If you own a piece of karat gold jewelry featuring an antique mother-of-pearl gaming chip, there’s a good chance it’s the handiwork of designer Donna Chambers, who launched the Donna Chambers Collection in 1979. Inspired by pieces she found during the AGTA Tucson GemFair around 1985, the gaming chips quickly became her signature style due to their beauty and obscurity. Chambers finds the chips, created by Chinese craftsmen between 1720 – 1840, who were commissioned to carve British family crests and other pretty figures like flowers into them, through one lone English antique dealer and collector.
“I’m hoping not to run out,” she says. “I’ve been collecting and buying for years and still am … I’m not worried.”
But even longtime designers like Chambers, with 50 active accounts nationwide, succumb to the flagging economy; Chambers’ moment came this week when she unveiled a silver line at the Tucson show. Clients had been asking Chambers for one for years, but she initially resisted out of concern that tarnishing silver would interfere with the beauty of the gaming chips. However, as the price of gold rose, the artist conceded, offering the new sterling line with suggested retail prices starting at $200 (compared to the $600 in 14k gold).
Chambers’ new silver work feature the same elegant mother-of-pearl pieces accented with gemstones. To slightly differentiate the gold and silver looks, Chambers uses marcasite enhancers with a darker hue to make the high-polish sterling pop. Most focal point pieces can still be worn as the pin/pendant combinations that Chambers’ fans are accustomed to, while multicolored pearl and beaded strands–instead of karat-gold chains–allow wearers to mix and match and add on components in affordable ways.
Already the new line has hooked buyers (12 to be exact) who’ve made purchases. To see the jewelry for yourself, visit Chambers at AGTA Booth #3006 or log onto her website.
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