Object Story: My Filipino Diamante Ring

Object Story: My Filipino Diamante Ring

An eco-conscious fashion designer shares the story of the ring she’s worn for more than 20 years.
Published on Friday, October 16, 2020. This article appears in the October/November 2020 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Header image for Celeste Malvar-Stewarts object story on her diamante ring

↑ Ohio fashion and textile artist Celeste Malvar-Stewart’s Filipino diamante ring.
Photo: Zenger Photography

Celeste Malvar-Stewart has been a fashion and textiles artist for more than 25 years. She lives with her husband and two pugs in Columbus, Ohio, where she creates sustainable fashion using natural fibers from local family farms under her brand MALVAR = STEWART. @malvarstewart

Celeste Malvar-Stewart in her studio

↑ Celeste in her studio.
Photo: Thomas E. Nichols

One of the most unique objects I possess is a Filipino diamante ring, which was given to me by my mother. Diamante (a Filipino word pronounced JA-man-tay) is the uncut outer crust of a diamond and is different from diamanté, which refers to decoration with artificial jewels. Its appearance is semi-translucent and rough in comparison to the sharp, bright cuts of typical commercial diamonds. In the Philippines, where I was born, diamantes are highly valued because they are believed to bring luck. As late as the early 1900s, elders in the northern part of the archipelago believed that diamantes drove away evil spirits.

My mother bought this ring in the mid-1950s from an old family friend. It had been in that family for three generations in Vigan, Philippines, where my grandfather was born. At the time, it was common practice for older women to sell their diamante jewelry to younger women who were about to embark upon their own careers, almost like a social blessing.

My ring is made of both yellow and white gold, and its intricate setting holds firm the unique shapes of the individual diamantes and their “powers.” I’ve worn this ring almost every day for more than 20 years and often marvel at its unique craftsmanship and the idea that it was created to be a form of talisman for its wearer. Its beauty and its intention continuously inspire me.

The fact that diamonds are formed over billions of years also reminds me of how important it is to take the time to create pieces with skill, integrity, mindfulness, and patience, imbuing them with their own power and cultural resonance that can be transferred to the wearer. Like the craftsperson who made this beautiful ring, I aspire to create couture pieces that embrace natural materials in a new way and carry good fortune in their form.

Couture peice by Celeste Malvar-Stewart

↑ One of eight couture pieces Celeste created in collaboration with musician Benji Robinson exploring the sounds of Columbus, Ohio.
Photo: Tariq Tarey

Garment by Celeste Malvar-Stewart

 

 

A garment Malvar-Stewart made with wool from a Lincoln Longwool sheep named Gandalf.
Photo: Bernadette Newberry →

Garment by Celeste Malvar-Stewart

 

 

 

← Two other garments created using Gandalf’s wool and madder, an ancient dye.
Photo: Dalong Yang

 

What does Celeste's story bring up for you?

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