In my line of work, one thing I’m most grateful for is I get to meet wonderful women who inspire me with their colorful lives. I’m adding Renilde Vervoort to that list. Over lunch, I got to know and understand why prestigious jewelry brand Jul B. Dizon chose to partner with her.
Renilde revealed she got into jewelry-making by accident. On her daughter’s 18th birthday, she decided to give her a special necklace as a gift. Instead of buying one, she created one for her. It wasn’t only her daughter who fell in love with the design. The maker loved it so much, she urged her to design more. It was a welcome suggestion which she soon embraced. But Relinde doesn’t do anything half-assed. Already armed with a doctorate in history of arts, she studied again and soon became a member of the Society of Jewellery Historians, as well as a certified gemologist. At the International Gemological Institute, she gained a deeper understanding of coloured gemstones and diamonds.
In 2017, she launched her own brand, Sassi. It means (gem)stones in Italian, but she said loved the double entendre. “Our clients are sassy women, confident, smart, lively and full of spirit,” she shared. “Sassi is made for women with an active lifestyle, who like to invest in timeless pieces made of gold and gemstones. Women who spoil themselves and like to be spoiled, simply because they deserve it.”
Sassi is interesting because it’s reflective of her. Her designers are rooted in her art historical research, or deeply influenced by her travels, having lived in many countries around the world. She treats her every collection like tools for storytelling; each piece recounts a tale that captured her or an experience that stayed with her.
The Nika Collection is inspired by one badass woman: Theodora, an empress during the Roman Empire. “When an angry mob attacked the royal palace of Byzantium in 532, the emperor Justinian considered fleeing, but his wife Theodora dissuaded him, telling him to face the mob and ‘nika!’” Renilde told us. “Nika means ‘win’, ‘victory’ or ‘conquer.’” Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending. The emperor won and Theodora kept her title.
The Secret Of Berenice
Like other royals, Egyptian Queen Berenice loved gold jewellery and colourful gems. When one explorer atasked to search for new gemstones found an beautiful lime-green stone on the beach of the island of Zabargad in the Red Sea, he brought it to the queen. “She must have fallen head over heels for this fascinating stone,” Renilde claimed. “Even by candle light the beautiful green colour shone as bright as during the day, in contrast with the emerald which turns dark.”
Renilde then combined the green peridot with a purple amethyst. “Besides being the contrasting colour for lime-green, purple was exclusively reserved for royalty. Tyrian purple dye was costly to make for textiles, but also the gem amethyst was expensive.”
Iaera refers to one of the sea nymph daughters of Poseidon who lived with her sisters in the depths of the Mediterranean in a golden palace Nereus and “represent everything that is beautiful and kind about the sea.” It was only fitting Renilde chose unpolished sea-blue topaz and soft hues of rose gold to represent this myth.
The Zeste collection is inspired by a ring dating from the 12th-13th century. Renilde shared, “The colours of the stones range from green lime peridots over yellow lemon citrines to orange tangerines (madeira citrines) and red garnets as blood-oranges, zesty colours to celebrate an appetite for life.”
When she was in her 20s, Renilde said she visited the monastery of Monreale in Sicily for the first time. The thing that stuck with her? The colorful mosaics on the columns. Ranging from simple geometric patterns, to complex representational scenes, Romans often made use of mosaics. The one renilde saw was made with coloured glass tesserae, most likely dating back to the Middle Ages in Byzantium. “The mosaics on the columns impressed me with their lively colors. I thought, ‘why not mosaic in gemstones?’” she said.
In history, important jewelry aren’t only limited to royals. “The earliest forms of jewellery, amulets, were not worn for adornment but for protection from the dangers of life,” Renilde shared.
Under the Enchanted collection we see My Wand, inspired by a Roman pendant and the idea of the magic wand possessed by Circe, the Goddess of Magic.
The Magic Ring, meanwhile, is “inspired by an armillary sphere ring dating from the 17th century.” Back then, it was believed that these spheres show the movement of the planets around the sun.
The crystal ball is something we’re all familiar with. Aside from tool of fortune tellers, according to Renilde, “The mystical crystal was used since prehistoric times in Europe and the Middle East for jewellery and other precious objects. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder believed quartz to be water ice, permanently frozen after great lengths of time.”
Lastly, Over the Moon is inspired by a gold star and a rainbow moonstone. “The Romans admired the moonstone as the mysterious gem that managed to capture the rays of the full moon and lock these inside the stone.” Meanwhile, “The pattern, a star made by overlapping circles, is inspired by drawings from Leonardo da Vinci, who drew several pages of extended designs with these circles ca. 1516.”
Honestly, I could listen to her talk about her designs all day. If you’re a history or myth geek like me, and these pieces captured your imagination too, go check them out at Jul B. Dizon salons.
Photos courtesy of Sassi
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