Los Angeles–based fine jewelry designer Daniela Villegas is famous for her wildly creative designs depicting some of nature’s most riveting creatures—among them beetles, elephants, crabs, iguanas, snakes, and even the occasional dinosaur.
The Mexican-born designer, whose brand is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, adds to her fantastical menagerie this season with a collection of one-off jewels that depict frogs, a pangolin, birds, horses, and…eyeballs (see below)!
Villegas shows her collection twice a year in Paris during the city’s prêt-à-porter Fashion Week, and debuted the Curiosity collection last month in the City of Lights at an event celebrating the brand’s anniversary.
We asked her to dish on the party and chat about her extraordinary new collection.
JCK: What were you inspired by when creating this new collection?
Daniela Villegas: Curiosity. I’m inspired by the brave botanists, naturalists, and explorers who continue to shape our world with their knowledge and their insatiable [drive] to discover new things and species. Their sense of wonder is often powered by an unavoidable urge to make known the unknown, to keep expanding the limits of our lives.
The collection celebrates their intense imagination and excitement for scientific work, which contributes greatly to the way we see our cosmos today. The noble exercise of detaching oneself in order to pursue a mysterious journey, guided mainly by intuition, can only be [considered] spiritual.
One of my favorite parts of creating this collection was the opportunity I had to do a lot of research, to go to the museums, public libraries, and to read many books. This curiosity to know more about what I was creating allowed me to [understand] more about certain themes that I’m passionate about.
What materials and gemstones did you want to highlight in this collection and why?
I love color, it makes me happy. I love to experiment with all the harmonic possibilities you can create when you mix colors.
I used opal (one of my favorite stones), tourmaline, chrysoberyl, emeralds, sugilite, sapphires, pietersite, seraphinite.… I wanted to use stones that you don’t see often in the market.
I mixed some pieces with glass eyes used for taxidermy. “Eyes are the windows to the soul,” so the saying goes, but they also provide insight into human history. The fascination with eyes throughout history has been “to connect.” Eyes are critical in the connections between human beings—and, for many, with the gods.
What are your favorite pieces from this collection?
Being honest, I like them all. I feel very proud and happy with the final result.
I love the movement and color combination of the Marco Polo necklace, the cute face of the pangolin of the David Attenborough necklace, the playful elements of the Captain James Cook necklace, the power of the Freya Stark earrings…
You feted your 10th year in business with an event in Paris—what were some of the highlights of that experience for you?
This season we made an exhibition at [famed Parisian store] Deyrolle to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the brand. Deyrolle is a living, vibrant ark where nature, art, and education converge with the intention to understand and represent the trajectory of living species.
Since our first presentation in Paris, it has been a dream of the brand to someday present at Deyrolle, so it was a dream come true to exhibit and present the Curiosity collection at my favorite store in the world. It was beautiful to be surrounded by friends, family, retailer partners, and the press during this meaningful event to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Daniela Villegas.
What have been the benefits of showing in Paris for several years now?
Paris is the capital of fine jewelry and a perfect place to show the collections. We have been exhibiting for the past seven years, and it has allowed great opportunities for the brand. An advantage is that some of the most important retailers and people in fashion are there, creating an incredible opportunity to show your work to a wider and special audience.
Paris is one of my favorite cities, a place with so much history and beauty, the food is amazing and very hypnotic for the senses. I adore this city.
(All photos courtesy of Daniela Villegas)