Meaghan: Christina, it has been so nice getting to know you through your collection. Can you introduce yourself to our readers who might not yet be familiar with your work?
Christina: Greetings from a goldsmith, designer, and gemologist living and working in New York City! Most of us have never seen a goldsmithing studio, and if you have a chance to visit one, please do. I’m lucky to work in a goldsmithing studio in the center of NYC, where I can also find the most amazing gemstones nearby from known vendors. I melt, forge, roll, solder, and basically fabricate pieces by hand; most are in 18 karat gold, but they can also be in 22 karat gold or sterling silver. Other pieces are cast in small editions in NYC, like limited edition prints or photographs, and are finished by hand. Working with gold is mesmerizing, and some of the traditions go back in time to the Renaissance (think Benvenuto Cellini) and beyond, to the ancients (think Etruscans). I used to be a human rights attorney, and I’m happy to see the worlds of human rights and jewelry coming together. My husband and I live in New York City with our beloved dog and we have three “children,” the youngest of whom is in college.
Meaghan: Something that struck me about your designs was how feminine and light they are. Can you describe your aesthetic to an average jewelry consumer?
Christina: Everyday elegance. I first noticed the rosette in a 15th Century painting by Fra Angelico, the Cortona Altarpiece; it turns out that many cultures have used a rosette in their jewelry and in their art. I incorporate my rosette into most pieces as a note of simple elegance.
Meaghan: What do you want wearers of your jewelry to feel while they are wearing a piece of yours?
Christina: Beauty. And the fact that they are wearing real materials, created by actual hands. Beauty feels important, even during the worst of times, like 2020. I do my best to honor the environment and workers along the jewelry supply chain (from miners to market) so that the goal of beauty is not discordant in any way. I love the idea of buying something that will last; it feels like a way to honor the beautiful things that come from the earth.
Meaghan: Like me, you started in a very different career before landing in your craft. Can you tell us about how you meld your “old” career with your new craft?
Christina: I used to be a human rights attorney, representing refugees and people seeking political asylum, and the heartbreak was overwhelming. Making something beautiful, which people can treasure, feels like an antidote. Human rights still play an important role: are miners and gemstone cutters working in safe conditions? Are they paid fairly? How do we know? The people I buy from want to continue mining; they also want to be fairly compensated and work in safe conditions. That seems fair and doable, and the first step is knowing where it’s from!
I’m on the board of directors of Ethical Metalsmiths, and along with other industry leaders, we are connecting with miners and learning what they need to thrive. For example, a group of women miners of Tanzania are setting the prices they want for their gemstones, and there is a company called Moyo Gems that connects them to jewelers. This is a gamechanger!
Meaghan: From where do you draw inspiration for your pieces?
Christina: Paintings and architecture, mostly European, but not exclusively. As mentioned, I first noticed gold rosettes in Fra Angelico paintings from the 15th Century. This was actual gold work, not gold-colored paint. Then I saw rosettes in many different places: from Etruscan jewelry in Italy to pre-Spanish Philippine jewelry. There’s just something appealing about a rosette, across centuries and across cultures.
Meaghan: To you, what is the most important consideration when contemplating a “green” model in the jewelry industry? What should consumers consider?
Christina: A healthy dose of skepticism! Please ask: where is it from and how do I know? Some questions I encourage consumers to consider include, who benefits from the lack of transparency along the supply chain? Where is your gold from? How did it get here? How do we know? Is there any documentation to support the claim? The same questions apply to gemstones. Posing and answering these questions are the first steps toward transparency and traceability. Are people all along the supply chain being paid fairly and working in safe conditions? Are we mitigating harm to the environment as much as possible? How do we know? Who actually made the jewelry, and where? The words “sustainability” and “green” don’t make much sense when applied to extractive industries like mining, so if someone uses those terms, please ask them what they mean! All of that said, the people I buy from want to continue mining—they just want to work safely and be paid fairly. We can do this!
Meaghan: What do you wish clients understood better about the jewelry design and fabrication process?
Christina: As much as I try to make jewelry with a client’s favorite color, sometimes the gemstone dictates the piece. Comfort and durability also play a large part in jewelry fabrication. My goal is to create treasures that are wearable and will always look elegant — the opposite of disposable jewelry!
Thank you, Christina!
Stylebook readers, you can shop Christina’s collection online or make an appointment to visit our showroom and see her pieces in person – we especially love the sapphire waterfall drops and can’t wait to see who brings these home!
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.