It is another bitter cold morning coming into Penn Station on the train from my niece's home in Newark. This morning's business commute train is filled to overflowing. Walking out to 7th Avenue, the wind whips down the corridor between the buildings and cuts through the winter clothing of everyone shivering in line for the taxis.
I slide into the warm seat of the taxi and direct the driver to the studio of Donna Distefano, who is a custom jeweler and the official jeweler for the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art. As I approach the building I am always excited to see Hardy standing in front. We are both predictably early for our meetings with the artists. We grab our cup of coffee and plan for the day ahead.
We join the hoards of employees boarding the elevator to their little slice of New York heaven in this building, up to their warm offices with their coffees and bagels.
Upon knocking on the door, the studio manager welcomes us in. She informs us that Donna is getting her hair done, so we have a little time to organize and set up.
When the door to Donna's studio opens, you are surrounded by a warm inviting environment filled with jewelry cases on gorgeous wood floors, the smell of coffee, and golden walls with text and photos. Jewelry benches with well worn tools neatly surround the room lined under the giant windows. The secret of Donna's studio is, that a client can sit on Donna's antique golden velvet chairs or couch, and look out at the Empire State building. Today the sharp blue frozen sky surrounds this penultimate NY icon.
Donna is very smooth mannered. Her long straight hair is perfectly done, and she walks in and welcomes us into her private world of gems and gold, richly filled with historical significance.
Hardy sets up the photography backdrop as Donna introduces me to her designs in each jewelry case. The first piece of jewelry I notice and ask if I can hold, is named Lucreza. This ring holds a large pink oval tourmaline cabochon, bezel set in 22 karat yellow gold. I freeze for a moment, and am reminded of my best friend Lacretia, who is no longer with us. I am overwhelmed at the power of this ring and Donna and I connect on such a deep level at that moment. She smiles knowingly, and from that point on, the interview and photos are fluid. She shows us the dragon poison ring she made for Johnny Depp who proposed to Marilyn Manson with it, as a prank.
Donna's story is one of great success, but this success did not come without extremely painful experiences that she shares with us. We are moved by her candor. The beauty and warmth of her environment is filled with poignant reminders of religious significance. This is inherent and perceived in every charm, every chain link, and every precious gemstone. Donna is a treasure, skillfully creating her jewelry with deeply motivated spirit.