Take Me to Your Jeweler: Designer Paul Michael Bierker on What Gets His Geek Going

Not many men could get away with presenting their future bride with an R2-D2–inspired engagement ring and get away with it.

However, Joe Pagani pulled it off and gave hope to the nerd galaxy.

Pagani didn’t have to search the universe to find the perfect ring. All he had to do was call up Paul Michael Bierker of Paul Michael Design.

Bierker answered some of JCK’s questions on how he got started in the jewelry biz and what the future holds for his designs.

R2-D2–inspired ring (All photos courtesy of Paul Michael Bierker)

JCK: How did you get into making jewelry?

Paul Michael Bierker: I started when I was in college. I took a class with a dynamic metalsmithing professor, and he got me hooked. While in school, I worked early mornings as a polisher for a Buffalo, N.Y., jewelry manufacturing house, so I could get some real-world technical chops to go with my art school training. Years later, I am still at it. I have been an early adopter of all things tech, at the bench and in my product design.

JCK: What are your specialties? What inspired you to start designing jewelry based on iconic sci-fi movies?

PMB: By nature I am a custom jeweler. I am accustomed to listening to my clients’ ideas and dreams and then creating them. Most of my ideas are based on my clients. They say “Hey, can you make me this?” and I say, “Sure.” Next thing you know, we have a pile of ideas, and we just have to make them.

I often have moments of inspiration, too. I can be in traffic and have to pull over and write things down or do some sketches. My portfolio is well publicized and contains many innovative items that are not so “geek” related. I focus on materials, form, line, and wearability.

JCK: What’s your most memorable design/sale?

PMB: The original R2-D2 ring was really the spark that got my geek going. Joe Pagani, my client on that job, found me on Custommade.com, and we hit it off immediately. We worked together over the Internet, detailing CAD drawings and talking about things he liked or did not like. The final product well was out of this world. His engagement went viral on the Internet, and the rest is history.

JCK: If you had to choose between your R2-D2 ring, your What a Wookie Wants ring, and your Enterprise ring, which one would you choose?

PMB: I love all of my works as if they where my children, so it would be unfair to say my first kid is better than my 23,457th. All I care about, and what gives me the most pleasure as a designer, is did I get the inspiration right, did I meet the goals of the design, and can it be made and worn for generations. Creation is an ever-evolving process, and you either love it all or you don’t do it.

Star Trek–inspired ring

JCK: Have you considered making a piece inspired by Boba Fett?

PMB: Our world is so media driven. The stories we read, watch, and absorb through our devices are an omnipresent element in our lives. As a designer who seeks to make jewelry that people care about, I need to be aware of these sensibilities, and I need to create for the consumer demand. If I can make something that people gravitate toward because it’s inspiring, I’ve have done my job well. 

As for Boba Fett, Mrs. Fett said, “You need some Boba bling,” and the Hunter series was born.

Rings from the Hunter series

JCK: To what extent do you use social media in your business?

PMB: Facebook is a critical element of my online marketing plan. Every item I create is tweeted, posted to Facebook, and then placed for sale online. As a brick-and-mortar store, more than 50 percent of my sales are done online.

JCK: If you could design a piece of jewelry for or inspired by a famous fictional character, who would it be and why?

PMB: Tough question. I love inspiration from any venue, so the opportunities are vast. I have always wanted to do items based on famous architecture or masterworks of fine artists, for example. But that is the future, and only God knows what the universe will serve up next.