Studio Notes: It’s a Gray8 Time to Think About Colorful Jewelry! Part 2
Color is a huge design element in jewelry, and your choices can make or break a cohesive look. For a few hours, though, forget about rules. Instead, plunge into the swirl of color and swim around inviting hues, shades, and tones with these colorful resources. Play with them as you make colorful jewelry.
ABOVE: Courtesy of jeweler Ruth Taubman, Ann Arbor.
Pantone Color Experts
Pantone Inc. has cornered the market as a world expert on color, probably thanks to their gregarious spokeswoman Leatrice Eiseman. Since their beginnings in the 1950s, they have standardized thousands of colors for the manufacturing industry. What this means is that Tiffany & Co. can order the same color of boxes year after year to match their catalog covers, their business cards, their wrapping paper, etc., regardless of where these items are made. Simple as this sounds, this is an incredibly huge task, full of chemistry, precision ratios, quality control and business savvy.
To help designers, Pantone sells fan decks of color as well as color swatch collections starting at $160 and going up to $1,300. For fun, check out their Pantone color finder.
Years ago, as a design reporter for a major Denver newspaper, I acquired a 2003 Pantone Paints + Interiors version containing 1,925 standardized colors. I once held it up to the watery, teal blue horizon of nearby Lake Huron. That sunny day, the distant water fit right in with a strip of dark teal-blue rectangles identified as Ocean Depths, Blue Coral, Pacific, Mediterranea and Atlantic Deep.
Patone’s Color of the Year 2019: Living Coral
Pantone Color Institute’s Color of the Year for 2019 is Living Coral (Pantone 16-1546). Obviously, having a color of the year means Pantone gets a lot of publicity from all corners. To me, the color seems to be sort of a muddy orange pink. However, their public relations people have written plenty of glowing prose: “We are seeking authentic and immersive experiences that enable connection and intimacy. Sociable and spirited, the engaging nature of Pantone 16-1546 Living Coral welcomes and encourages lighthearted activity. Symbolizing our innate need for optimism and joyful pursuits, Pantone 16-1546 Living Coral embodies our desire for playful expression.
“There’s also an ocean tie-in, as you might expect with a hue that has ‘coral’ in its name. Lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem, Pantone Living Coral is evocative of how coral reefs provide shelter to a diverse kaleidoscope of color,” reads the statement.
Living Coral in Colorful Jewelry
Related colors for jewelry makers? Coral, morganite, pyrope garnet, Imperial garnet; peachy tourmalines, sunstones, sapphires and zircons, dyed pearls, agates. Also think dyed leathers, fibers, feathers, powder coatings, enamel colors on metal, Ranger alcohol ink in coral or a mix, seed beads, crystals. . .
Pantone isn’t the only color standards company on the planet. Check out resources available from the Natural Colour System based in Sweden. They offer a completely different feel.
Ann Arbor jeweler Ruth Taubman has made a national, high-end career out of colorful works. Recently, she was willing to participate in an innovations exhibition I organized at the University of Michigan’s main hospital. An accomplished goldsmith, she has developed a stone setting technique that makes her gems appear as if lit from within. Then she pours on the pearls, opals, gold alloys, beads, cabochons and faceted gemstones to create her ebullient style. To see her color in action, go to
Do you like the way enamel looks? You can buy one of Thompson Enamel’s color charts for $2, according to their website. You’ll also find color charts for Swarovski crystals. Fire Mountain Gems sells a Miyuki delica bead chart for $128.
Black Can Be a Creative Color
Vantablack is a coating developed by Surrey NanoSystems, which absorbs all light. Coat a piece of sculpture with it, and you can’t see any of the surface details. Think of creating a highly detailed black necklace that can only be experienced through touch, even in the brightest light. HOWEVER. You can’t buy Vantablack for a jewelry project. Only artist Anish Kapoor can use it, because only he was given the rights to use it.
In revenge (and as a clever artistic project), artist Stuart Semple went out and invented Semple Black 2.0. And he says everyone can use it, except Kapoor.
BRIGHT JEWELRY IDEA (with a dark side): I’d like to make a black necklace out of tiny spiders, ants, leeches, snakes, rats, and other creepy crawlies that you can only feel, not see! Oooooo.
More Colorful Jewelry Ideas
The January/February 2019 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist is loaded with information about color — from Merle White’s column on page 4 to Deborah Yonick’s Pantone 2019 Spring/Summer trends forecast story on page 46. Yonick even pairs Pantone’s color palette with jewelry and gemstones.
I hope you enjoyed yourself during this color break. But here’s an asterisk to keep in mind: *It’s hard to compare pigment colors to gemstones to neon lights to inks to pixels on your computer screen. And colors are affected by coatings or the color of the surfaces they are applied to. But when you are reading this post, I’ve magically suspended these rules for you. Make colorful jewelry!
See part one of Betsy’s thoughts of making colorful jewelry.
Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. You can reach her at [email protected].