When Yael Sonia invited us to see her fine jewelry, we were excited as she designs for the type of woman we admire. Her clients are confident with a distinct sense of personal style, and if they see a piece and like it, they buy it for themselves on the spot.
Her eponymous line is colorful, modern, and always with a sense of movement and rhythm. Yael believes that jewelry should always be handmade—which we stand behind 100%. She uses all Brazilian stones and local stonecutters and goldsmiths in Brazil. An impressive feat.
Yael’s multicultural upbringing in New York, Paris, and São Paulo is evident in the lush colors and kinetic themes across collections. Graphic lines complement floating gemstones that move around in gold cages. Stones twirl as sleek spinning tops in rings, earrings, and pendants. You can even hear subtle rolling in some jewelry! Yael’s pieces are truly wearable art. The worldly designer has a unique ability to create modern and sophisticated jewelry that sets gemstones free and invites jewelry lovers to look twice. -Jenna Wise for The Stone Set
What was it like growing up in New York, Paris, and São Paulo?
Growing up my base was mostly New York, with six years in São Paulo as a child and all my vacations with family in France (between the Paris area, the Alps and the Mediterranean). I was fluent in English, French and Portuguese (and still am) and able to experience each of these places as home, immersing myself completely into all the cultural differences. The common thread of all three cities is what I love most: the diversity.
New York is where I most like to live. The energy can be intense but I’ve learned to find my peace—spending part of the week upstate helps. It’s where I feel most creative.
I still haven’t seen all of the city of São Paulo. It’s so massive and overwhelming, yet there’s a unique warmth found in the Brazilian people.
I love spending time in Paris. There’s never enough time to see all I want to see.
How did life lead you into jewelry design?
I was always drawn to the arts and had a real passion for drawing and painting. I studied at Parsons with the intention of studying fine arts but soon found Product Design and jewelry to be a more satisfying means to create art that had an intimate relationship with the body. The first time I worked with metal, I was hooked. The material and the scale immediately made sense. I was exposed to jewelry as an adolescent through my mother, a gemologist, who later had an art/jewelry gallery in São Paulo. For my sixteenth birthday, she had a local goldsmith make one of my first ring designs.
Movement is a big theme in your jewelry. Why does it resonate?
The relationship with jewelry is very personal, often given an additional layer of meaning through a special occasion, relationship or the past. The movement in the jewelry creates another layer of meaning/connection as it is unique to the wearer, reflecting the wearer’s own rhythm. The movement is inspired by the kinetic movement of children’s toys with a whimsical feel.
What pieces are Yael Sonia signatures? Which do you wear every day?
The Spinning Wheel bracelet and Spinning ring from the Perpetual Motion collection, and the Spinning Top Curve earrings and Spinning Top Line ring from the Spinning Top collection.
I usually wear the Spinning Wheel pendant with Tahitian pearls or the Spinning Top Spinning pendant, Deco Reverse Fit Square earrings or the Spinning Top Line earrings and a stack of rock rings.
In addition to metalsmithing, you studied literature in college—I did too! What are some of your favorite books and writers?
Yes, I studied French Literature at Barnard College before going to Parsons. Loved it! A couple of my favorites were Marguerite Duras and Proust. Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein and the classic Du Cote de Chez Swann.
You’ve also mentioned a passion for art. What are you drawn to?
How does it influence your collection? I’m drawn to a wide variety of artists, designers and mediums. Their influence isn’t literal. I like to think that the elements that draw me to a work of art or design get stored in my mind and together influence my aesthetic. A few of the artists/designers I’m drawn to are Vija Celmins, Ana Mendieta, Lina Bo Bardi, Hilma af Klint, Lygia Clark, Richard Serra, Anni Albers, Jesus Rafael Sotto…
How is craftsmanship central to your process?
My designs tend to be very clean and geometric. Most designs are still made by hand and require great precision, especially to achieve fluid movement. In the design process, figuring out how the piece will be executed is of great importance.
What lessons have you learned owning your business?
It’s a privilege to be able to turn my passion into my life’s work. Even now I am learning how to translate my creative inspirations into a desirable and marketable jewelry collections.
Describe a dream weekend.
Since I travel a lot for work and family, a dream weekend is a weekend at home, starting with a morning walk in Central Park followed by a brunch with friends and family and a trip to a museum. An evening show or concert to top it all off.
What’s your favorite quotation to live by?
My parents always said that failure is not trying. Always feel it’s charged with optimism.
Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set