Jewelry Designer Judy Evans gained national and international prominence in 1978 after winning the prestigious Johnson Matthey Platinum Design Competition. Since that time, she has continued to dominate competitions around the world and is widely considered one of the most accomplished of America’s fine jewelry designers.
In a speech recently delivered at the Platinum Day Symposium, entitled Evolution of a Design, Ms. Evans detailed her affinity for Platinum, her varied creative inspirations, and the design process involved in the launch of her exciting new Diana Couture Collection for Fall 1999.
The following Questions and Answers have been gathered from that speech of March 27, 1999
Q. Where Did You Get Your Start as a Jewelry Designer?
I was introduced to the art of jewelry design through an unusual course in high school which focused on making a living through creative pursuits. That class peaked my interest in the craft, and I decided to major in jewelry design at Iowa State University, where I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. Directly after graduation, I began my career as _a professional jewelry designer when I was hired by Frederick Betlach.1 remained there from 1976-1979 and followed with J.B.. Hudson from 1979-1986, the Zale Corporation from 1986-1987 and the Krementz Company from 1987-1997.
In January of 1998, I formed an association with Frederick Goldman, Inc. to design the Diana Couture Collection. I am grateful to the company for allowing me the freedom to express my creativity and break design boundaries. In the 23 years I’ve been designing, I’ve been fortunate to win more than a dozen awards including American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Award, the George A. Schultz Memorial Competition, GlA and the DeBeer Diamonds Today Competition, among others.
Q. Where Do Your Ideas Come From?
I get my ideas from everywhere. I’m extremely prolific.. Everything I see gets processed in my brain and comes out in various forms in my work. Movement is a big influence for me. I started dancing when I was 10, training in the Martha Graham modern dance technique and toured with a dance troupe during college. I found that my appreciation for intricate movement translated effectively into my jewelry design.
I envision a piece and sketch it freehand. I especially enjoy the dichotomy of a fixed object evoking a flow and a feeling of motion. Color also excites me. I surround myself with color in my home. Nature’s motifs have also become an important factor in my work. I’ve become increasingly attracted to the perfection in the natural order of things.
I keep a portfolio of all my sketches from the past 20+ years and find it extremely useful as a reference, a source of inspiration. Using my own past designs as a point of reference enables me to create contemporary translations of designs from my past without repeating myself. This seems to provide a thread, a consistency that I enjoy, that extends throughout my work past and present. My designs are recognizable, but I try to create new variations so that my work remains fresh and surprising. And I stay away from fads and industry trends. I find that I much prefer creating my own style. But I do believe artists must evolve to incorporate innovations in manufacturing.
Q. How Do You Execute Your Designs?
I always design with hand painted renderings and I never use a computer. That’s not true of all designers. I prefer to do it the old fashioned way, with pencil, paper and paint. That’s what works best for me. I am well known in the industry for my renderings.
Q. As a Designer What are Your Signature Elements?
I am recognized for several unique design elements.. The first is the "surprise stone," which is intended to be just that-a surprise.. It can be described as a gemstone placed in an unusual place, usually on the side of a piece of jewelry. I premiered this design technique in 1984 and was told it would never sell. Today, it remains a strong signature element in my designs and can be seen in other jewelry lines.
Another technique I’ve become very well known for is the "square shank," which serves as a counterbalance so that a ring stays upright. The benefit of utilizing this feature is the comfort factor, ensuring that the ring rests comfortably on the finger.
I’ve also become known for designs featuring what I call the "capture." This is a visual device making a piece of jewelry appear as if the opposite sides of the ring are bound together under the center stone. This design element can be manifested in simple or more complex methods. One example of a more complex approach is to utilize pave sides or channel set sides. The "capture" technique can be seen throughout the new Diana Couture Collection.
My personal style is to accent the center stone and in turn have the center stone accent the design. I avoid using conventional crowns to set the stones and prefer rather that the setting mechanism be an integral part of the design. My approach to design is rather holistic. I believe that no one part of a ring is more important than another. For me, comfort always dictates style to a large degree. I routinely set my center stones no higher than necessary and few are set with prongs so that rings won’t catch on clothing. I know other women, especially those wearing my designs, appreciate that detail as much as I do.
Q. That Comes First – The Center Stone or The Design?
There is no simple answer to this question. Earlier, I did a lot of work with one-of-a-kind gemstones. When you do that, the stone will dictate the setting and design. When I design bridal jewelry, I’m working with diamonds, known commodities, so the process can begin with the design. I use both approaches in my work.
Q. Why Do You Work So Often With Platinum?
I’ve always appreciated the beauty and versatility of Platinum. I use it extensively now, either alone or mixed with 18K gold. It’s amazing, five years ago, you could ask a person on the street if they knew what Platinum was-and they didn’t. Now, virtually everyone knows about the advantages of this precious metal. The jewelry buying public’s increasing awareness of Platinum’s strength and longevity has created a great demand. It’s considered the perfect medium for bridal jewelry, due in large part, to its durability. I refer to it as the "King of Metals." I like Platinum for its color tone. I look to metals as a palette and I also appreciate the technical aspects of their natural properties.
I like Platinum’s icy coolness, which works exceptionally well with diamonds. Platinum adds weight to even a dainty piece of jewelry, without adding to its size or bulk. The metal lends itself to fine details without becoming fragile. It’s perfect for setting diamonds because of its tensile strength and neutral color. Gold lacks the strength and versatility of Platinum. Approximately 800% of the pieces in the Diana Couture Collection by Judy Evans are rendered in Platinum, so that should tell you how I feel about it.
Q. Who Do You Design For?
Women are buying more fine jewelry for themselves. They can afford it. They know what they like and they don’t feel they have to wait for someone to buy it for them. Women aged 25-50 are my average customers. They’re urban or suburban women, usually well-educated and confident with a well-developed sense of style. When they wear fine jewelry, it’s often as evidence of their personal success.
Designer Judy Evans creates jewelry by maintaining an awareness of her surroundings, being influenced by everything she sees, and then translating these images in her breathtaking designs. Her extensive use of Platinum has served to re-introduce the precious metal to the masses, making her not only a designer of impressive abilities, but one with a positive and important influence on the industry.