Based in Pasadena, CA., Latondra Newton is the founder and designer behind the innovative jewelry and lifestyle brand stôn, which was founded in 2016. Purposely spelled out in lower case letters, the brand name rhymes with “stone.” According to Newton, “I wanted the name to convey respect for the natural world, including the diamonds and colored gemstones, ancient stones and other materials that I use in my jewels.”
The modest and quirky brand name also hints at Newton’s preference for making luxurious, handmade jewelry collections for all genders that are far more accessible to consumers than most other fine and design-driven; handmade jewelry (80 percent of her one-of-a-kind and limited edition jewels are priced between $500 and $2,000.) Carried by luxury stockists like the Newport Beach, CA. boutique A’maree’s, stôn jewels are also available in Healdsburg, CA. at Gallery Lulo.
Embodying luxurious one-off pieces in 18-karat gold as well as mixed metal collections in 18-karat gold and sterling silver, or sterling silver and bronze, stôn’s nature-based motifs, bold volumes, and often repurposed materials unite to create organically elegant adornments, plus bejeweled home accessories. These and other elements of stôn jewels embody their creator’s engineering skills. (Newton holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Management Systems, which is a mixture of systems engineering and business, from Michigan’s Kettering University; the same institution recently awarded Newton an honorary doctorate for her work in advancing social equity. At the time of writing, Newton is a senior vice-president and the Chief Diversity Officer at The Walt Disney Company. )
“I carve all of my own wax models in my home studio,” Newton explains. “I often cast organic materials that I find in nature, such as twigs and seed pods, to make my jewelry or bejeweled home accessories such as sterling silver cocktail forks studded with rose-cut champagne diamonds. All of my jewelry,” Newton says, “is hand-fabricated by jeweler Evelyn Crommett. The reason why I work primarily with women artisans and models of color,” she continues, “is because I am passionate about creating equity in everything I do, not just my corporate work.”
Committed to utilizing recycled and rare, repurposed gemstones purchased from estate jewelers or auctions as well as random materials she finds in nature to create jewels and bejeweled objects for the home, Newton sourced the 8th century stones in her Tribal Lariat necklace from an Amsterdam antiquarian. “For generations, people in my family have been reusing diverse materials to make artistic furniture, jewelry, and other handmade goods. Like my grandparents, aunts and uncles, I grew up imagining how materials could be redesigned, and then remade them into beautiful and useful adornments or objects.” Noting that, “My home is a design incubator,” the same is true of her professional and personal lives. “After my jeweler makes a prototype of a new design,” she relates, “I wear it to the office. I wear it around the house, and I wear it traveling. Any given piece I make must be proven to work everyday life before I put it into production.”
Reminiscent in style and substance of Neolithic, Viking, machine age and 1960s- 70s Brutalist jewelry, stôn is a jewelry brand that moves. Like Alexander Calder, who graduated with an engineering degree before going on to create jewelry, cutlery and sculpture, Newton also makes kinetic jewelry, such as her articulated “Pulley” necklace in 14-carat gold. This piece is animated by a diamond-embedded disc that moves up and down its 14-carat gold chain. Other kinetic stôn pieces include necklaces, bracelets, rings and “Pulley” earrings pictured above.
Like William Spratling and other designers who created a range of mixed metal jewels, tableware, bejeweled cutlery and objects for the home, Newton’s creations are guided by her commitment to inclusivity and versatility. Regarding the visually warming and appealingly cool tonal combination of gold and sterling silver, Newton says, “Gold and silver in the same piece of jewelry make such a friendly gradient range for every possible skin tone. Using gold and silver,” she continues, “makes my jewelry much more wearable and attractive on people of various races and ethnicities.” While the artful mélange of metals in stôn make the pieces suitable for professional wear, the diamond, pearl and sapphire-encrusted jewels are sparkling enough for formal occasions, as well.
Given that COVID-19 precautions and lockdowns are compelling many of us to spend much more time at home than before, Newton’s jewelry and bejeweled home accessories are right in tune with the world’s growing need to nest, the desire to beautify our homes and the yearning for an aesthetically enhanced daily life. “My top three concerns are beauty of design, the utility of the piece and its ease of wear or use.” Clearly, stôn is succeeding on all fronts.