, Verdura brought back some of those pieces, and of course snakes and surreal creatures were very much a part of it. My favorite thing about those snakes is, when you wear them, they do jut out a little bit and there is a tiny little diamond in the mouth.”

“I think I got these coral beads on 47th Street someplace. This deep red Italian coral is quite special, and it also has a hidden good-luck meaning for me.”

“Rizzoli approached me about two years ago. They really wanted to do a book on contemporary jewelry. They felt like they’d done the great houses and the historic jewelers and thought there was so much talent out in the contemporary jewelry world that they wanted to capture it. The truth is, there is so much talent it was a real challenge narrowing the focus and creating a real point of view around the contemporary jewelry world right now. There are so many people I wanted to write about and could have written about, but we decided to try and narrow it, really, to jewelers that were not well-known. The additional criteria was that even though they were not well-known, they had developed a signature aesthetic. So if you see a piece that is diamond and wood links, you know that it’s probably Antonia Miletto. If you see a Bakelite bracelet studded with sapphires, there is a good chance it’s Mark Davis. Even though they are working in very rarefied ways, their aesthetic is immediately recognizable.”

“I’m hoping to do a second book with Rizzoli, and I really look forward to the process of book-writing, which is much slower than writing in a magazine. I still write all the jewelry articles in Town & Country.”

“I say it took two years [for the book], but it was really 20 years in the making. So many of these jewelers are people that I’ve known for a long time, and a lot of them have become really dear friends. When I was writing each chapter, I spent a lot of time with them, whereas when I’m writing a piece on one of their new collections, sometimes it’s just an afternoon in their studio.”

“A lot of people ask how I keep my jewelry organized, and the answer is, I try! [laughs] These baskets are from the Dior Montaigne store in Paris, which is one of my favorite places in the world. They are these handcrafted beautiful baskets that, for a long time, you could only get there. They were easy to bring back, and they are perfect. I really love beads, and so they are really perfect for me to keep all my beads together. Whether I’m wearing them or not, I like seeing them in front of me.”

Part of the series:

Diamond Week