Designer Maria Ress of Kastel Jewelry is inspired by heritage, global adventures, and the desire to create beautiful things.
Meet Maria Ress
Kastel Jewelry owner and designer Maria Ress was born in Trikala, Thessalia, Greece. She came to Chicago at a young age, and grew up on the city’s Northside. Her family kept strong ties to their roots, and Maria spent her summers in Greece. The culmination of her summer experiences set the stage for her future business and creative endeavors.
During those summers, she spent much time visiting family members at their various businesses. Maria watched and learned, and developed not only an entrepreneurial spirit, but the desire to use her flair for design to create something unique and wonderful.
“My dad’s family were silversmiths. We watched, and learned how to create things. Whatever was left over, we would use to make things. Family members in Kastoria would bring us leather scraps, too. My cousins and I began creating necklaces and other jewelry. I’d bring them home, and wear some, and give the rest as gifts.”
Maria’s design sense was being nurtured, and her skills became more advanced. As she grew older, she became more and more interested in designing jewelry not just as a hobby, but for sale.
“I learned more intricate techniques. I learned how to handle a torch, and learned metalsmithing. I always had a passion for it. I would come up with ideas, look at books and magazines, and start sketching. These pictures were then translated in rings, bracelets, and necklaces.”
She married young and immediately started a family. Any plans for designing jewelry were sidelined, but she never stopped dreaming.
Family matters return her to homeland; reignite the spark
Sadly, about eight years ago, Maria’s father passed away. She returned to Greece to settle his affairs. This trip would reignite her passion for designing jewelry, and this time, she’d make this dream into reality.
“Along with my children, we traveled to all the places in Northern Greece that I visited during my childhood. The timing seemed to be right, and returning to all those places and recalling our adventures, I was inspired to do this thing I always wanted to do: to create timeless, elegant jewelry combining metals, diamonds, gemstones, and develop a new jewelry line.”
Maria began speaking to people in Greece, and began sourcing product there, and then from all over the world, including parts of Asia — India, Sri Lanka — and Brazil, where she procures many of her stones.
Kastel Jewelry gets its name
On that fateful trip, Maria took her family to many places in the Balkans she’d visited as a child. As a child, she was mesmerized by a castle called Fortress Kastel, located in a small town in central Croatia.
“When I was a little girl, I used to pretend that I was a princess and that was my castle. We’d run around and play on the grounds. When I took my family there and recalled those times, the light bulb went on. I’d been looking for a name for the company, and wanted it to stand for something out of my fantasy world. This was it.”
Timeless Elegance is Kastel Jewelry’s Signature
Maria loves to incorporate a little of the unexpected into her designs, and bring together elements that people don’t automatically assume work together.
“I like to ‘tweak’ the classic idea. I put my spin on classical. I want the pieces to have longevity. so I try not to be too trendy. So I fuse the old with the new, combining unusual gemstones with more traditional stones. I look for unusual pearls and gems.”
One of her most popular pieces is a 100” long necklace — an infinity wrap. Maria says she’s seen women of all ages embrace it, and that’s her objective.
“It’s exciting to see women from all backgrounds, ages and stages in their lives wear my jewelry. I don’t focus on one type of customer. Women have busy lives. I make jewelry that is versatile, that can be worn day and night, and fits into to today’s busy lifestyle.”
Kastel Jewelry takes off
Back in Chicago, Maria began to design and sell her jewelry, and amassed a small following. Kastel Jewelry was officially launched in December 3, with a party at the Ritz Carlton Chicago.
“To have that happen as an unknown, it was so cool to get attention. It inspired me to create more, and I design pieces I think women would look good wearing.”
This past December, Maria had her first trunk show at Neiman Marcus in Chicago. She will return to Neiman Marcus for a trunk show on February 13, from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, to showcase her spring collection, plus some one-of-a-kind pieces.
The talented designer, wife, and mom of three, is just getting started. Look for exciting things to come, as she continues to travel, explore, and create.