Gem News International Gems & Gemology, Summer 2016, Vol. 52, No. 2

The Fluid Art of Angela Conty

Pin/pendant with sunstone, pearl, diamond, chalcedony, and zircon.
Figure 1. This pin/pendant features two Oregon sunstones, a Chinese freshwater pearl, and diamond accents. Carved green chalcedony and a 1.50 ct zircon complete the design. The piece is set in 14K and 18K yellow gold. Photo by Robert Weldon/GIA; courtesy of Angela Conty.

Renowned lapidary, designer, and goldsmith Angela Conty created a jewelry collection exclusively for the 2016 Tucson gem and mineral shows. We had a chance to see some of her convertible pieces at the Hotel Tucson City Center.

Ms. Conty’s artistic vision is heavily influenced by nature: Flowers, leaves, twigs, seed pods, and similar motifs are reflected in her work. The fluidity of her artistic expression strikes a perfect balance and flow between the gemstone carving and the jewelry design. Ms. Conty views her design and manufacturing process as the evolution of a work of art that often features a carved gemstone. Changes may occur when carving the stone, working the metal, or assembling the piece of art. When she has the rough in hand, she takes into consideration the stone’s shape, its best orientation, and how it would look carved and set in jewelry. As the carving progresses, the rough might take an unexpected direction, even after the metalwork is finished. She feels that lapidary work and metalsmithing must blend and harmonize in order to create the perfect balance. This means the carving or the metalwork can be continually adjusted until the carving is ready to be set. In her words, “I gather together elements, cast and constructed, and begin to solder or weld until the carving, gemstones and metalwork begin to work together, always ready to make more changes. I add, move, and remove elements to create a better integration of carving and goldwork.”

Her gemstone preferences include Australian opal, quartz, chalcedony, and her new favorite, Oregon sunstone. Her metal of choice is 18K gold, but she will sometimes use silver or 14K gold, depending on the design or the client’s preference. The relationship between the stone and metal is beautifully demonstrated in the Oregon sunstone jewelry pieces shown in figures 1 and 2, which can be worn as either brooch or pendant.

18K gold pin with sunstone, Tahitian pearl, and diamond.
Figure 2. This 18K yellow gold convertible pendant/pin features a 46.80 ct carved Oregon sunstone as its centerpiece. A chocolate Tahitian pearl drop and diamond accents help frame the carving. Photo by Robert Weldon/GIA; courtesy of Angela Conty.

Ms. Conty’s combined talents in art and creative design took root more than 40 years ago at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz, where she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in art. Her training included drawing, art history, painting, ceramics, sculpture, and silversmithing. She studied metalwork under Kurt Matzdorff, the founder of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG), and is a self-taught lapidary artist.

In 2002, Ms. Conty won second place in AGTA’s Cutting Edge Awards in the Objects of Art category. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and books.

Carl Chilstrom is a research librarian and historical archivist, and Sharon Bohannnon is a cataloger and media editor, at GIA in Carlsbad, California.