By Jane Fusco
Steve Sasco designs jewelry for celebrities or anyone who wants to feel like one.
He follows celebrity appearances, red carpet events, and movie premieres with the critical eye of a detective looking for clues to solve a case so that he can create replicas of pieces worn by the stars, or new designs that Hollywood costume designers ask him for.
Steven Salzillo, known professionally as Steve Sasco, was born and raised on City View Parkway in Johnston, and has designed jewelry for many popular film and television stars, musicians, and fashion icons. He has created his versions of some of the most striking gems worn by celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Demi Moore, Sofia Vergara, Lady GaGa, Angelia Jolie, Christina Aguillar, Sarah Jessica Parker and the iconic Andy Warhol actress Edie Sedgwick.
“Celebrities influence every aspect of our society and culture, and my job is to design beautiful jewelry, so it seems natural to involve them in my work,” said Sasco.
A celebrity crush started it all.
In the early 1980s, a 20-something Sasco was attracted to Pamela Sue Martin, who played Fallon Colby Carrington on the popular nighttime soap opera Dynasty. The show was also known for the actors’ high style wardrobes.
At the time, Sasco was designing jewelry for Gem Craft manufacturers and wanted to branch out with his own creations. He sent Martin a pair of shell earrings with pearl accents that he’d designed.
“I watched the show one night and sure enough, she (Martin) was wearing my earrings,” he said. “She even sent me a hand written note thanking me.”
Now the wheels were turning and he asked himself, “How do I capitalize on this?”
Sasco sent his jewelry to many celebrities and show producers, who gave the items to the costume designers and wardrobe department.
“I started giving away my jewelry, just so I could say that this star or that star wore my jewelry,” he said.
Before long, wardrobe managers were calling him requesting original designs.
As more celebrities wore his jewelry, Sasco figured that the public would also be receptive to his designs, especially if they looked like the jewelry worn by celebrities. This started a new component of his celebrity collection – reproductions.
Some of his most popular reproductions are The Heart of the Ocean necklace from Titanic; Kate Middleton’s engagement ring and royal wedding earrings; the Nights in Dubai necklace from the Sex in the City 2 movie; Beyonce’s cross bracelet and earrings that she wore to President Obama’s inaugural ball; pearl drop earrings Demi Moore wore in St. Elmo’s Fire; Kyle Richards’ emerald earrings from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills television show; and many other celebrity inspired designs.
Sasco’s top-seller is his version of the Edie Sedgwick butterfly earrings, with their intricate photo etching, worn by Sienna Miller in the movie Factory Girl.
Factory Girl was director George Hickenlooper’s 2006 biographical film of Sedgwick’s rapid rise and tragic fall as one of pop artist Andy Warhol’s superstars in the 1960s.
Sasco said that he’d read about the upcoming movie in The Hollywood Reporter so he contacted Hickenlopper and offered to recreate Sedgwick’s unique jewelry.
“I emailed him and he got right back to me and told me to get started,” Sasco said.
Sasco recreated most of the jewelry that Sienna Miller wore in her role as Edie Sedgwick, but the butterfly earrings remain the most popular.
“There was a scene where Bob Dylan (played by Hayden Christensen), slaps Edie (Miller), and the earring falls off her ear and splits in half. They couldn’t finish the scene without the earring. I had to overnight another one,” Sasco recalls.
Sasco always wanted to be an artist. At age 2, he astounded his parents by drawing characters from the Popeye cartoons when most other children his age could barely hold a crayon. In school, his notebooks were covered with so many drawings and doodles that his teachers at Johnston High urged him to take a Saturday design course at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) geared for high school students. He received a full scholarship for the course.
Being fashion conscious, he always took note of his classmates’ clothing and accessories.
“The girls in Johnston were always very fashionable,” he said.
After high school, he continued his formal design education at RISD, then learned the business “on the bench” at his first job at Gem Craft, when owner Gene Verri asked him if he wanted to design jewelry after he saw a sketch he’d made on a napkin.
Today, he still hears from television and film stars and costume designers when they want something specific, though many purchase directly from his website.
“Goldie Hawn buys jewelry every Christmas,” he said.
Because many use online payment sources, Sasco said, he doesn’t always know who is buying his jewelry. Donatella Versace ordered his jewelry and Sasco didn’t even realize it was her until his wife, Kim, noticed the name in the fine print.
Of all the celebrities Sasco has worked with, he calls Sienna Miller his muse.
“She just has that look,” he said.
Recently, he was checking out groceries at Stop & Shop and noticed a woman on the cover of US Weekly magazine wearing his earrings. It was Teresa Giudice from the Real Housewives of New Jersey reality show.
“I never know where my jewelry will end up,” Sasco said.
To see the complete Steve Sasco celebrity jewelry collection, visit www.SteveSascoDesigns.com.