Smart Jewelry Design: Keep It Simple, Sometimes

Stay happy by learning something new. So advises C.D. Davis in our recent artist Q&A. A once wire-wrapper only, Davis has steadily been acquiring a host of fabrication skills and applying them as fast and thick as he can. Still showcasing colorful crystals in intricate nests of silver wire, his pieces may now also sport back plates, sides, bezels, tiny precision-set gems, and accents of gold. Challenging himself to new accomplishments, he says, keeps jewelry making fresh and fun for him and designs fresh and fun for his followers.

ABOVE: Part of her series Take the Long View, this is a fairly complex pendant design by Noël Yovovich; photo: Jim Lawson

After you’ve found your voice, refined your aesthetic, picked up plenty of techniques and honed them well, you may discover that knowing how to dial it back is another valuable and hard-won skill. Perhaps you thrive on adding layers of complexity to your work, but on occasion you may want or need to speed up construction, develop an easier process, or lower your costs. If you have a business, that approach can also help you produce a more salable line through better efficiency in production and greater flexibility in pricing.

Jewelry Design Exploration with Noël Yovovich

Take it from one who knows. As Noël Yovovich explains in two related projects and a comparison of them in the latest issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, there are always choices in developing a jewelry design and building a piece. It’s one reason why she and many artists frequently work in series. You narrow your options for one version of a design, and then return for a version where you can try out other ideas you had along the way.

Noël distilled the essentials of her pendant design at top to create this version: still compelling but easier to produce; photo: Jim Lawson

Noël distilled the essentials of her pendant design at top to create this version: still compelling but easier to produce; photo: Jim Lawson

She started with the more complex, detailed iteration of her series Take the Long View shown at the top. Then she wanted to produce a variation that would require less advanced skills so a wider group of readers would find the project within their grasp. For the pared down variation above, first she identified what to her are the key features of the design. Then she considered possibilities for simplifying each one while keeping the essence of its design contribution. Finally, she made her choice about whether and how to change that feature.

Most changes in her jewelry design are apparent from the front, but not all. Details on the back of a piece surprise and delight an owner: the pierced silver tree appears on the back as well as the front of Noël’s more complex pendant.

Back of Take the Long View, complex version, by Noël Yovovich; photo: Jim Lawson

Back of Take the Long View, complex version, by Noël Yovovich; photo: Jim Lawson

But in the simpler variation, Noël has eliminated this more demanding element, though we still are treated to the sunset-like colors of her signature anodized titanium — detail enough, she decided, for an easier project.

Back of Take the Long View, simplified version, by Noël Yovovich; photo: Jim Lawson

Back of Take the Long View, simplified version, by Noël Yovovich; photo: Jim Lawson

Learn to Do It Yourself

Instructions for making these two versions of Take the Long View appear in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist March/April 2019. You can also find her comparison of the two jewelry designs. How she decided what to consider for streamlining, and why she came up with the modifications she made, are really at the heart of the exercise. So you can make either pendant, and you can learn how to develop your own designs to be more like what you want them to be.

Besides finding different ways to make jewelry in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist March/April 2019, you’ll also discover many places where you can learn and practice jewelry making hands on. Schools, maker spaces, and parks and recreation programs all have something special to offer. You can find out about them in the issue’s special focus on education.

Tucson Parks and Recreation jewelry instructor Mark Ramsour’s silver bracelet is an example of what can be accomplished in his Hydraulic Press Secrets class; photo: Jorga Riggenbach, courtesy Tucson Parks and Recreation

Tucson Parks and Recreation jewelry instructor Mark Ramsour’s silver bracelet is an example of what can be accomplished in his Hydraulic Press Secrets class; photo: Jorga Riggenbach, courtesy Tucson Parks and Recreation.

More Jewelry Design Instructions and Variations

Karen Lauseng shows you how to make this mokumé gané and textured silver link bracelet. She also discusses several variations of this design and why she settled on this one; photo: Jim Lawson

Karen Lauseng shows you how to make this mokumé gané and textured silver link bracelet. She also discusses several variations of this design and why she settled on this one; photo: Jim Lawson

 

Such a perfect little design to hang from ears! Change the color to suit your outfit, and the beads to suit your budget: peridot chain maille earrings by Kylie Jones; photo: Jim Lawson

Such a perfect little design to hang from ears! Change the color to suit your outfit, and the beads to suit your budget: peridot chain maille earrings by Kylie Jones; photo: Jim Lawson

 

Using materials “off-label,” or for purposes other than manufactured, is a great way to stretch your imagination and sometimes your budget. Betsy Lehndorff uses her fancy wire made by soldering commercial chain to create a cuff, a ring, and more; photo: Jim Lawson

Using materials “off-label,” or for purposes other than manufactured, is a great way to stretch your imagination and sometimes your budget. Betsy Lehndorff uses her fancy wire made by soldering commercial chain to create a cuff, a ring, and more; photo: Jim Lawson

Not sure which new direction to take? Pick one out of a hat. You may be surprised at just how refreshing any choice turns out to be.

 

Jim Perkins cut this peridot into his own antique cushion faceting design, 10.35 x 7.97 mm, 2.8 cts; photo: Jim Lawson

Jim Perkins cut this peridot into his own antique cushion faceting design, 10.35 x 7.97 mm, 2.8 cts; photo: Jim Lawson

And don’t miss the lowdown on peridot in Smokin’ Stones, the current twist on the crystal aesthetic in Trends, the latest in soldering aids in Cool Tools & Hip Tips, and more!

 

Helen Driggs shares tools and supplies she uses to make her soldering sensational in Cool Tools & Hip Tips; photo: Jim Lawson

Helen Driggs shares tools and supplies she uses to make her soldering sensational in Cool Tools & Hip Tips; photo: Jim Lawson

P.S. You can find the complete Q&A with C.D. Davis in Recipe for a Happy Life.

Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.
This post is adapted from her column, “Keep It Simple — Sometimes,” in the March/April 2019 issue.

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Explore jewelry design and much more in this issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist!