This piece was handcrafted for a very special client that has been one of my bigger supporters for several years. Over time, we've developed her own personal Kristen Baird® collection full of pieces that she often wears and adores. With her milestone 75th birthday happening this year, her husband (also a fan of my work) reached out with a wonderful idea. He wanted all of us to work together to create a cuff bracelet similar in style to one of my other commission pieces - the Confetti Cuff, but incorporating all of their beautiful diamonds and gemstones in a very Kristen Baird-esque arrangement.
They dug through their jewelry box and showed up to our initial consultation lunch with a bag full of shiny goodies to play with. I can't even tell you how excited I was to start this process! Read on to see how this Fabulous Fireworks cuff bracelet came to life...from a simple vision, through the process, and on to reality! And “Happy Birthday Year” to my very special client! I'm so honored to have worked with her on this memorable piece.
Diamonds and opals and moonstones, oh my!
We started off with some fabulous materials, including diamonds, opals, rainbow moonstones and peridot. We wanted to add something different to give this piece a color palette unlike anything my client already owns. To do that, we decided to incorporate more “shinies” such as a rhodolite garnet and rubellite, then top it all off with a pink tourmaline cabochon in a beautiful rectangular dome-cut at the center. I searched high and low for that specific cut + stone combo and was thrilled when I finally found it!
The design plan
Like with all my pieces, I started off with a design plan. This one was very intricate as I was trying to incorporate over 30 stones - 37 to be exact. We knew we wanted the piece to be a cuff bracelet with a silver exterior featuring 14K gold accents throughout. So with that information, we organized our plan, did our calculations, got feedback from the client, and off to the races we went!
Letting in the light
Starting with the exterior, I built the split-band casing, so to speak. From there, I handcrafted the settings for our main bigger gemstones - the rainbow moonstones and the pink tourmaline. I started filling in the exterior shell with each of the settings, creating a strong and sturdy frame. As I went, I incorporated a flowing 14K yellow gold wave, made from my client’s original wedding bands. You can see on the far right image, the original square-ish wedding band rolled out long and then re-melted to give an organic “ebb and flow” ripple through the center. Such a neat way to re-incorporate materials right back into the piece, right? Then once the 14K gold was inlaid, I went in and opened up the backplate behind each stone, so that we could let some light into the backside of the stones. That is super key!
Recycling at its finest
After creating all of the sterling silver settings, I moved on to the gold settings - starting with the settings for the main round-cut peridots. You can see from the above image how I melted down pieces from the original batch of jewelry and formed them directly into settings that will go straight into the piece. Recycling at its finest!
A blessing in disguise
For every setting, I first created the setting and installed it in the cuff to ensure a perfect fit. I then hollowed the setting to precisely fit the exact gemstone it was created for. I will admit that this was a new process for me, but it worked super well! Normally, I install all the settings closed and then open them all at the end, but for this piece, tolerances and measurements were so tight that I had to make sure we got everything exactly perfect...individually. It ended up working out quite well that way and I will, for sure, be implementing this new organized and methodical technique again in the future! I love how each project I work on still teaches me a new lesson and this project in particular, was just a blessing!
Testing, testing, 1...2...3...
Oh yes, it’s finally starting to come together. One of the keys to success is testing, testing, and testing! That is exactly the case with this piece. I would install one or two settings, open them up, test the gemstone, test the placement of the other gemstones surrounding it, and then move on to the next stone. It’s definitely a process that takes a long time, but it’s completely worth it in the end and necessary to create such a masterpiece. Slowly, but surely, the vision began to unfold.
It’s all in the details
Whew! I definitely breathed a sigh of relief when all the soldering (the heating and joining) was done. Then it came down to the refining, detailing, polishing and cleaning, which is the part that really makes the piece shine! In the above image on the right, you can see all the little shavings that came off of the cuff during the detailing, polishing and shining process. It’s a process of micro millimeters – little teeny adjustments, micro clean up, a shaving here, a whittle there. To be honest, this is where it's very easy to skip some steps, but this is also the timeframe and process that can make the piece average or excellent. I choose to meticulously go through all the steps, which takes time, but makes the piece extraordinary!
One little diamond, two little diamonds...
So here’s the real question - with that many stones to set, where do you start? I always start with setting the diamonds, and that was no small task! I picked a side and carefully worked all of the little diamonds from one side, all the way through to the other side. Then I moved on to the bigger diamonds at the center. Each stone has to go in one at a time, little by little, while all other stones patiently sit and wait their turn.
And now, for the color...
The diamonds are in! Now, to move on to the colored stones, I began with the smaller pinks and then worked my way to the rainbow moonstones, the peridot, the pink tourmaline and finally, the opals. Saving both soft, but luscious opals for last! It's really coming together.
Some good ol’ scrubbing
Everything is set and now it's time for some good ol’ scrubbing. My favorite trick to cut the grease and oils trapped in the “nooks and crannies” of jewelry pieces is to use a soft toothbrush with Dawn dish soap. Simple. Practical. And it makes the piece so shiny! To make this piece really sparkly, I had to do this several times before she was ready for her grand reveal.
And here she is! Glorious in all of her beauty, bursting with color and dazzling with diamonds at every turn. This piece is a true 360-degree masterpiece! Every angle gives a unique view, an eccentric pop of color, and an intricate detail. The best part is that my clients were so happy! But don’t just take my word for it. I'll let their review speak for them.
“WOW!!!! What a GREAT surprise!!! I just reviewed the process and the finished product. As much as I love seeing the REAL bracelet; I love seeing the steps in the process. I would love to say you are an artist, but I can’t because you are an AMAZINGLY TALENTED artist!!! We both love the piece and enjoyed showing it to our family and friends on our tour of Pennsylvania. You would have really enjoyed all of the positive reactions including all the “oohs and ahhs”!!! Have a great day and I must say one more time…..That bracelet is a beautiful work of art!!!” -TB
The best part of my job is working with my clients to create one-of-a-kind masterpieces. If you have an idea for your very own special piece, be sure to reach out. I'd love to chat and help make something special come to life just for you!