The Other Precious Stones
Soft natural shapes crafted from precious metals replicate smooth
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
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
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
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