Jewelry designer Randi Mates started out in academia, not fashion. After earning an M.A. in Material Culture from the Bard Graduate Center, she was hired as a historian for the Smithsonian Institution — a job that entailed researching, anything from turn-of-the-century toys to Italian paper dresses from the forties to ancient glass techniques. While working toward a Ph.D., she convinced her sister to enroll in a Greek and Roman metalworking class at the Jewelry Arts Institute in NYC with her. She took to the classic craft, and in 2006 she started her own jewelry line. Naming her line Aesa, after a Greek personification of destiny, Mates drew from her museum experience, her training in classical Greek and Roman metalworking, and her work on scholastic publications and launched a collection of what she calls “antiques of the future world.
Mates's designs blend metals, gems, and semiprecious stones — gold, silver, bronze, pink and black pearl, sapphire, citrine, black diamond, and tourmaline — which she sources on annual trips to the Gem, Mineral, & Fossil Show in Tucson.