On The Rocks Magazine


Delfina’s Decade


Metalphysic, 2012. Emploi du Temple cuff in gold-plated silver and enamel with pearl. 

Scion of the Fendi family, Delfina Delettrez
has redefined the way we wear jewellery. 
The Rome-based designer looks back on ten years 
of revolutionary jewels and selects some of her 
favourite pieces for this photographic retrospective

When Delfina Delettrez founded her eponymous jewellery line in 2007, she was filling a gap for inventive and youthful jewellery with a unique fashion sensibility. Now, eyes, bees and lips are instantly recognisable signatures of her surrealist-tinged work. The following interview is a celebration, a chance to revisit key pieces and a look forward to another ten years of brilliant bijoux. 

How would you say the selection of pieces shows the evolution of your work?

Each piece is a reflection of a specific moment in my life. My first pieces were in enameled gold and I was breaking rule number one – enameling gold and setting diamonds on silver. I was young and rebellious, and I wanted to create not just jewellery but to set my own rules. I was treating jewels as body accessories, taking the body into consideration but not the weight the actual pieces could have on the body. I wasn’t economising on metals, I loved to feel the weight of each piece. I was adding metal, stones, details and colour. The sacred and profane, life and death, were composing my very personal fairytale, a cocktail of baroque and macabre absurdities. All this was a clear reflection of that moment: I was giving life and I was excited and terribly scared. After ‘Memento Mori,’ ‘Delirium’ and ‘Garden of Delight,’ I started subtracting instead of adding. I created what I like to call “phantom settings”, jewellery that seems suspended on the body as if by magic. I wanted to challenge myself and create beautiful and new aesthetics with fewer elements, which is obviously more difficult. 

How did you find the process of finding favourites and why did you choose the ones you did?

It was very natural. My favourites from yesterday are also today’s.

What key moments do the pieces refer to in your timeline as a designer?

Each piece has a strong personal link to my life. All those pieces are part of an intimate voyage. I listen to myself a lot and I try to define aspects of my personality from my work. Jewellery is something truly intimate, full of profound meanings. This is why jewels have to have a deep, internal strength. I tried to fill them with meaning.

Could you give some examples of how these pieces buck conventional jewellery-making?

I contaminated conventional jewellery-making with pioneering materials, such as resin and caucciù. Or I’ve melted the inorganic with the organic, using real iridescent beetles as if they were gemstones. I have set big cuts upside down in homage to the cusp of the stone, which is so beautiful and modern to me.

The pieces move from the more baroque memento mori to the futuristic ‘HANDroid’ collection. How important is the tension between past and future in your work?

It’s a constant dialogue. And I try to struggle by not following one or the other. I don’t want to fall into nostalgia but I also don’t want to leave the past behind. It’s a constant balance of the two, or three, because I consider the present even more important than the future. It’s such an ancestral art that feels like it belongs more to the past than the present, and this is why I feel the need to contaminate it, to make it more contemporary and more personal. Otherwise it’s difficult to fit inside those centuries of tradition. I know that I am able to translate into shapes the language of today. I and a few others have been able to redefine the word jewellery. To erase the aura of heaviness that jewellery has carried for such a long time. Redefine the concept of luxury, introducing the luxury of concepts, of design, and not just of the precious material. Haute joaillerie and design jewellery are one now. 

Where would you say the influence of Rome and its history comes through most strongly in these pieces?

I first introduced marble in the ‘Anatomik’ collection but my ‘Metalphysic’ collection was a clear homage to Rome – its historical aesthetic layering, surprise and disorientating effect. The perspectives are completely distorted because of all those layers of history coexisting, and this disorder creates an alchemical order that is truly fascinating and beautiful. 

“All of the pieces, they have a light spirit.
there is always a light message, in both
the design and the concept”

In the past, you’ve referred to your jewels as toys for adults. Would you say this is especially true of the selection here? 

Yes, all of them, they have a light spirit. There is always a light message, in both the design and concept. The ‘We-Men’ collection was clearly inspired by strong women, making them wear men’s clothes, but covered in diamonds, like a nonsense. Or a sharp metal collar with a grandmother’s pearl necklace attached, or the watch from the ‘Never Too Light’ collection that has a quartz instead of the dial and doesn’t tell the time. 

Over the course of your career, certain themes and motifs recur, like the eye, lips and certain insects. What special symbolism do these motifs hold for you?

I am truly fascinated by the body. I guess because I take it into consideration so much when I work. I am fascinated by unexpected combinations; things that are out of place and that disorientate. I like to give a new order to the body. Ears, fingers and wrists are embellished with precious body parts, like in dreams where anything can happen and things are given new meanings. I like this attitude of freedom. Insects speak of a real phobia; I am frightened and fascinated by them. I try to make them as realistic as possible in order to win them over. I always keep in mind that in our subconscious what repels us is also what attracts us the most. I have a passion for talismans. Ten years ago I started to create my eye piercing earrings and now they have become a symbol of reference for my generation. Like an emoticon of our time, even if they have been used as talismans since the early ages.

Looking back, what would you say you are most proud of? 

I stayed true to my vision and to myself. I am proud of having contributed to bringing change to the jewellery world. I started by presenting my collections during Paris Fashion Week, introducing jewellery to the fashion public. I tried to make myself known not just for my jewellery but also the installations in which I present my collections, which are all thought up and made by me. I stage jewellery in personal and always different universes. I have enjoyed since the beginning presenting jewellery outside its common context.

What are you looking forward to about the next ten years?

To keep this sense of positive dissatisfaction that is the fuel of my research and a big dose of freedom.


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