Finding Inspiration: Redesign and Repair

While many are still recovering from a busy holiday season, we know jewelers are diving headfirst into repair season. This month will bring plenty of repairs to your doorstep, which will be an opportunity for you to find inspiration in how to improve the functionality of your customers’ pieces. Embrace your inner artisan and think of ways you can make your customer happy with a repair that makes their life easier.

Finding Inspiration is a campaign to inspire the designer in every bench jeweler. This inspiration is not restricted to the creation of new pieces, but also to infuse your creativity in your repair work or other existing pieces. This month’s feature explores using this creativity in small, but meaningful ways.

Chain Components: Finding the Missing Link With These Creative Solutions

Repairs are more than simply fixing a piece of jewelry. They are the ultimate representation of your brand and your craft. A repair is also a prime opportunity to elevate your brand experience by infusing a little creativity into how you choose to approach the job at hand. Using a few of our new chain components, we present three new ways you can enhance a piece using Stuller findings.

Chain Extenders: Provide Value With Versatility

Chain length contributes significantly to the overall styling of any necklace. As you receive chain repairs this year, why not show them an adjustable chain extender (2001102:102S; 2001103:102:S)? Featured in our most recent issue of From the Bench, this little add-on provides your customer’s piece with versatility making it easier for them to mix and match any given chain with other necklaces to create a one-of-a-kind look. To get inspired by the potential stylings and to encourage your customers, check out the #neckmess hashtag on Instagram where you will find thousands of layered necklace looks. 

chain extenders

Magnetic Clasps: Create Simple Solutions

If your customer is struggling to easily put on their bracelet or necklace, we have a solution for you. You can assist by recommending a magnetic clasp (28506:1010:P; 23714:1006:S). Our wide range of clasps vary in both style and strength. We also have styles with spring rings already attached so your customer can add or remove the clasp all on their own. A simple solution can be the difference that makes your customer enjoy wearing their jewelry more often.

magnetic clasp

Chain Tags: Add a Personal Touch

Chain tags notate the metal quality of the chain, but they could also be used to personalize a piece. Use one of our various engravable chain tags (23849:60003:S; 23848:60002:S; 2000852:1000:S) to engrave your customer’s initials, leave a memorable date, or even brand with your logo. Taking this extra step is an excellent way to further provide meaning and value to the piece.

chain tags

Leave Your Mark With Noteworthy Repairs

Just like the fresh start 2021 is giving us, give your business a fresh start this year with a quality repair season. We hope you find new and creative solutions using Stuller findings. Whether you use the tips we gave today or other sparks of imagination, we wish you luck in crafting lasting relationships with your customers and providing the best service. For more tips and products to help you have a strong repair business this year, visit our website for special items we put together just for you.

chain repair

Share Your Inspiration

Finding Inspiration is about you and our incredibly talented community of craftsmen, designers, bench jewelers, and artisans. We are inspired by your creativity and want to share your work! Share on social media how you have used Stuller findings to craft unique solutions and one-of-a-kind pieces for your customers. Be sure to tag us @stullerinc and use the hashtag #stullerfindings. We look forward to featuring more of your amazing work on a future installment of Finding Inspiration.


Find your inspiration with some of these recent blog posts:

Finding Inspiration: Micro Bezels Make for a Subtle Statement

Finding Your Holiday Inspiration


Content by Alissa Talbot

Worlds by Taylor Dizor




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MatrixGold User Feature: Donna Kovalchick

Users of Matrix, a prior Gemvision product, often ask us about switching from Matrix to MatrixGold®, our newest software.

“The path to change is best traveled when we travel together.”

-Sheryl Sandberg

In the spirit of this quote, we sought out a Matrix user who would partner with us to create educational videos about transitioning to MatrixGold from the user’s perspective. Donna Kovalchick was the ideal customer to feature.

Meet Donna Kovalchick

A photographer by trade with 21 years of experience, Donna followed a unique path that led her to jewelry. What started as a part-time position as a photographer for a local jewelry store and helping with the website and marketing turned into so much more.

Years later, the business had grown, and the owner wanted to hire an in-house CAD designer. Donna was offered the role, and she jumped on the opportunity to learn something new. Next thing she knew, she was on a plane to Stuller’s headquarters to learn Matrix 9 from Jessica Smith, Gemvision’s training developer and instructor. 

That was three-and-a-half years ago. As Donna recalls, “Learning the program was exciting. I did learn it pretty easily, and it was quite addictive.”

The Big Transition

Donna recently switched from Matrix to MatrixGold and described it as a game-changer, commenting on how the updates make her life as a designer easier. She has moved on from the small business jewelry store where she first started her career in CAD, saying, “I have realized my self-worth and that I love CAD. One-of-a-kind jewelry excites everyone, and I love being a part of that.”

As Donna begins the next chapter in her career, she is confident MatrixGold will further her interest and expertise in custom design.

Watch a video interview with Donna below:

To watch the full-length videos, login to MatrixGold Academy and go to the Designing with Donna tile. She is always looking for topics and loves suggestions from other users!


Want to hear more about MatrixGold? See more of our blog posts that share new features and customer experiences.

Details on MatrixGold’s Newest Software Update

MatrixGold Customer Discusses His Experience




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Meet Michael Nashef: The 2020 March Bridal Madness Champion

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!




Jewelry Store Layout Sketch Blog Header

How Your Jewelry Store Layout Affects the Shopping Experience

With a lengthy background in retailing and store design, I’m always looking at how to improve a store’s environment. And I’m always amazed at how easy it is for store owners to forget how to look at their stores from a customer’s viewpoint. With independent jewelers having to compete against big box stores and the internet, it’s more important than ever to examine their jewelry store layout and create an EXPERIENCE that wows jewelry buyers and makes them want to return again and again!

Quick! You’ve got 9 seconds!

Most research says that you’ve got exactly nine seconds to engage a customer’s senses when they enter your store. If your store is a somber, vanilla-looking box, exactly which senses are you engaging? What emotional reaction are you creating— besides a yawn?

But don’t despair! I’m here to give insight into your jewelry store layout that will take you out of the dark to in the know—

1. Crank up your jewelry store music

Music makes the world spend money, and there is ample science to back this up. If your customers can overhear each other, they are less likely to ask questions or stick around for very long. Does your store sound like a funeral home? Or, does it scream, “Stay! Have fun and relax?” No, you don’t have to play rock and roll, but you should have something upbeat that also reflects your personal brand. For instance, if you do a lot of custom work for millennials, play some indie music, preferably by local bands. If your store is more traditional with an older clientele, feature upbeat jazz music. The truth is that the playlist matters less than the ambiance you create. So break out the stereo and pipe some tunes through the speakers.

2. Make it cozy

Is your store casual and inviting or stuffy and intimidating? If it’s the latter, you can solve things pretty easily by adding a lounge area into your jewelry store layout. This allows to relax and sit down with a water or soft drink (or beer or splits of champagne)! Husbands with a cold drink in hand are less likely to grouse about hanging out in a jewelry store while their wives shop. And speaking of your female clientele, add a full-length mirror to give your customer a great view of herself with all her bling on. Let her have that moment!

3. A layout that sells

The U-shaped jewelry store layout of the past just spins customers in and out of your store. Incorporate transition zones for different types of jewelry. Create a bridal area, for instance, and a customization center, too. With subtle zones, you’ll encourage customers to browse and discover everything you have to offer.

When planning your jewelry store layout, keep in mind that most customers naturally turn right as they enter a retail space. So think carefully about what merchandise you position there. Perhaps that’s where you put your fantasy items or bridal. To create more space to explore, try pushing your cases against the walls and remove the glass from the front to allow customers to touch the merchandise. This won’t work for high-end live product, but it works great for less expensive items. Which brings me to the next big point . . .

4. Reach out and touch some bling

Today’s shoppers should be encouraged to touch your merchandise. Seriously. Research bears it out: The more they touch, the more comfortable they are with the item, the more likely they are to buy. Why do you think Apple has been so successful?

Now you may be thinking, “What! You want me to have merchandise on display for customers to touch?” Well, yes. It doesn’t have to be the high-price-point pieces. Put a monogram kit on the counter, or place a birthstone kit near the register. Not only are these great impulse purchases, they’re also unique opportunities for your customers to feel the jewelry.

What about bridal? If you’re like most independent jewelers, bridal is a crucial component of your business. But studies show that with consumers, there’s an unwritten five-ring rule. That means that they’ll ask to try on just five rings before they decide they’ve bothered you long enough. But with ever&ever® bridal prototypes featuring beautiful designs cast in alloy and set with CZ, your customers can try on up to 160 rings without bothering you to take a single piece from the case.

Jewelry Store Layout ever&ever Display

5. Color me engaged

Yes, color is easy to change. But the wrong colors can set the tone for a snooze fest. Boring hues are the visual equivalent of a lullaby. If you have some money to spare, hire a commercial interior designer to advise you on the right wall colors. Consider adding some texture in the form of wall coverings. This small investment could completely change the look and feel of your store.

6. Keep it fresh

Adhere to the M&M merchandising philosophy. Movement = Money. Did your customers see the exact same merchandise in the exact same spot one month ago? If so, move it! Lay out a plan for your in-case displays and change things up weekly. Also, be sure to schedule all holiday themes at the beginning of the year and stick to the calendar.

7. Join the 21st century

Bring technology to your sales floor. Have iPads readily available with access to other merchandise you do not have in stock. Stuller Showcase is the perfect tool to help you capture a sale when you don’t have something in your cases. You can show every Stuller product with your markup! This is the ideal virtual inventory. Partnered with 3C items, you can give your customers exactly what they want, usually the very next day. There is no better way to secure a sale when you don’t have the physical product in your store.

Jewelry Store Layout iPad Stuller Showcase

8. Dress the part

This is a touchy subject, but very important. Does your sales staff’s appearance seem unapproachable and uptight? In today’s world, and especially among millennials, professionalism does not equal a suit and tie. We are, after all, in the fashion industry. So let your employees express themselves in a tasteful way that reflects your store’s brand.

Really, the right jewelry store layout creates a successful store environment and is the easiest ways to bring new life to your business. It’s also the most neglected. But now you know how to fix things. So roll up your sleeves, paint your walls, move your cases, and pipe in some tunes. Then stand back and watch your customers enjoy the experience of shopping (and buying) in your store.


What’s your jewelry store layout design strategy? Have you employed some of these techniques? Or do you have some other cool ideas? Share with us in the comments below!




A High-Performance Engagement Story

What makes a high-performance engagement? Is it purely based on function? Or could aesthetics contribute to such a title? What could looks have to do with performance? When done right, it’s the nature of successful design.

Design

I come from a background in industrial design, the classical term for what most know as product design. Industrial designers are the creative minds behind nearly everything you see around you: cars, phones, shoes, kitchenware, watches, and in this case… jewelry.

Many product designers are trained on the notion that form follows function. In other words, this entire school of thought devotes itself to the idea that the product performance precedes and even trumps the need to look attractive. Successful design, at the highest level, presents a finished piece where form and function complement one another, working together to build a perfect union — a fitting thought when designing an engagement ring. For example, look at high-performance automobiles. Designers spend endless hours of time to ensure that every crease, slope, and feature, however flashy, has a fully functional purpose.

high-performance engagement rings bands

Inspiration

I started working as a designer at Stuller just a year before I proposed to my wife. I truly wanted to surprise her with the proposal and didn’t want her to know when or how it would happen. So I could not involve her in the design process. However, early in my design career at Stuller, we looked through Stuller’s catalogs together. Other than this initial perusal, which offered few specifics on my wife’s design preference, we never discussed what kind of engagement rings she liked. She had expressed two things to me: she wanted it to be unique, but not extreme, and she needed something functional — something she was comfortable NEVER taking off. This gave enough footing to create her high-performance engagement ring.

My wife is an elementary school teacher and uses her hands all throughout the day. In addition to her day-to-day activities at school, she is very active, loves the outdoors, and does not shy away from… well… anything. She needed a high-performance engagement ring that shared her traits: strong, clever, elegant, beautiful, brave, and one of a kind.

high-performance engagement band rings

Create

Before putting pen to paper, I could see the design in my mind. I visualized the ring, growing from the ground up. As the base of the shank pulls up around the finger, it thins and slightly creases as it climbs, creating a moderate euro-shank base and working to keep the ring upright through any and all activity. Halfway up, the shank splits and the tendrils spiral up to bypass and suspend a diamond center. Each split is adorned with channel-set genuine blue sapphires, graduating in size as they approach the center. This spiraling climb of the shank and the graduated accents work together to draw the eye to the focal point—a brilliant-cut diamond. The diamond appears to float just barely above the finger, tension set among the spiral. Here is where the cooperation between form and function must be perfect for my concept. The diamond appears to be tension set. But in reality, a hidden gallery rail tucked neatly just below the stone’s girdle supports it, only visible with a detailed inspection of the piece.

I designed her high-performance engagement ring around a diamond that I hand-selected from Stuller’s incredible Red Box Diamond® inventory. Chuck Bowman, a senior designer at Stuller and master in the industry, aided me in choosing the sparkly rock. After I narrowed down the selection, Chuck shared these final words, “In the end, ignore the paperwork. Don’t think about the numbers or the grading report. Choose with your eyes. Choose with your gut. Which diamond speaks to you? Which one attracts you the most?” This helped immensely, and I have since passed these guiding words on to many who have embarked on the same thrilling venture.

high-performance engagement alexis wearing ring

After choosing the diamond and putting my vision on paper, my excitement grew. However, it was still just a vision. I needed to transform this concept into reality. I pushed onward to create the CAD production model, utilizing a hybrid approach that incorporated both Stuller’s proprietary parametric design software and the more traditional Matrix software. As the high-performance engagement transformed from a figment of my imagination to a fully-functioning 3D model, I was able to adjust portions of the design on the fly, finding the perfect scale and emphasis in every aspect of the piece. Finally, the design was ready to become a reality. A ring for my wife. A symbol for our future.

Stuller’s talented teams of model makers allowed me to see the piece at every stage, keeping me in the loop. This team treats every piece they touch as if it is their own. They are the best, and they produce the best.

Forever

In the end, everything I put into the design shines through. As for the big question? The proposal went perfectly (but THAT story is for another time). More than six years later, my wife still loves the design. It has every bit of the uniqueness and elegance she wanted. As for functionality, it never catches on clothing nor impedes her work, adorning her hand through every adventure. From submerging through the deep reefs of the Pacific to repelling from the towering timbers in the mountain valleys of Colorado, her ring continues to stand the test of time in both form and function—a true representation of the union she and I share now and forever more.

high-performance engagement alexis michael bartlett



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Dazzling New Design Directions from Swarovski Gem Visions 2018

Discover Wunderkammer by Swarovski Gem Visions 2018

 

Trend directions vary much more often in fashion than accessories and jewelry.   Nevertheless, jewelry trends exist. Sometimes we consider new fashions faddish, and unlikely to have much traction. Yet many can trickle off the runway. With New York Fashion Week just behind us, we saw jewelry and accessories adding to the city’s events. Alison Lou’s designs, styled to accompany Juicy Couture, were presented at 620 Loft & Garden, a beautiful rooftop venue overlooking St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The NY Times published a fabulous article about how Jennifer Meyer is trying to create ‘Jewelry you wear all the time.’ Jewelry is relevant for any time of the year, fashion week or not (which is a positive for us in the industry).

Swarovski Gemstones™ understands that jewelry designers must stay ahead of future trends and insights. For more than ten years, our Gem Visions Team, which includes in-house creative talent, gem hunters, and technical gurus, has collaborated with jewelry experts, trend forecasters, and futurologists identifying what’s new, now and tomorrow. Being a part of this team is creative and invigorating. We have the opportunity to host workshops in design centers around the world. Our work explores analysis that reaches beyond finished jewelry pieces, and we focus on stone cutting innovations as well.

Swarovski Gem Visions 2018 reimagines the classic Renaissance ‘cabinet of curiosities’ updated for the modern era — we call it the Wunderkammer! Like collectors of the past who combed the world for strange and wonderful things to add to their ‘cabinet’, Swarovski Gem Visions 2018 Wunderkammer demonstrates the freshest, most noteworthy trends, translated into beautiful and often surprising jewelry. From a merchandising perspective, the Wunderkammer interestingly showcases customized jewelry. What does your jewelry piece mean to you?

 

Let us walk you through to intrigue, provoke and inspire jewelry designs!

Naturalia

Here the focus is on organic forms, fluidity, the fascination of water, and of nature’s bounty.

H2Obsession draws from the movement of everything from a dewdrop and a fast flowing stream to a languid lagoon or the ocean depths. Designs include stones from translucent glacial rock crystal, aquamarine, blue topaz, and Ethiopian opal to Swarovski Zirconia and Swarovski Topaz in shades of Mediterranean blue and green. Castable glass ceramic Nano makes a lively splash with colors like Ocean Dark Grey and Sapphire Blue Dark.

Naturalia also draws on Daughter Earth for abstract design inspiration straight from terra firma. Here we see lines and silhouettes reminiscent of mountains, caves, rainforests, and desert oases, enhanced and illustrated by the earthy tones of Swarovski genuine gemstones and created stones in Fancy Brown, Poppy, and Golden Yellow.

Mirabilia

This trend forecasts an updating of traditional styles and the interplay of proportions that often result in mismatched sets, vibrantly contrasting the symmetry of conventional jewelry.

Perfect Flaw celebrates the eccentricities that make a piece of jewelry, and its wearer, stand out in the crowd. These pieces take a second look at beauty and celebrate differences with colored diamonds and other stones in fascinating deep hues. Consider the smoldering shade of Swarovski Zirconia Caramel, which pairs well with the fiery red of Swarovski Genuine Ruby, or the intense black of Swarovski Genuine Spinel.

Spolia, the second theme, evokes a sense of timelessness, and of rich cultural tradition and symbolism. The bewitching Misty Rose genuine topaz is reminiscent of shimmering sands in a faraway desert, while Violet, long the color of royalty, conjures images of heraldic tales and royalty.

Swarovski Gem Visions 2018 Mirabilia Perfect Flaw Poster
Swarovski Gem Visions 2018 Mirabilia Spolia Poster

Artificialia

Here we see basic layers reimagined, with necklaces moving closer to the neckline, and a distinct playfulness with symbolism, emotion, and expression.

Shedding Layers recognizes that today’s modern connoisseur values manmade treasures and cutting-edge craftsmanship, and wants them paired with natural gems. Swarovski Zirconia and Swarovski Created Diamonds feature in beautifully streamlined designs always made with integrity. The rosy pastel of Swarovski Zirconia’s new Purplish Pink injects a splash of delicate color.

Meanwhile, Hyper-Natural pays tribute to designs that channel the same structures and symmetry found in nature into a new generation of body adornments. Here we see clear white and near white stones, alongside stones with swirling hints of color – like the new Swarovski Zirconia Greyish Blue, a natural partner for pale colors from yellow and orange to light blues, greens, and even lilac.

Swarovski Gem Visions 2018 Artificialia Shedding Layers Poster
Swarovski Gem Visions 2018 Artificialia Hyper-Natural Poster

Shop Swarovski Gemstones on Stuller.com


Want to discover more about Swarovski Gem Visions 2018 and the Wunderkammer? Then download our eBook or visit us on Facebook and Instagram.




Feature Friday – Russell Brown

“My biggest tip to those in our industry: take pride in what you create.” – Russell Brown

 

Russell Brown Goldsmith Bench

Meet Russell Brown

At the age of 15, Russell Brown started in the jewelry industry with his father. In the early 80s, Brown’s dad bought jewelry from a family friend and began selling the gold at the Seminole Flea Market in Florida. Once he graduated high school, Brown opened another location at the Oldsmar flea market. After operating two flea market locations for a year or so, Brown and his father opened a jewelry store in Plant City, Florida in 1986. This is when Russell perfected the art of goldsmithing.

Opening a location in Plant City turned out to be the best thing for their business. Since both Russell and his father were Plant City natives, they had a built-in customer base. The two considered moving their business down the I4 corridor to Tampa, but soon realized they would miss their Plant City patrons. “I still have customers today that will come and tell me about the days when my father ran the store,” Russell tells. “It’s nice being able to hear the stories about him because it’s like a piece of him lives through Brown’s Jewelers.”

“My biggest tip to those in our industry: take pride in what you create.” – Russell Brown ⚒ Click To Tweet

Russell has always worked behind the scenes. When he and his father ran the store, he would work in the back on his bench, fixing repair jobs and creating new pieces. He loves benchwork and the opportunity it provides to express his creativity. As with most small business owners, each day brings about something new. Russell makes sure to help in all areas of the store, leading by example and showing his employees versatility with each passing day.

Russell Brown Jewelers Custom Design

A few custom pieces in the making

“I really enjoy what I do. I’ve always been artistic, but working with gold and silver is a completely different field,” Russell Brown says. “I like being able to make something from nothing and create jewelry others are proud to wear.”

After 35 years of jewelry-making, it seems like working in any other industry wouldn’t satisfy Russell’s creative needs. Like his favorite part about the job, for example – creating new, extraordinary pieces out of old unwanted items. “I get excited when my customers bring items they no longer wish to have and ask me to make them something completely new,” Brown explains. “It gives me creative freedom without any boundaries.”

Straying away from cookie-cutter styles is what makes Brown’s jewelers different from all the rest. We strive to offer superior service to our customers, exceeding their needs while setting our store apart from the competition. As the Goldsmith, Russell Brown makes sure to sit down with customers one-on-one to discuss their wants and expectations. He also continues to learn all he can about the field, ensuring his customers receive the most accurate information. By keeping them well-informed, customers seem to return time after time.

Over the years, the jewelry industry has changed greatly, but Russell has stayed true  to the trade by still creating items by hand. And while the laser welder has posed to greatest technical challenge to our store, this valuable tool has helped Brown’s Jewelers create custom designs and quality repairs more quickly.

Russell Brown Plant City Brown's JewelersTo keep up with Brown’s Jewelers, follow them on Facebook!


Did you like this jeweler feature? If you did, don’t stop reading! Find more featured jewelers here.




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Meet Jonathan Smiddy – The Returning Competitor

Jonathan Smiddy Battle of the Benches HeadshotThis year’s Battle of the Benches® competition is right around the corner, kicking off March 24th. Among the contestants is Jonathan Smiddy, a seasoned jewelsmith with over twenty-two years of experience under his belt. A bench jeweler at Robson’s Diamond Jewelers in Baytown, Texas, he spends his days repairing precious pieces and helping clients to create beautiful jewelry.

As a graduate of the Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology, Jonathan Smiddy knew he wanted to be a bench jeweler right out of high school after taking interest in Indian handy crafts. “I’m a real classic kind of person. I like Art Noveau. I like Art Deco,” he explains. “So in most of my stuff, I sample a lot of those lines and a lot of French curves.” Jonathan’s passion entails building new and exciting pieces while his specialty lies in creating unique designs that end as exquisite works of art.

After participating in last year’s competition, Jonathan knows the ropes. He has a pretty good idea of what’s in store, having been there and done that. Does this give him a leg up on the competition? We’ll see! We surely expect Jonathon to bring his calm and collected demeanor along with his talent and creativity. The greatest challenge he faces in his day-to-day is meeting impossible deadlines. “Yet, somehow it always happens,” he says. And according to Jonathan, he works best under pressure. This is quite a fitting strength for the competition.

Jonathan Smiddy Battle of the Benches Pendant

Jonathan’s pendant from Battle of the Benches 2016

When it came down to scoping out last year’s competition, Jonathan had this to say: “It’s been really interesting, especially with the other jewelers. There’s lots of really good talent on the panel.” His only real concern, however, was aiming to set all of his stones in time.

In day one of the competition, Jonathan created a CAD design and model of a cocktail ring inspired by a customer profile. Day two brought about the Parts & Pieces Challenge where participants were given a box of “stuff” and tasked with creating a unique piece of jewelry. Jonathan created a sleek, modern pendant.

On the third and final day of the event, attendees visited any additional classes they might have missed. They walked the demo floor and even met with our technical folks. The final challenge also took place. This time, the task was to prep, polish, assemble, and set the now casted CAD design from the first day’s competition. Jonathan took the prize in this event with an amazing three stone cocktail ring featuring a blue center and pink accents.

When he’s not busy at the store, he enjoys visiting museums, camping, spending time with family and attending church. His favorite part of being a jeweler so far is having the opportunity to create wedding bands for himself and his wife.

Here’s a shot of Jonathan hard at work in last year’s competition, along with a few select pieces of his work-

Jonathan Smiddy Battle of the Benches Pendant Jonathan Smiddy Battle of the Benches Pendant Jonathan Smiddy Battle of the Benches Focus

“The leftmost image is a 9 carat Tanzanite pendant with .5 carats of side diamonds. It turned out absolutely stunningly and the story behind it is even better!” Jonathan reports. “I also really loved building the piece centered above. It’s a competition piece I designed featuring lapis, diamond, tsavorite garnet, and synthetic padparadscha accents.” 


Check out Jyothi Forman and David Adamson, two of Jonathan Smiddy’s competitors in this year’s Battle of the Benches® competition.




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Meet Jyothi Forman – Battle of the Benches® Contestant

Jyothi Forman HeadshotJyothi Forman is a jeweler at Georgies Fine Jewellery in Narooma, New South Wales, Australia. She specializes in hand fabricating custom jewelry. Jyothi, a blossoming 24 years old, grew up in a small regional town called Tanja and went to school in Bega, New South Wales. Outside of work, she loves exploring the outdoors. Mountain biking, playing soccer, painting, and hanging out with her sweet pup, Baxter, are a few of her favorite activities.

“I’ve always been a very practical person and love working in a hands-on manner. In school, I loved ceramics, woodwork, metalwork, and visual arts. When I stumbled upon the jewelry trade, I couldn’t believe my luck! It combines everything I enjoy: practicality, creativity, and an ongoing challenge,” Jyothi explains. “I knew I loved making jewelry since my first day on the bench.”

Throughout her apprenticeship, she’s had many amazing opportunities arise. Jyothi has competed in many competitions and represented Australia in the International WorldSkills Competition in Brazil. This honor gave her an unforgettable experience. “Placing second in the world and earning a silver medal was quite a remarkable feat!” she says. “I couldn’t have done it without my supportive, generous boss, Georgie Staley.”

Jyothi Forman silver medal worldskills international competition representing Australia

Jyothi Forman’s silver medal standing in the Worldskills International Competition

Custom design remains central to Jyothi. It enables her customers to have unique pieces of jewelry that express who they are. “Custom jewelry tells the owner’s story while also reflecting the designer’s gifts. The highly involved process is very rewarding. The customer is delighted with their jewelry because they have contributed to the design,” she says.

For Jyothi, the most challenging jobs are the large, intricate handmade pieces. However, these are also her favorite! “I love a challenge. I love the problem solving and attention to detail, then seeing everything come together at the end into a beautiful piece of jewelry. Every day as a jeweler is different. From resurrecting old family heirlooms to handcrafting brand new ones for future generations. Each day brings about a new challenge, all equally rewarding.”

Jyothi Forman custom engagement ring parti sapphire diamonds and platinum with green goldAt the beginning of March 2017, Jyothi married her partner, Mitchell. They’ve been together since high school. He is a watchmaker and both work at Georgies Fine Jewellery. “I’ll forever treasure when he proposed to me with all the materials necessary to make my very own engagement ring: Parti sapphire, diamonds, and raw metal,” she recounts. “From there, I handcrafted my ring from platinum and small accents of green gold. The center stone is a yellow-green Australian Parti Sapphire and side stones are diamonds.” Her beautiful ring is pictured here.

Jyothi and her husband Mitchell have never been to America and are tremendously excited to come over for the competition!

Here are just a few of her awards and recognitions, along with her most prized custom designs-

 

  • Nationwide Jewellers Apprentice of the Year – 2013 & 2014
  • Melbourne Polytechnic Best 2nd year Apprentice Jeweler – 2013
  • Melbourne Polytechnic Best 3rd year Apprentice Jeweler – 2014
  • Melbourne Polytechnics Outstanding Apprentice/Trainee of the Year – 2015
  • Melbourne Polytechnic Outstanding Student of the Year – 2015
  • Worldskills Australia regional competition, Melbourne – 2013 • Gold
  • Worldskills Australia national competition – 2014 • Gold
  • Worldskills Oceania competition – 2015 • Gold
  • Worldskills International Competition – 2015 • Silver
  • Announced in Triple J’s 25 under 25 2015

Jyothi Forman custom design ring with sapphires, diamonds, and gold

This ring was custom designed at Georgies Fine Jewellery and handmade by Jyothi. It features sapphires and diamonds in a beautiful, unique gold ring.

Jyothi Forman custom ring design white yellow gold

“This one was very fun to create, as I had to make the white gold appear woven through the yellow gold band,” Jyothi explains.

 


We’re gearing up for our annual Battle of the Benches® competition, which begins March 24. Meet David Adamson, the defending champ here. 




Meet David Adamson – The Defending Champ

Our first Battle of the Benches® competition played host to over 200 jewelers from around the country and three days of excitement, education and an exhilarating jewelry-making challenge. David Adamson came into the competition calm and collected. He was anxious, but not nervous. He was eager to participate and awaited the opportunity to compete and exhibit his hard work.

 

Round 1: Create a CAD Design

David Adamson Battle of the Bench Wax Model Round 1In the first challenge, contestants were given a customer profile to inspire their ring designs. David observed his prospect and was steered toward what he imagined she would like. “The general shape of the ring followed the shape of her handbag and shoes, and the scrollwork followed the clef in her violin and the waves of the sea,” David explained. He decided to keep the overall design simple.

When it comes to customization, David prefers to use RhinoGold. He enjoys the software’s simplicity, intuitiveness and ease of use. David’s career as a jeweler began at the bench rather than as a CAD jeweler, which led to his gravitation toward RhinoGold software.

David Adamson Battle of the Bench Circus Pendant Round 2

 

Round 2: The Parts & Pieces Challenge

In the second challenge, participants were given a box of “stuff.” Upon opening his box, David immediately noticed the red and blue gemstones and imagined a lively circus! From this idea, he created a fun and exciting pendant with a balloon shape and wavy form. Of the three challenges, this was David’s favorite. “Honestly, this is what I like to do. I like fabrication and handwork. It’s what I grew up doing. This is the part I enjoy even more than CAD!”

 

Round 3: Bringing it all Together 

IDavid Adamson Battle of the Bench Final Ring Round 3n the final challenge, the CAD designs from round one were casted and participants prepped, polished, assembled and set their rings. David took second prize in this contest.

After all the votes were counted, David Adamson won three of the four possible prizes, including the Grand Prize, at our inaugural Battle of the Benches. When asked about what helped him succeed in the contest, he pointed to the lessons of an early mentor, jeweler Jay Harold, whose favorite phrase was, “make do”: “This helped me to be able to adapt to whatever tools were handy and ‘make do.’”

David first developed a love for the trade working alongside his father in the family store at the age of 16. Starting from the bottom taught David all the important skills that every bench jeweler needs to succeed. Today, he is the proud owner of David Adamson Designer Jewelry. Being in the jewelry industry for 39 years taught David how to adapt to change. He knows it’s a new, ever-growing retail landscape and he’s constantly attending CAD training seminars and technology fairs to stay abreast of current changes.

When not at the bench, David loves to help people study the Bible. He also likes to sail, snow ski, travel, and hang out with his beautiful wife, kids, and gorgeous granddaughter.

 

The dazzling piece below is a six inch long solid gold object d’art of a nude. It is suspended by flowing waves of silver and supports a cherry Mexican fire opal star in her outstretched hands. The star is removable and can be worn as a pendant.

David Adamson Design Mexican Fire Topaz

David Adamson Engagement Set Emerald Cut

This gorgeous 14k white gold diamond wedding set features an emerald cut center stone surrounded by sixty-four round brilliant cut diamonds.

David Adamson and Wife at Battle of the Bench Competition

David and his beautiful wife


Which of the pieces above is your favorite? Searching for more about David Adamson? Click here.