During New York City Jewelry Week earlier this month, I went to an exhibit entitled “Women in Jewelry: Art Deco to Today,” which was held at the HD Jewels at the Carlyle hotel. The exhibition began in the Art Deco era to include the work of Madame Berlioz of the Parisian jeweler Berlioz Leroy. It then wrapped up with contemporary women in jewelry, including Lisa Sotilis and Jacline Mazard for Jean Mahie.
Of all the incredibly talented women represented, Sotilis stood out for her originality and workmanship as well as her legendary relationship with high society of the ’60s and ’70s.
Sotilis, born in Athens, Greece, became famous for her sculpture, painting and, later, jewelry influenced by Greek mythology. She became the darling of some of the biggest names of the fine arts and social worlds: Salvador Dali was one of her first admirers; she was muse to Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico; she held a contract with Cartier to design watch bezels; and she also counted the Queen Maria José of Savoy, the Princess Maria Beatrice of Savoy, Rudolf Nureyev, Andy Warhol, Claudia Cardinale, Annie Girardot, Roland Petit, and Mitzi Newhouse as clients, to name a few.
Her jewelry is even more unique and awe inspiring. What struck me about Sotilis’ aesthetic is the oversize boldness of her work. Like several well-known artists and architects who would go on to create jewelry—I’m thinking about Alexander Calder (who’s famous Jealous Husband necklace can now be seen at the Met, by the way) and Frank Gehry for Tiffany in the 2000s—Sotilis’ creations are quite simply art. You just happen to be able to wear them.
Sotilis works with primarily 24k and 22k gold and hammers and manipulates the pieces in such a rough manner, they give off an ancient tribal vibe.
One of my favorites was a handwrought bib that stretches from sternum to naval, made out of 22k and 24k gold in the ’70s, twisted into flowers, a swan, and other organic shapes. This piece is not just jewelry, it’s like a piece of metal clothing.
The Kalliope Muse, another oversize, bib-shape necklace, is made from 18k and 24k gold and inset with ancient and rare carved green jade, cabochon jade jewels, and natural pearls. Made in 1970, it is signed and was given as a present to Christina Onassis (daughter of Aristotle) by her in-laws Dorette Karaiossifoglu-Andreadis and Stratis Andreadis.
The Kalliope Muse and other notable Lisa Sotilis works are currently for sale at Historical Design. Collectors interested in signed pieces that have been exhibited all over the world should run to pick up these iconic works. Beyond the sheer beauty, each has a story to tell.
Top: Kalliope Muse necklace in 18k–24k gold, inset with carved green and cabochon jade and natural pearls, 1970, price on request
Note: Kristin Young is writing the Off The Chain blog while Victoria Gomelsky is on maternity leave.