Open to all independent or company-employed designers, the Professional Design Excellence Category celebrates work that exemplifies the best of contemporary jewelry design. The winners show a thorough grounding in the tradition of fine design, along with an eagerness for experimentation and innovation. By meeting the highest standards of craftsmanship and creativity, these designs truly deserve their award-winning status.
Adam Neeley, Adam Neeley Fine Art Jewelry, Laguna Beach, California
Oceana Pendant. The Oceana pendant showcases a 2014 AGTA-award–winning 32.86 carat aquamarine cut by Stephen Avery. The gold in this piece is a signature style that Neeley calls “Spectra gold,” which transitions seamlessly and gradually through seven shades, from rich yellow to cool white. The pendant’s form is the result of hand forging and shaping curved layers of gold, then laser-welding them together. To protect the Spectra gold’s hardness and finish, torch assembly was not an option; laser welding was absolutely necessary. The laser welder was also instrumental in fixing the already-set aquamarine to the center of the pendant. The diamond sections feature a fade of diamonds, from canary to white, pavé set in 14 karat white gold. Visit www.AdamNeeley.com.
The laser has become one of a designer’s most valuable tools, enabling metals to be joined in ways previously unimaginable. This year’s winning entry once again shsows the exquisite intricacy and detail made possible by the laser, and serve as a testament to the beauty made possible through the marriage of technology and tradition.
Our thanks to the Laser Distinction sponsor:
Annie Koenig, Annie K Jewelry, Louisville, Kentucky
Diamond Wave Earrings. This design evolved from a “play period” at the bench on a hot August afternoon, while the designer was longing for an afternoon at the beach. Cutting strips of brass, then bending and folding and twisting them, she discarded one shape after another until inspiration struck, sparking questions and observations: "What about a chain? Add a tube? The shapes can rotate around a central core... That’s it!" And the Diamond Wave earrings were born. Combining CAD technology with old-school casting and fabrication methods, these earrings naturally rotate as they are worn. Made of 14k yellow gold and 14k white gold, they have 166 round brilliant-cut diamonds (4.55 ctw). Visit www.AnnieKJewelry.com.
Our thanks to the CAD CAM Distinction Sponsor:
Baiyang Qiu, BQ Jewelry, Milpitas, California
Ruby Earrings. These hand-fabricated 18k gold earrings were bezel set with 4 mm rubies, then laser-welded to the wire constructions. The wire net is made of 29 gauge 18k yellow gold. A laser welder was used in the entire process (no soldering), which helped to create very clean, strong joints. Visit www.BaiyangJewelry.com.
Hisano Shepherd, little h, Los Angeles, California
Pearl and Sapphire Geode Earrings. Featuring a freshwater soufflé pearl sliced with a saw, these earrings were bored out with ball burs on a flex-shaft, then sanded and buffed. Yellow and pink sapphires were attached with a resin adhesive. The earrings were finished with 14K rose gold. Visit www.littlehjewelry.com.
Krista Robertson, Green Lake Jewelry Works, Seattle, Washington
Grasshopper Ring. This 950 platinum engagement ring features an 18k cast grasshopper—a family symbol of the client’s—soldered into the under-gallery. The ring has split "claw" prongs holding a 2.76 ct round-cut diamond, with 11 melee diamonds bead-set into the gallery. The top face features a cast and pierced wheat design, while the side face has half-wheat hand engraving and milgrain edges, along with 2 filigree curls on each side of the grasshopper. A high polish finish was applied.
Krista describes the story behind the ring: "I was contacted by the client via our online design page to create a new ring for a family heirloom diamond. The client wanted to incorporate some very specific family symbols into the design: wheat and a golden grasshopper. The most famous Gresham from the husband’s family line is Sir Thomas Gresham, who founded the Royal Exchange of London, and it is his Golden Grasshopper that sits above the building and thus is on the helmet of the coat of arms. I knew it would be a challenge to incorporate the grasshopper tastefully but still have it be a noticeable element. I suggested placing it underneath the center stone to be visible only from the side—it would be her ’little secret.’
"The project presented a few challenges. First, the client wanted to be able to wear the new ring next to a fairly large diamond wedding band: We had to make the ring tall enough for it to tuck under the top without being too tall. In addition, the top wheat design was fairly straightforward until it came time for casting: The detailing is so delicate that some of the casting did not fill. [Our bench] jeweler was able to hand-forge the blank spots, and the details came out perfectly.
"The most challenging part of this design was convincing the clients to use some but not all of the family emblems. (They had also wanted to incorporate additional elements from the family crest, including a Gryphon.) We considered using the talons from the Gryphon, but ultimately opted for a cleaner prong. In the end, the ring came out perfectly."
To see more of Krista Robertson’s work, go to www.greenlakejewelry.com.
More and more, consumers want customized jewelry that speaks directly to their interests, beliefs, and styles. The designers who meet this need not only must create beautiful jewelry, but also embody the customers’ wishes and desires into the final piece. This winning entry is an example of how this can be successfully achieved.
Our thanks to the Custom Design Distinction sponsor:
Llyn Strong, Llyn Strong Fine Art Jewelry, Greenville, South Carolina
"The main goal ... is to let potential customers see the new designs produced and get them excited about buying jewelry," says Llyn Strong of her company’s digital efforts. Grounded by a strong website that explains the custom design process and emphasizes the store’s community events (including the popular Gemstone Roundtable), the company’s digital reach is expanded through a monthly e-newsletter, a blog, and presences on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. The result: An electronic network that, through effective search engine optimization practices, engages customers with new designs and allows them to share images of their own jewelry.
Strong says that social media is especially invaluable. "In one instance, a woman saw a posting of a ring and sent her husband to see it," she says. "The post led to her husband purchasing two items in the store and creating a number of custom designs with us."
"I reallly like this site and it’s clear that you ’get" internet marketing," said judge Eugene Brill, vice president operations at Jewelry.com, in comments addressed to the store. "You have all the right pieces in place: SEO [search engine optimization], good photography, social media presences, community involvement, e-mail, etc....Bravo!"
See Llyn Strong Fine Art Jewelry on:
Open to any student enrolled in an art, design, or jewelry-related program at a college, university, or a proprietary technical school, the Future of the Industry Awards celebrate the talent that will lead the jewelry industry into the future. Showing both promise and passion, these designs mark the emergence of a new generation that continues the industry’s commitment to craftsmanship.
Diana Telesheva, Moscow State University of Design & Technology, Moscow, Russia
Butterflies Ring. Nature is the most powerful source of inspiration for the gifted artist. With the vitreous enamel (plique-a-jour) technique, it even becomes possible to tame the graceful butterfly and its transparent wings. Made of 18k gold and rhodium coated, the "Butterflies" ring has at its core an inner "cushion" studded with 3.4 ctw diamonds. The diamonds have been elegantly hidden under the thin plique-a-jour butterfly wings, thereby creating a glowing effect.
Eunhwa Son, University of Kansas, Belton, Missouri
Endless Growth and Illusions Neckpieces (tie). Eunhwa used laser-cut acrylic “remnants” to create her Endless Growth neckpiece. Those discarded remnants, rather than "waste," became unexpected discoveries—Eunhwa treated them like gemstones. She hand-carved bubble-like shapes in their backs, and she laminated them with black acrylic to produce a high contrast in colors. She applied an electroforming technique to build up copper on the surfaces, and each piece was silver-plated. The individual shapes, Eunhwa says, "look like [they have] trapped bubbles inside and ... growing ice on the surface." Connections between each piece were also electroformed to unite the overall design. The edges of the electroformed parts look similar to granulation.
For her Illusions neckpiece, which is made of paper and copper, Eunhwa thought about alternate ways of using materials that are not traditionally associated with jewelry. "As a material, paper is more accessible, lightweight, colorful, and inexpensive," she says. "White and black colors give the viewer an optical illusion—the [patterns] move in and out." For this neckpiece, she repurposed paper so "it doesn’t appear like a true material"—she likes how everyday materials can become anonymous and lose their identity in her work. Each shape was carefully set in bezels, as if they were gemstones.
Our thanks to the Future of the Industry sponsor:
Click here to see the 2014 Vision Award Winners.