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.
“It seemed like a crime not to resurrect that beautiful piece and wear it some way”
Costume jewelry was popularized by French fashion designer Coco Chanel and her Italian contemporary Elsa Schiaparelli during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1924 Chanel began pushing this craze for “vrais bijoux en toc,” or costume jewelry that looks real.
Other jewelry designers followed, including Miriam Haskell, Weiss Jewelry, and Eisenberg & Sons. These are the very names that jewelry designer Jackie Hicks adores today and whose jewelry she repurposes to create “eye candy,” statement necklaces made in bold silhouettes such as Maltese crosses, as well as daring cuffs. “You need to honor those pieces by bringing them up to date so you can wear them,” she says.
Her craft began eight years ago at an estate sale where she found a single vintage clip earring. “It seemed like a crime not to resurrect that beautiful piece and wear it some way,” she says of her initial inspiration. Hicks was soon searching flea markets and antique shops for more vintage pieces and parlaying them into one-of-a-kind pieces.
Her muse is Iris Apfel, the 95-year-old fashion icon known for wearing over-the-top statement jewelry. “I so identify with her,” Hicks says. “Anything that is exuberant or makes a statement or is slightly humorous, I like it. Something with an attitude.” Attitude is on full display through Hicks’s jewelry.
“If you’re going to wear something, wear something unique and thoughtful,” she says. “Don’t wear something that just anybody could throw on.”
Jackie Hicks can be contacted via email at jjhicks225@ comcast.net. Her jewelry line is also carried at the Belle Meade Shoppes.
I’m really drawn to the mountains contrasting with the ocean. So teal and aqua and turquoise—all shades of green—those are my favorite colors that you’ll see pop up again and again.
Jewelry designer Bethany Wilson’s work is informed by the mountains and beaches of this gorgeous planet. She has been lucky enough to travel extensively—throughout Central America, Italy, and Spain, to name a few spots—and she credits her aesthetic to what she has seen.“I’m really drawn to the mountains contrasting with the ocean,” she says. “So teal and aqua and turquoise—all shades of green—those are my favorite colors that you’ll see pop up again and again.”
Her most popular piece right now is a jade pendant that has been “dipped” in copper or gold. “The gold dipping is unique about what I do,” she says. “It sounds easy, but that is not the case at all.” To make a stone look dipped in metal requires what Wilson calls her “self-taught chemistry degree.” After much trial and error, she discovered a way to electroform metal onto various stones, arrowheads, and rock crystals.
Her husband ultimately convinced her to jump, feet first, into creating a jewelry business. She now sells in Nashville at Pieces in Germantown and at House Of, a Nashville Fashion Alliance store in the Belmont area. “All of my growth has been organic so far,” she says. “It’s surreal to me; it’s like a dream.”
For more information, visit www.belabegonias.com.
If your jewelry is featured in Emerson Grace, the stylish boutique in 12South, then you have made it in the world of hip Nashville jewelry. It’s one of the best showcases in this fashionable city, and it’s where Carden Avenue’s diverse jewelry line bumps elbows with other beauties.
Suzanne Crook and Carolyn Greenfield comprise the design duo behind Carden Avenue, a line that falls into three aesthetic categories: The Naturals, The Classics, and The Statements. Like magpies, Crook and Greenfield seek beautiful findings with which to feather their handmade line, from vintage coins to old bullets.
Then there is the inherent versatility of Carden Avenue. While The Statements offers show-stopping pieces, The Classics features designs for the less bold, such as dainty freshwater pearls and tiny semiprecious stones on fine chains. Leather, horn, and turquoise breathe life into The Naturals.
“The blessing is that we have broad appeal,” Greenfield says. Carden Avenue also boasts layering pieces that can be dressed up or down, such as long strands of delicate beads. And some necklaces can be worn as a lariat, a belt, or a choker.
Crook says, “The one thing that excites me about our jewelry is that so many different people can wear something similar in nature and, depending on how they wear it, it reflects their style.” “We have some very creative customers,” Greenfield says.
In addition to Emerson Grace, Carden Avenue is available at the Hermitage Hotel boutique and at www.cardenavenue.myshopify.com.
Victorian mourning jewelry, medieval tapestries, African beadwork: These are a few inspirations behind Jacki Holland’s jewelry. The new-to-Nashville designer has also been a longtime collector of stones, horns, African trading beads, animal bones, and crystals. From this mélange of treasures, Holland creates her eponymous line in which strands of tiny crocheted beads are rendered lace-like, and rough-hewn stones look as fanciful as those plucked from a child’s rock collection.For seven years, Holland worked for a chic Chicago boutique, Robin Richman, as a fashion buyer, a job through which she traveled from New York to Paris. “I met incredibly talented designers and artisans along the way,” she says. “They taught me to always be true to oneself and one’s work and to only design what you love. Those experiences certainly opened my eyes and shaped the artist and designer I am today.”
Like the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, Holland’s ability to channel both the glamorous and gothic is remarkable. The color black is seen throughout, in matte chains, tourmaline beads, and silk ribbons with frayed edges. Even her colored stones veer into darkness, the garnets and moss agates emitting more black than color.
Trends have no place here. Holland has created a line that is completely apart from fashion’s timeline. “I don’t have collections so much as one body of work that flows as a continual story,” Holland says. “I add new stones or try different stitches or beading techniques, but ultimately I always circle back.”
Learn more at www.jackiholland.com.
Merry Beth Myrick Designs
“Myrick’s jewelry is imbued with an edgy elegance. It is easy to see that her heart is poured into her work.”
There is an intimacy to forging jewelry by hand. The metal glows, sunrise-like, under the torch as the artisan— in this case, metalsmith Merry Beth Myrick—creates something one of a kind. Due to this method, each of Myrick’s works bears miniscule nuances. And when a mistake happens, Myrick views it through rose-colored glasses—because beauty can exist in imperfection.
“I will ask myself, how can I make this mistake again,” Myrick says. “That is not a question most people ask themselves.”
Myrick creates her line, Merry Beth Myrick Designs, from sheet metal or wire made of copper, brass, and sterling silver sourced entirely in the U.S. Then she hammers, saws, and uses an acetylene torch to create every last milligram, right down to the clasps and ear wires. Ethically sourced semiprecious stones are also in the mix.
Myrick’s jewelry is imbued with an edgy elegance. It is easy to see that her heart is poured into her work, as with the collection Embrace, which was created during a three-month period of soul searching. “It’s a collection of all of these raw feelings and emotions and accepting them all,” Myrick says. For the Embrace collection, Myrick used a technique called fold forming to wrap the metal, like fabric, around raw stones. “It’s almost like a pod, like the metal is hugging or securing the stones,” Myrick says. “Then it is wrapped in sterling silver wire. It’s almost warrior-esque.”
Myrick’s work is sold at Batch in the Nashville Farmers’ Market, Upper Eastside Nashville, and Alegria, as well as at www.merrybethmyrickdesigns.com.
Crystal Gypsy Designs
From Nashville, reaching the Karen Hill Tribes silversmiths in Thailand is no easy feat. But for Tania Smith, the silver beads the tribes make are vital to the originality of her jewelry line, Crystal Gypsy Designs. So off she globetrots. Her forays are revealed as she rattles off the sources, beyond Thailand, for her current collection’s amulets, gemstones, and beads: Tibet, India, Nepal, Turkey, and Egypt.
“That’s why I call my company Crystal Gypsy,” Smith says. “Because I have these adventures; I go where no one goes. I meet people and I go on these journeys and sometimes, at the end of them, are these amazing gemstones and such. It’s a little Indiana Jones-ish.”
Smith has long been in the music business as a keyboard player, but she jumped into jewelry design 15 years ago after purchasing an array of Tibetan amulets that were up to 100 years old. From these she created the Tibetan Collection, which is still available today.Semiprecious stones are also woven into the collection, as well as turquoise, Smith’s childhood favorite. And everything is handmade, whether by Smith or by artisans from around the world. “That’s what I love about my company,” she says. “I search for old pieces that have this rich story and history, then I make them into one-of- a kind pieces.”
Crystal Gypsy Designs will be on view during a February 11 trunk show from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Paul LeQuire and Company gallery, which carries the line, www.paullequireandcompany.com. It can also be found at www.crystalgypsy.com.