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Meet Michael Nashef: The 2020 March Bridal Madness Champion

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The 2020 March Bridal Madness Champion is Michael Nashef, owner of Intersecting Hearts in Portage, Michigan

Michael, Congratulations on your well-earned title of 2020 March Bridal Madness Champion. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I discovered design as a teenager, learning about leatherwork with my brother when I was 14. As I got older I began creating woodwork and jewelry. In 2006 I became the first graduate with a BFA of the Metal/Jewelry design program at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan, later getting an MFA in Jewelry Design at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. I always love to incorporate elements of travel, nature, and architecture into my work, creating one-of-a-kind pieces with gold, silver, and unique gemstones.

What’s the story behind your store’s clever name?

When I was researching symbols of love when I was gearing up to propose to my wife, I kept seeing the same motif: the heart shape. The concept of Intersecting Hearts was born from that idea of two overlapping hearts because to me, that creates a symbolism of the harmonies two people bring to a relationship. Just like my wife and I, every couple has their own story, and I wanted to be able to represent that with a unique, simple design.




What’s the story behind your winning design?

For this specific ring, my customer wanted to use a genuine purple sapphire, which I purchased from Stuller, and wanted to have a wide band. So I took one of my designs, Deco, and put two bands with diamonds on each side to make it wider. 

Where did you find inspiration for this design?

This is an Art Deco-inspired ring, with the Intersecting Hearts symbol nestled between the scrollwork containing small side diamonds.

Can you tell us all about your creative design process?

I always love to incorporate elements of travel, nature, and architecture into my work, creating one-of-a-kind pieces with gold, silver, and unique gemstones. This piece fell right within that wheelhouse.

Throughout your career, what’s something that sticks out as a high point?

Creating my MFA thesis work, which can be seen on my website

What impact has custom design software had on your business?

It has a tremendous impact on my career and business. Using software, specifically Matrix 9.0, allowed me to bring my design to life without incurring big expenses in production. It allowed me to showcase designs to customers and bring their designs and ideas to life without the labor-intensive of wax carving and manufacturing, until the customer is ready to move forward after seeing the renders.  

How did you come to learn about and use Stuller as a resource in your business?

As a person who started as a bench jeweler, Stuller is one of the most essential companies to have an account/business with because they have everything under one roof, including all of the knowledge everyone has!

Outside of work, what are your interests and hobbies?

I love woodworking, gardening, and creating birthday cakes for my daughter!


Another huge Congrats to Michael and a huge thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s challenge!




Get Ready for 2020 March Bridal Madness

Are you excited about our 8th annual March Bridal Madness jewelry contest?

 The rules are simple:

  1. “Like” Stuller on Facebook.
  2. Email an image or render of your custom engagement ring or wedding band design to stuller@stuller.com.
  3. The pictures with the most Facebook fan votes move on to final judging.

The winner receives a Stuller account credit valued at $1,000, and their design will be featured on all of Stuller’s social avenues. We will begin accepting submissions on Sunday, March 1 until March 15.

See official March Bridal Madness rules here


Meet Katelynne Eslick: The Reigning March Bridal Madness Champion

2019 March Bridal Madness Champion Katelynne Eslick Headshot

Katelynne is the owner and operator of Sugar Plum Jewelry Co. in Glendive, Montana. She’s a third-generation jeweler — her grandfather was a watchmaker and later opened her family’s jewelry store; her father has been in the business for 40+ years.

Fun Fact: Sugarplum is what Katelynne has been called by mother her entire life. So when it came time to name her store, she went with Sugar Plum Jewelry, which she says reflects her as well as her craft.

 

Katelynne’s Submission Inspiration

“Because this was a remount using the stones my clients had available, I had to find an interesting way to use asymmetry to make something aesthetically pleasing. I designed this with a white gold band and rose gold settings for the main diamonds. The stones have just a bit of warm color to them, so the rose gold really complements them while setting them apart from the rest of the ring. The bezel settings are functional because of my customer’s lifestyle and the type of work she does,” she explains.

2019 March Bridal Madness Champion Katelynne Eslick Winning Ring 2   2019 March Bridal Madness Champion Katelynne Eslick Winning Ring

 

“The wedding bands were designed to hug the main ring, and I also really loved the symbolism of ‘Now, Tomorrow, Forever’ that we achieved by making double wedding bands.

2019 March Bridal Madness Champion Katelynne Eslick Band

“In my free time, I love spending time with my kids! My husband and I have three children: a 13-year-old boy and twin 11-year-old girls. My daughters have taken some interest in jewelry making, so I get to spend a little time with them at work too! My husband and I also play in a rock-and-roll band called Mighty Big Jim and the Tall Boys. My nickname in the band is Princess Kate!”

 


Check out more from our 2019 March Bridal Madness winner, or see all of the contest entries from last year on our Facebook. Which design is your favorite?




Introducing the 2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog

2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog Blog Header

Findings are essential to your business. And they’re important to Stuller, too. In fact, our business began with findings nearly 50 years ago.

2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog

Here at Stuller, we carry one of the most extensive selections of die-struck and machine cut findings in the marketplace. Plus, the majority of that product is manufactured right here in Lafayette, Louisiana. There’s no place better to browse the breadth of our findings assortment than our NEW 2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog.

Not only does this catalog feature our best-selling classics, but we’ve also incorporated more 14k rose gold options, semi-set product, and fashion-forward components. It’s now easier than ever to find exactly what you need! We’ve included over 700 new styles within this new catalog. This means it consists of 20% new items! So crack it open. We think you’ll be delighted by what you find.

How often does Stuller send a findings catalog?

The last findings catalog went out in July of 2017. Working closely with our product development and design teams, we’ve found a two-year catalog cycle works best. After all, we’re always striving to serve new product to our customers. Plus, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve as we make it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for.

How long did it take to make the findings catalog?

It took about six to eight months to create the new findings catalog. But honestly, work begins as soon as a new catalog drops. We receive immediate feedback and work to incorporate customers’ preferences into our planning for the next edition.

 

Here are 5 New Updates to the Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog:

1. Updated Imagery

Following the last catalog, we received lots of customer feedback requesting products shown to scale. So naturally, we wanted to incorporate that feedback in this catalog. At the same time, we recognized the importance of sharing a view that showcases the tiny details and design elements of findings, too. So, to accommodate both needs, you’ll find magnified imagery along with items shown to scale to help you make the most informed buying decision.

2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog Earrings Settings Sketches Earrings

2. Improved Navigation

This catalog also features additional tabs allowing us to highlight more product categories than ever before. You’ll now find individual sections for chain, trims, pendant components, and earring components. In previous editions, we had quite a bit of variation in the product shown in each section. For example, if you were turning to the earring section looking for an earring post and back, you had to navigate through all the earring mountings before finding what you needed.

In this edition, we separated product categories for easier navigability. Now, whether you’re looking for an earring back, a bail, chain by the inch, or whatever you need, you can simply turn straight to that section.

2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog Earrings Settings Gemstones

3. Stuller.com Integration

From one catalog to the next, we’re seeing more and more customers browsing items on Stuller.com. Of course, everyone has their own preference. Some may want to call in their orders referencing the catalog, while others may prefer to shop and price orders online.

With this in mind, we really wanted to create a seamless shopping experience between all the ways our customers shop. We achieved this by adding additional links to stuller.com, listing related products in the catalog and on the web, and adding easier ways to identify product functionality.

2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog Earrings Settings Sketch Earrings

4. Expanded Section Introductions

As you’re probably aware, industry jargon can often be subjective. While one person calls a setting a head, others may call it a crown. So, we aimed to remove some ambiguity by expanding the introductions of each section. We added more visuals and information to describe what’s included in each section.

We also felt this would help your customers or sales associates new to the jewelry industry. Imagine a new sales associate who turns to the Trim section and wonders, “Hmm, what’s a trim?” The new shopping guides in each section contain explanations and visual examples of what’s showcased.

2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog Trim Sheet Wire

5. Semi-Set Pricing

Last, but not least, we’ve incorporated semi-set pricing throughout the catalog. We began this work in our last catalog which contained a unique section dedicated to showcasing our semi-set findings offering. However, since we’ve seen a greater trend towards semi-set product each year, we incorporated semi-set pricing throughout our latest 2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals catalog wherever it applied.

2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog Heads Shanks

Learn more about the 2020-2021 Stuller Findings and Metals Catalog here on Stuller.com.




Meet Katelynne Eslick: The 2019 March Bridal Madness Champion

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The 2019 March Bridal Madness Champion is Katelynne Eslick, owner and operator of Sugar Plum Jewelry Co. in Glendive, Montana

2019 March Bridal Madness Champion Katelynne Eslick Winning Ring

 

Hi Katelynne. Congrats on your well-earned title of 2019 March Bridal Madness Champion. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your store? 

I grew up in a tiny Montana town. I’m technically a third-generation jeweler— my grandfather was a watchmaker and later opened our family’s jewelry store; my father has been in the business for 40+ years.

I always say I circled around and came into jewelry backwards! As a kid, I loved art and was very creative. I fell into making jewelry as a hobby and before I knew it, people were asking if they could buy my pieces. Custom orders started to take up most of my time, and eventually I quit my 9-5 job to work from home while caring for my three young children.

After a few years, my husband and I decided it was time to stop working from the kitchen table. That’s when I dove headfirst into opening my retail shop a little over five years ago. My father joined me in my store about two years ago, so it’s been great to have him here to share his expertise and knowledge; my husband joined me about 18 months ago. We love the family aspect of being together during the day.

 

What’s the story behind your store’s clever name?

I receive many questions about the store’s name— Sugar Plum Jewelry Co. Sugarplum is what my mother has called me my whole life. So, since the store really reflects me and my craft, the name stuck!

2019 March Bridal Madness Champion Katelynne Eslick Group Shot

Katelynne, her dad, and grandpa — three generations of jewelers — in the family’s original store

 

Your March Bridal Madness entry is absolutely stunning. Can you share the story of this piece?

The backstory is quite funny, and my clients asked that I share it entirely. The round main diamond and the melee are from a ring that was returned to him after a broken engagement. The pear shape main diamond was from his grandmother’s ring and was given by his grandfather. The couple wanted to use all the diamonds, and she was especially excited to take the old engagement ring apart and re-purpose those diamonds for her own ring. She said, “My man, my diamonds now!”

 

Where did you find inspiration for this design?

Because this was a remount using the stones my clients had available, I had to find an interesting way to use asymmetry to make something aesthetically pleasing. I designed this with a white gold band and rose gold settings for the main diamonds. The stones have just a bit of warm color to them, so the rose gold really complements them while setting them apart from the rest of the ring. The bezel settings are functional because of my customer’s lifestyle and the type of work she does.

The wedding bands were designed to hug the main ring, and I also really loved the symbolism of “Now, Tomorrow, Forever” that we achieved by making double wedding bands.

2019 March Bridal Madness Champion Katelynne Eslick Winning Ring 2

 

Can you tell us all about your creative design process?

I do a lot of re-design work, and sometimes I need to sit with the pieces I’m going to be working with and let an idea formulate. For this particular design, it came together very quickly. Sometimes I feel like the design pulls itself together in my mind and I just see it immediately. This particular design really felt right to me, for her, so I did a quick 30-second sketch for my clients. That’s all they needed to see to know they’d love it!

2019 March Bridal Madness Champion Katelynne Eslick At The Bench

Throughout your career, what’s something that sticks out as a high point?

One of my favorite moments has been when my husband and I got to help orchestrate a surprise engagement right in our store! My client thought it would be the perfect way to catch his girlfriend off-guard and it definitely was! His entire family got to be there to see it, including his mother who was terminally ill. It was a really sweet moment. The ability to be personally involved in the big, special moments in our clients’ lives is an honor and something I’m extremely grateful for.

 

What impact has custom design software had on your business?

Technology has completely changed my business. It makes it possible to quickly show a client what I’m envisioning for them. For example, Stuller’s 3C product online makes it incredibly easy to show changes to an engagement ring. This way, my clients can SEE it in action. It’s definitely a game-changer!

2019 March Bridal Madness Champion Katelynne Eslick Family Photo

Meet Katelynne Eslick and her beautiful family

How did you come to learn about and use Stuller as a resource in your business?

Because I grew up as the daughter of a jeweler, Stuller was a household name for us! Through my early days of making jewelry, Stuller was the go-to for ordering findings, metals, wire, etc. When I opened my own store, I continued to use Stuller as my go-to supplier. We even just purchased a laser welder! Stuller is great for the smallest and largest needs of our business.

 

Outside of work, what are your interests and hobbies?

In my free time, I love spending time with my kids! My husband and I have three children: a 13-year-old boy and twin 11-year-old girls. My daughters have taken some interest in jewelry making, so I get to spend a little time with them at work too! My husband and I also play in a rock-and-roll band called Mighty Big Jim and the Tall Boys. My nickname in the band is Princess Kate!

2019 March Bridal Madness Champion Katelynne Eslick Band

Well, there you have it! A quick Q&A with the reigning 2019 March Bridal Madness Champion. Congrats to Katelynne Eslick and a huge thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s challenge!




Meet Yelena Portman – The Reigning March Bridal Madness Champion

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Are you excited about this year’s March Bridal Madness contest? The rules of the game are simple:

  1. “Like” Stuller on Facebook.
  2. Submit an image of your custom designed engagement ring or wedding band to stuller@stuller.com or via our Facebook Messenger.
  3. The pictures with the most fan votes move on to final judging.

The stakes are high! The winner receives a Stuller account credit valued at $1,000, and we feature their design on all of Stuller’s social avenues. We will begin accepting entries beginning Monday, March 1 until Friday, March 15. Then, fan voting will be held March 18–31.

See official March Bridal Madness rules here


Meet Yelena Portman and Her Jewelry Journey

My story is a bit unusual. I studied accounting at the University of Georgia and became a CPA shortly after graduating. After working in public accounting for six years, my husband, Danny and I realized that this was not the right profession for our family. Danny was happy with the work he was doing (getting his Ph.D. in astrophysics) and wanted me to enjoy my job. I always wanted to study art and design, and when I was still in school, I used to sketch the many ideas that would come to mind for women’s fashion. I became interested in jewelry when Danny and I were researching engagement and wedding rings. Curious and intrigued, I wanted to understand how such intricate and unique rings were made. This led to my love affair with fine jewelry.

After leaving my job in public accounting, I began taking goldsmithing workshop classes in the fall of 2014. I fell in love with jewelry making and hungered to learn as much as possible in this fascinating world. I was lucky enough to meet a wonderful teacher who became my mentor and taught me most of what I know today.

Yelena Portman models her exquisite lace designs in Japan & Greece
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Diving into Custom Design

Wax modeling was one of my favorite and most challenging workshop classes. And learning how to prepare a model for diamond setting proved to be one of the most valuable lessons. I also took a 3D modeling course that made me realize the future of jewelry design. While I love creating with my hands and working with wax, the precision, detail, and accuracy I get with CAD would be impossible to achieve by hand.

Because of its capabilities, custom design has been important to me from the very beginning. Without CAD technology, I wouldn’t be able to run such a unique business. I use Rhino to design all my jewelry which proves to be my favorite part of the jewelry making process. I try to take my ideas to the design software as quickly as I can. From there, I can sit for hours as time flies. It seems the moment I get a new idea and start working, my mind fills with more design ideas. In fact, the most challenging part of my job is finding the time to create everything that comes to mind.

 

Bringing Precious Lace Jewelry to Life

Ever since I can remember, I loved weddings and seeing the bride in her beautiful gown. I was always drawn to the feminine lace patterns and delicate veils. The inspiration for my jewelry comes from the lace itself as well as from the gemstones I use in each design. The shapes and cuts of the center stones allow me to have fun and be creative.

My idea of creating a ring for myself using a photo of my wedding dress lace prompted my husband and me to open a store on Etsy in the fall of 2015. Then, I pledged to create custom rings for my best friend and her mother. I used patterns from her grandmother’s wedding dress that her mother also wore, along with their heirloom diamonds. They were my first custom wedding lace customers.

My primary role centers on communicating with customers and creating their orders. My husband’s hobbies include photography and computers. Thankfully, he volunteers his time and helps me with many important tasks. He photographs all my jewelry, edits the images, works on our Etsy store’s SEO, and creates and runs advertising campaigns. I wouldn’t be able to do what I love without his support!

 

Stuller’s 2018 March Bridal Madness Champ

My lace morganite and diamond engagement ring is by far the most interesting piece I’ve created. This is why I entered it in the March Bridal Madness competition.

The 2018 winning design created by Yelena Portman
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My inspiration for this ring came from the morganite center stone and its cut. I loved the stone’s transparency and wanted to create a setting that provided a fascinating frame to show off this beautiful gemstone. To create an unusual engagement design, I incorporated my signature wedding lace into this ring. I decided to use rose gold because it best compliments the soft pink color of the 4.5-carat morganite. Set directly below the morganite center, I used a .10-carat princess cut diamond along with .80mm diamonds set on the inside of the prongs. Then, I topped it off with 68 1-mm diamonds to decorate the band around the lace and the outside of the prongs. It took me almost three months and a lot of hard work to bring my idea to life, but it was worth it – I am very proud!

 

Pursue Your Passions | Find Your Niche

My husband and I share a passion for travel. We love exploring different countries and cultures, tasting their food, hiking, and photographing their sights. Last summer, we took our son to Hokkaido, Japan for a month, where we rented a car and explored many different parts of the island. In my travels and looking back, my advice to others goes like this: Pursue your passion and find your niche!

Danny and Yelena Portman on their adventure to Hokkaido, Japan
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Shop Precious Lace Jewelry on Etsy


Did you enjoy this custom design story? Read more about Stuller’s customization possibilities here.




Meet Carlos Arizmendi: The Reigning March Bridal Madness Champion

March Bridal Madness Blog Header Carlos Arizmendi

Are you excited about this year’s March Bridal Madness contest? The rules of the game are simple:

  1. “Like” Stuller on Facebook.
  2. Submit an image of your custom designed engagement ring or wedding band to stuller@stuller.com or via our Facebook Messenger.
  3. The pictures with the most fan votes moves on to final judging.

The stakes are high! The winner receives a Stuller account credit valued at $1,000, and we feature their design on all of Stuller’s social avenues. We will begin accepting submissions on Monday, February 26 until March 15.

See official March Bridal Madness rules here


Meet Carlos Arizmendi: The Reigning March Bridal Madness Champion

March Bridal Madness Art Gems Staff

The Art & Gems Jewelers Crew

I was roughly 14 years old when my mom sent me to my uncle’s jewelry shop to lend a hand. I began as an errand boy, though unbeknownst to me, I was training to make jewelry. Most apprentices learn their craft by first doing repairs. However, my uncle taught me how to create new jewelry. Frequently, I didn’t quite understand what I was doing; but I knew I needed to roll wires and make circles. Before long, I’d created a chain! That sort of training moved me toward design. My repair craft followed later, well into adulthood.

Today, at my studio, I design, supervise production, and control quality. My son is the CAD designer with three additional employees who help with production (one employee not pictured above).

March Bridal Madness Carlos & Gino Arizmendi

My son Gino and me

We ventured into CAD design nearly nine years ago. A constant learning process, we’ve tested different software and equipment, like our 3D growing machines for example. We started with a third-hand SolidScape MMII machine, a milling machine, and now we operate with an EnvisionTec. Technology has had a profound impact on my business. With the arrival of CAD, our store made a 180º turn. These days, we wouldn’t survive without CAD and 3D Printing.

Customization comes naturally to me because that’s how I learned this business. My studio started with custom design and customers know that. When I get an idea for a design, I like to sketch it right away on a piece of paper. Then, I refine the sketch though it still doesn’t have to be perfect. Then I approach Gino, my son and our CAD designer, and explain to him what I’d like to accomplish.

I can’t precisely pinpoint where my inspiration originates. But once I get an idea, I actively pursue it. For my March Bridal Madness winner, the fleur de lis immediately came to mind. I worked to incorporate it into a piece of jewelry because of its appealing softness to the eye, romance, and meaning.

My Winning March Bridal Madness Design

To create this ring, we first fabricated the head. I used the tip of the fleur de lis petals as the prongs. Then I decided the ring should include French Pave diamonds on its sides to enhance the French fleur de lis symbol. I made the gallery in a classic yet modern style. It took ten attempts to finally reach the final version: settling for “close enough” was not an option. The design allowed everything to fall right into place. It has class, elegance, and harmony. The ring does not overpower the diamond nor does the stone obscure the ring’s intricate design. For these reasons, I chose this piece to enter in the March Bridal Madness contest.

Communicating my ideas, first onto paper and then verbally, remains one of the most challenging aspects of my job. I can clearly imagine what I’d like to accomplish in my mind, so I’m the only one visualizing the concept. This leads to three or four design versions before the piece comes properly to life. Despite the challenge, I love this part of the process, seeing the jewelry emerge exactly how I envisioned it.

Years ago, Stuller sent us a catalog in the mail. I don’t remember exactly when our partnership began, but it undoubtedly changed the way we buy findings. Also, one of the main reasons we do business with Stuller is their reliability and next day shipping. We receive high quality in every product from Stuller.

March Bridal Madness Carlos Arizmendi

Our design space overlooking Lake Michigan

In my own time, I love to swim. I would swim every single day if I could. I like to watch the Chicago Blackhawks, soccer, and movies. Here’s a bit of business advice I have to offer: I recommend anyone who hasn’t ventured into CAD design to make the change. Our business today is not the same as it was ten years ago. We must continually update to keep up with the times and our ever-changing industry.

Reach us at (708) 679-0981 or simply visit our website to see all our store has to offer!


Check out the 2016 March Bridal Madness winner here, or see all the ravishing contest entries from years past on our Facebook. Which design is your favorite?




Meet Julie DeVoe – Fix My Bench Contest Winner

 

Unbeknownst to me, Cliff submitted the video above to Stuller’s Fix My Bench contest. In all honesty, I am not sure how to spend the $1000 prize. All of my tools are 15 years old or older, so I am basking in the knowledge that the world is my oyster. Just thinkin’!

My 5 favorite tools are as follows:

  1. Raytech Magnetic finisher, purchased from Blaine Lewis in 2002
  2. Gravermax set up, also purchased from Blaine at the same time
  3. Rotating burr holders from Stuller
  4. Small GRS ball holder with swing arm, purchased at Bridge event
  5. SR Fordham with quick release from Stuller

Julie DeVoe profile picture

Meet Julie DeVoe

As a child, my father had the most beautiful, organized, and functional tool bench in the universe. I would sit for hours watching him epoxy parts, build models, and repair household items. Watching his hands is something I remember most; his steady and sure workmanship fascinated me. At the same time, my mum was an artist. Her painted children’s furniture was featured in the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog up until the time of her death in 1999. She and my sister were the jewelry addicts in our family – both very stylish, beautiful women. I found myself far more fascinated in how their jewelry was put together with no interest in wearing it.

So in short, cosmic convergence led me to a career in jewelry repair and design. My mother passed away and left me the means to reinvent myself artistically (not for an indefinite period but rather a nice comfortable kick start). At the same time, I was reacquainted with a high school friend who was in the wholesale/retail/commercial repair jewelry business. I also met the benchie that worked with him and was immediately smitten once I saw all his glorious tools. I enrolled in Kendall Art and Design’s adult jewelry fabrication classes to justify buying tools and absolutely loved it. Then, I attended the Blaine Lewis Bench program in Virginia Beach. Thus, a Bench Monkeyess was born.

Julie DeVoe Beautiful Woman onyx pendant

Dancing Woman

I did my favorite design early on. A customer-turned-close-friend was going through her second battle with cancer. She wanted a pendant that expressed how she was going to feel when she came out on the other side. I found a piece of onyx, showed it to her, and we both immediately said, “Dancing Woman.” The pendant articulates the back and top and is balanced such that when my friend walks, the woman rocks slightly back and forth, as in a dance. Her hair was frazzled from the chemo, and that is why the pendant’s hair is spikey. Her birthday is in June, so the face is Moonstone. Looking at it now, I see the crudeness of the piece, illustrating how far I have come in 15 years.

I am a 60-year-old former massage therapist and single mom of three. I am now married to Cliff – the Lowell Dance Master and General Perpetuator of Mayhem. We have two grandchildren. Hunter is 7 and a born salesman and jewelry lover. At four years old, he stood in the middle of our showroom, dramatically swept his arm across his body and asked a group of women if they would like to see some “beeeeeutiful” jewelry. Our 2nd grandson is named after Cliff, and we call him Nugget. No sign of jewelry attachment yet, however, his mom, my daughter Amy, is in the geological engineering program at the local university. So it’s probably only a matter of time.

Julie Devoe Benchwork

When Stuller was fine-tuning its Internet site back in 2002, I was a random frequent flyer, as we were new. I ordered pieces as well as tools just to see what they were, how they were assembled and how I could modify them. Cliff was getting really nervous about the expenditures when I received a call saying I had won $500 due to being chosen at random from Internet purchases. And so began our relationship with Stuller.

Julie DeVoe Skydiving

Julie DeVoe, “Might as well jump!”

These days, I could not function without Stuller. The difference between st321 and st322 is forever etched in my brain. Stuller’s quality is unsurpassed; I have tried the others and always come back. They have accepted overdue returns, listened to me ramble about my kids and even cried a bit with me when I called after Hurricane Katrina to see if everyone was okay. The Bridge event just furthered my connection with Stuller. We will never be a big player with you, but we are loyal. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being that silent support system that enabled me to push forward into an area that was totally foreign to me. And of course, thanks for naming Cliff and I the winners of the Fix My Bench contest and the $1000 prize. How freaking cool is that???

Check out Cliff Yankovich’s blog post here, along with his excitement below after he learned about winning the contest!




Meet the March Bridal Madness Champion

March Bridal Madness Blog Header

March Bridal Madness Art Gems Staff

The Art & Gems Jewelers Crew

I was roughly 14 years old when my mom sent me to my uncle’s jewelry shop to lend a hand. I began as an errand boy, though unbeknownst to me, I was training to make jewelry. Most apprentices learn their craft by first doing repairs. However, my uncle taught me how to create new jewelry. Frequently, I didn’t quite understand what I was doing; but I knew I needed to roll wires and make circles. Before long, I’d created a chain! That sort of training moved me toward design. My repair craft followed later, well into adulthood.

Today, at my studio, I design, supervise production, and control quality. My son is the CAD designer with three additional employees who help with production (one employee not pictured).

March Bridal Madness Carlos & Gino Arizmendi

My son Gino and me

We ventured into CAD design nearly eight years ago. A constant learning process, we’ve tested different software and equipment, like our 3D growing machines for example. We started with a third-hand SolidScape MMII machine, a milling machine, and now we operate with an EnvisionTec. Technology has had a profound impact on my business. With the arrival of CAD, our store made an 180º turn. These days, we wouldn’t survive without CAD and 3D Printing.

Customization comes naturally to me because that’s how I learned this business. My studio started with custom design and customers know that. When I get an idea for a design, I like to sketch it right away on a piece of paper. Then, I refine the sketch though it still doesn’t have to be perfect. Then I approach Gino, my son and our CAD designer, and explain to him what I’d like to accomplish.

The winning March Bridal Madness design
March Bridal Madness Winning Design March Bridal Madness Winning Design

I can’t precisely pinpoint where my inspiration originates. But once I get an idea, I actively pursue it. For my March Bridal Madness winner, the fleur de lis immediately came to mind. I worked to incorporate it into a piece of jewelry because of its appealing softness to the eye, romance, and meaning.

To create this ring, we first fabricated the head. I used the tip of the fleur de lis petals as the prongs. Then I decided the ring should include French Pave diamonds on its sides to enhance the French fleur de lis symbol. I made the gallery in a classic yet modern style. It took ten attempts to finally reach the final version: settling for “close enough” was not an option. The design allowed everything to fall right into place. It has class, elegance, and harmony. The ring does not overpower the diamond nor does the stone obscure the ring’s intricate design. For these reasons, I chose this piece to enter in the March Bridal Madness contest.

The winning March Bridal Madness design
March Bridal Madness Winning Design March Bridal Madness Winning Design

Communicating my ideas, first onto paper and then verbally, remains one of the most challenging aspects of my job. I can clearly imagine what I’d like to accomplish in my mind, so I’m the only one visualizing the concept. This leads to three or four design versions before the piece comes properly to life. Despite the challenge, I love this part of the process, seeing the jewelry emerge exactly how I envisioned it.

March Bridal Madness Bracelet Carlos Arizmendi

My most prized creation

Throughout my career, I have made jewelry for many recognized people, from athletes to actors. But the piece of jewelry I enjoyed making the most was a $300,000 intricate bracelet. Though I’ve designed rings for diamonds exceeding $1 million in value, this particular bracelet makes me most proud. (shown on the left)

Years ago, Stuller sent us a catalog in the mail. I don’t remember exactly when our partnership began, but it undoubtedly changed the way we buy findings. Also, one of the main reasons we do business with Stuller is their reliability and next day shipping. We receive high quality in every product from Stuller.

March Bridal Madness Carlos Arizmendi

Our design space overlooking Lake Michigan

In my own time, I love to swim. I would swim every single day if I could. I like to watch the Chicago Blackhawks, soccer, and movies. Here’s a bit of business advice I have to offer: I recommend anyone who hasn’t ventured into CAD design to make the change. Our business today is not the same as it was ten years ago. We must continually update to keep up with the times and our ever-changing industry.

Reach us at (708) 679-0981 or simply visit our website to see all our store has to offer!


Check out last year’s March Bridal Madness winner here, or see all the ravishing contest entries on our Facebook. Which design is your favorite?




The Reigning March Bridal Madness Champion

Are you excited about this year’s March Bridal Madness contest? The rules of the game are simple:

  1. “Like” Stuller on Facebook.
  2. Submit an image of your custom designed engagement ring or wedding band.
  3. The picture with the most fan votes moves on to final judging.

The stakes are high! The winner receives a Stuller account credit valued at $1,000, and we feature their design on all of Stuller’s social venues. We are accepting submissions now until March 15 for your chance to win!

Find the official contest rules here


Meet John Patrick: The Reigning March Bridal Madness Champion

 

March Bridal Madness John Patrick Wife Phyllis

John and his beautiful wife, Phyllis

My jewelry career began in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as an apprentice jeweler at Wilson’s catalog showroom. My skills improved and I started contracting with other retail jewelry stores. Eventually, I became self-employed. In 1984, my wife, Phyllis, and I opened our own store, Patrick’s Fine Jewelry, in Saint Francisville, Louisiana. After operating in the same location for thirty-two years, we built a new, larger, freestanding store in Saint Francisville in October 2013.

We are a family-owned and operated business. I’m the jeweler and designer while Phyllis is the bookkeeper who assists in sales. My oldest son Johnny oversees marketing and sales. We have five employees who are either relatives or longtime friends of the family. My favorite part of the job is the opportunity to meet with a customer and get a feel for his/her personality. I get to gauge their likes and dislikes and incorporate those views into a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. This leads to complete customer satisfaction.

My specialties include custom designs, French pavé settings, and hand engraving. I’ve become adept at making jewelry that makes her happy and fits his budget. Custom design plays a very important role in our business by setting us apart from other jewelry stores in the area. Customers come into my store and choose a ring custom designed to their tastes and unique. Keeping up with our work volume presents our greatest challege. I am one of the few stores in my area that performs in-house repairs and custom design jewelry.

Looking back, the day we opened our new free-standing store in October 2013 stands out as one of my favorite memories. It is triple the size of my previous rental spot of 30+ years and was designed to accommodate our customers’ needs and my workload. Another highpoint in my career is when my oldest son Johnny decided to come into the jewelry business full time with his mom and myself. He assists in selecting and buying new jewelry designs, excels in sales and customer relations and takes care of all advertising and marketing decisions. His use of social media has taken our store to new heights.

Last year’s March Bridal Madness winning piece
2016 March Bridal Madness Winning Engagement Ring

I am a strong family man and feel God has blessed me beyond all expectations. Phyllis and I have built our jewelry business from a small mom and pop store to a nationally recognized business. We’ve raised two fine sons, the oldest working with me daily. Of course, the door is always open for our younger son to join the family business.

I am very close to my family; I talk to my mother daily and run our family cattle ranch in Woodville, Mississippi. The cattle business helps to keep balance in my life. Each Thursday, I perform ranching duties so I can let out some of the frustration that builds sitting behind a jeweler’s bench. I enjoy staying busy and like the physical aspect that ranching brings into my day. It helps me to stay competitive as I raise registered Angus cattle and bulls for breeding. I was also a volunteer coach for over ten years. It’s so rewarding to see the boys I coached come into my store as young men to make purchases for their wives-to-be. I’m honored to be a part of this special time in their lives and know that I made a positive impact!

I have always chuckled, “God has a sense of humor by placing a jeweler inside of a big, rough, red-neck man like me.”

March Bridal Madness Winner John Patrick's Fine Jewelry


Have you entered into the March Bridal Madness competition yet? What are you waiting for? Find more details about last year’s March Bridal Madness competition here! 




March Bridal Madness

We just love being a part of the jewelry industry! When jewelers set out to create a perfect piece of jewelry, they pour their hearts and souls into each step of the process. And the entries we received for our 4th annual March Bridal Madness design contest proved to be no exception.

Twenty-five talented jewelers submitted rings into the competition. The requirement: designs had to be an engagement ring or wedding band created either for a customer or for the jewelers’ own showcase. The participants shared their entries on social media and fans voted on their favorites via Facebook.

After a two-week voting period, the top three finalists were determined by the number of “likes” their designs received on Facebook. Our top three were:

John Patrick, Patrick’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts

bridal ring bridal ring

 

Allen and Cindy Lee, Jewelry Repair Professionals

bridal ring bridal ring

 

Adrienne Hanks, Bijoux Jewelers

bridal ring

Out of those three entries, we had a panel of five judges, representing different areas – sales, marketing, design, and manufacturing – review and critique each piece and select an overall winner. They looked for overall beauty, originality of design, craftsmanship, consumer appeal, market value, and wearability.

After all the scores were tallied, John Patrick of Patrick’s Fine Jewelry and Gifts came out on top. Here are some things the judges had to say:

“The overall aesthetic is pleasing. It looks to be nicely proportioned with lots of fine detail and a nice finishing job.” – Adrienne K., Design

“I love the traditional with a twist element of the etching and even patina-like appeal with pave set in a non-traditional halo which does a sort of overlap.” – Miranda C., Sales

“Detail to halo updates the ring to meet the standards of today’s brides while still retaining the integrity of something we would have been seen in 1920s. The way the halo ebbs and flows around the head compliments the piece perfectly.” – Alex C., Marketing

A BIG thank you to everyone who entered this year. We’ll be back next year, so stay tuned! And make sure to follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube) for all the details on upcoming contests and promotions.

Which was your favorite ring? Tell us in the comment section below.