Terry Castro, a Proud Outsider in the Jewelry World, Dies at 50

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Terry Castro, a New York-based jewellery designer whose knack for mixing the fantastical with the elegant propelled him from promoting on the sidewalks of New York to adorning celebrities like Rihanna and Steven Tyler, died on July 18 at his residence in Istanbul. He was 50.

The trigger was a coronary heart assault, his son, Sir King Castro, stated.

Mr. Castro, who labored below the one identify Castro, thought of himself a “creator of dreams.” He scoured vintage outlets and thrift shops for inspiration for his cheeky but luxurious items, which blended animal and human varieties and invoked African influences with medieval and galactic imagery. He produced solely about 35 items a yr, by hand, however he noticed his work featured on the covers of Vogue Latin America, Forbes and Hamptons magazines, and within the 2013 function movie “Out of the Furnace.”

To Mr. Castro, jewellery was not only a style accent. “More than being an independent designer, he lived and operated as an artist,” stated Nghi Nguyen, a Brooklyn-based jewellery designer and shut pal. “His work could be categorized as high-art jewelry. It’s wearable, museum-quality sculpture.”

It generally had costs to match. An antique bisque doll necklace — a part of his signature Dollies sequence, crafted from tiny porcelain dolls — which options vibrating wings and a detachable masks, in addition to diamonds and different treasured gems, lately bought for greater than $100,000, Sir King Castro stated in an interview.

Associates stated that as a largely self-taught Black designer, Mr. Castro prided himself on being an outsider on this planet of superb jewellery. “The jewelry industry is prided on generational wealth and access to materials and resources,” stated Jules Kim, a pal and fellow jeweler. “People who are not born into it have to rely on whatever agency they have. Castro lived by creating his own traditions.”

Passionate and at instances confrontational, Mr. Castro thought of himself a insurgent throughout the trade.

“I do what I want; you don’t like it, don’t buy it,” he stated in a 2012 interview with The Black Nouveau, a mode weblog. Recounting his scattered efforts to “go commercial,” he concluded that the earnings was not well worth the artistic worth paid.

“My real accounts flipped on me,” he stated. “I was branded a traitor, and now I’m back to the dark side. If you don’t have the force, stay the hell away from me.”

However that uncompromising perspective as a substitute appeared to attract folks in.

In 2020, De Beers, one of many world’s largest diamond producers, partnered with the Hollywood activist group RAD (Purple Carpet Advocacy) to showcase Mr. Castro and 5 different Black designers in a marketing campaign known as #BlackisBrilliant. The marketing campaign outfitted celebrities with jewellery that includes ethically sourced diamonds from Botswana to put on at galas and award ceremonies.

“We approached Castro to participate because, just from looking at a few of his locks and doll pieces, we knew he had a singular talent,” Sally Morrison, De Beers Group’s director of public relations for pure diamonds, wrote in an e-mail.

Final September, Sotheby’s featured Mr. Castro’s work in an exhibition known as “Brilliant & Black: A Jewelry Renaissance,” that includes 21 Black designers. At its opening, in New York, “people literally danced into the exhibition and cried,” stated Melanie Grant, a outstanding jewellery author who curated the present. And Mr. Castro, together with his gregarious nature and charismatic presence, was a pure star of the present.

“It is still hard for Black designers to get access to top-level collectors,” Ms. Grant stated. “But I like to think we made a difference, and Castro was an important part of that.”

Terry Clifford Castro was born in Toledo, Ohio, on Jan. 26, 1972, to Mary Castro, who bought antiques and collectibles, and a father he by no means knew. In 1989 his mom married Paul Geller, a lawyer.

As a youth, Mr. Castro fell right into a life on the streets and did temporary stints in jail, Sir King Castro stated. In 1999, he married Belinda Castro (her surname, coincidentally, was the identical as his). That very same yr the couple had a son, whom they bestowed with the grand-sounding identify Sir King Raymundo Castro.

Mr. Castro turned occupied with jewellery restore after taking a weekend course, his former spouse, now Belinda Strode, stated in an interview. Finally he and his spouse opened a small jewellery retailer known as C & C Jewelers in Toledo, the place he carried out repairs and bought the work of different designers. Inside a number of years he started designing his personal jewellery, utilizing scrap metallic from a junkyard, his former spouse stated.

The wedding and the store each proved to be short-lived. Within the early 2000s, after he and his spouse divorced, Mr. Castro moved to Chicago, the place he determined to show his lifelong curiosity in style right into a profession, his half brother, Aaron Geller, stated in an interview.

He briefly ran his personal clothes line in his adopted metropolis, the place he lower a formidable determine within the techno golf equipment and style boutiques. “He used to wear these spurs on the back of his boots,” recalled Ayana Haaruun, a detailed pal from these years. “He thought he was so fly. We used to call him Lenny Kravitz.”

In 2005 Mr. Castro moved to New York, the place he began his personal jewellery line, Castro NYC, which he bought on the sidewalks of SoHo. His work caught the eye of style stylists and editors passing via the neighborhood, and earlier than lengthy he was increasing the enterprise and jetting off to style weeks in Europe and Japan to point out his work.

As Mr. Castro rose within the trade, he continued to problem assumptions concerning race. “I personally don’t think you can be Black, African, and your work doesn’t reflect some part of Africa or Africanism, because we live in this world where we have to think about so many other things that other people don’t have to think about in a day,” he stated in an interview final yr with the style web site Magnus Oculus.

He additionally continued to problem himself, following his insatiable curiosity and peripatetic nature to maneuver to Istanbul in 2016.

Along with his son and his half brother, Mr. Castro is survived by his mom and stepfather.

Though his work celebrated life in all its shade and intricacy, loss of life was at all times a topic of fascination for Mr. Castro; skulls, each animal and human, had been a standard motif.

However his curiosity within the topic was not morbid. “With the skull itself, it is in you, it is part of you, it is part of life, but also part of death,” he stated within the Magnus Oculus interview. “With some Black people, they will see a skull and they will be like, ‘Oh God, it’s voodoo and evil,’ and I will be like, ‘Well, that means you’re evil too, because you have a skull inside your head. You’re walking around with that thing.’”

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