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Behind the Design: A Nod to the Past

Adam Foster’s modern interpretation of an ancient myth

By Irina Missiuro

What’s old is new again, or at least that’s a philosophy Adam Foster of Adam Foster Fine Jewelry in St. Louis has embraced. When describing his work, he says that he likes “to capture Roman and Greek myths in stone and show them in a different way,” drawing his own imagery from the written stories. His Andromeda Ring is no exception. The ring is named in honor of Andromeda, who, according to Greek mythology, was stripped naked, chained to a rock, and about to be sacrificed to a sea monster before being rescued by Perseus. It showcases Andromeda’s face, framed by many hair tendrils, carved into a large quartz, evoking the past with its design but the future with the techniques and execution.

While he always works with a pen first “to introduce feeling into a machine,” Foster says he also depends on CAD, which he sees as an important tool that allows for exact measurements and depths. To begin, Foster worked out the illustration on paper, sketching how Andromeda’s face would appear in the stone. Once he was happy with the design, he transferred the sketch into his CAD program, adjusting the design to account for the practical execution of the concept. For instance, Andromeda’s eyes are closed because it would have been difficult to illustrate pupils at that scale. “Because everything is carved in reverse, in order for the pupil to raise up, you’d have to lift a piece of quartz, which might chip.” He carves in reverse “because you look through the stone to see the image. The carving is done from the point of view of the viewer so the finished product is better.”

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After straightening out all the CAD nuances, he sent out the design to be printed as a stainless steel die. However, the process entailed a caveat, Foster admits; while the metal print had great hardness, the resolution was not ideal. “The die has the bulk form but the fine line details don’t come across,” he explains. “We have to put the crispness back into it.” After polishing the die, he finished hand-carving it under a microscope.

To engrave the design into the quartz, Foster uses an ultrasonic carving machine that he developed expressly for this purpose. The machine vibrates the die, slowly carving the design into the stone. “The die is moving so slightly, you don’t even notice that it’s moving,” he says. “It’s not the most efficient method, and you have to be meticulous to avoid fracturing the stone, but it gets the detail that I want.”

Next, he placed the stone under a microscope in order to finish hand carving it using an assortment of diamond tools. After a final cleaning under the microscope to bring out the details of the carving, Foster faceted the top of the quartz, which he had left rough because it would have been too difficult to center the design face in the stone if he had finished the top of it first.

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To give the carved design an iridescence, Foster applied an oil-based mother of pearl pigment, which he had ground up. With a tiny brush, he hand-painted the carving until the stone was catching the light. “I want people to notice the subtle image on the second glance,” he says. “With facets on the top of the stone, if the image inside is too bright or striking at first glance, it just looks like there is something poured over the image and not cut into it.”

In addition to ensuring that the ring be striking, Foster took care to make it easy to wear. He gave the shank a comfort edge by rolling the outside edge and beveling it. To enhance the elegance of the piece, Foster added some leaves to the band and bezel-set diamonds (0.13 ctw) around the stone. Finally, he applied a shiny sandblast finish using a custom tool on a flex-shaft. He hopes that the woman who wears the ring “appreciates good design and understands that jewelry is a piece of artwork.”

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