First of all, thank you to everyone who submitted work for our May is Gold Month contest! We received 15 outstanding entries, and narrowing the field to just one winner was a difficult endeavor. The judges looked for craftsmanship, design and, of course, exceptional use of yellow gold.
Our winner, Kelly Noonan of 5 Oaks Studio in Arlington, Texas, submitted a matching pair of men’s 18K yellow gold wedding bands, which were cast and then channel set with 3mm princess-cut diamonds and inlaid with hand-cut lapis lazuli.
The combination of her use of color, multiple techniques and clear skill won our vote. We caught up with Kelly to learn a little more about her work and the winning piece.
Heather Apodaca: Can you tell us more about the rings you entered in the contest? What’s the story behind them?
Kelly Noonan: The rings were commissioned by a male couple to exchange at their wedding. They gave me a very rough sketch. Generally the requirements were gold, lapis lazuli, and diamonds that would look something along the lines of their sketch. I wanted to do a decent illustration of the piece before starting any wax work, so I went back to my studio and produced a drawing.
The lapis is striking against the rich yellow of a high-karat gold, and the addition of lots of pyrite in the lapis enhances the pairing further.
I was going to have to custom fit the lapis into the opening in the metal after it was cast, so I was really after stones large enough to cut down. Ultimately I used the underside of a buff-top lapis as the inlay stone.
I asked the helpful folks in the Rio stone department to send me good rich blue color, pyrite flecked, nicely polished stones—but on the back of the stone not the front! They were wonderfully helpful and got me just what I was looking for in the lapis.
The prospect of diamond setting after a near 20-year hiatus was nerve racking. The purchase of a Foredom® hammer handpiece made the work much easier and greatly increased the speed, control, and power of channel setting the princess-cut diamonds.
I could not have been happier with the way the rings came out. They were just as I had envisioned them, and the clients were delighted with them.
HA: How did you get your start in the jewelry industry?
KN: I received my bachelor of fine arts in 1985 from what was then North Texas State University, now known as the University of North Texas. My degree focused in Crafts with a concentration in Jewelry Making and Metalworking. I was very fortunate to study under a gifted artist and amazing craftsman named Harlan Butt. Upon graduation my first position was apprenticing under Cynthia Thomas, jeweler and master caster.
I practiced jewelry making for about the first 10 years of work life, working in several custom jewelry shops. In the late 1990s I decided to pursue higher education and earned an MBA. I worked in corporate America in marketing for 10 years. I felt empty and longed for a creative vocation again. After a welcomed downsizing out of corporate, I took the opportunity to re-embrace my passion creating works of art as a jewelry designer and maker.
HA: What is your favorite thing about working with yellow gold?
KN: I love the buttery color of gold. The natural color in higher karats, that is 18k or higher, has a richness and depth that is expressive of its nature. The inherent beauty of most colored stones is enhanced by that sumptuous rich color.
HA: What are you working on now?
KN: I design and sell a line of jewelry through my website 5 Oaks Studio. There you will find musings in jewelry, including the Isosceles Series, in which The Elements, a cycle of four designs, reflect the four elements of air, earth, fire, and water all set upon the framework of a gently arching isosceles triangle.
I’m certifiably crazy about my two Jack Russell Terriers and so have honored them by developing a series called Impressions, simply a cutout from sterling silver sheet of their actual footprints and their names sawn through below. This series is totally customized with the client’s, child’s, or pet’s footprints.
Another piece I call the Infinity Cross. The design is based on a three-dimensional infinity ribbon, known as a Mobius strip, which is folded into the shape of a cross. I think there is deep meaning and symbiotic enhancement with the combination of the cross and infinity.
Hey readers! Keep your eyes open for our next What Are You Working on Now contest in July! Be sure to check back for your chance to enter and win!