Studio Notes: It’s a Gray8 Time to Think About Colorful Jewelry! Part 1

At the moment, my world is specter-white, nights and mornings lost to darkness, everything splintered with cold. Lately I’ve only been cranking out safe sterling silver and white pearl jewelry. Yes, they are lovely. But colorless. Which means it’s time for an inner pep talk about COLOR.

ABOVE: Gemstones for colorful jewelry. Photo: Getty Images.

Inspiration for this was fired up by Chicago graphic artist Nicholas Rougeux. The 36 year old recently reproduced Werner’s 1821 Nomenclature of Colours by P. Syme on his website, in its entirety. For free. Fragile and stained, the book’s aging pages display 110 hand-painted colors and their names.

colorful jewelry - Splash page by Rougeux for the color book

Splash page by Rougeux for the color book

The Werner/Syme book was an early attempt to standardize colors and was based mostly on non-fading mineral pigments. But it brings up a crucial question that most of us jewelry artists face:

Are we afraid of color? The answer is yes, and Rougeux knows why.

“It’s easy to consume colors,” says Rougeux.

In other words, you buy a handbag, because you like its color. But when it comes to making that handbag (or colorful jewelry) yourself as an artist, you freeze. You wonder what color will sell.

“They’re hard to pick. You don’t want to make the wrong choice,” he says.

colorful jewelry making - a page from the Werner book

a page from the Werner book

TIP: The January/February 2019 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist is loaded with information about color and colorful jewelry — from Merle White’s column on page 4 to Deborah Yonick’s Pantone Spring/Summer trends forecast story on page 46. Yonick even pairs Pantone’s color palette with jewelry and gemstones.

Making Colorful Jewelry

In graphic arts, if one of Rougeux’s clients doesn’t like a color he has chosen, it is easy to change digitally. But if we sink time and money into a piece of jewelry or a collection, and it doesn’t sell, what then?

“Make what you like,” Rougeux advises. “There’s bound to be other people out there who like it.”

Rougeux reproduced the antique book because he thought it was valuable to others, a process that took him about a week digitally. And color must sell. So far, he’s had 100,000 hits on his website since he launched the project September 9.

But he hasn’t stopped there. As a data artist, he’s added his own spin, playing with the Werner colors to create unusual posters he sells.
Other Rougeux projects have taken more time, such as when he broke a classical musical composition down into data points and generated circle patterns by computer. He can’t read music, but as a creative artist, he can see music. He’s also played with the colors of the New Yorker magazine, subway maps, urban weather patterns, and Shakespeare’s sonnets, creating never before seen art each time through computerization.

“Every project I work on blows my mind,” the 36-year-old says. “I’m learning things I never thought I would learn about.”

colorful gemstones; Photo: Getty Images. Taken In Phuket, Thailand

Photo: Getty Images. Taken In Phuket, Thailand

Learn More About Color

• You can get a pocket-sized facsimile of Werner’s book as a gift for yourself or a friend, $14.95 plus shipping

• Want to bathe in color? Check out more of Rougeux’s work.

• Check out part two of my colorful jewelry series, which offers a ton of resources on color and information on Living Color, Pantone’s 2019 Color of the Year.

NOTE: A key thing to remember is that pigment colors are different than colors created by digital pixels. They are also different from colors created when light passes through a ruby or a sapphire.

Trick Question: What color are the walls of your studio? Email your answer to Betsy and let us know in the comments below!

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. You can reach her at [email protected].

Learn more about color and making colorful jewelry!

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