Personalities

A Silver Jewelry Designer Returns to Her Songstress Roots and Releases an Album

New York City. Jan. 3, 2019. A lifetime ago, silver jewelry designer Saundra Messinger, known for her organic-looking sterling styles sometimes set with burnished diamonds, sang jingles for a living.

As a child, she appeared as a guest on the Ted Mack program, and in adulthood, she was the onetime voice of Windjammer Cruises. (Click here to listen to Messinger’s dramatic, 80s-intense melody written by Jeremy Goldsmith that captures the early part of the era’s syrupy serenade-like productions.) She even sang about “hating roaches” for a pesticide company! And when she needed someone to help her record a demo tape, she met husband Chuck Irwin, a recording engineer and record producer.

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But after years of fun musical and acting projects, her interests shifted and Messinger took a position with clothing brand Eileen Fisher. Messinger’s interest in fashion landed her a job as a jewelry buyer, and it was during this time, as she requested specific pieces for manufacturing, that a lightbulb moment occurred: she was a designer herself, a point noted by one of the designers on her team and a direction that the artist encouraged Messinger to pursue.

Messinger started organizing her thoughts and ideas for a collection, and her friend and mentor introduced her to casters and wax carvers on 47th Street. By the fall of 1999, Messinger had a sample line comprising geometric forms in silver with her signature uneven surfaces (“They are not hammered, they are carved in wax,” she maintains) and matte finishes. By May 2000, she participated in her first Accessories Circuit show. She was also one of the first artists to set diamonds into sterling jewelry.

Her design prowess escalated quickly, and singing became a memory, though one last project lingered in the recesses of her mind. She and Chuck had recorded an album rich in pop-like vocals with old standards and original tunes written by songwriters and musicians who were friends of Messinger’s husband. “When we recorded this, he was the famous one and I was the unknown singer,” she recollects.

By the time they finished recording, resources were depleted. As it was expensive and time-consuming to release an album, they shelved it. “We simply ran out of money,” says Messinger.  

Now, 30 years later, the time is right to release it. “We are finally ready to just close this loop and get this album out there,” she says. “Chuck never let it go—he wanted to finish what we started.”

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The name of the body of work? Smile. Her jewelry is incorporated into the album’s design, created by Robert Genovesi of GenovesiWeb.com, by way of the uneven curve from one of Messinger’s bangles on the cover. A Smile necklace with diamonds dotting the base will debut in the first weekend of February (trade buyers can see it at the upcoming Melee show), when collectors will be able purchase it online. The Smile necklace looks just like the name suggests—like a smile. Find the album on Amazon, Spotify, and iTunes. Find Messinger’s jewelry online.

The Smile necklace in sterling silver with diamonds will debut in early February on Saundra Messinger’s website.
The cover of Saundra Messinger’s album called Smile.

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Personalities

So, a Jewelry Designer Walks into a Tattoo Parlor … and an Inky Artistic Prowess Is Born

Los Angeles. Nov. 30, 2018. Nearly four years ago, Rhonda Faber Green’s niece asked her to tattoo one of Green’s award-winning jewelry designs on her. The Los Angeles–based designer with the eponymous firm had an office on Rodeo Drive to service tony diamond-and-gold-jewelry-loving clients, but no tattoos. She also wasn’t a trained tattoo artist, but she was intrigued enough with the idea of expressing her creativity through ink that she secured a tattoo apprenticeship within a month of her niece’s request.

“I thought, ‘I’m an artist, a designer, a calligrapher, and draw my jewelry all the time—why not tattoos?’” Green recollects. “I’ve seen some that are beautiful and others that just aren’t so great.”

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For the next year and a half, Green learned traditional or Western-style tattoos with bold lines and bright colors, new school tattoos with exaggerated subject depictions, Japanese styles, and more. “I would work in jewelry all day and then go to the tattoo shop in the evening and on weekends,” she says. Naturally, she brought her calligraphy skills into the mix with initial tattoos. Green was undeterred by the prospect of meeting her classmates at orientation. “I was the oldest and the only woman there,” she says. Then there was the tattoo-buying demographic—much different from her jewelry clients. “Tattoo clients are typically in their 20s and 30s, and they are not big collectors of diamonds,” she adds.

Rhonda Faber Green and her tattoo artist colleagues on the website of Body Art & Soul Tattoos in Los Angeles.

Rhonda Faber Green and her tattoo artist colleagues on the website of Body Art & Soul Tattoos in Los Angeles.

Still, she persisted and found many commonalities between jewelry and tattoo design. Think details, a steady hand, an intense focus, and the permanence of both. “You’ll have a tattoo and a piece of jewelry forever,” she notes. “And both mean a lot to people.”

Thus far, Green has tattooed a semi-colon on a man who tried to commit suicide as a reminder to pause and think about decisions carefully, a single musical note on each of two daughters and a trio on their pop, the word “Thursday” on the arm of someone whose brother died on that day of the week, and birds in flight on the arm of a successful and sassy undocumented immigrant. More tats include a cuss word on the ribs of a young woman who broke all of her own in a four-wheeling accident and myriad soundwave tattoos, which Green had to become licensed to do. “I’m the only one in the shop who is licensed to do soundwave tattoos,” she says.

One of Rhonda Faber Green's simpler-looking but emotionally complex tattoo designs.

One of Rhonda Faber Green’s simpler-looking but emotionally complex tattoo designs.

Soundwave tattoos are a trademarked effort from app developer Skin Motion, where interested parties download the app and enter their sound in order to generate a soundwave. Then they bring it to Green, who turns it into a tattooable design. Once in place on a client, he or she can scan the wave in the app to hear the message on their phone. Many are the voices of deceased loved ones (example here) or pets, and one was a voicemail message from a woman who committed suicide—this soundwave tattoo emblazoned on the legs of two friends in mourning.

A soundwave tattoo created by Rhonda Faber Green

A soundwave tattoo created by Rhonda Faber Green

Women wanting a tat on the sternum frequently enlist Green’s help because of her gender—“They say they feel more comfortable with me,” she reveals—and sometimes Green’s motherly instincts kick in to thwart questionable decisions. “I talk people out of tattoos on their neck, face, and fingers because it scares people,” she says. “I ask them, ‘Do you want to work?’ They say yes, and I tell them they won’t if they get tattoos in those places.”

One of Rhonda Faber Green's calligraphy initials in tattoo and jewelry form.

One of Rhonda Faber Green’s calligraphy initials in tattoo and jewelry form.

Green has even had a brush with stardom: an American political TV commentator met one of Green’s jewelry-collecting fans on a cruise. The personality admired Green’s jewelry, and its owner dished on Green’s jewelry and tattoo design talent, prompting the admirer to seek out Green for some ink and a jewel.

And while she’s not inked any of her jewelry peers, Green’s niece did finally secure her aunt’s inky handiwork. “On my niece, I tattooed a rose and the word ‘Stronger,’” says Green.

The tattoo of Rhonda Faber Green's niece set the jewelry designer down an inky artistic path.

The tattoo of Rhonda Faber Green’s niece set the jewelry designer down an inky artistic path.

As for herself, Green still lacks a tat on her own person, but her signature heart design (see below) and a flower are likely in her future. She tries to keep the two worlds separate, but chattier tattoo clients may learn her secret if they talk long enough.

“Some clients say, ‘How do you know how to do this? Your detail is so incredible,’” says Green. “So, my jewelry design comes out in conversation that way.”

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Find Green on some evenings and weekends at Body Art & Soul Tattoo in Los Angeles. Call her at 424-653-6353 or email her at tattoosbyrhonda@gmail.com to schedule an appointment. Follow her Instagram account @tattoosbyrhonda to see her work.

 

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Personalities

Collector Obsession: Christine’s Love of Art Deco Jewelry

Scottsdale, Ariz. Nov. 12, 2018. Interior designer Christine, from Scottsdale, Ariz., may specialize in color consulting for home décor, but her taste in fine jewelry is more monochromatic. That’s because she loves Art Deco jewels thanks to fond memories of her grandmother’s collection, including a Japanese pearl necklace given to her at age 10. Another treasured piece and memory? Her grandmother’s Art Deco-style engagement ring, which she now owns. “I love the geometric motifs that you can wear and live with,” she explains.

Her love of period jewels was enhanced during several geographic moves made earlier in life. For a while Christine lived in New York City, discovering estate pieces in the Diamond District. Around this time, at age 30, Christine made her own first significant jewelry purchase, a platinum Art Deco ring with an old mine cut diamond and two rectangular baguettes on either side.

A vintage ring set that Christine bought for herself.

A vintage ring set that Christine bought for herself.

“It was my divorce present to me, and it just screams Art Deco,” she says. I bought it from Macy’s on 34th Street in their estate section. I think it’s an F color with only one or two small inclusions.”

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When she moved to Stanford, Calif., she purchased a three-stone diamond ring in a linear pattern with scrolls that her second husband called “gaudy.” But Christine knew better. She was rewarded for her style savvy with myriad accolades from passersby. “Everyone would stop me on the street and grab my hand to see it,” she says.

A three-stone diamond ring in a linear pattern with scrolls that Christine purchased for herself.

A three-stone diamond ring in a linear pattern with scrolls that Christine purchased for herself.

For sure, the symmetry of the silhouettes (think circles, squares, and rectangles) drew her in, and splashes of color make styles even more appealing. This is why she’s also a fan of costume jewelry designer Heidi Daus and bridge or demi-fine designer Stephen Dweck, from whom she made a recent purchase. “I bought myself a Cleopatra-style collar necklace of his in silver with a long, thin rectangular-shape smoky topaz from Neiman Marcus,” she says.

Vintage-inspired earrings in Christine's personal jewelry collection.

Vintage-inspired earrings in Christine’s personal jewelry collection.

Still, the bulk of her collection is white gold and platinum with cooler-color gems mixed in as well as the occasional Adriana Orsini fashion number with CZ.

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“Jewelry is wearable art, and the pieces I like are not for tiny girls,” Christine explains. “I always feel so lucky when I look down at my rings and wrists. I never take my collection for granted, and I never get tired of looking at it.”

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Temptations

Christine’s collection of Art Deco jewels continues to expand, but she’s also eager to learn about contemporary designers with similar aesthetics. Here are five more pieces that could appeal to her obsession and keep her collecting.

Zoe vintage-inspired hexagon-silhouette signet ring in 18k yellow gold with 0.15 ct. t.w. Old European-cut diamonds on the frame, $5,000; Single Stone

Zoe vintage-inspired hexagon-silhouette signet ring in 18k yellow gold with 0.15 ct. t.w. Old European-cut diamonds on the frame, $5,000; Single Stone

Goshwara bracelet

Gossip bracelet in 18k yellow gold with 15.58 cts. t.w. blue topaz, 11.84 cts. t.w. lemon quartz, 11.68 cts. t.w. lilac amethyst, 11.65 cts. t.w. citrine, 11.54 cts. t.w. prasiolite, 11.32 cts. t.w. amethyst, 11.21 cts. t.w. smoky quartz; and 0.46 ct. t.w. diamonds on the toggle clasp, $7,900; Goshwara at Jewelstreet 

Harlow cocktail ring in 18k yellow gold with a rock crystal center stone, 0.81 ct. t.w. black diamonds, and baguette-cut emeralds, $6,850; Doryn Wallach

Harlow cocktail ring in 18k yellow gold with a rock crystal center stone, 0.81 ct. t.w. black diamonds, and baguette-cut emeralds, $6,850; Doryn Wallach

Art Deco Statement necklace in 18k yellow gold with 1.62 cts. t.w. diamonds, $9,900; Lauren Harper

Art Deco Statement necklace in 18k yellow gold with 1.62 cts. t.w. diamonds, $9,900; Lauren Harper

 

Starburst Drop earrings in 18k gold with black rhodium, 23.93 cts. t.w. pear-shape tanzanite, 14.7 cts. t.w. blue sapphires and 4.21 cts. t.w. diamonds, $14,900; Sutra

Starburst Drop earrings in 18k gold with black rhodium, 23.93 cts. t.w. pear-shape tanzanite, 14.7 cts. t.w. blue sapphires and 4.21 cts. t.w. diamonds, $14,900; Sutra at London Jewelers 

 

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Personalities

Meet Lori Friedman of Lorianne Jewelry and Her Watercolor-Inspired and Sea-Glasslike Designs

NEW YORK. Lori Friedman fondly remembers going antiquing for vintage jewelry with her mother, an experience that she says informed a career decision. The artist behind Westport, Conn.-based Loriann Jewelry secured a fine arts degree in college and worked as a graphic designer before redesigning some old ivory—the real stuff when it was legal to sell. Then she took beading and wire-wrapping instruction, in between raising three kids and turning out the occasional watercolor.

Then her jewelry work picked up, with Friedman selling beaded styles to a local fine jewelry store in 2001. When the economy went sideways in 2008, Friedman pivoted to pavé-and-gold numbers, admittedly in a basic style manufactured by many. Still, it paid the bills, well enough to pave the way for her next act—a much more thoughtful, distinct, and colorful collection of jewels.

Tickled by her own handiwork, she took her newfound freshness to a small trade show in New York City, where longtime journalist and author Beth Bernstein of Bejeweledmag.com found her. Bernstein, a seasoned market editor, saw a glimmer of an emerging collection with a strong theme. With the editor’s coaching, Friedman brought to life her most compelling designs yet. This is the most interesting move to date in Friedman’s story: she had been an established jewelry maker for 15 years before that caterpillar part of her journey cocooned and emerged as the beautiful butterfly of a collection we know her for today.

“Beth pushed me to pursue a new look,” recalls Friedman. “So, within three months I had put together a gold collection that won the Mort Abelson New Designer of the Year award at the 2017 summer Jewelers of America show. I kept on saving up from the pavé line to produce this one.”

Her signature style now is clear: watercolor-like gems set atop pastel-colored stones in 14k gold. While her rocks are faceted, some look more like beach glass than sliced stone due to their watery hues. “I love the translucency of the way the stones look—like one of my watercolors,” she explains.

Even when pieces don’t bear her gem-on-gem trademark, such as in her Provence collection of sinuous gold-and-gem numbers, they still reflect her soft color palette and a fluidity unique to her.

Pieces are made by bench jewelers in the U.S. and abroad, and retail prices start at just $650.

Jewelry Designer Lori Friedman of Loriann Jewelry

Jewelry Designer Lori Friedman of Loriann Jewelry

 

Double-drop earrings in 14k rose gold with gray moonstone, apatite, and diamonds, $1,980; Loriann Jewelry

Double-drop earrings in 14k rose gold with gray moonstone, apatite, and diamonds, $1,980; Loriann Jewelry
For purchase: Call the Westport, Conn., location of Mitchells at 203-227-5165

 

Ring in 14k rose gold with moonstone, tanzanite, and diamonds, $2,205; Loriann Jewelry

Ring in 14k rose gold with moonstone, tanzanite, and diamonds, $2,205; Loriann Jewelry
For purchase: Call the Westport, Conn., location of Mitchells at 203-227-5165

 

Necklace in 14k yellow gold with a horn-shape prasiolite, fire opal, tanzanite, and diamonds, $3,250; Loriann Jewelry

Necklace in 14k yellow gold with a horn-shape prasiolite, fire opal, tanzanite, and diamonds, $3,250; Loriann Jewelry
For purchase: Call the Westport, Conn., location of Mitchells at 203-227-5165

Jennifer Heebner LLC

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