Rendering Design and Process

This is the second in a series of articles on the art and skill of rendering jewelry and small metal objects. Here we show the stages of rendering from pencil roughs to finished pencil renderings with color to full-color renderings, and discuss the importance of rendering for the jewelry designer.

In the first article of this series (see Metalsmith volume two, number four), Alfred Durante, design director at Cartier, discussed the role of the designer in the jewelry industry. Here both Mr. Durante and Richard Palermo, professional jewelry renderer-designer and fellow teacher of design and rendering at Parsons School of Design, have contributed rough and finished renderings to demonstrate process.

rendering-1a rendering-1b rendering-1c
Rough pencil sketches with earring shown in three styles. The sketches demonstrate possible positioning of the stones to develop movement in the design. From the sketches the most appealing shapes can be judged and chosen before painting. These finished roughs are usually only for the designer’s own use, but on occasion he will show them to a client. Richard Palermo

In the classes they teach, Durante and Palermo stress that from the beginning students must create original designs, even before they acquire any rendering techniques. They believe that you learn rendering not in order to express someone else’s designs but in order to present your own designs in a quick and realistic manner.

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image_2 Finished rendering is taken from the most suitable pencil rough, traced in pencil onto heavy vellum and painted with watercolor and gouache. The earring is shown on a stylized ear to indicate placement of the clip, size, weight and balance, or how the earring will hang without turning. Richard Palermo
image_3 Rendering of pavé diamond and emerald lily brooch for the exhibition “Fantasy Jewels.” Alfred Durante

Rendering, as taught by Palermo and Durante, utilizes only a mechanical pencil with graphite, watercolor and gouache, and a stump for shading. They sometimes use colored pencils or ink washes. Final renderings are done in heavy transparent vellum.

image_4 Rouch pencil sketch shows how the rendering progresses. The left side is half-way finished while on the right the leaf pattern has been filled in to judge the density of the pavé diamonds. Richard Palermo
image_5 Finished rendering shows color over the pencil sketch. Note how the stones seem to glow by the shading done with a stump. This necklace, part of a set with the earrings above, boasts cabochon-shaped turquoise and both marquis and pavé diamonds set in 18k yellow gold and platinum. It was designed to be flexible with flamboyant leaves to show intricate detail in the rendering. The necklace is shown on a stylized neck to indicate position on the body and scale. Richard Palermo

Years ago jewelry houses had two or three designers who could take the leisure of a few days for each design. But due to the rapid pace and competitive nature of the field of jewelry design today, speed is of the essence. Everything is last minute. Now many jewelers are doing renderings as prototypes; no longer are stones set in a wax model, for instance, for the client to inspect. Rendering is a form of photorealism where nothing exists to be photographed, except, of course, in the designer’s imagination. In this, rendering becomes the most difficult kind of illustration, as one must show exactly how a piece will appear its highlights and minute detail to a fraction of a millimeter.

image_6 Rendering of a bracelet with pear-shaped aquamarine set in 18k yellow gold with pavé diamonds set in platinum, three oval diamonds and bezel-set diamonds. This rendering shows two views—the fully painted top view and the pencil side elevation. Richard Palermo
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Rendering of a cultured pearl necklace with channel-set diamonds and a cabochon-shaped ruby in 18k yellow gold. Richard Palermo
image_8 Rendering of a brooch with one round sapphire and pear-shaped and French-cut sapphires as well as round, baguette and pavé diamonds set in platinum and 18k yellow gold. Richard Palermo

A rendering is developed with three major considerations in mind: the design of the piece, the characteristics and cost of the materials, and the way the piece will look when worn. To be a successful renderer, you must know the mechanics of jewelry—how pieces are made, how they move with the body when worn and the value of materials. It would be useless to render a necklace, for example, with a large diamond that the client could not afford. You must further be aware of jewelry esthetics, good taste and the current climate for jewelry, including what will sell. Beyond this you must show individuality in your designs and an understanding of your clients’ needs.

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image_9 Rendering of gold and enamel cuff bracelets with pavé diamonds and rubies. Bracelets may be worn day or evening—the panels slide back to expose the stones, from “Fantasy Jewels.” Alfred Durante
image_10 Rendering of a pin-pendant with a 100k square-cut aquamarine set with pavé diamonds and yellow-gold flames. Richard Palermo

It is remarkable that most of the renderings shown here were executed, from rough sketch to final painting, in only a few hours. However, the authors insist that I good rendering should look like it took a week but should never appear overworked. Acquiring the art and skill of rendering can help a young jewelry designer advance his career without having to make heavy investment in materials and speculative execution. In this era of rapidly changing fashion trends and ever-growing competition, this is important to consider.

By Richard Palermo and Alfred Durante
Metalsmith Magazine - 1984 Spring
In association with SNAG's
Metalsmith magazine, founded in 1980, is an award winning publication and the only magazine in America devoted to the metal arts.
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