Award-Winning Designer James Currens Dies

His much-heralded work garnered 19 AGTA Spectrum Awards

James Currens, a highly regarded jewelry designer with multiple awards to his name, died April 14. He was 58.

Bangkok-based Currens began cutting his own stones and fabricating jewelry when he was 14 years old. His much-heralded often-intricate work garnered 19 American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Awards—five Best of Shows—and four Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America awards. One of his pieces—a 100 ct. ruby necklace—sold for $9.98 million at Sotheby’s in 2014.

“He was truly one of the best bench jewelers and designers around, combining traditional jewelry-making with the most modern equipment,” says friend Hayley Henning, vice president of sales and marketing for True North Gems.

New York City gem carver and jewelry designer Naomi Sarna studied under Currens; she found the experience intimidating but enriching. 

“It was terrifying to present my work to such a master,” she says. “He insisted that you do your very best. He made those of us who were fortunate to learn from him much, much better jewelers. It was a life-changing and certainly craft-affirming experience. And over time we became very, very close friends.

“He was a great, great craftsman. His work was just extraordinary.”

In 2012, Jennifer Heebner paid tribute to his ruby lava ring (below), which had just won Best of Show at the AGTA Spectrum Awards.

He is survived by his wife Helen, who worked with him in his company, J.W. Currens.


(Photo, above, courtesy of American Gem Trade Association; photo, top, by Sandro Art & Photography)

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