The vividly poetic statement jewels of Virginia-based designer Anastasia Simes are animated by the power of Nature’s elements and the human necessities of courage, contemplation, action and resilience in the face of life’s challenges. Like jewels from ancient African, South Pacific, Asian, Persian, Greek and many other cultures, gold and sterling silver jewels in her seven collections serve as artistic adornments, while also acting as philosophical charms or protective talismans that we can wear to repel negative forces. In a series of telephone conversations, Simes, who is also an internationally exhibited painter, theatrical costume designer and set designer, discussed how the mystical messages in her distinctive jewels symbolize many connections to our home planet, and the cosmos, while also expressing facets of her positive philosophy.
KYLE RODERICK: Because your jewelry embodies universal symbols like doves, snakes, flaming hearts, swords, mystical-looking human heads and zodiac symbols, it looks timeless and crosses many cultures. It also mixes gold and sterling silver with colored gemstones in ways that are reminiscent of antique jewels from various cultures.
ANASTASIA SIMES: The human imagination has projected natural and magical powers into and onto jewels for thousands of years. As a species, we have always faced dangers from Nature, ferocious animals, other tribes and of course childbirth and illness. Our instincts have programmed us to survive and jewelry history shows us that adornments have long played a part in our imaginations and in our fight for survival.
KYLE RODERICK: Yes even for Neolithic peoples, jewelry played a meaningful and symbolic role in daily life and in certain ceremonies. Jewelry also protected newborns and adorned the dead as they journeyed into the afterlife.
ANASTASIA SIMES: Ancient cultures made and wore special jewelry to protect physically and psychically in battle. People throughout history have also created adornments intended to bring rain, nurture fertility, attract lovers or guard children and adults from disease. The making and wearing of jewelry ties into what makes humans so very different from other animals, which is our imaginative, symbolic thinking and storytelling capacities. My jewelry can tell stories to people of all genders that make us feel beautiful, stronger, protected or braver. Stories of our personal victories!
KYLE RODERICK: Tell us about the armorial aspects of your jewelry.
ANASTASIA SIMES: As an artist, my purpose in life is to create beauty and share it with others. But I also believe in evoking power in people, which is why the concept of jewelry-as-armor shapes many of my jewels for women and men. Although each of us is vulnerable to Fate, I believe that the specific jewelry can help us hold our strength and inner center while facing the zigzags of Fate.
I grew up in Russia, I am from a family of artists and I went to fine art school there. Growing up, I saw many historic paintings of knights and their horses clothed in chain mail armor. The knights also wore chain mail gloves while carrying swords, shields and lances. Chain mail armor drapes so well over the body, and over fingers it’s like protective finger treasure.
We have stopped fighting on horseback against armed invaders, but we still need jewelry-as-armor for facing the battles of contemporary life. I mean, getting our work done and keeping our minds balanced while we are dealing with a COVID pandemic plus doing all that we can to care for ourselves and our families— these are quite uneasy tests of who we are as humans. So while jewels like my hinged Golden Eye Ring of Power literally enrobes the finger like armor, my jewelry is also armor for the mind, and the imagination. I intend for my adornments to support you in your personal quest and your journey through life.
KYLE RODERICK: You have an intriguing way of symbolizing love in your jewels, which are wonderfully gender-fluid in their designs.
ANASTASIA SIMES: Although I design many bespoke pieces that are created as special jewels for clients or their loved ones, one of my favorite and most popular pieces is my "I love you" pendant. This is a bejeweled embodiment of the hand sign for “I love you” that comes from American Sign Language. It portrays the capital letters: “ILY”. This sign is quite universal, it’s even one of the emojis available on our smart phones. The “I love you” hand sign became popular among surfers and has also long been in popular use by rock musicians, pro athletes, fashion designers and even Spider-Man, because he signs “I love you” when he weaves his web. This pendant is a beautiful and steady way to deliver a message of love to anyone, including yourself. My "I love you" sign language necklace is made of sterling silver using the ancient lost wax technique. It is adorned with purplish red rhodolite garnet for the heart and a radiant citrine, referencing the master poet Dante Alighieri, who long ago wrote about the energy of love, as in his immortal line, “The Love that moves the Sun and the other stars.”
KYLE RODERICK: Each of your jewels communicates a special message, and some of them have environmental resonance, like your ‘Aquarius H2O’ rings and pendants that are set with blue topaz, or your Pisces rings and pendants that feature fish. Your gender-fluid designs are compelling because so many parts of the world are experiencing extended drought conditions. Your designs remind us that water is a fundamental treasure.
Anastasia Simes: Yes, water is the liquid of earthly Life, and one of the forces of Nature that I understand the most. It’s a magical element.