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Online Design Challenge Seattle Hometown

A Long Time Coming

The 2016 MJSA Online Design Challenge

By Shawna Kulpa

Congratulations to Joel McFadden of JMD Jewelry in Red Bank, New Jersey, for winning the 2016 MJSA Online Design Challenge. Click here to see his winning design!

A loving couple finally taking the plunge after 40 years together is at the center of this year’s MJSA Online Design Challenge.

This online-only project—a favorite among our readers and website visitors—challenges nine designers to create a custom piece around a natural, 2.01-carat vivid red ruby (available from the project’s sponsor, Omi Gems in Los Angeles). They also have to follow the guidelines of a fictional scenario, presented below, about a woman wanting to surprise her future wife with a special gift to commemorate their big day as well as honor the 40 years they’ve been together. Every month from January through September, we have been posting a design from one of our nine participating designers. Check out each of the designs below:

Gigi Gruber | Heather Oleari | Julie Luckenbill | Rémy Rotenier | Pia Giambrone
Joel McFadden | Patricia Daunis-Dunning | Sandy Leong | David Giulietti

Omi Gems Ad

The 2016 Design Challenge: A Long Time Coming

According to Shakespeare, the course of true love never runs smoothly, which is something Rebecca Hall and Kate Newberg have certainly found to be true, at least with regard to their earliest years together.

When they met in college in 1976, it was love at first sight—each of them knowing instantly that they had finally met “the one.” But keeping those feelings masked was a challenge. Although the 1970s saw the ignition of the gay rights movement in the U.S., it was still very much a difficult time to be gay or lesbian, with many forced to keep their true selves hidden. Both Rebecca and Kate were uneasy with disclosing their relationship, afraid of being ostracized by their friends or family. They initially let people believe they were just good friends, but when they moved in together during their last year of college, they decided it was time to come out. Although they lost a few friends in the process, they knew they had to be true to themselves and to their relationship.

After college, they settled down outside of Seattle so they could be near both the ocean, where Rebecca loved to swim and surf, and the mountains, which Kate loved to hike and explore. Rebecca began a career in advertising while Kate set up a home studio where she could paint. They each found success early on, but when they decided to start a family as they entered their 30s, Kate put her painting on hold to focus on raising their adopted son.

While Rebecca spent a good deal of time on the road for work, Kate took care of their home and son, rushing from track meets and boy scouts meetings to baseball games and soccer practices. She missed having the time to paint, but she loved showing their son the world and sharing her love of art and hiking with him.

Although same-sex marriage had been legalized a few years before in their home state of Washington, neither Rebecca nor Kate had been in a rush—they didn’t feel right getting to do something that many of their friends in other states couldn’t. But after the 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, they finally decided to take the plunge and began planning a small wedding for what would be their 40th anniversary as a couple in the fall of 2016.


In preparation for their upcoming nuptials, Rebecca wanted to do something extra special to show Kate how much she loved and appreciated her. After a quick Google search, she learned that ruby is the traditional gift for a 40th anniversary. She stopped by a local jewelry store and her eye immediately landed on a beautiful brooch with a vibrant ruby at its center. The fiery red stone was perfect, but Rebecca had never known Kate to wear a pin of any kind. Kate’s tastes ran a little more modern and avant-garde, and this piece was too traditional and old-fashioned for her. But she spoke with the jeweler, who explained that he had sourced the rare, unheated stone specifically for a customer who had later changed her mind about the custom brooch, and he assured her that he could easily use the ruby to help her create the perfect wedding/anniversary gift for her artistic soon-to-be wife.

Your mission is to create a special piece of jewelry for Kate with this 2.01-carat oval Mozambican ruby, using any materials you see fit. The cost of additional materials and labor cannot exceed a budget of $15,000.


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