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A Meanwhile, on Mount Vesuvius: A Pompeii Q&A with Eve

April 22, 2015
Following a visit to the ancient ruins of Pompeii, Eve Alfillé returned home to create a stunning new jewelry collection, opening May 2 at the gallery, from 1 to 7pm. Read on to hear her thoughts on the series...


A narrow street tread by Eve and her family on her trip to Pompeii earlier this year

Q: How did your trip to Pompeii make you feel? 

A: There’s no other place in the world where 2,000 years doesn’t seem to matter. Through the tragic occurrence of a volcanic eruption and the miraculous discovery of a buried city 1,700 years later, we’re able to see and feel what life there was like. When you’re there you can actually see it very easily…suddenly, something happens, and second sight occurs. A dogs’ dish on the floor, a lost sandal, humble things of everyday…things you immediately recognize, that become very real. Pompeii does that for you.

Q: How did these feelings motivate you to create this series?

A: If you want to evoke it…how do we do that?

One way is to appropriate: to reproduce what people had or did in those days. But obviously, there’s no point doing it exactly alike. It’s going to be tinged with ‘today’ in some way. So, it has to be filtered through my impression, my sensibility…but my intent is to give you some jewelry that you would have worn if you had been Claudia or Flavia or someone in Pompeii at the time.

But the other thing that occurs to you there is that you become really gripped by what time has done, and it’s especially poignant there because things are so well preserved…and yet, with two thousand years and the elements…they’ve had some effects. So what you see, the sum total, is very, very strongly pompeii22emotional. You see the first part: a tempus fugit.

The carpe diem, that’s the other conclusion. You feel happy for those people, that they had such wonderful lives. Pompeii was actually a resort; that’s where rich Romans went. They were relaxed.

Q: What do these two themes mean to ‘Pompeii?’ 

A: So these two Latin sayings are actually the two sides of the collection. They will look different. One is the carpe diem, the part about “seizing the day,” about “living the life.” And life in Pompeii was a very rich life. People were there to relax, to enjoy life, to show off. They built magnificent houses; the frescoes were amazing, and the mosaics were incredible. So we have a picture of life lived to the utmost– and that’s the carpe diem.

But over 2,000 years have passed, and what time has created is different. It’s not so much the fact that many things are ruined…it’s the beauty in how time has affected things, how time has ruined them. It’s how we are affected by seeing this decay. I think it’s a very powerful thing: it’s the flag of time, the tempus fugit.


Mount Vesuvius, rising above the ruins of the city

Q: What can we expect to see stylistically in this series? Any stones of note? 

pompeii19A: There will be some things that perhaps Pompeii would not have seen. Maybe black diamonds were very rare, or occasional there, more than they are now. But in the second part, one of the pieces of shorthand that I’ve used (as the Romans did) are intaglios and carved figures. For these, the designs will often be negatives, not positives. They will be shown in reverse, because we are going backwards through time from the present. They will be seen through other gems, because that is what one sees: you see things through a glass. There will be a number of pieces like this: where antiquity is present, but not directly. You’ll see it a remove or two…one remove is by seeing only the reverse of the scenes, the other one is in seeing them through a barrier.

There will be the gems of antiquity, the emeralds and the rubies. There will be moonstones, which I chose because they are like a crystal ball…you can see into them, but you’re not sure what you see, and I like them for that. There will be some gems in the tempus fugit half which we did not discover until modern times…opals, tourmalines…they were later gems. We’ll use those to mark the time that has elapsed since then. I like opals because the colors are evanescent: they change with your point of view.

Q: How does this series fit into your work as a whole? 

A: Something I’ve dealt with in a lot of my series is the fact of our mortality and how we choose to see that time is fleeting: that the hourglass is not going to reverse itself.


Eve and her granddaughter, Becky, before Mount Vesuvius

I’m very conscious of being just a speck on the march of the ants through history, and I think there’s a great beauty in fulfilling that role, in being part of destiny, in actually watching time flow with our own eyes. That is something I like to celebrate rather than fear. And so, maybe half of the jewels you will see in the serie s are about tempus fugit. They are meant to be somewhat nostalgic, to evoke perhaps faded colors, but colors of great poetry, of great sensitivity. And that is the difficulty: how do you reconcile the two?…You can only do it by keeping them separate.

So, the series will actually have two components, and I would very much like for people to understand that the first ones, the ones that recreate ancient life, will be perhaps easier to comprehend. But please: stay and watch the others, and I think after a time, that their beauty will seize you as well.

Diamonds: Not Just a Girl’s Best Friend

April 11, 2015


e5629cec0bf1e8b1dfd087970d66d102This April, don’t let all of the showers before the May flowers get you down. Instead, take comfort in the fact you were blessed with that most luxurious of birthstones, the diamond! Besides being the hardest rock in existence (the only stone to merit a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale), the diamond is in fact 58 times harder than any other natural substance on earth. The ancients could discern diamonds because only another diamond could scratch a diamond, and according to Pliny the Elder, they were “the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of all things in this world.” But what is it that makes the diamond so unique? Though diamonds are composed of over 99.95% carbon, so is the graphite in your pencil. What sets them apart is the fantastically intense heat and pressure under which diamonds comes into being, located about 100 miles underground. Within these conditions, carbon atoms are able to align into an isometric structure, or one in which the atoms are all bonded the same way in each direction.


“December Moon” black diamond ring. Copyright: Eve Alfillé, Photo Credit: Matt Arden.

Though this fascinating structure gives them the highest possible level of luster and shine out of any other transparent gemstone, making diamonds the most naturally luminous of stones, these tiny miracles are not always colorless and white. Diamonds also come in a vast array of “fancy” colors brought about through other mineral atoms in the stone. Typically the most valuable of these are, as in all stones, also the most rare; vivid shades of pink, blue, and green, for instance. The diamond is also the stone of the 60th and 75th wedding anniversaries, and more than that, it is a gift that is sure to please. Only the act of gifting could make this most luminous stone even brighter– according to the indomitable Mae West “I have always felt a gift diamond shines so much better than one you buy for yourself.” As such a solid investment, these incredibly hardy little stones are sure to be enjoyed for a lifetime, and are not infrequently passed on through generations…so be sure and pick a good one (with the help of your local Eve!)


Big Sister Barbie

March 25, 2015

Do you sometimes feel like you’re being watched, or listened to? Don’t worry, it’s not Big Brother, it’s just Barbie.

…Or at least, that’s the fear of many adults with the announcement of Mattel’s latest update on the classic Barbie model, a toy that has been a staple for little girls since the fifties. In just months, “Hello Barbie” will be available for parents to bring home to their little technophiles. What makes her to up-to-date, and yet so unsettling to some, you may ask? Not only is she equipped with a cute, Barbie-appropriate outfit and tshirt stamped with “hello hello hello,” she also comes with rechargable batteries in each leg and a wirelessly-accessible necklace.


This new, ‘improved’ Barbie can now not only listen in on your child’s playtime, but record, learn, and respond. Embedded into the doll is a tiny microphone, which is activated with a button on her LED light-up necklace. Akin to popular talking toys of the past, Barbie is able to ask friendly questions, like what your child wants to be when they grow up. Only now, when your child answers, the response is sent to a web processor where the audio records are analyzed and processed. In this way, Barbie is able to “learn” about your child, and can pose the appropriate follow-up questions regarding things that have been established as their “favorites!”

V6744But is this too far? The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has launched a full-blown campaign to keep “Hello Barbie” off the shelves and out of homes, worrying that not only could she hear too much, but say too much as well. Some parents describe her as “creepy,” but she could also present an opportunity for stealth marketing…or urging her playmate to ask parents for the latest hot pink Barbie convertible!

The Tides of March

March 20, 2015

aqua-oceanCongratulations, March birthdays! For those of you born this month, you have the double pleasures of both getting to celebrate the day of your birth, as well as the potential to receive the gift of Aquamarine! For the lucky ones who get to do both, this will spell out especially good luck for you, as everyone knows that it is auspicious to receive and to wear the very stone that the heavens have celestially assigned to you!

It may not be warm enough outside for swimming yet, but that’s not stopping you from being one of the most aquatic being out there. The aqua (“water”) marine (“ocean”) literally points to the life-giving body of the ocean. In fact, it has often been used as a treasured sailor’s gem with the power to quell any sea-squall. And it’s not hard to see why, with a color range that spans from a pleasingly pale, glacial greenish-blue, to a medium, oceanic blue color which is considered the most valuable.

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“Aquamarine Lumiere” ring. Copyright: Eve J. Alfillé. Photo credit: Matt Arden.

Below the surface, however, the aquamarine is not what it appears to be. It is actually another form of the mineral beryl, just like its green cousin, emerald. These highly sought-after blue and cyan tones of beryl are also highly prized due to their extraordinary size and clarity, as aquamarine naturally comes in desirably large portions.

Large crystals can form with as many as 100 carats to begin with…in fact, the largest-cut aquamarine in the world, the “Dom Pedro Aquamarine,” now resides at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. When it was first discovered , the Dom Pedro was approximately two feet in length, and weighed 60 pounds…and that’s only after the original stone was accidentally dropped and broken into three pieces by the prospectors who found it! In its new form, it now weighs in at 10,363 carats.

The Dom Pedro aquamarine in the vault at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.

“Dom Pedro” Aquamarine

The aquamarine is also traditionally the stone assigned to the 19th wedding anniversary, and is said to enhance the happiness of marriages…making it an ideal gift for ANY anniversary, we think!

Regardless of whether it is your birthstone or not, it is hard not to make waves with an aquamarine.

“Maker & Muse: Early 20th Century Art Jewelry” Guided Private Tour

February 18, 2015

René Lalique, Chrystanthemum Pendant/Brooch, c. 1900. Collection of Richard H. Driehaus.

The Eve J. Alfillé Gallery & Studio and The Pearl Society cordially invite you to join us on a private, guided tour of the Driehaus Museum, a Gilded Age museum and historic mansion in the heart of Chicago’s River North neighborhood. The tour will feature an array of unique pearls and other gems in the new exhibit: Maker & Muse: Women and Early Twentieth Century Art Jewelry. The tour will be followed by a brief Q&A.

  • When: Sunday, March 8, 2015 at 10:30 am
  • Where: The Richard H. Driehaus Museum, 40 East Erie Street, Chicago

Reserve your place now as space is limited to only 15 lucky attendees! Call 847-869-7920 to pay by credit card, or stop by the Gallery to pay in person. Private tour cost is $21/person (non-refundable) which is required at the time you reserve your place.

Please make checks payable to Eve J. Alfillé Gallery.

Please note: We will meet at the museum at 10:30am. Parking is available for $14.00/car with museum validation at ROW Self-Park, 50 East Ohio, Chicago.


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