The industry is mourning the sudden loss of jewelry designer and innovator Steven Kretchmer, 52, who died July 8 as a result of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Daughter Claudia said his business—Los Angeles–based Steven Kretchmer Designs—will continue. “We want to carry on his legacy,” she said.
In an industry known for being tradition-bound and slow to change, Kretchmer stood out as a genius, an inventor, and rebel who turned tradition on its head and ignored convention. His innovations include blue and purple gold and Polarium, a magnetic platinum alloy that allows jewelry to exhibit some extremely odd behaviors, such as floating or, as Kretchmer termed it, levitating.
The son of a pediatric biochemist and a modern dance choreographer, Kretchmer grew up in a home that blended art and science, a combination that would inspire him his entire life. There were reportedly jewelers far back in the family’s ancestry, but Kretchmer’s own interest in it was self-initiated—although before entering the industry he spent some time on the crew of a fishing boat in Alaska, and earned black belts in three forms of martial arts.
Kretchmer earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in jewelry and metalsmithing at the Rhode Island School of Design, then traveled to Milan, Italy, where he learned traditional goldsmithing techniques from master craftsmen. While living in Milan, he gained a wife, Alma, who would become vice president of his company, and a stepdaughter, Claudia.
In 1982, Kretchmer received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the department of metalwork and jewelry design at the University of Michigan. His radical metallurgical innovations took him to Harry Winston in New York City, where he researched, developed, and produced jewelry components made from unique gold alloys, most notably 18k blue gold. In 1991, he founded his company, and a year later he was voted Designer of the Year at the summer Jewelers of America show.
When in the 1990s Platinum Guild International began revitalizing its American presence, it called on Kretchmer to help. Kretchmer did so by developing innovative production techniques, including his new general purpose alloy, Plat/S+, introduced in 1998. That same year, JCK’s Luxury International named him one of the 10 most collectible contemporary designers, in an article of jewelry historians and auction experts.
Plans are being made for a Rhode Island School of Design scholarship in metallurgy in his honor.
Woodstock, N.Y., police said Kretchmer, who was wearing a helmet and traveling at proper speed, was coming around a curve when his motorcycle struck a car that was turning around in the road, according to the Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y.