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Online Design Challenge 2017Celebrating a Life Lost Too Soon

The 2017 MJSA Online Design Challenge

By Shawna Kulpa

Congratulations to Liz Sabol of Liz Sabol Jewelry Art in Pittsburgh for winning the 2017 MJSA Online Design Challenge! Click here to see her winning design!

A loving family struck by tragedy is at the center of this year’s MJSA Online Design Challenge. For the eighth year, we’re hosting this online-only project, a favorite among our readers and website visitors. Last year, we asked nine designers to create a special gift featuring a 2.01-carat vivid red ruby from Mozambique in our "A Long Time Coming" Challenge. The winning entry by Joel McFadden was featured in the December 2016 issue of MJSA Journal.

This year’s Design Challenge features three Sri Lankan blue sapphires from the project’s sponsor, Omi Gems in Los Angeles. We’ve supplied nine designers with the fictional scenario featured here about a mother wanting to give her grieving daughter-in-law a special gift in remembrance of a devoted husband and father gone too soon. Every month from January through September, we have posted a design from one of our nine participating designers. Check out each of the designs below:

Susan Wheeler | Gina Pankowski | Karina Mattei | Denny Wong | Alex Boyd
Ashley Morgan | Liz Sabol | Jim Grahl | Baiyang Qiu

Omi Gems Ad


Online Design Challenge 2017:
Celebrating a Life Lost To Soon

Jenny O’Leary always joked that her husband and childhood sweetheart Tim was born with a badge. While growing up outside Minneapolis, Tim had been obsessed with police officers, so Jenny wasn’t surprised when he announced during their senior year of high school that he intended to enroll in the police academy. Jenny worried about the line of work he had chosen, but knew that nothing else would have made him as happy.

While he attended the academy and got his start as a patrolman, Jenny earned a degree in accounting from a local university. Shortly after her graduation, they married and settled down in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. Their family grew to include sons Patrick and Ryan. A devoted husband and father, Tim loved nothing more than getting out of the city and taking his family to their cabin on Mille Lacs Lake, where they spent weekends hiking, fishing, and kayaking during the summer and ice fishing and snowmobiling during Minnesota’s long, cold winters. Tim and Jenny also shared their love of camping with their boys, spending many a night gathered around a campfire telling ghost stories and perfecting the art of roasting marshmallows.

But just weeks after celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary, Tim was hit by a car and killed when he stopped to help motorists in a disabled car on his way home from work. 

Jenny was devastated, but she took comfort in knowing that he died being who he was and doing what he loved: helping people in need. Though it was difficult at first, Jenny managed to find balance as a single mother while rising through the ranks as a senior financial analyst. With help from her family and friends, Jenny worked to keep Tim’s memory alive for their two boys (now 12 and 9), regaling them with stories from when he was their age and sharing with them his love for baseball, chess, and model building. They particularly enjoyed hearing stories about the hijinks that their law-abiding father and his brother, Jack, got into in school, though Jenny saved the stories involving shrink-wrapped faculty cars and kidnapped high school mascots for when the boys would be a little older. It was important to her that the boys know that, while their father had a strong sense of right and wrong, he always enjoyed a good laugh.

As what would have been Tim and Jenny’s 20th wedding anniversary approached, Tim’s mother, Margaret, wanted to do something extra special for her daughter-in-law. Margaret’s father had been a geologist, and among the collections from his travels that he had left her were three beautiful blue sapphires from Sri Lanka. She knew they would be perfect because not only was blue Jenny’s favorite color, but the stones matched the color of Tim’s patrolman’s uniform. 

Sapphires by Omi Gems

She contacted her local jeweler, explaining the situation and her desire to create a special piece that would serve both as a tribute to the man she and Jenny had both loved and lost too soon.

Your mission is to create a special piece of jewelry for Jenny with these three Sri Lankan sapphires, using any materials you see fit. The cost of additional materials and labor cannot exceed a budget of $10,000. 

View the submissions:

Susan Wheeler | Gina Pankowski | Karina Mattei | Denny Wong | Alex Boyd
Ashley Morgan | Liz Sabol | Jim Grahl | Baiyang Qiu


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