Favorite Jewelry from the AGTA Spectrum and Cutting Edge Awards


Last week, I viewed jewelry submissions to the American Gem Trade Association’s (AGTA) annual Spectrum and Cutting Edge Awards. This year marked the venue’s 25th anniversary. For those unfamiliar with the Awards, they are an opportunity for big names and newcomers alike to demonstrate their talent in the design of colored gemstone jewelry and the unique and expert cutting of loose colored stones.  


Hundreds of entries are judged across 19 different categories, including Evening Wear, and judges come from all corners of industry—manufacturing, editorial, and lapidary. Nearly all of the submissions are beautiful and expertly crafted, but every year, I always walk away from the awards thinking that many of the pieces (including winning pieces) appeal to too-specific target niches and customers, even though the awards are supposed to be a showcase for innovative and saleable creations. This is my opinion, and I encourage others to weigh in on the topic.


Each year when I see all of the submissions versus what has been selected to receive top honors, I wonder how much salability factors into the judging process. For example, this year’s Best in Show piece—the most outstanding piece of jewelry from the entire body of submissions—is a carved, natural-color green Turquoise horse head pin. I certainly see the skill in crafting the piece, know the stone’s color is rare and that the artist, Frederic Sage, makes beautiful jewelry. But, I wonder about the limited appeal of such a specific piece and its designation as the ‘best’ in the entire show. I think that the best piece of the show should be one that has a more mainstream appeal, and that many people can easily envision themselves owning and wearing.


At any rate, I’ll detail my favorites from the event and why I think they should inspire delight, purchases, and interest in the designers who made them. Being a colored gemstone competition, I liked a number of the pieces for the way they showed off extraordinary stones. Incredible focus points don’t need complicated settings because the stones will command attention. Overall, I pick jewelry to highlight that is well-made, generally attractive (which is somewhat subjective, of course), and is interesting and unusual without being far-out, hard to understand, or intimidating. A circle of white gold on a chain is kind of boring, but an intricate gemstone likeness of a reptile might be too specific to appreciate by most. And since a jeweler’s goal is to sell and a collector’s aim is to garner compliments, the aesthetics we create are meaningful. 

All photos were taken by me at the press preview.


Number One in Evening Wear and the Best of Show

The Enchanted Stallion brooch features a 158.26 ct. t.w. natural-color Turquoise, colorless diamonds, and Demantoid garnets set in 18k green and white gold. This piece took the top spot in Evening Wear and is the Best of Show pick. I am curious about its widespread appeal to the jewelry-buying public. Frederic Sage, www.FredericSage.com


Evening Wear Category


The combination of rose gold with the orangey oval-cut stone and colorless melee make this ring feminine and pretty—very girly. Padparadscha sapphire in 18k gold with diamonds. Judy Evans for Philip Zahm Designs, www.philipzahm.com


This ring and stone look very German (read sleek) to me. The unadorned, bold white setting is ideal to show off the expertly-cut stone. Marquise-cut green Beryl with diamonds in 18k gold. Scott Keating Designs, www.scottkeating.com


I love these earrings because they are pearls (of course) and because the pair will punctuate a black cocktail dress with just the right dash of color. Cultured pearls with spinels, tourmalines, citrines, amethysts, and sapphires in 14k gold. Alejandra Solomone for Alejandra Jewels, www.alejandrajewels.com


The yellow diamond and orangey sapphire are an interesting color combination, and the blackened platinum setting gives the piece a bit of Goth feel. A 5.08 ct. t.w. Padparadscha sapphire, yellow pear-shape diamonds, and colorless melee, are set in platinum. Christopher Duquet Fine Jewelry Designs, www.christopherduquet.com


Oversize cuts of pink and red stones make this pretty, supersized three-stone style easy to appreciate. However, I think the ring is better for the Classic or Day Wear categories, not Evening Wear. Sapphire center stone with rhodolite garnet side stones in 14k gold. Sara L. Edgington for Mark Loren Designs, www.marklorendesigns.com.


Tahitian pearls, so of course I love them; these come with complimentary-color gems that frame the pearls. These could be worn during the day, too, with few other accessories. Tahitian pearls with zircons, tourmalines, aquamarines, tsavorite garnets, and diamonds. Mimi Favre for Favre Studio, (610) 296-5569, http://www.jhmusegallery.com/html/artistresults.asp?artist=53&testing=true.



This pendant necklace is beautifully made (you can tell from the pic that it was fabricated, not cast) and has a pretty-color center stone with a fabulous cut. Rose Quartz center set in platinum with colorless side stones. Karen Arthur for Oliver & Espig Jewelers, www.oliverandespig.com


The picture does not do the piece justice. The quartz center stone has some cool inclusions which have been expertly cut as focal points. 18k white gold and palladium “Medusa” pendant features a 11.13 ct. t.w. quartz with black and colorless diamonds. Frederic Sage (again), www.fredericsage.com. This young jeweler manages to collect design awards every year. 


This is my personal Best in Show. I love the use of the small pearls, unusual to see in a ring, and the platinum mounting is perfect for iridescent beauties. The underside has a nice gallery, too. This ring is fantastic for bridal, and for me! Multi-colored natural pearls are set in platinum with pavé. Monili, www.jewelrybymonili.com


Okay, I know I’m a little obsessed with pearls, but these pearls have karat-gold petals matching the flakes’ natural shapes and are set with colored stones. Keshi pearls with 18k rose gold petals, tourmalines, and cognac diamonds. Russ Hollander Master Goldsmith, www.ringart.com.



Day Wear Category


This pretty pendant would show up beautifully against a black or white blouse and small earrings to compliment the colors in the necklace. It’s a great focal point to an outfit. 18k yellow gold with red enamel, green tourmaline, red sapphires, and colorless melee. Gennadiy Berdnik (818-765-5237) and Andrew Sarosi (www.andrewsarosi.com).

Editor’s Note: I can’t find Berdnik’s web site, anybody know it? 


This pretty pendant features an unusual, long rectangular cut of moonstone. The piece would look great as the focal point of a dark-color ensemble. Moonstone and diamonds in 18k gold. Michelle Valadon Design.

Editor’s Note: I can’t find any contact info for her.


The random shapes of moonstone cabochons set in yellow gold are unusual and pretty. Moonstones are great because they’re less expensive than many other stones and are very pretty. The finish on the gold is also neat—it’s rough, and reminds me of sandpaper (which I consider a good thing since I like to refinish furniture). 18.08 cts. t.w. moonstone in 18k yellow gold. Vahe Ghazarian for Pure Carbon, www.purcarbon.com


This citrine is cut in such an interesting way that it needs no other adornment. I also like the matching yellow cord it’s strung on. 45.96 ct. t.w. lemon quartz in 14k white and green gold. Michael Ponthieux for Ponthieux’s Jewelry Design Studio, www.ponthieuxs.com


More Tahitians, but smaller ones and they are set in a pretty tri-color-gold lariat. The small diamond accents in the chain add just the right amount of sparkle. Tahitian pearls in 18k white, rose, and green gold with diamonds. Pamela Froman for Pamela Froman Fine Jewelry, www.pamelafroman.com


This center stone looks like moonstone in the pic, but it’s actually a star sapphire. The contrasting yellow gold setting and colorless accents really make the stones pop, more so than they would in a matching cool-tone metal. 3.30 ct. t.w. Star Sapphire with diamonds in 22k yellow gold. Michael Endlich for Pave Fine Jewelry, www.pavefinejewelry.com


This ring features a clever use of multiple types of stones. The style reminds me a little bit of Mark Patterson’s Samba collection, but these stones are much larger, and, the overall look isn’t delicate—it’s bold. Peridot, tourmalines, and garnet with diamonds in 18k yellow gold. Leslie Steinweiss for Julius Cohen Jeweler, www.juliuscohen.com



Bridal Wear Category


One of the sole diamond-only entries in the competition, this engagement ring is delicate-looking but the blackened metal setting keeps it from being overly feminine. 3.11 ct. t.w. cushion-cut diamond and melee in platinum. Erica Courtney, www.ericacourtney.com


Blackened metal and stones contrast the feminine styling of the piece, which would make a great mate for the previous ring. 7.78 ct. t.w. black diamond with colorless stones on a diamond chain, all metal is 18k black gold. Yehouda Saketkhou for Yael Designs, www.yaeldesigns.com


The mix of diamond shapes, including trapezoids, is interesting and the total carat weight—nearly 5 carats—make the earrings über luxurious for any bride. Trapezoid, marquise, fancy baguette, and round diamonds are set in platinum. Ricardo Basta Jewels by Bernier, www.ricardobasta.com.



Classical Designs


The tall, high-polished bezel mounting that frames the stone creates a modern look, and, reminds me a little of a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup (always a good thing). 7.85 ct. t.w. tourmaline in 14k yellow gold with diamond accents. Lynda Rasco for Harvest Gold Jewelry, www.harvestgoldgallery.com



Men’s Wear


These cufflinks are a fantastic use of Meteorite—that funky and uncommon find that you typically only see in big chunks at the Tucson gem shows. Meteorite is ideal for guys, because it’s sleek, unusual, and has a high-tech look. Meteorite in 19k white gold. Andrew Costen for Costen Catbalue Goldsmiths, www.costencatbalue.com


This palladium and Tahitian pearl pendant is a big, edgy look that can be carried off by the right guy (I’m thinking our art director, Todd Gast).  12.55 mm Tahitian pearl in palladium. H. Gio Giovanni for Blacksmith & Co., www.blacksmithandcompany.com


Best Use of Pearls


More pearls, so, yep, I’m down with this piece. In particular, the pearls are top quality (you can see your reflection in them in person), the diamonds add just enough sparkle for interest, and the design is simple (swirls) without being boring because the maker mixed three unlikely colors—yellow, white, and peacock. Platinum and 18k yellow gold Celebration ring features a South Sea, golden South Sea, and two Tahitian pearls accented with colorless and yellow diamonds. James W. Currens for J.W. Currens Inc., (212) 944-1222‎.



Best Use of Color and Most Fashion Forward


The technical skill that went into making this piece is impressive. The maker set individual colored stones and pavé in between two halves of clear quartz before mounting the entire cabochon into a ring. The finished piece is bright, happy, and sort of Pucci-esque. Platinum Kaleidescope X2 ring features an 85 ct. t.w. crystal enclosing diamonds, amethysts, aquamarines, fire opals, topaz, citrines, garnets, and tourmalines. James W. Currens for J.W. Currens Inc., (212) 944-1222‎.




Platinum Honors


This brooch/pendant is just plain pretty. The skill in creating the individual platinum leaves and setting each with such specific stones requires patience and a good eye for detail and color (the gradation of hues is truly beautiful).  Platinum brooch/pendant features a .57 ct. t.w. brown diamond, yellow diamonds, rubies, pink and yellow sapphires, and colorless diamonds. Michael daCosta for Fortune’s Fine Jewellery Ltd., www.fortunes.com


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