by Karen Parr-Moody
Gold and silver lend handcrafted jewelry a warm glow, and the creative hands of designers imbue it with soul. Such jewelry is the remedy for the winter blues and is the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day. Nashville is home to many fine jewelry designers; here are six who caught our attention.
One thing I’ll do is take an old nail and put gold and diamonds on it. I repurpose objects and make them precious because of how I interpret them.
For the South African jewelry designer Gabrielle Friedman, there is an aesthetic relationship between the landscape of Cape Town, where she grew up, and her designs.
“Cape Town is beach and mountains and a lot of African art,” Friedman says. “So my aesthetic is very organic, is very much based in nature.”
Friedman’s mother was a Cape Town ceramicist who showed in galleries, so Friedman grew up with her influence, as well as that of native art. As an adult, Friedman pursued a career in art therapy, but about 25 years ago she began dabbling in various aspects of jewelry design.
She has developed a technique that involves combining organic materials that are undervalued—pyrite, bone, or horn, for example—with precious metals and diamonds.
“One thing I’ll do is take an old nail and put gold and diamonds on it,” she says. “I repurpose objects and make them precious because of how I interpret them.”
Friedman makes each piece individually by hand, so each is unique.
“It’s sophisticated and it’s edgy and organic,” she says of her jewelry style. “A lot of my jewelry you could actually wear dressy, but if you wore it with a t-shirt and jeans that would be absolutely awesome. Everything I make I like it to be for life, for wearing anywhere. It’s very transitional.”
Cumberland Gallery, 4107 Hillsboro Circle, will host a show of Friedman’s jewelry through February 14. For more visit, www.cumberlandgallery.com. Her work is also on view at www.gabriellefriedman.com.
He is an Indiana Jones of the gemstone world, traveling to the hinterlands to discover rubies, alexandrites, and colored diamonds.
In 2014, a 392.5-carat sapphire called the “Blue Bell of Asia” sold at auction for $16.94 million, as reported in the New York Times. In January, a businessman reportedly procured a blue sapphire as large as a man’s palm at 1404.49 carats.
Both gems were found in Sri Lanka, where the largest sapphires in history have been mined. The larger was sold by a Sri Lankan gem merchant who owns mines in Ratnapura, a city whose name means “City of Gems.”
Naturally, Nashville gem dealer and jewelry designer Wayne Roland Brown is also familiar with the mines of Sri Lanka. He is an Indiana Jones of the gemstone world, traveling to the hinterlands to discover rubies, alexandrites, and colored diamonds.
Brown works with local and international clients in designing investment jewelry, such as a necklace pendant comprised of a large blue sapphire set in platinum and surrounded by diamonds. Craftsmen in New York and L.A. create the settings.
Brown recently procured a massive blue sapphire from a mine in Ratnapura. He says its value is estimated to be in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. These are the kind of stones that quicken his pulse.
“These are pieces that are not going to go down in value if you buy them right,” Brown says. “So it’s a lot of money to put in jewelry, but it’s also a good place to put money if you do it right.”
Brown is available by appointment and can be contacted at www.gondwanalandopals.com.
I look at the jewelry as a way for people to own a piece of artwork that’s original.
Using the shiny leftovers of the acrylic that serves as canvases for her paintings, Mary Mooney creates necklace pendants that are tiny works of art.
Mooney’s method of painting is both abstract and technically unusual. She paints on the back of her canvases, which are made of museum-grade acrylic. She likens the process to painting in watercolor, by which an artist must have a plan, such as leaving white areas blank for later highlights (no master uses white paint to achieve this).
Such precision tasks Mooney with creating smaller studies before painting the final piece. She then uses a band saw to cut these studies into the smaller shards that become pendants.
“I’ll get several pendants out of each of these miniature studies,” Mooney explains.
She uses brass or aluminum findings to attach the pendant to a sterling silver or gold-filled chain.
“I look at the jewelry as a way for people to own a piece of artwork that’s original,” Mooney says. “When people buy artwork they usually own a house and have to have a space for it. It’s a bigger commitment than a necklace.”
Intriguingly, her necklaces have names that sound like artworks, such as “Morning Fog” or “Champagne & Midnight Dancing” or “Dualities No. 1.”
In another creative twist, Mooney has created “BFF pendants.” A play on the acronym for “best friends forever,” BFF pendants come from the same painting study, so they are of the same color palette and feature brushstrokes that continue from one pendant to the next.
Mclaine Richardson of Margaret Ellis Jewelry
Jewelry designer Mclaine Richardson’s spring line for Margaret Ellis Jewelry, Metamorphosis, is about spring and rebirth, complete with a bevy of flowers. That’s not to say that these are the precious buds of Victoriana.
Richardson was initially inspired by a loose contour drawing of flowers she saw on Instagram. But as she and the jewelry artisans worked on the line at the firm’s Cummins Station studio, it became clear that these would be a specific kind of flower in their non-specificity.
“As we were making them I kept saying, ‘We need to make them less perfect. More imperfect,’” Richardson explains. “Because when we first started making them they were too literal.”
As the process continued, the team gave the flowers more weight and texture—the line’s signature—to make them their own.
The results are lovely. There are necklaces created in all silver, all bronze, and a combination of silver and bronze. Then there is a silver flower bracelet that is engineered so that it won’t flip over due to the flower’s weight. (The flowers have some movement, however, as though they are blowing in the wind.)
A happy accident of this collection was the use of rose quartz—it wound up being the top color forecasted in the famous Pantone Fashion Color Report for this spring.
This blend of rose quartz and floral motifs fits in perfectly with Valentine’s Day, as well.
“That definitely was not intentional,” Richardson says. “But it has a nice correspondence.”
Find out more about the collection at www.margaretellisjewelry.com.
Pearls are like snowflakes—no two pieces are actually the same.That’s why I love to use them; they really inspire me.
It is strange to think that jewelry artist Sealy Xia hails from the northernmost province of China, the chilly Heilongjiang Province that borders Russia. Her jewelry speaks of spring, all leaves and color, rather than of sub-Arctic cold.
Xia specializes in high-quality freshwater pearls, with their wide range of colors, sizes, and shapes. She also loves to use Biwa pearls and a type of pearls called Keshi, which means “poppy seed” in Japanese, with their thin, petal-like shapes.
“Pearls are like snowflakes—no two pieces are actually the same,” Xia says. “That’s why I love to use them; they really inspire me.”
Fifteen years ago Xia got her start with a more inauspicious material—glass beads from which she made some earrings. It was a catalyst. Since then Xia has taken many classes on jewelry and gemstones, including those from GIA, the Gemological Institute of America.
Xia’s father was an artist, and she readily acknowledges his influence. One sees an artist’s hand in her bracelets draped in sculptural wire on which floats a constellation of colorful freshwater pearls. Then there is her use of metalwork to create dainty leaves for pendants.
Fitting for Valentine’s Day, Xia has created the “Open Heart Pendant,” a torch-soldered piece made of silver, bronze, and copper that features a flame-painted copper heart. Her similar “Pearl Heart Pendant” includes a rose-toned freshwater Edison pearl.
Sealy Xia’s work is sold at Franklin’s Gallery 202, at East Nashville’s Art & Invention Gallery, and at the gift shop of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. It can also be viewed at www.sealyjewelrydesign.com.
Susan Thornton has graduate degrees in both textiles and jewelry making, two areas which come together magically in her jewelry design. Then there is the Donna Karan connection.
Thornton once worked at a boutique for the high-end fashion designer, who was married to the late sculptor Stephan Weiss until his death. Thornton feels, like many, that Karan’s clothes sculpted the female body.
“She was very much like an artist,” Thornton says of Karan. “I think working for that company was what really cemented my sculptural, curvy, comfy design sense. I like jewelry to be comfortable. If it doesn’t sit on your body and feel good, you might buy it, but you might wish you hadn’t later on.”
There is much movement found in Thornton’s jewelry—gold leaves that swing around one’s neck and silver drops that look like sea anemones on her “Pincushion Ring.” Sculpture is also inherent in items such as statement rings with large cabochon stones or what she calls “Brooch Boxes,” which look like modern-day lockets.
Thornton works in silver, gold, and bronze, and uses precious and semi-precious stones including pearls, diamonds, opals, amethysts, garnets, and, her favorite, moonstones.
While she has a knack for creating statement pieces, Thornton assures women that wearing them is a breeze.
“If you go to a jewelry designer, you can actually get things made and tailored for your own body,” she says. “I don’t think people realize that jewelry can be tailored like a fine suit. I do that for a lot of clients.”
Learn more at www.thorntonmetals.com/jewelry.html.