Artisan Alley: Celebrating the Art of Collaboration


“The lightning spark of thought generated in the solitary mind awakens its likeness in another mind.” —Thomas Carlyle

By Antoinette Rahn and Erin Dana Balzrette

I’m absolutely blown away by the artistry coming out of collaborations between lapidary artists and silversmiths. This fusion is, in my humble opinion, a wonderful illustration of Mr. Carlyle’s commentary.

In this installment of the new blog/column Artisan Alley, we are showcasing the work of 10 artists – the lapidary artists responsible for the respective cabochons and the silversmiths who incorporate the cabs into their silver artistry. As an added bonus, we’re unveiling another new element of this blog/column: the artists’ response to the question: What’s the inspiration behind your work in this piece?

The artistic pieces showcased in the Artisan Alley blog/column are the genius of lapidary artists and silversmiths who are members of the Stone and Silver Facebook group.

Sun and Moon Rings
Pietersite cabochons
Silversmith Elaine Venditti
Lapidary artist Kristine Gniot

“My inspiration for the moon ring was when I found a blazing golden chatoyant sun alongside a shimmering blue moon in the same pietersite slab and I felt the need to bring the sun and moon together,” explains Kristine Gniot. “Much like my marriage of 25 years – my husband is a Leo Sun Child and I am his Cancer Moon Maiden – these are complete opposites that when put together, become whole.

“Blue Namibian pietersite has been my most favorite stone for the last three or so years now and it always calls to me. When Elaine described to me her desire to create the sun and moon rings it was an instant calling to me, and I admire her work so much. It was a great honor to have a tiny part in her amazing creation.”

Silversmith Elaine Venditti points to the stone as the source of inspiration.

“Like the night sky that is illuminated by the moon, this pietersite cabochon has deep, rich shades of blue that will captivate and mesmerize you,” she states. “The slightest move of the hand reveals new and changing depth and patterns within the stone. In addition, the band echoes those same patterns in silver and three tube set sapphires in varying shades of blue play alongside. Hand fabricated using argentium silver, it is a ring of substance.”

Laguna Lace Pendant
Silversmith Jimmy Freeman
Lapidary artist Julie Poe

“(The design was) inspired by the look of a diamondback rattlesnake,” Julie Poe explains.

Silversmith Jimmy Freeman also speaks of patterns as the influence behind this piece.

“The inspiration for this piece is the incredible patterns of the Laguna Lace Agate. I wanted to create a piece that made it the center of focus but also elevates the piece with more details,” Freeman states. “I feel the Moonstone is a wonderful balance. The textures hinge and hidden bail add details to make it a statement piece for a jewelry collector.”

Bumble Bee Jasper Pendant
Silversmith Ellen Cole
Lapidary artist Odie House

“The flow of the colors in this material caught my attention,” states Odie House. “Mother Nature is the master artist. I feel privileged to capture the beauty of her work in a cabochon.”

Ellen Cole seems to reference a  ‘love at first sight’ type of moment upon seeing the cabochon.

“The bright and cheerful colors of the stone captured my heart the moment I saw it and moths are my favorite flying critter to make,” Ellen explains. “They are night critters and are not appreciated like butterflies are, so that why I give them so much attention”

Red October Fire Opal Ring
Silversmith Lloyd Braunberger
Lapidary artist Erin Dana Balzrette

“This stone had a warmth, and generosity of spirit shining through,” offers Erin Dana Balzrette. “When I cab, the stones choose their own shape, inspiring me as I watch what shape they become.”

For silversmith Lloyd Braunberger the the inspiration is about fusing various characteristics.

“(It’s) the wish to create a one-of-a-kind birthstone ring by melding Middle Eastern influence (bezel) with an Oregon gemstone”

Photo by Don Casper

Tiffany stone set in fine silver
Lapidary artist Russ Kaniuth
Silversmith Carolyn Hartmann-Morris

“The creative energy the stone holds with its mosaic pattern and rare purple druzy,” Russ Kaniuth explains about the inspiration.

In addition, silversmith Carolyn Hartman-Morris speaks about creating a design that allows the cab to shine.

“Since the stone has so many hues, colors, and random patterns in it, I wanted to keep the setting simple,” she states. “Plus, the beautiful violet druzy didn’t need any competition — so I kept the backplate without any texture.

“There was a small vug In the stone, and I saw it as an opportunity to complement the white druzy surrounding the violet druzy.”

Be sure to look for new Artisan Alley showcase blogs/columns each week.


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