Conversation with: Steven Lagos on the Black Caviar Collection
December 19, 2015
Based on the belief that jewelry is more art than accessory, designer Steven Lagos has created timeless elegance with his eponymous collection. The Black Caviar collection is a modern update on his signature Caviar jewelry – everyday pieces you’ll never want to take off.
The Caviar has always been your signature, but what inspired you to create the Black Caviar collection?
It’s such a natural. The Caviar design was originally created using black hematite beads in a twisted torsade necklace. They looked like Caviar! That’s where the name and collection originated. As a fine jeweler, we typically make our pieces from metal. I always wanted to create a black version. Ceramic Technology finally caught up with the idea.
How is Black Caviar different from any collection you have done before?
It’s pure innovation. I have basically been able to take our ultra-classic design and create a modern update in color. It’s the perfect complement to everything that’s come before – a natural evolution.
What are the types of materials that you use for this collection?
The innovation was the use of the ceramic and more importantly, the finishing. Typically ceramic jewelry is smooth. We had to develop new techniques to create our shapes and then finish them just right. Next, we integrated the ceramic with sterling silver and 18-karat gold and diamonds. It’s really modern and quite cutting-edge.
What is your favorite type of material to use in your creations?
I love everything precious. Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, pearls, all colored gemstones, silver and gold. These are all natural things that grow in the earth. They are the earth’s miracles, and our job is to enhance their inherent beauty. Think about it: Thousands of years ago, someone found a gemstone and knew it was special—that it was different from all the other rocks, and it instantly had value. I love the tradition and the lore. I also love working with things that are unexpected, non-jewelry materials like the ceramic. In addition to the materials, the craftsmanship and design are always paramount and in the tradition of fine jewelry.
Your website mentions how it takes hundreds of steps to complete a single Caviar creation. Can you describe this process?
Everything about Caviar is fluid and moveable. It’s soft. It articulates and moves with your body like a vertebrae. To achieve this, each bracelet is made with a minimum of over 85 individual pieces. Each piece is lost wax cast, hand-cleaned, detailed and fit together one at a time. There are literally several hundred steps needed to complete a single Caviar rope bracelet.
If you had to describe the Black Caviar collection in three words, what would they be?
Versatile, Sophisticated and Smart.
What kind of woman wears the Black Caviar collection?
All women wear black. It’s the basis for any wardrobe. I love color, but it can be hard to wear. It’s trickier, more individual and temperamental. Black is easy; it’s a basic. Everyone wears black (and for the very few who don’t, we have White Caviar coming this spring!).
To what types of events do women wear the Black Caviar collection?
It’s great for evening, but also perfect during the day, stacked with your other bracelets. Like all Lagos jewelry, women will not need an occasion to wear it. You can dress it up or down. It’s neutral. I believe that most women will live in it, and it will be the piece they never want to take off.
Your website mentions your strong passion for traveling. Where are some of your favorite destinations and why?
I’m inspired by travel and people. I live in three cities. I have residences in Philadelphia, NYC and Bangkok. In addition, I travel constantly and try and visit at least one new place every year. I also revisit cities over and over and like to dig in deeper. Some recent first-time trips: Tibet, Nepal, Myanmar, Barcelona, and Tel Aviv.
How are your travels reflected through your collections?
Travel has always been one of my primary muses. Everywhere I go I like to study and explore:
– Local Craft: I always visit the markets and see local styles, materials and traditional techniques.
– Local Food: I like to eat with the locals – I am willing to explore, but I don’t eat the really crazy stuff.
– People-the Locals: I love to dig in and see what their life is like. I engage and can usually get people to open up and go along.
– Local Jewelry: Jewelry is super regional and runs deep in every culture. Each region has its own unique style, traditions and techniques.
– Art: Particular regional styles and techniques – I always try and visit local museums.
– Architecture: I have always loved architecture of every kind. If I weren’t a jeweler, I would have been an architect.
– Retail: I love to shop. I spend a lot of time getting lost in the streets. I love all the details. The pitch. It’s the same everywhere.
– Transportation: I take the public transportation everywhere I go. I walk a lot, too. This helps me get a real feel for the landscape, the people, all the sights, smells, sounds.
What is your philosophy on layering and stacking?
This is the key to personalizing your accessories. Layering is all about wearing different things that you love together. The old with the new. The classic with the modern. Different materials. Different textures. Different styles. This isn’t a look out of a catalogue. This is individuals creating their own style and making their own statement. I love a layered look. I say “Pile it on!”
With the holiday season underway, we can’t help but think of gifting. Who is the best kind of woman to gift a piece of Black Caviar collection to?
Every woman! All women can use something black in their wardrobe and will wear it often.
What piece of Lagos should every woman own?
A (few) Caviar bracelets! That’s where it all starts. Bracelets are fun because, unlike necklaces and earrings, the wearer gets to see them, too.
Do you remember the first piece of jewelry you made?
Yes, I do! It was a spoon ring inlayed with turquoise (think Art Deco meets American Indian style). I started my career bending spoons (I was a spooner!). This was in the ’70s when craft American movement was in full swing. It was romantic to work with your hands and groovy, too. From there, I spent ten years studying fine jewelry and mastering different techniques. I’m an old-school, traditional Master Jeweler.
What’s next for Lagos? What can we look forward to for spring?
There is so much we are working on. First off: There’s White Caviar! It’s the natural follow up to the Black and super chic! We are also reintroducing our Glacier gemstone collection. This is colored gemstones – reinterpreted. It’s an updated classic featuring bold color with new, modern lines.