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“I Wanted To Create Empowering Jewels For Fantastic People”

Paris-based jewelry brand Dangleterre emerged onto the scene last year, with sophisticated jewels in richly colored gemstones that make for surprisingly easy statement pieces. I sat down to talk ethical sourcing and empowerment jewelry, with the brand’s founder, Ségolène Dangleterre.

After three years at art school, Ségolène Dangleterre didn’t quite feel ready to start her own design career, so she set out to help other artists and designers communicate about their work. “At that time, helping creative people to describe and explain their creative process was a real vocation,” says Dangleterre, who went on to run her own communications agency focusing on brands that bridge the divide between art and industry. Over the course of her career, she honed her eye and developed a deeper understanding of craftsmanship, a process that dovetailed with her passion for precious stones and would eventually result in her own brand.

“My mother was a very feminine and sophisticated role model, with lots of jewels from the 1980s. They were big, with lots of color, and as a little girl I was fascinated by her treasures.” When her mother passed away, Dangleterre and her sister had some of the necklaces from her collection recreated to wear themselves. “They were not from very well-known brands, just jewels we had seen around her neck for years. I realized we have a lot of suppliers and makers in Paris.”

The experience was to seed the idea for her own brand and she spent the next few years business planning and learning wax carving and goldsmithing. Dangleterre launched in 2020 with a striking collection of generously proportioned rings and necklaces in bold lapis lazuli, warm tourmaline and deepest onyx. With a growing e-commerce business and support from big French press titles including Vogue Paris and Madame Figaro, the brand is now poised to make a more international mark.

And nearly 20 years after art school, Ségolène Dangleterre feels she has finally found her medium.

Tell me a little about your working process. Do your pieces start as sketches or are you led by the materials themselves? 

The first step is always the gems. I start mixing shapes and colors and then I sketch the mount, but sometimes the wax carving stage takes me further from the initial idea than I had expected. My favorite stage is when I stop thinking about proportion and comfort, and start adapting the piece how I like.

I design jewels I want to wear, my prototypes are always in my size; I want something I can’t find anywhere else, that’s unique and bold. Sometimes, I reconnect with that joy and excitement that you experience as a child when you have something shiny, something you value and cherish because it looks pretty. It’s all about being bold.

How did you develop Dangleterre’s sophisticated aesthetic? 

Jewelry is fantastic because when you think about it, it has no function, and that’s quite rare. When something doesn’t meet a need, it has an incredible power to bring you pure joy and pleasure. A jewel says something about you, your personality, your mood, and I wanted to create empowering jewels for fantastic people.

You pay a lot of attention to form and color. Are you drawn to any particular themes in your work? 

The natural world inspires me a lot. My parents met in Tahiti, Polynesia, and when we went there when I was 8, I was fascinated by the colored fish with all their patterns, dots, stripes and color gradient One had big blue lips, another had flippers like wings. Take Birds of Paradise, their mating dance is so amazing I could spend the whole day watching videos on their courtship rituals. So much so that I made a ring called Paradisier (Bird of Paradise in French).

A passion for stones is at the root of your work. How and where do you choose them? 

Early on, I was super excited about the idea of traveling the world to choose stones and rare gems, but in the end I chose to work with expert partners instead, to make sure the stones I use are ethically sourced, with responsible practices along the supply chain in terms of the environment and human rights. That’s also why I built strong partnerships with RJC-accredited suppliers here in Paris. 

Why did you decide to use recycled gold in your jewelry? 

The circular economy is the future for any business today, companies must set an example and be responsible in their practices and products. We are very lucky to have a lot of new solutions in our industry, I’m very interested in Fairmined gold but I choose recycled gold to reduce the carbon footprint even further. Clients can also bring in their old or broken jewels and we can recycle the gold and deduct it from the final price of a new piece.

Eventually, I will offer both Fairmined gold and recycled gold. Even as a small player in this industry, I feel it’s my duty to work to make sure that practices change in the future. 

Tell me about a piece that is emblematic of your jewelry.

My most emblematic piece is the Favorite ring (top), because it’s both spiky and generous, I really like its energy. It was one of my first designs, I had this pyramid cabochon and I created the design very quickly, it was instinctive. I like to meet people who like this particular piece, one lady told me that this jewel made her feel stronger and I love that.

It’s fun to see the different kinds of people who are attracted to this ring, people of all ages, all styles, it’s why I love my job so much. Jewels are yours for a limited time, when you pass them on to someone else, they become something else entirely. The intention I put in the design takes a whole new dimension when it is worn. 

Your first collection included a beautiful exploration of rings. Are you especially drawn to rings as adornment? 

I’m actually interested in the exploration of the different archetypes of jewelry. For the spring collection, I created necklaces and bracelets with beads, for example. But yes, I’m super interested in rings, one of the reasons is movement: hands allow us to express ourselves, the way we move our hands tells people a lot about us. 

A ring is a shiny little version of yourself. You feel a ring when you are wearing it more than any other jewel; the weight, the texture, you can always see it. It’s fascinating how people – including myself – can have such strong feelings and emotions about their rings. 

Since I turned 40, and because I work with my hands, I have now lots of little scars from the tools I use and I’m proud of the way they look. Your hands tell your life story, I think they deserve to be dressed.

What is your own most treasured piece of jewelry?

My most treasured piece is probably the one I made from my father’s cufflinks. It’s like my lucky charm, I wear it when I need support and strength. 

What new challenges do you have coming up? 

I’m working on a new series of rings. My main challenge is to keep a fresh eye on jewelry to continue to offer uncommon, joyful and powerful jewels. I try to stay true to myself and cherish the gems for their looks and colors, rather than their monetary value. 

The interview was edited for clarity.

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