Shannon L. Brown
Articles and Videos by Shannon L. Brown:
Jewelry manufacturers are no strangers to workplace hazards. The process of transforming raw metals into finished pieces of jewelry can involve flames, chemicals, and toxic vapors and dust—all requiring adequate safety gear, ventilation, and careful practices to minimize risk. But…
Anyone who’s played a team sport knows the value of good team communication. Without it, no matter the skills of the players involved, victory is more difficult to achieve. And designer Paul Klecka of Paul Klecka Inc. in Carlsbad, California,…
Design ideas often begin one way, then evolve into something different. Such was the case with Robin Waynee’s two-sided palladium pendant with pink sapphires, diamonds, and a rolling Tahitian pearl. Waynee, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, first envisioned this as…
Always preferring a combination of metals in her jewelry, Sydney Lynch of Sydney Lynch Jewelry Inc. in Lincoln, Nebraska, discovered a way to achieve that look cost-effectively using a bi-metal of 22k yellow gold backed by sterling silver. Sydney Lynch…
This is the first in a two-part series on green bench tips shared by jewelers who are taking an eco-friendlier approach in their shops. Small changes at the bench can make a difference. Window to the World Jennifer Dawes, Dawes Design,…
This is the second in a two-part series on green bench tips shared by jewelers who are taking another approach for their shops, eco friendly shops. A Clean Break with Chemicals Jennifer Dawes, Dawes Design, Santa Rosa, California Tired of…
Alishan Halebian’s sphere is a metaphor for light and life. Beginning with the concept of a sphere, Alishan Halebian of Alishan in Irvine, California, created a double-sided 65 mm diameter pendant/ring with design elements that are a metaphor for light and…
It’s no wonder that as precious metals prices have risen to new heights over the past few years, jewelry castings have gotten thinner and lighter to maintain reasonable price points. It’s not uncommon today for impossibly thin or delicate and…
It’s harder than steel, more durable than enamel, can be worn for years without scratching, and costs less than half the price of gold. It’s not science fiction; it’s the high-end ‘gem ceramic’ jewelry made by Etienne Perret of Salon Etienne in Camden, Maine. The material, which is composed of zirconium oxide in powder form combined with an organic binder, has a very high hardness (8.7 Mohs). Once pressed in molds and sintered to form jewelry, it can be finished with diamond abrasives and set with diamonds.
Transforming a single sheet of metal into an undulating organic form using only a hammer and stake is the art of anticlastic raising. When the hammer hits the piece of sheet metal resting on the stake, the metal rises into curves or coils, its edges stretching more than its center. It’s a technique that requires skills far more complex than the tools used — skills that Michael Good of Michael Good Designs in Rockport, Maine, has perfected since the late 1970s. With today’s high metal prices, one of the greatest benefits of anticlastic raising is the ability to create structural strength in relatively thin metal sheets. The resulting shapes are very flexible and springy, making findings an unnecessary addition. A necklace, for example, has such flex that it’s simply pulled open, slipped on, and closed.
Putting a spin on tradition, Alexandra Hart of Alexandra Hart in San Diego crafted Broollopskronan, or Bridal Crown, a regal wedding headdress. The commission from a half-Swedish bride for something unusual but still traditional had Hart exploring her own Swedish roots. She and the client considered many options through sketches before deciding to go with this modern interpretation of a practice that dates back to the Middle Ages, when Swedish brides wore crowns loaned to them by their churches on their wedding days.
Belle Brooke Barer of Belle Brooke Designs in Los Angeles created a successful union when she brought together 18k yellow gold and oxidized sterling silver in her necklace named for the Greek goddess of marriage, Hera. The design began with five pear-shaped chrysoprase cabochons and an old sketch of a necklace with triangular links. The original drawing didn’t have stones, but Barer quickly drew some in, first set vertically, then shifted to an angle. “On the sixth sketchit all came together for me,” she says.
Known for his contemporary designs, Andrew Costen of Costen Catbalue in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, enjoys occasionally returning to his roots to create what he calls a Renaissance ring, this one in 18k white and yellow gold and set with an aquamarine, sapphires, and diamonds.
Costen begins by alloying 18k yellow gold and forming sheet that he rolls to 0.8 mm for the ring’s shank. “It naturally wants to concave a bit, so I use a planishing hammer on the center of the metal all the way around, not getting too close to the edges because it will make it bigger,” says Costen. “This brings the ring up very slightly convex.”.
A mesmerizing flame melting spectacularly colored glass into a perfect bead. The possibilities of infinite shapes and sizes. The beautiful jewelry those beads can become. All of these factors pulled Mary V. Smith of St. Peters, Missouri, into lampwork — the art of using a torch to melt glass rods into beads. A corporate graphic designer for 20 years, she saw her industry changing in the ’90s and felt her creativity being stiffled by new technology, so she began exploring her options. She had dabbled in making jewelry and loved going to the St. Louis Art Fair. ‘quot;I went to school for fine art and graphic design,’quot; she says. ‘quot;I had to do something with my hands. I tried to transfer some of my knowledge and color theory into jewelry.’quot;
Racine and his son, Ittai, a physicist by profession but a top engineer, passed on purchasing the dated facility and equipment, instead opening a new tech-savvy casting workshop. It was here that they designed the Etype automated wax injection system that earned them a 2011 MJSA Thinking Ahead Award. The system features a motorized conveyor belt that brings barcoded molds to an injection station. There they are read and injected using the corresponding stored parameters, then returned on the conveyor belt to a worker, who removes the wax and starts the process over again. The number of wax injection stations used varies between one and four, depending on the volume needs of the manufacturer.
Adding vibrant colors to jewelry can involve any number of methods — from careful enameling by hand to the high-tech physical vapor deposition (PVD) process. But what if you could use a simple method similar to rhodium plating in your shop to apply a vibrant, durable color in 17 different hues to your precious or base metal jewelry line? That’s the promise of Kliar, a new nanoceramic e-coating developed by Legor’s Plating Division in Bressanvido, Italy.
When searching for subcontractors, you can learn a lot from your friends in the jewelry industry. Many designers and jewelers rely on peer referrals to find the right person for the job. And once they’ve entered into an agreement with a contract service provider, they learn tips for keeping that relationship on track from the stories their friends tell about their subcontracting successes and failures. In this article, you’ll read about the experiences of jewelers just like you who have met their business goals with the help of subcontractors. The lessons they’ve learned will show you what to expect when working with subcontractors, and ultimately help you to forge better working relationships with them.
One February at the Tucson gem shows, inspiration took flight for Katy Briscoe of Katy Briscoe Inc. in Houston. “I remember opening a paper with this carved blue sapphire and as soon as I saw the stone I said, ‘You’re a peacock,'” she recalls. “I couldn’t buy it at that point, but I wished I could, and I thought about that stone for a very long time.” Subsequently, anytime Briscoe saw an image of a peacock, the sapphire came to mind. A few months later she was able to purchase the gem and immediately started sketching an 18k yellow gold pin/pendant peacock around the 83.6 carat sapphire, incorporating faceted blue sapphires, diamonds, and tsavorite garnets. She did much research online to ensure she could accurately depict the bird and determine the best use for the large sapphire. “The body of a peacock was about the shape of the sapphire,” she says.
Children and adults alike enjoy the spectacle of the circus. For jewelry designer Pierre-Yves Paquette of Pierre-Yves in Saint-Sauveur, Quebec, Canada, the circus inspired an award-winning jewelry design. Fascinated by the colors under the big top, Paquette created the Circus, Circus ring, winner of the gold jewelry category in the 2012 NICHE Awards. Pairing perfect squares of 18k yellow gold and sterling silver in a harlequin pattern reminiscent of a clown’s costume, Paquette’s ring required no-nonsense attention to detail.
Consumers today are more open to wearing unusual gems, and there is a trend among designers to incorporate less familiar stones into their work. No longer wedded to the classic trio of ruby, sapphire, and emerald, jewelry makers today are drawn to lapis, moonstone, opal, and turquoise, to name a few. But while these gemstones offer the uniqueness consumers are asking for, they can also pose stressful challenges to the jewelers who work with them.
It was his first time in New York City. Surrounded by the skyscrapers and bright lights of the Big Apple, Erik Stewart of Erik Stewart Jewelry in Tucson soaked up the city’s energy. But the sight that captivated him most was the complex network of cables that make up the Brooklyn Bridge. Back home, fueled with inspiration, Stewart’s design idea brewed.
A few years ago, Randy Polk of Randy Polk Designs in Fountain Hills, Arizona, knew he needed to make some changes in his business. “When gold is going up and the economy is going down, you have to find some footing,” he says. For Polk, that meant exploring alternatives to precious metals. Today, Polk has increased his sales volume and profit margin by often working in stainless steel, crafting avant-garde designs that showcase high-end gemstones. His Cover Girl ring in stainless steel, shown here with diamonds, rubies, opal inlay, and a pearl, is a bestseller.
When all sides of a dangle earring are beautiful, choosing the side to face front can be problematic. Ryan Roberts of Santa Fe, New Mexico, found a solution: A tiny ball hinge set into the pearl at the top of the earring that enables it to slowly revolve while worn. With all perspectives showcased, these palladium earrings set with Tahitian pearls, diamonds, and tsavorite garnets earned Roberts the grand prize in the 2013 Saul Bell Design Award Competition.
Laser engravers can do wonders for a jewelry manufacturer’s hallmarking process, making it more efficient and leaving a crisp, clear mark of even the most detailed logobut the benefits of this technology don’t stop there.
As the cost of laser engraving equipment has come down in recent years and the degree of accuracy and versatility has increased, more jewelers have started looking at laser engravers as more than just marking tools. On the following pages, you’ll read about how three jewelry companies are putting their engravers to use as design tools, creating unique and personalized details that help set their jewelry apart.
Sometimes a design becomes more than the sum of its parts. Designer Cristopher Olson and master jeweler Paul Schaaf of Molina Fine Jewelers in Phoenix collaborated on just such a piece, which they named Temple of the Sacred Heart. The platinum ring features a 10.05 carat oval untreated Thai ruby and almost 400 diamonds totaling more than 5 carats. The ring won Platinum Honors in the Classical category of the 2011 AGTA Spectrum Awards.