Where fascinating contrasts come together in harmonious fluidity
Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry is a brand that espouses beguiling contradictions. At once elegant and rebellious, the brand tells the story of edgy, contemporary jewels that can very easily become heirlooms of tomorrow. Even more interesting is the powerhouse of talent behind this brand. Sarah Senzer, founder and creative director at Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry is a jewellery artist with a passion for crafting jewels that defy banal, everyday compartmentalization.
An early career in luxury retail took Sarah from her native France to Monaco. Ten years in, Sarah’s career underwent a complete change of direction when she decided to follow her true passion – jewellery design and making. Today Sarah resides in Montreal, where her work as creative director of Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry allows her to follow her dream with an authentic sincerity that essentially typifies who Sarah truly is.
Sarah pulls inspiration for her jewellery pieces from the living world around her and weaves it into her one of a kind, very versatile jewels. Her love for her family, art and artists, books, symbolism and even her feelings and emotions, together have guided her creative spirit. It is this very profound perception and appreciation of people, events and ideas, that makes Sarah’s creations so exceptional. There is powerful fluidity and soft poetry in her pieces, a variance expressed not just in the jewellery designs but also in the choice of gems and jewellery materials.
For a jeweller who has only recently stepped into the world of jewellery crafting, Sarah’s pieces show a bold confidence and an effortless ease that is a pleasure to behold. With the launch of Redoutable, her latest jewellery collection, it is clear to see why Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry is such an exceptional and noteworthy addition to the world of bespoke, handcrafted fine jewellery.
I recently sat down with Sarah to discuss her jewellery journey, the importance of her family in her life and in her artistic endeavours and why, as a jewellery designer and maker, she loves working with pearls.
Let’s start right at the beginning. What drew you to jewellery design and jewellery making and what has your jewellery journey been like so far?
I have a constant need to create my ideas in the real world, to express them externally. This creative desire sometimes becomes obsessive. I always yearn to see my ideas in the bottom of my hands and be able to touch their forms.
Since I was very young my mind expressed itself in this way. At the age of ten I made large canvases of paintings and collages for my room that gave life to my daydreaming and imagination. It’s a bit crazy but I come from a very hands on family and I am particularly visual by nature. I have been writing everything down in order to unleash my stream of thoughts every day since childhood. My hypersensitivity is completely linked to my creative technique. Sometimes an event or even an object, with its own special universe that surrounds, speaks to me, revealing its harmony.
My life journey has led me to recognize beauty in the art of jewelry. I worked for eleven years in France and Monaco in retail luxury and Haute-Couture boutiques thanks to a Master’s degree in International Luxury Marketing that I obtained in Paris. However, various events in the luxury retail field took me on a different path. Two years ago, with the help of my family and friends, I made the decision to change my career path and pursue my dream – gemology and jewelry. I obtained my FGA diploma from Gem-A in London in 2020. However, it was a few courses at the Montreal School of Jewellery that opened the doors to jewelry design and crafting for me. After ten to fifteen years of reflection, I finally launched my jewelry brand and I am very happy about it. I am confident that Senzerina will develop into something very special.
Your family has been a source of strength, support and inspiration for you in your jewellery journey. In fact, the name for your jewellery brand is a play on your family name. How important has your family been to you in discovering your calling as a jewellery designer and maker?
When I was a child, my mother opened my mind to culture like a Socratic maieutic. She took me to exhibitions, museums and antique shops, so my mind forged a natural curiosity. Her constant encouragement taught me perseverance. As a child, I always wanted to understand the world around me. My creativity was the immediate answer to my sensitivity, my inner questioning and my doubts. From my grandmother I learned to appreciate the dynamism and the energy of life. She awakened all the emotions that I did not know and that help me today to understand and seize the moment, the idea. My sister showed me the sweetness of differences. My grandfather connected me to nature forever.
As for my father, a hard worker, he is my idol, he is the representation of meticulousness and perfection in his achievements. Formerly a renowned dental technician in his region, he influences me today in the field of jewelry. Each person in my family is a pillar. They all inspire me with art and creativity and Senzerina is the logical culmination of it all. A touch of my personality, an aesthetic perception and a nostalgia for my roots reflects the Senzerina DNA.
I just finished an unforgettable shoot for my new collection with my mother, my aunt and my sister. I love to share my success with my family
In your own words, what makes Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry special?
Senzerina is special because it mixes genders and identities. Rock’n’roll is blended with elegance and glamour is hidden in the classic. Beyond the effect and the distinctive look that the brand wants, Senzerina wants to be ethical. The storage is done in such a way that there is no existing inventory, only prototypes for photo shoots and customer presentations. Thus the jewelry pieces are made according to the market and the customers’ needs. This allows us to follow trends and fashion developments without wasting scarce raw materials. The customization of the permanent collections is certainly a strong point of the brand. I like to make the customer participate in the making of their jewel and I can do this because I don’t have any ready stock in advance. Availability and rarity work together perfectly at Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry.
Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry is a distillation of Rock and Chic, Confident and Graceful. Why do you feel that jewellery should encompass such different yet complementary qualities?
I have never found my place in the styles offered by the big fashion brands. One minute I rock and the next minute I’m wearing a classic look. I am very active and I have rarely found jewelry that fits this pace of life or style identity. A good piece of jewelry for me is one that encompasses an elegant style for work and a sexy, rock’n’roll touch for evenings. My Senzerina creations are removable or interchangeable. This allows easy versatility in all the jewelry styles.
Rock’n’roll defines rebellion, it shows avant-gardism, audacity and mastery of fears. As for the chic, it shows shyness, tranquility and delicacy. The combination of the two fits the typical profile of my jewelry clients. We are at a tipping point in our society. New values are emerging, that’s why I want my brand identity to leave room for all personalities, all genres. A Senzerina jewel is fun and ethical, but also defined by beautiful quality.
Sarah, you are a jewellery designer and a maker. What, in your experience, have been the benefits of performing both roles and what have been the challenges?
There is always a limit between the idea and its realization. These two jobs often coexist, so I learn new methods and manufacturing processes every day to reconcile the two. Only in this way does my design then become reality. In fact I have in fact three jobs or roles that challenge me every day. I am also a gemologist; this profession is also interesting because the knowledge of gems allows me to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of a future jewel.
The biggest challenge is the frustration that comes with realizing that it is not always possible to make an idea authentic and true. The second challenge is the time and how quickly it flies. I honestly wish I didn’t need to sleep, there is too much to discover and create in our lives.
Where do you find the inspiration for your jewellery pieces? Is it in contemporary trends, in the gems or is it something more personal?
I have many inspirations, such as contemporary art, art deco, art nouveau, books, thoughts, feelings, atypical artistic worlds such as Mucha, Dali, Frida Kahlo, Lalique, Majorelle, and the raw material itself.
And I adore cabinets of curiosities. I would like to be able to create long term collections that would have the confidence, the grace and the coherence to be placed in one of these cabinets and to be able to offer more beauty and charm once worn.
A person can sometimes inspire me – Romy Schneider by her strength and courage, Marie Antoinette by her wardrobe. The writings of Caroline Martinez leave me speechless. I am marked by her virtuous poetry in her novels. I would like my jewelry to look like her delicate, intense and emotional style.
Finally, esotericism inspires me a lot of symbolism for jewelry. I hope to make a collection related to this theme soon. Inspiration is around us every day, I take many notes. I transform everything on paper, it can be a plant or a shape I associate with gems. My references are mainly visual. My travels are a great source of ideas. I am constantly stimulated, my thoughts fly.
Your favourite gem to work with is pearls. What is it about pearls that attracts you as a jewellery designer and maker? What type of pearl is you favourite to work with?
Pearls offer endless possibilities because they are all different. I have always worn pearls. My first ones were Akoya studs given by my grandparents for my first communion in 2012, they were called “fines” pearls, “thin” in English. My mother had a ring that I loved with a pretty little Akoya, I always wanted to borrow it but without much success.
Pearls blend with all skin tones and always generate a particular elegance. As J. Kennedy said, “pearls are always appropriate” and to me that’s more than a quote, it’s a fact.
Many design styles can be realized with the varieties, shapes, sizes and colors of pearls. It is a gem category full of richness. My favorite pearl is simply the baroque freshwater pearls, specifically the fireballs. They fascinate and inspire me. The pearl is quite a symbol through the centuries, there is something virtuous and artistic about it. Myths, paintings and symbolism give it importance, and this really is a worldwide cultural phenomenon.
Roses are always in my photos, simply because my second obsession is perfume. One day I would like to combine my two worlds, the perfume imprisoned in a jewel and revealing the most sensuous fragrance. Roses symbolize for me beauty, elegance and refinement.
You do use a lot of baroque pearls in your jewellery pieces, setting them in innovative and elegant ways. You have also crafted some jewellery with Kasumiga and Biwa pearls. What attracts you to these rare and beautiful pearls?
The metallic reflections of the Kasumiga are, for me, a gift of nature. We know today that it is the result of treatments done to the mollusks and not the pearl directly. It is nevertheless a unique and splendid result. The magnificence of their luster can inspire jewelry and their association with faceted stones is delightful.
As for Biwa, I would prefer to use the term Keshi it was ten years ago that Biwa was a freshwater pearl category. I am always charmed by the natural and extremely varied shapes of the Keshi. They do not have a nucleus, the miracle of growth always makes them unique, and dazzling. Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry’s Generous collection is entirely made of Kasumiga Keshis. Not being round pearls, they are more affordable but can intrigue a curious jewelry lover.
Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry as a brand that espouses unisex jewellery. Your jewellery pieces have been worn just as stylishly by women as by men. Why was it important for you to have a jewellery brand that appeals to both sexes?
The honest answer is that I have been wearing men’s rings for years. Also, I hate putting a gender on my jewelry. Anyone can take a piece of Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry and make it their own without referencing any group or identity. However, I do hope in the future to be able to give even more space to this unisex idea in my jewelry collections.
Men used to wear jewelry centuries ago and I would love to see them wearing pieces that are categorized as feminine again. I believe that pearls are sometimes more beautiful on a man because they break the codes. Each person has the right to his own style, his own look, his own jewel to distinguish him from others.
Unisex jewelry breaks down gender barriers, by removing stereotypes, inequalities and educational prejudices and gives everyone their freedom. We should all be able to wear our identity without fear of others. By balancing the genders, we can offer more freshness to our society. We are evolving as the world evolves around us.
Are there any designers, past or present, that you admire and who have been a source of inspiration to you? If given an opportunity, would you like to do a jewellery collection with them?
If I lived in the past, I would have loved to work with René Lalique. Art nouveau is the most majestic movement as far as my taste goes. I recently saw an exhibition in Paris, Le Bijou Dessiné, where the gouaches of many different artists were presented. I was delighted.
Currently, I love the work of Delfina Delettrez. There is an outstanding innovation in each of her creations, which makes them more beautiful and modern than others. Corpus Christi is also a Parisian artist whose work moves me. His rock’n’roll universe is incredible. The materials he uses are exceptional.
As far as collaboration with an artist goes, Philippe Starck is one. I am moved by his modern universe. For me, he is a pioneer of French design. Also, Anish Kapoor or Othoniel. I believe their world could add complementarity to that of Senzerina’s. Concerning fashion designers, I would have appreciated a conversation with the late Virgil Abloh. He lived avant-gardism and understood millennials. His fashion was crazy original and I would like my creations to reflect his understanding of the human experience.
Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry donates part of the proceeds form its sales to the Stripe Climate Foundation. What prompted you to select this foundation and what, in your opinion, can jewellery brands do to address the issue of climate change?
Contributing to the fight against global warming is essential for me every day. Since I travel a lot, I have personally seen the damage done by modern living. The donation to Stripe Climate Foundation is my way of helping alleviate this crisis.
What can we next expect from Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry in 2022?
A lightning after the storm, I hope. On a more serious note, I would like to continue to develop Senzerina in the best possible way. I would like success to show itself slowly and steadily. A gradual evolution would help me to continue to manage the different tasks meticulously and to continue in my job as a gemologist and a specialist in pearls (that I like very much). Innovation in design and communication will be my main concerns this year. I would like to give myself the means to make more jewelled collections with precious stones. This is a project that deserves a little patience. I would also like to be more visible on social media, especially Instagram and TikTok! Influencer marketing is also on my list, I am actively looking for brand ambassadors who would flow and mesh with the universe of Senzerina.
Special thanks to Cedrik Charlot @cedrick_charlot_photographe for the beautiful images of Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry’s Redoubtable Collection. In addition, many thanks to Laurence Emilie @laurenceemilie_photographie for the wonderful photographs of Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry’s Permanent Collection.
You can find out more about Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry and their Permanent Collection as well as their latest Redoutable Collection by visiting their website senzerina.com or by following them on Instagram @senzerina.virtuousjewelry
Thank you so much Sarah for talking with me about your jewellery design, your artistic inspirations and your wonderfully unique outlook on life and jewellery.
Featured Image: Jewellery Pieces from the Redoutable Collection. Photo Courtesy of Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry and Cedric Charlot
All images used in this article are the property of Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry . Any person or organization not affiliated with Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry may not use, copy, alter or modify any of the images used in this post, without the advance written permission of Senzerina Virtuous Jewelry.