Sleight of hand

In Yael Sonia’s fine jewelry collections, nothing is ever static: gem spheres glide through a cage of 18-karat gold and spinning top stones swing back and forth on a pendulum. This season, the Brazilian designer was inspired largely by children’s games and toys. “It is about setting stones free,” says Sonia. Each piece ripe with potential, takes on the rhythm of its wearer.

In much the same way her kinetic gems remain untethered to their hardware, Sonia’s lifestyle has always been centered around motion: She was raised by a gemologist mother who shuffled her between New York, Paris, and Sao Paulo, and early encounters with these cities offered an abundance of vibrant, changing landscapes and rich cultural experiences. From a young age she had been fascinated with gems and jewelry, enchanted by the symbolic meaning behind them. She attended Barnard, studying French Literature and translation and then went on to receive a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Metals & Jewelry Design from Parsons School of Design.

Her early work, conceived in New York, was mostly composed of metal alone; but a move back to Brazil in 2000 prompted a shift in favor of luscious, colorful gems. “There is a real richness in Sao Paulo, both geographically and culturally, with the ocean, the city and the mountains,” she explains. “Not to mention, it is a great source of natural gemstones.”

In addition to the stones, architecture is an important element in her designs. The process of creating a structure that can support movement is tedious and filled with trial and error. For Sonia, a lot of inspiration for this comes from her experience in France with a backdrop of incredible buildings.

Paying very little attention to trends, she forges an inimitable aesthetic. The point of departure for each collection is a subtly different expression of the same principles of playfulness and freedom. It is most prominently about the wearer, who defines what the pieces are and what they mean. “The woman who wears my jewelry is never defined by convention, and has a strong sense of self,” she says. Each passing moment—a slight movement, a slight of hand—celebrates this individuality.