Fashion Facets

DESIGN FINDS

She doesn’t have a well-known name like David Yurman and she doesn’t have a booth at any jewelry show. Don’t feel bad for her, though. Robin Garin Rotstein does have back-to-back Diamonds-International Awards.

While it’s not unusual for a designer to win more than one of these prestigious awards in a career, Rotstein is only the second designer in the history of the competition to win consecutively. “It feels fabulous. It feels great. I’m still on a bit of a high,” she says. “I was shocked the first time I won, but I was blown away the second time.”

Her diamond-studded career also includes a Diamonds of Distinction Award, two Diamonds Today awards and a “50 Ways to Say Forever” award.

Rotstein, a New York City native, began to make jewelry in high school, then earned a bachelor’s degree in gold- and silversmithing at the State University of New York at New Paltz. She has designed diamond jewelry for a number of prominent manufacturers and marketed her own collection under the name Robin Garin. Since 1995, she has been the product development manager for Nili Jewelry, New York City, which sponsored her DIA entries.

Rotstein’s designs are inspired by romance and femininity, but there’s a strong sense of practicality and a touch of humor also. For example, her 1996 Diamonds-International Award winning design — a diamond bow necklace — was inspired by the feminine drape of a scarf and a vampire.

Vampire? Well, sort of.

“I was reading the Anne Rice books about vampires and started to think about necks and how beautiful and delicate they are,” she says. “Then I was sitting in the Louvre two years ago and noticed all the women there were wearing scarves. Some were so romantic, so floral, so perfect.”

She got the idea to form a scarf from diamonds. “I began with a ribbon with a stiff wire in it,” she explains. “Then I modeled it in clay until it was perfect and, finally, I created the actual piece.”

Rotstein designs jewelry that’s meant to be worn. It’s an expression of the wearer, she says. “The contests are a place to do fantasy and drama, the place where you know you don’t have a customer for it but you want to make the piece anyway,” she says. “But jewelry has the added benefit of being wearable, of being fashion, so I’m glad this collection [DIA ’96] focused on pieces that are wearable.”

The pragmatic Rotstein doesn’t want to starve in a garret. A working mother, she says it’s important to earn a living while creating. Though some purists may scoff at her attitude toward commercialism, Rotstein feels there’s a way to balance art and business. “There’s part of me that wants to reinvent the wheel and have it sell,” she says. “There’s a lot of energy that goes into it. You’re given restrictions on price point, weight and stones, and to come up with something that fits the restrictions and still sells thousands is really exhilarating.”

At the same time, Rotstein needs an outlet for her creativity.”I have ideas, I have collections inside me,” she says. “I need a forum to create because it has to come out.”

GRACIOUS LIVING

Before there were phones, people wrote letters. Some, however, wrote with more stylish instruments than others. The discerning writer can do so again. The newest silver desk accessories shown by the Silver Information Center feature soft, flowing lines and intricate detailing that harken back to the Age of Innocence. Though it lacks the immediate gratification of modern technology, there’s something intensely gratifying about sitting at a richly appointed desk (see photo, p. 68).

SMITHSONIAN JEWELS

Designer Kent Raible of Tiburon, Cal., is history.

His “Floating City” neckpiece was chosen for the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery in the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Kenneth Trapp, chief curator of the Renwick, found the neckpiece in April at the Susan Cummins Gallery, Mill Valley, Cal. “Kent’s work is glorious in that it alludes to a time of opulence, when intensive labor was an end in itself,” he says.”His pieces are the quintessence of sumptuous jewelry.”

The “Floating City” neckpiece is a futuristic metropolis in miniature that took more than 200 hours to create. The piece contains 5.5 ounces of finely wrought 18k yellow, white and red gold and features 29 diamonds. Colored gemstones hang below the cityscape and are set above as centerpieces of small temples. A hand-woven chain wraps around the neck, supporting the city from both sides.

Raible has been creating handfabricated pieces since 1975. He studied the ancient technique of granulation in Germany and has exhibited his work around the world. He is represented in the permanent collection of the Oakland Museum of California, has participated in American Crafts Council Craft Fairs and was featured in the Rising Stars pavilion at the JCK International Jewelry Show and in the New Designer Gallery at the JAInternational Jewelry Show this year.

GALLERY GOLD

Douglas Steakley, owner of Concepts Gallery in Carmel, Cal., is as accomplished a goldsmith as the artists he represents. Steakley’s work offers clean, bold forms mixed with warm colors and soft textures.

“This is a place people come to find more unusual jewelry. This isn’t where they go to find sea otters on a chain,” he says. The otters are common to the Monterey/Carmel coastal area and are popular in souvenirs of all types.

The competition is fierce in Carmel, but smart merchants learn to differentiate themselves. The designer jewelry market is much bigger than it used to be, Steakley says. Even though there are many jewelers in the town, they all seem to survive because of the influx of one-time and repeat tourists, plus a strong local clientele. The biggest competition comes probably from art galleries, he says, when serious art collectors opt for a painting instead of jewelry.