As we stroll within the lush surroundings of the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California, we learn that it is bigger than New York's Central Park, and was once an expanse of sand dunes more than 130 years ago.
We explore the park's Conservatory of Flowers and the five-acre Japanese Tea Garden, which is one of the oldest Japanese gardens in the United States. California is also the home of featured jewelry designer Sarah Graham.
Since the start of my blog--and I have already expressed this--the dedication and love jewelry designers have for their craft is a true inspiration.
Seeing an object of beauty come to life through a culmination of training, varied influences, and innovative ideas is amazing to me. I enjoy observing how individual the designs of each artist is even though the artists use the exact same materials.
Maybe he or she works predominantly with 18-karat gold, white diamonds, or semi-precious stones. In the end each designer will bring something unique to his or her designs. Such is the case with Graham.
In my opinion, Graham's creations are an evolution in what I have come to expect from fine jewelry. She takes a very open, free stance on design creating a striking yet simple aesthetic. She works primarily with 18-karat yellow gold, and small, white or cognac diamonds set against inky, blackened steel.
The organic, sculptural shapes honor forms in nature and hint at Mediterranean influences. The contrast of high gloss and blackened metals generates a distinctive edginess that is sexy and sophisticated.
The provocatively titled Spear Collection--Graham's pieces for men--is described by the designer as "functional ornamentation." One of her designs is a carabineer ring for keys. Intellectual visionaries Nicolai Tesla, Ernst Haeckel, and George Washington Carver inspired the sterling silver accented, blackened steel pieces.
Graham literally walked into a world of jewelry while working for a jewelry retailer. Captivated by the artistry of the designs surrounding her, on days off she trained alongside the store's bench jeweler.
After a year, Graham left the store to take a two-year, world tour of museums, galleries, and stores of Africa, Europe, Central and South America, and India. Upon returning to the United States, she kept busy studying International Business at the University of San Diego and earning a B.S. degree. She later began a two-year apprenticeship in Carmel, California with renowned German jeweler and goldsmith, Ronald Hentges.
Graham's time with Hentges proved to be a fruitful period, as she learned time-honored jewelry-making techniques. Using her training, over a few years Graham began her first advent into jewelry designing; working for several of the most celebrated jewelers in San Francisco. By 2000, she was ready to build her own company Sarah Graham Metalsmithing.
All of Graham's hard work and dedication immediately started to pay off. In 2001, she was the recipient of JCK's Rising Star Award, and in 2003 was the runner-up of the Mort Abelson New Jewelry Designer of the Year Award.
Though enjoying the success and critical acclaim, Graham struggled with an internal conflict over African diamonds, specifically the highly controversial blood diamonds. "I found myself faced with enough disheartening facts that I seriously considered boycotting African diamonds," she recalls.
"After a solemn discussion with my husband, I took into consideration that diamonds are essential to the economy of Africa, and to boycott all of the diamonds would be taking away the diggers' ability to prosper. In that light, I could not, in good conscience, boycott all African diamonds, but I embargoed conflict diamonds."
Graham carries out the embargo by requiring her suppliers to comply with the Kimberley Process. "It is a process adopted as law by 69 countries and backed by the United Nations, in which all diamond traders must ensure their stones were not used to fund conflicts against governments.
It is not a perfect solution, but it provides a greater chance for Africans in diamond rich regions for a healthier, safer, and prosperous life."
Graham's distinctive creations have been featured in an extensive number of publications including JCK Luxury, Splendora, Modern Jeweler, and InStyle.
In addition, actor Kim Basinger wore Graham's 18-karat white gold, Triple Wide Oyster Diamond Band (shown above) as a wedding band in the 2004 feature film Cellular.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-Karat Yellow Gold Wide Lace Cuff with White Diamonds
Photo 2 (center): 18-karat White Gold Triple Band Oyster Ring with Diamonds
Photo 3 (bottom left): 18-Karat Yellow Gold and Blackened Steel Coral Flower Ring with Cognac Diamonds