Sensuous Jewels: The Provocative Method Behind Ippolita’s New Designs

Camilla Akrans / Courtesy Ippolita

For her latest collection, Senso, the designer uses her own body to create organic, feminine shapes.

Since launching her eponymous brand in 1999, designer Ippolita Rostagno has become known for her bold, shapely fine jewelry—pieces translating a less-precious aesthetic that make them perfect for everyday wear. The powerful but soft, feminine designs that define the brand’s most enduring pieces, like the Glamazon gold hoop earrings or the gem-accented Rock Candy bangles, embody Rostagno's interest in movement, which stems from her background in both sculpture and dance.

Rostagno has extended this study of the physical form with her latest collection, Senso, which debuts this month. The cuffs, earrings, rings, pendants, and necklaces (from $1,295 in 18-karat gold and $295 in sterling silver) are all made using a handcrafted technique called body imprinting, in which the designer takes sheets of wax and presses them on parts of her body and then casts the waxes in gold and silver. The result is jewelry that mimics the softness of flesh and feels more organic and sensual for wear.

It’s a technique that Rostagno first used when she started designing jewelry, in the nineties. “I wanted to soften the look and feel of the metal surface,” she says, “so instead of carving hard jewelry wax with tools, I sculpted softer sculptor’s wax with my bare hands.” She then started using the wax on her body (wrists, knuckles, and collarbones provide natural curves conducive to the bangles, rings, and necklaces that lay on them) to make imprints. “I like jewelry that feels good when you touch it and reflects a feminine aesthetic, even in its very technique,” she says.

The designer will be using the body imprinting method on all of her jewelry collections going forward (including her fall 2016 creations, which will also incorporate gemstones into the Senso method). It’s a dedication to handcrafted artistry that Rostagno recently rediscovered while on a sabbatical in Italy—a journey that also resulted in her creation of, a website for the promotion and preservation of high-end craft. “Getting to know the best artisans and reacquainting myself with the many forms of craftsmanship and artistic expression was very inspiring,” she says. “It prompted me to revisit the roots of my own artistic heritage.” 

Senso collection, from $295;

Image Credit: Courtesy Ippolita