Noël Yovovich discovered titanium in her first year as a jewelry artist. “A friend of mine was working with it and doing fairly typical things — heating it from one side to get gradient bright colors, for example,” says Yovovich. “She showed me how to do it, and because I can never leave well enough alone, I started experimenting with it.”

“Rainy Day” is a pin/pendant with a stand that makes it a sculpture. One of my ambitions is to help bring jewelry out of “mere craft”, and literally out of the closet, into the living room, even when it is not being worn. It is silver, 14k, and moonstone; the stand is copper, brass, and nickel.

That experimentation led her to what would develop into her signature pieces — complex, detailed pins and pendants in silver and titanium, which feature landscapes and interior scenes. The pieces are inspired by drawings Yovovich did as a graduate student for her university’s psychology department, which used the ambiguous scenes for psychological evaluations. “I do interior scenes where there is something going on, but you don’t know what,” she says. “I try to create scenes of dynamic tension, without being explicit. At art fairs, I’ll listen to people saying [to their companions], ‘Look, here’s a picture of…’ and they tell a little story. It’s just amazing, the stories people tell about these pieces, and it doesn’t ever occur to them that what they’re seeing isn’t in [the piece].”

An artist and potter for 20 years before starting to make jewelry, Yovovich never believed that jewelry should be limited to precious materials. “One of the things I enjoy so much about jewelry is that you can incorporate anything,” she says. “In my early work, I used all kinds of beads. Some I made of polymer clay or ceramic, and I learned lampworking and made glass beads. It was like a celebration of the variety of materials [available to me] after working with strictly clay for so long.”

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Silver was her first foray into metals, soon followed by titanium. “I liked titanium because you couldn’t solder it. It was really early on, my first year doing jewelry, and soldering still made me nervous,” she says.

But it was the material’s unique qualities that held her attention. “I like to use contrast in texture and color, which titanium does very strongly,” she says. “I really like the look of overlaying silver above the titanium. It creates a little world, a little universe that I’m hoping to draw people into.”

Now adept at working with a wide variety of materials, Yovovich incorporates titanium, silver, metal clay, brass, nickel, copper, gemstones, and gold into her pieces. “I started putting gold into pieces more to add perceived value than because I was interested [in gold as a material],” she confesses. “But bit by bit, I’ve found I like doing gold more and more.”

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She has found that combining precious and non-precious helps her work find an audience. “Copper is a beautiful material, but it gets no respect. The same is true of titanium,” she says. “If I constructed an entire piece out of titanium, it wouldn’t be as well accepted as gold or silver.”

But while gold holds more interest for her now than in her first days as a jewelry artist, Yovovich says she is unlikely to abandon the non-traditional materials that infuse her work. “I’m doing art jewelry, and that’s a whole different niche,” she says. “The people who buy strictly precious metal jewelry are not the people who buy art jewelry. And even if I stopped using non-traditional materials, I would still be making jewelry that was intended to be sculpture that you wear.”

See also Noël Yovovich’s Orchid Gallery