“Ideally, fine jewelry occupies a compelling intersection—one where art, technology, history, precious materials, craftsmanship and emotion meet.”
Even three decades after I heeded the call to my profession, I am intensely passionate about jewelry design and its impact on my fellow humans. I am a tiny speck on a continuum that reaches back to the beginnings of human culture, and a slightly more important speck in the significant events of a number of my contemporaries. I am humbled by my part in both.
Beginning in childhood, I was surrounded by things both aesthetic and engineered, and fascinated by both. My mother was a European-trained fashion designer and dressmaker; my father was a mechanically gifted man, with a penchant for language.
My academic choices reflected that duality: originally determined to become a classical violinist, I opted instead to pursue biochemical engineering and English at Rice University. But it would take an extended break between by junior and senior years in college for me to find jewelry design. At the suggestion of an acquaintance, I decided to occupy my time during a one-year sabbatical by opening a jewelry boutique. That recommendation was nearly a random one, but fruitful, nonetheless.
When I returned to Rice to complete my BS and BA degrees, I hired an employee to run the boutique. I also enrolled in classes at the GIA, eventually earning my Graduate Gemology certificate.
Once graduated from college, I liquidated my boutique in order to become a partner at a large diamond brokerage and jewelry firm. I began to dabble in jewelry design and crafting, and found I had a fledgling talent for both. After researching education options in jewelry design, I applied to the Goldschmiede Schule in Pforzheim, Germany. The oldest jewelry school in the world, it is a part of the same extensive technical training system to which my mother’s fashion design school belonged. Three years of intensive schooling, all in the German language, certainly keeps one out of trouble and deeply entrenched in the many artistic and technical aspects of jewelry design, including such diverse aspects as metallurgy and aesthetics.
Shortly after my permanent return to the States, I realized my “design muscles” would never be sufficiently exercised at the large firm in which I partnered. While saving to once again “hang my own shingle,” I entered as many jewelry design competitions as I feasibly could, winning 12 international, 9 national, and 6 southwest regional jewelry design awards. With victories and accolades came a private clientele, as well as commissions (special orders) from jewelry stores throughout the nation.
My private clientele were a vibrant mixture: close friends and family, along with their referrals; oil magnates doubling as art collectors; and celebrities of various types, from professional musicians and athletes to stars of the large and small screen. Undoubtedly, making several pieces for Elizabeth Taylor, one of the world’s true jewelry connoisseurs, was a great feather in my cap, as well as an intensely interesting experience. And I will certainly never forget bidding on (and winning!) a 10-carat D-Flawless diamond at a Christie’s auction with a customer’s money; or negotiating the details of various outlandish pieces with a colorful collection of NBA, NFL, and MLB players.
While refreshing and entertaining for a while, the “split-personality” of my client base eventually wore out its welcome. I found that while making impressive “pieces of the moment” for the famous had its perks, it had no heart.
What impressed most upon me was how a “piece of a lifetime” could be so impactful, meaningful, and special to folks more like me: from the working student who had inherited grandma’s diamond to the couple scrimping and saving to get new bands for their 10-year anniversary; from the first-time bride at the age of fifty-two, to two brothers buying their mother a surprise birthday gift.
The feeling of being a part of significant events was addictive, and forced me to recognize that I could not recreate that feeling through my crafting alone—there were simply not enough hours in the day. With so many wonderful jewelry designers “out there,” many undiscovered, I knew the only way to bring special pieces to my growing pool of customers was to bring the work of undiscovered European designers to the US. My European training gave me instant credibility in the eyes of German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Belgian designers, and opened doors to lines I exclusively carry.
And so I find myself having come full circle. I continue to spoil myself by creating other’s dreams in precious materials, and by fulfilling yet more dreams through acquiring the very special work of chosen colleagues. I find myself in the company of so many incredible people—those whose dreams I strive to fulfill; those whose work sits alongside my own; and those with whom I work daily, and without whom none of it would be possible.
LITTLE BIT ABOUT BABS
Sixth job: exotic dancer (hey, if you bothered to get all the way to here, you deserve to know something a little tawdry!)