Modern Jewelry Design: From Inspiration to Art Form

Designing jewelry is something I’ve done since college. I found a course for it in my junior year and I was hooked. I’ve spent the better part of the last 25 years creating dazzling items to adorn. When I design, it is like being a kid in a candy store. I excitedly start with a pile of beautiful Swarovski crystals. And I often say, “They pay me to play with pretty sparkly things!”

Sometimes the process is inspired by new shapes of Swarovski crystals. I lay them out and start placing different crystals in varying patterns around and near each other. When I start to see a design form, I find a way to repeat this same layout with metallic parts called “findings.” Sometimes it works out perfectly, and sometimes I struggle to find the right parts to enable the crystals and charms to lay right. From that point accent beads are added to add detail, symmetry and character. Plenty of times it doesn’t work at all and I have to start from scratch.

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Sometimes I have an idea in my head and it may be there a day or a year before it becomes a real piece of jewelry. Then one day I’ll start designing and voila, it’s ready to sparkle someone’s belly. There are times it is exactly what I carried around in my head, and others when it evolves into something that doesn’t resemble the original idea at all.

Occasionally I will look through search engine pictures of jewelry or designer websites looking for inspiration. Or I’ll be in a department store and something will catch my eye. I whip out my phone and take a quick shot. Once I set out to be inspired by the original, it ends up looking nothing like it.

Many times I will have a design that I don’t know what colors to use, or colors that I have no design for. Color inspiration comes from an endless number of resources. Usually when I’m in a mall, I’ll come home with 5 or 10 pictures of things that aren’t jewelry but colors or patterns I have seen in clothing. Oddly enough, when I’m cleaning and putting away extra crystals, colors will randomly mix together and the combination will grab my attention. I’ll usually get a bag and put the combination in it for those times when I’ve got a design and I’m looking for colors.

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There are occasions that I’ll see the shape of a tree or how a lamppost looks against a house that will give me an idea for a piece of jewelry. Then I have to translate the elements of what I saw into crystals and metal parts that we carry in stock, not always an easy task, I assure you. It’s always a terrific feeling of accomplishment when it works out like the image I have in my head.

I love my job. If jobs were a lottery, I won the mega millions! Though I don’t see our customers enjoy their pieces, between the online reviews and the feedback from customer service, I have the pleasure of knowing that I enhanced an outfit, helped someone feel pretty, or strengthened someone’s aesthetic.