Gypsy jewelry designer looks to past life for unique designs based on Ottoman Empire
Growing up on a Kansas ranch, Jeannette Simon always knew she was a little different. "10,000 head of cattle, and all I wanted to do was go shopping," she recalled.
During a vacation in Istanbul a few years ago, she felt goosebumps as she toured the Topkapi Museum. Her husband kidded her that she must have been a princess in a previous life. She agreed that she had strong feelings about the palace but insisted, "I was a gypsy dancing for the princess."
"We basically bring back the Old World techniques," Simon said during a trunk show at More Than You Can Imagine, where she is showing her collection through Saturday (Nov. 9). "We don't want to lose history and the people who make such beautiful things."
A number of the pieces are made from turquoise that her husband hand picks from mines in Kingman, Ariz., and then cuts and polishes. Simon puts the turquoise pieces in Zip-lock bags and hand carries them to Istanbul, where 13 artists handcraft them into one-of-a-kind pieces. In the process, she has racked up a lot of frequent flier miles, traveling from her home in Naples, Fla., to the Turkish city 33 times in the last 4-1/2 years.
Other pieces of the vintage jewelry are crafted from such items as curtain tie backs and antique chandeliers. She also incorporates Ottoman Empire themes of tulips, which were highly cultivated blooms developed for the pleasure Sultan Suleiman I (1494-1566), peacocks (a symbol of immortality), horses and pomegranates into the jewelry.
Her pieces, which range in price from $220 to $3,500, have appeared in such fashion magazines as Vogue and Lucky and in such movies as Snow White and the Huntsman. She was thrilled to recently find out that the Smithsonian is featuring her pearl and brass pomegranate locket necklace and matching earrings on the cover of its holiday catalogue. (The necklace retails for $385 and the earrings for $200.)
Occasionally she says when someone tries on a piece of the jewelry, they get goosebumps, too. "You might have been in that era with me," she responds. "It's all about the story of the jewelry."