Gaining a celebrity following in any line of business can make you an overnight success. The stories of companies ending up on Oprah's "Favorite Things" list has proven the power of the celebrity and how it can catapult a business increasing their visibility 100%.
Donna Distefano launched her career as a jeweler at the age of 16 while studying jewelry making at the University of Bridgeport. Upon graduating, she headed to the Fashion Institute of Technology and majored in jewelry design. Before long, Distefano found herself living near Rome spending time studying the culture and works on exhibit in museums that influences her designs today. Finally, she landed a job creating reproductions for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It was her love of ancient design that caught Joe Perry's (Aerosmith) attention...
Tell me about working with Joe Perry...
He called me early in 2009. When I answered, he identified himself by name, and then by band (as it I never heard of him). I was amazed at how truly humble he was. We have since built a friendship based on jewelry, with his wife Billie, as my muse and their love for each other as the basis for the pieces I create for them. They are wildly romantic and he loves to surprise her with high carat gold. Joe wears my pieces also. Among them two handmade fine silver heavy link chains made with an original ancient Roman technique. On one of my visits to Italy, I texted him from the Pantheon to confirm an engraving font. Like me, he loves ancient Rome and history.
Recently, he published his autobiography "Rocks". He said the book wouldn't have been possible without his wife Billie. With that in mind, I proposed the idea of making a tiny book in solid gold in celebration. The gold book is absolutely a book of love and devotion with Joe's personal dedication to Billie engraved on the inside.
The contemporary art world is filled with numerous talented people working in all different mediums. It can be challenging to gain recognition as an artist in such a competitive field, however your designs have recently been illustrated in a book. You must be thrilled!
It is extremely rewarding to have people interested in my work for the same reasons that inspire me: art, poetry, history and love. To be featured in and have my ring appear on the back cover of "Jewelry's Shining Stars" was a reaffirming nod to the ancient masters.
Why do so many jewelers shy away from working with 24 karat gold?
Pure gold is malleable. Many jewelers believe it's too soft. It can be hardened; hammered, twisted and bent to give it strength. I can assure you, a 22 karat gold chain can last 4000 years.
Your celebrity client list doesn't end with Joe Perry. What other notables have you created custom designs for?
First let me say every client is special. Whether it's an heirloom piece that someone wants restored, or a brand new item specially made for a loved one, the client is given our full attention. As for other well-known clients I have worked with include the late Marvin Hamlisch, Jim Shepard, Sheryl Crow, Tony Kushner, Milena Govich, Stephanie March and Jesse L. Martin.
If you could collaborate with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
What an incredible question. If I could have one fantasy person in the studio with me to collaborate on an idea, it would be Dante Alighieri because of his thoughts on love, and because he likes to go deep below the surface of a thought. I can only try to imagine the conversation on the making of an engagement ring, why we should choose these color, what types of ornamental symbols are appropriate for the beauty we are making it for... I imagine we would discuss this over wine, and there would be food involved.
Follow Distefano @Donna_Distefano