Eve Alfillé won’t reveal her age. “My mother-in-law told me people tend to discount you when you’re of a certain age,” she says. But Alfillé’s eye-popping jewelry designs ensure that no one will be discounting her any time soon.
For a woman of a certain age, Alfillé has the energy of a college student. The night before our interview, she stayed up all night making pieces for her new line of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and broaches. It’s called “Eau de vie,” which is French for “Water of Life.”
Water inspired Alfillé as she created the jewelry in this collection, which will be officially unveiled during a reception at her gallery in downtown Evanston on May 1. Many of the stones in the pieces are sapphires and blue opals.
“We associate water with fertility and growth,” the French native says. “But we can’t forget that there are floods and droughts across the world, too.”
Alfillé herself is quite worldly. She has lived in both France (until age 16) and Switzerland. She studied business, historic linguistics and medieval poetry at McGill University in Montreal. After graduating, she worked as an archeologist in the Middle East and Mexico.
“Archeology isn’t like they make it seem in Indiana Jones,” she says. “You’re usually excavating the homes of poor people, not palaces. Along with pottery, we always found jewelry. Jewelry has always been important to people, even if they were too poor to own much else.”
And jewelry was important to Alfillé. After working as a stockbroker in Chicago for many years, she realized she wasn’t satisfied with her career. Relying on books from the library, she taught herself how to make jewelry. In 1987, she and her husband, Maurice, opened the Eve J. Alfille Gallery in downtown Evanston.
“Evanston is just like a Parisian suburb,” she says. “It’s both urban and suburban.”
And just like a Parisian suburb, Alfillé’s gallery is tres chic: Velvet drapings hang off of Louis XIV chairs. Antique chests burst with pearls and gems. Velvet love seats and leather chairs make the perfect resting spots for couples shopping for engagement rings.
Over the years, Alfillé has allowed approximately 120 organizations use her space for free to host benefits. Sometimes she even provides the refreshments.
And when she’s not giving lectures at jewelry seminars or accepting awards from organizations such as the American Gem Trade Association and the Japanese Pearl Association, Alfillé writes poetry. The invitation for her May party includes the following verse from one of her poems:
“‘Eau de vie’ is about celebration, really. For the sheer of joy of living./At my age, I should know.”
That still doesn’t give us a hint as to what Alfillé’s age really is. But one thing is for certain: She knows how to enjoy life.