The Other Precious Stones

January 1999

Precious Metals:News

The Other Precious Stones

Soft natural shapes crafted from precious metals replicate smooth river rocks

Inspiration for jewelry design often comes from the natural world. Every plant and animal imaginable has been portrayed as a jewel at one time or another.

As we near the end of the 20th century, a different aspect of the natural world has appeared in jewelry – motifs drawn from the mineral kingdom. We're not talking about cut gems or rough crystal forms set in jewelry, rather another type of precious stone – jewelry made to resemble rocks and stones massaged by the hands of time.

Early on the scene were Carrie Adell's Touchstones, introduced at the Jeweler's of America show in 1987. More recently, Robert Lee Morris launched his Riverstone line, and Steven Burlingham brought forth his jewelry of softened shapes that seem to have been tumbled smooth in a stream. Retailers Tiffany & Co. and H. Stern have rock-like collections as well.

Adell developed her Touchstones out of respect for the earth. Each one-of-a-kind hollow "stone" is made of precious metals with techniques such as shakudo (an alloy of copper) and mokume gane (layers of different-colored metals that create a wood-grain look). They are designed to be strung on simple wire and worn singly or in groups as earrings, brooches, rings or necklaces.

Morris is a 25-year veteran in the design and jewelry world who always works on the vanguard of style. His new line of 18k gold and platinum jewelry called Riverstones was inspired by the smooth river rocks on his New Mexico property. Morris assembles his unevenly rounded riverstones as necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings. Some variations have diamonds or other stones set along a soft edge or in depressions made to imitate water-eroded hollows. Morris recently teamed with M. Fabrikant & Sons, New York City, one of the world's largest jewelry manufacturers, to produce and market his collections internationally, freeing him to concentrate on design.

Though designing jewelry might seem a natural outlet for the great-great-grandson of famed jeweler Charles Tiffany, Burlingham only recently began to do so after years as a photographer's rep and then designing wallpaper, textiles and silver accessories. His newest line of sterling silver and 18k gold jewelry features classic shapes, rounded and softened as if aged by time, weather or the sea.

Maybe the earth's endurance makes jewelry imitating weathered rock so popular. Whatever the reason, it does make you reconsider the definition of "precious stones."

– by Elise B. Misiorowski

Stephen Burlingham's sterling silver and 18k gold jewelry (bottom) is softened and rounded, while Robert Lee Morris takes his cues from washed river stones.



Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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