Professional Jeweler Archive: AJDC Design Project Takes Off

October 2001

Precious Metals/News

AJDC Design Project Takes Off

The most innovative creators in the U.S. designer jewelry community are inspired by flight as a theme

The myth of Icarus, Michelangelo’s drawings of a flying machine and Steve Fosset’s attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon are testament to humankind’s fascination with flight – actual or flights of fancy. In the seventh annual American Jewelry Design Council Design Project, members were asked to consider flight in any form as inspiration, and the original jewelry pictured here is the result. All literary quotations were added by Professional Jeweler.

AJDC is a non-profit organization of jewelry designers dedicated to elevating jewelry design and challenging professional jewelry designers worldwide to realize their creative potential. The Design Project gives members a chance to create jewelry based on artistic merit, free from considering the practical problems of manufacturing the piece.

“Each year a fresh design theme inspires each member to create a one-of-a-kind jewelry object,” says AJDC. The creations were displayed at the summer JA International Jewelry Show in New York City and will tour museums, auction houses and other trade shows around the country before joining the American Jewelry Design Council Collection. Previous themes have included the Mona Lisa, cube, wheel, key, puzzle and water.

• AJDC, President Susan Helmich; (719) 488-0484,

– by Sarah R. Donahue

All photos by Ron Saltiel

Wind Beneath My Wings
18k gold

“Love wing’d my hopes and taught me how to fly.”

– Anonymous

22k gold and rubber

“With full delight,
I leave this light;
And take my flight
for heaven.”

– Robert Herrick

Artist’s Comment
As the mobius extends into increasingly complex forms, our hold on space is tested and our imaginations take flight into a non-definitive world.

Lazy Circles In The Sky
Platinum and diamonds

“Love, free as air … spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies.”

– Alexander Pope

Celtic Shuttle Shuffle
18k yellow and white gold

“You cannot learn to fly by flying. First you must learn … to dance.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

Artist’s Comment
Another frontier opens up as the multinational barbarians shuttle between terra firma and Alpha 1.

18k gold, carved opal and sterling silver

“His Phoenix down began to appear
Like unshorn velvet on that termless skin.”

– William Shakespeare

Artist’s Comment
It is my objective to create a piece that tells something about an experience I have had ... something that shares a little of my life with those who view my work. I know that sounds difficult when I must draw from one word, but something always seems to click, and then it is just a matter of creation. Style and marketing are eliminated from the palette, so I feel a sense of freedom that comes from working purely as an artist!

This year has been one of transition for me, as my firstborn moved away. Such a natural and inevitable event marks a closed chapter in the parent and child’s lives. I saw this as a metamorphosis for my son. I associated this thought with the butterfly and how it emerges from a cocoon, having developed into a beautifully winged creature that lives its new life in flight, with freedom to explore greater territory than before. I wanted this piece to intrigue the viewer to ask what environment this butterfly is emerging from. The answer is in the title of the piece. My son made choices that offered a positive future, while choices from his past had sometimes proved otherwise! He was rising from the ashes of his past – just like the “Phoenix” we read about in mythology. My son, Josh, moved to Phoenix, AZ, in August 2000.

Bird In Flight
18k gold and diamonds

“Oh birds. Your perfect virtues bring,
Your songs, your form, your rhythmic flight.”

– William Wordsworth

Flight Without Wings
18k yellow and rose gold, South Sea cultured pearl, diamonds and sapphires

“He rode upon the cherubim, and did fly.”

– The Bible, Psalm 18

In Fine Feathers
18k red, white and yellow gold

“The wings half spread … to ride those winds that clamour.”

– W.B. Yeats

Blue Mesa Reservoir
From Above
18k gold, palladium, opal and diamonds

“The absolute flight and rest
The universal blue
And local green suggest”

– Robert Frost

Bionic Bug
22k gold, sterling, blue topaz and a Tahitian cultured pearl

“The dragonfly forever passes like splintered diamonds.”

– Madison Cawein

18k gold and tourmaline

“Above the Olympian Hill I soare,
Above the flight of Pegasean wing.”

– John Milton

Up, Up and Away
18k rose and yellow gold, platinum and diamonds

“Flight is but preparative.”

– Thomas Traherne

Artist’s Comment
I wanted to do something very special, very much my own on this project. I have always been captivated by movement in jewelry and, over the years, have created lots of kinetic pieces, ones which involve the wearer in the effect.

This year’s project is serious and whimsical. The materials are serious: 18k yellow and red gold, platinum and diamonds. But the design is not. It’s like a propeller beanie, but it’s a ring, complete with a ball bearing for the prop to spin freely and a half-carat diamond set upside down as the nose cone.

There’s a spray of diamonds on the inside of the finger hole. Setting these was very tricky because they were set upside down, from the interior of the shank before the platinum sleeve was inserted into the body of the ring. The finish is unconventional, with a richly scratched surface on the body of the ring, created by rasping the gold with a coarse diamond nail file, one that came complete with a pink plastic handle from the local Rite-Aid.

Go Fly A Kite
18k yellow and white gold and diamonds

“A kite, tremendous bird, is beheld by the feathered generation soaring aloft …”

– Henry Fielding

Freshwater cultured pearls, sapphires and 18k green gold

“Outwinged in flight
The pleasant region of the things I love …
Crimson and purple and all hues of wine.”

– George Santayana

Platinum, diamond, opal and tourmalines

“All through the hot afternoon … how clearly I see the dragonfly and her.”

– Virginia Woolf

Artist’s Comment
I did a figurative expression for the Flight project – a dragonfly, which was a first for me. Previously, all my pieces have been abstract, dealing with the dramatic presentation of the gemstone (Floating Diamond) on sculpted metal designs that reflect the human form. I realized I could also use two signature elements – the Sequence Floater® diamonds, which form the body of the dragonfly, and colored gemstones from my Tangent™ Collection, which I used for the wings and head.

I selected hot pink tourmaline and fire opal for the wings, a combination that vibrates visually, infusing a sense of movement in the stationary wings. The platinum under the diamonds visually disappears, in keeping with my collection themes of reflectivity and illusion.

I have since created a series of three additional dragonflies on a smaller scale. For me, the AJDC annual project is not only a way to fuse artistic out-of-the-box creativity with the reality of my commercial work, but to communicate the mission of the group to promote the understanding of original fine jewelry as art.

Time Flight
18k gold and sterling silver

“And time and the world are ever in flight.”

– W.B. Yeats

Double Entendre

“When we are high and airy hundreds say,
That if we hold that flight they’ll leave the place.”

– W.B. Yeats

Interstate Flight
Acrylic sheet, nickel, steel and vinyl

“Flight from tyranny does not of itself insure a safe asylum, much less a happy home.”

– Herman Melville

Copyright © 2001 by Bond Communications