Special Jewelry Collection Showcases Innovative Designs, Techniques

This mokume gane pendant, made of patinaed copper and 14K yellow, red and grey gold, hangs on a black tourmaline crystal bead and 22K gold rondell necklace. Mokume gane is a technique of layering metals. Created by George Sawyer.
Members of the American Jewelry Design Council (AJDC) donated a collection of 29 contemporary jewelry pieces to the GIA Museum in 2004 − the first formal collection of jewelry to the Institute.

“This was a nice injection of new, all American-made, contemporary jewelry,” said McKenzie Santimer, manager of exhibit designs for the GIA Museum. “It was a significant donation to GIA because the jewelry collection is not as comprehensive compared to the gem and mineral collection.”

The AJDC, like GIA, is a nonprofit educational organization, and is composed of highly respected American jewelry designers, including GIA graduates, who focus on raising awareness of the artistry of fine jewelry.

Jose Hess, one of the founding members of the AJDC, was very grateful so many members created pieces for this special collection for GIA. “It’s a great advantage to be able to talk about design and demonstrate what it is in GIA’s home,” he said.

Many of the designers who donated pieces are award-winning, innovative jewelry designers, according to Santimer. The collection consists of classic signature pieces that capture the designer’s aesthetics and techniques, including unusual pioneering techniques, such as a mokume gane (which looks like a layer cake of metal) piece, a Steven Kretchmer tension-set diamond and a faceted Tahitian pearl, which was a new technique at the time.

“There are some unusual, eclectic gems,” she said. “Although the AJDC is more known for metalsmithing and the craftsmanship of their work, there are significant gemstones contained in this collection, such as a large Ukranian helidor, drusy quartz, a variety of fancy-cut tourmalines, rough schorl tourmalines and a brown diamond.”

Santimer said the pieces represent very creative and out-of-the-box thinking − a life-like orchid brooch, a convertible brooch/pendant and an adjustable ring − and are often taken into the Jewelry Design and Technology classrooms to show students real-life work.

“I think it is a great opportunity for students to see unusual designs. On days when they are trying to create something that is paved or tension-set, they’re actually getting to physically see it. It helps them understand the techniques and engineering of the pieces,” she said. “Plus, well-known designer names, including Alan Revere, George Sawyer and Michael Bondanza, resonate with the students.”

Susan Helmich, member and former president of the AJDC, said the AJDC Collection at GIA was the ultimate opportunity to educate and inspire others about jewelry design as an art form. “It’s like a dream come true,” she said.

The collection, which will be on exhibit at GIA in Carlsbad through June 2016, is also a treat for visitors.

“I think these jewelry pieces will stretch their understanding of what jewelry can be,” Santimer said. “It goes beyond what you would normally see in their local jewelry store. “They’re all designers who are trying to make it in the jewelry world, so we’re lucky to have them donated. It’s a special collection of a really important jewelry group in the United States.”

She said the eye-catching collection is sure to appeal to a variety of visitors.

“It is a nice selection of unusual metal techniques, advanced stone setting and an assortment of gemstones that will appeal to the gem geek and jewelry-loving public.”

Amanda J. Luke is a senior communications manager at GIA. She is the editor of the GIA Insider and Alum Connect and was the editor of The Loupe magazine.