Denver’s Own “Prospectors”
Introducing Prospector Amanda Adkins Anderson

The Prospectors is self described as a television show that follows a rag-tag gang of miners searching for the rarest gems in the U.S. in order to strike it rich.”

The show which airs on The Weather Channel is based in several locations in and around Denver,CO.  The Busse’s Mt. Antero claim; the Dorris Family’s claims in Lake George and Mt. Antero; the Aquamarine King Steve Brancato’s work on Mt. Antero; the many claims of Rich Fretterd and the perilous Mt. Antero claim of Amanda Adkins Anderson.  We are going to take a few minutes to get to know Prospector Amanda better.

It was great to start an interview by being able to congratulate Amanda on Prospectors being picked up for a third season!  …but life has not always been perfect for Amanda Adkins Anderson.   

Your’s is a “Worthwhile Journey” a story of courage and perseverance…Amanda fill us in on the major detour your journey took.

Amanda:  I had a very unexpected shake up in my life that I wasn’t sure how to come back from. In 2009 my husband was diagnosed with leukemia, and the kids and I spent as much time with him as we could and I still had to pay the bills and keep the family going. I worked harder than I ever had before and faced with a new set of challenges, the digging and the kids kept me going even after he passed away. I learned how short and precious life is and I don’t take one minute for granted. I never thought I would find someone to share my life with again, someone who could understand what it is to dig full time and to work in the elements and elevation like gemstone miners do.

I think that the viewers last season really enjoyed watching your relationship with Travis blossom.

Amanda:  When I met Travis. I had gone from digging alone most of the time and learning that is the very scary, very quick way to get injured and stranded! I had to learn the hard way to not go digging alone after several falls, cuts, severed crushed finger and breaks. Digging alone is the worst thing a rockhound can do! Travis has taken a huge amount of worry off my mind in my daily work and life now, as well as brought his expertise, also being prospector and miner since he was a small child. He had a similar upbringing to mine, digging and mining with his father as well. We were married April 24th 2013 and he has been an amazing, uplifting bright light in my life for over a year now.  I never thought I could see this happy ending in my life but I’m sure glad to be living it now! As a couple, we hike farther, dig faster, and produce more gems than ever before on our own. This is an amazing new chapter in my life that keeps bringing new digging adventures our way. We have produced an incredible amount of gemstones and mineral specimens over the past year and continue to work on new locales.

Where did you get the “rockhound” bug?  

Amanda:  I began mining at the age of 12 and although I had been a rockhound in West Virginia before that, 12 is the age I actually made my first gemstone sale, a brilliant garnet parcel that I had collected from the La Veta, Colorado area, not far from where we lived. My father, Greg Adkins and my cousin Oakley Adkins decided to take me on their gold panning and prospecting trips. I soon began to see the very tiny flakes of gold in my pan and my attention quickly turned to the brilliant, fiery red gems that also turned up with the black sand and gold in the pan. I would keep them in a small vile and show my father and cousin, who would just smile and let me know that those red gems were January’s birthstone. I was fascinated, and HOOKED! While the gold was fun, I found hunting gemstones to be way more fun! Oakley then shared with me his many pegmatite, prospecting, and gemstone secrets and my father continued to take me hiking and gem hunting. In over two decades of prospecting Colorado now, I will never forget that first gemstone I found, or the jumpstart of knowledge and locations at a young age that I will be forever grateful for. No matter where life has taken me in the time between then and now, one thing never changed. I have always been pursuing the next gemstone locale, finding new areas, hiking a bit farther, steadily learning as I go until I turn up enough gems to keep my family going.

But taking on prospecting as a career versus a weekend hobby is a huge step – what are some of the things you found necessary to make the leap?

Amanda:  I have to say that the jump between a rockhound/hobby and gemstone mining as a career is a huge, life altering jump. It has taken all of over two decades for me to gather the inventory, buyers, and resources needed to make this a full time job. In 2012 I was honored to win the 3rd Year Prospecting Competition by the Greater Denver Area Gem and Mineral Show. I was blown away and never expected to place in that tough competition but very honored and excited to!

Most women would not think of full time miner when confronted with raising a large family.

Amanda:  Raising my children while being a full time miner has its challenges but overall I think it has been good that I get to spend larger stretches of time with them when I am home, and even the times I get to take them digging with me. When the kids are sick, I do not have to call a boss and beg for time off so that has been the main plus in this particular form of self-employment.

The Weather Channel’s Prospectors must be a welcome paycheck?

Amanda:  The reality television series PROSPECTORS has been a most interesting event over the past couple years! Now there is a large audience following us to a couple of our favorite gemstone mines as we locate and extract gemstone pockets for the world to see, since the show is not only on the Weather Channel in America but it is also on National Geographic worldwide!

Has your role on Prospectors opened any other doors?

Amanda:  This year I had the honor of being a guest on Jewelry Television (JTV) to showcase and sell, and help be the voice for American mined gemstones in their new American Splendor collection.

I will continue to make guest appearances with them in the future.

I always like to finish up an interview with recommendations – books and anything else my guest recommends:

For info on gemstone and pegmatite mining, Amanda suggests Jim Clanin’s book The Fundamentals of Mining for Gemstones and Mineral Specimens.

For prospecting supplies, mining equipment and tools, Travis and Amanda use Doc’s Detecting Supply as he has generously helped us along with our tools and equipment. …you’ll see these tools in action on the upcoming season 3 of Prospectors that airs in November.

An edited version of this interview was printed in the 2014 Denver EZ-Guide


Dror Galili – Innovation in the Diamond Industry

by Robyn Hawk on February 2, 2010

Dror Galili is well-known within the diamond industry as Vice President, Business Development of the leading global diamond group, Almod Diamonds, and as Regional Director of its subsidiary, Almod Namibia. For the past few years, his energy and vision have been instrumental in opening new horizons for Almod Diamonds, ensuring its steady growth and bringing it to the next level.

A native of Israel, Galili is a third generation diamond industry professional. His grandfather was among the pioneers of Israel’s diamond manufacturing. His father Benjamin Galili has been in the trade for over 30 years and owns a wholesale company with branches in Israel and the United States.

Galili was just fifteen when he began working in his father’s Tel-Aviv factory doing everything from administrative tasks to sales and diamond grading. In 2001, when the Galili family established SBM Diamonds in New York, Dror transitioned into management and became one of the entity’s shareholders. Unlike many diamond industry families’ offspring who go straight into the trade, Galili also studied accounting and graduated with honors (Summa Cum Laude) from Adelphi University (BBA) and Baruch College (MS).

The mystique of diamonds remains his focus. “I have lived with diamonds since I was a child. I fell in love with the process of taking the rough, which look just like rocks, and making shiny diamonds out of them.” “These same diamonds,” Galili points out, “are the means by which people commemorate the most important moments of their lives.”

Galili’s extraordinary accomplishments, talent and passion have earned him much respect within the diamond trade. He will certainly remain at the forefront of the international diamond industry as one of its most successful executives and strongest advocates.

How did you get your foot in the door in the “Diamond Industry”?

In 2005, Galili joined Almod Diamonds, which owns the largest Caribbean retail chain, DI Diamonds International. “I started in the CFO’s office as an accountant doing bank reconciliations, consolidations, and financial statement reviews.” But Almod Diamonds’ President, Albert Gad, saw Galili’s greater potential to engage in other areas of the business and to operate on the executive level. Galili became involved with the company’s manufacturing and retail management, as well as working with the team that is overseeing its cooperation with major cruise lines.

What challenges have you faced in this position?

One of his challenging assignments was “to work out Almod’s relationship with DTC and to implement DTC’s Best Practice Principles.” The Diamond Trading Company (DTC) is the rough diamond distribution arm of De Beers and the largest supplier of rough diamonds in the world. Under Galili’s able leadership, Almod Diamonds achieved full compliance with DTC’s rigorous requirements and became one of only 80 DTC’s Sightholders around the world and only 11 NDTC sightholders in Namibia in 2007. This privileged status enables Almod Diamonds to buy rough diamonds directly from the source.

What would you consider your finest achievement to-date?

Galili is one of the Almod team’s significant leaders that is recognized for the company’s most impressive achievements to date, which is the development and promotion of Almod’s in-house proprietary brand – the Crown of Light, a 90-facet premium diamond cut, famous for its extraordinary brilliance. In 2009, only two years since its launch, the Crown of Light has generated nearly $30 million USD in sales due to a great company-wide team work effort which Galili is so proud to be part of. The cut was designed to elicit what Galili calls the “Wow! effect”, an appreciative response by a female consumer to seeing this diamond compared to a standard round brilliant stone. In promoting this new brand, Galili has nurtured vital inroads with companies like MGM and SONY Entertainment, and devised other strategies uncommon and innovative for the diamond industry.

It seems that you have taken “branding” and Marketing in the Industry to a new level…what are your thoughts on Marketing in the Industry?

Galili has been a pioneer and a vocal proponent of branding in the context of diamond jewelry marketing. In a world where virtually all consumer products are branded, the diamond industry is still in the process of adopting the brand name approach to marketing. In such circumstances, developing brand awareness among consumers is very difficult. In large part through the talent, vision and persistence that Galili brings to the Crown of Light management team headed by Albert Gad, the Crown of Light success is an extraordinary triumph for Almod.

Galili is very definitive in expressing his views on how diamonds should be marketed. “I would like to transform consumer perception of diamonds and diamond jewelry,” he explains. “With the Rapaport price list and other ways in which we conduct business, diamonds are treated as a commodity, and I think this is faulty logic. Diamond brands should be treated like people treat Luis Vuitton, Prada, Cartier and other luxury brands,” Galili points out. When consumers go to retailers to buy deluxe goods, they are prepared to pay premium prices. As for branded diamonds, many consumers still focus on their price and attempt to bargain over it, instead of considering the guaranteed quality and trusted value represented by the brand. “We hope to affect a shift in paradigm thinking by being part of the conversation with jewelry appraisers and other professionals about properly valuing premium diamonds,” says Galili.

Tell me about the Namibian connection…

Most of the Crown of Light patented diamonds are produced in Namibia. Galili has been in charge of designing and overseeing Almod’s Namibian operation since its inception. In 2007, he and his team secured a sight with NDTC, a joint venture between the Namibian government and De Beers, for the years 2008-2011, and obtained the licensing needed to build a manufacturing facility. Today, Almod’s factory in Windhoek, Namibia is fully operational and employs over 95 people. As a Regional Director of Almod Namibia, Galili also plans to develop a retail network and foster tourism activities in Namibia from other African & European countries.

The contribution of De Beers and its Sightholders in the producing countries through mining and manufacturing activities maintains a strong hold on Galili. “The diamond industry is a powerful force in many countries and in the lives of their people. But its biggest influence lies in Africa. I was very excited to accept the challenge of expanding our efforts into Namibia.”

How is Almod “giving back” to the Nambian Community?

He finds gratification in other aspects of this business besides witnessing the stellar ascent of his company’s favored brand. I love giving back to the community and positively impacting people’s lives.” Galili found the perfect vehicle for expressing this sentiment – Namibia’s Baby Haven orphanage. This charitable foundation cares for Namibia’s most vulnerable victims: children of HIV-AIDS parents. Through Galili’s persistence and the support of the company’s owners, Almod is partnering with Baby Haven’s cause by delivering practical aid to the children. For Galili, the contrast between children in the States or Israel and these orphans is profound. “If I give a soccer ball or a Frisbee to any kid in America or Israel, it wouldn’t mean much—basically they might expect an iPod. But to see the look in their eyes when we bring those things to the kids at Baby Haven—it’s as if you gave them the world.”

What are your goals in the Industry and beyond?

Galili’s immediate ambition is to broaden Diamonds International brand awareness throughout North Americas launching the global awareness of the DI brand name. His long term goal, however, is to advance the interests of the international diamond community by taking an active role in explaining to consumers what the diamond industry contributes to humanity.

Top Ten Resources

Resources and Influencers that put you on your current track in life….

1. Industry related books: “From Mine to Mistress” by Chaim Even-Zohar; “Diamond Design” by Marcel Tolkowsky; “Secrets of the Gem Trade” by Richard W. Wise

2. Industry related Periodic magazines & journals: Rapaport, JCK, National Jewelers, Modern Jewelers, Gems & Gemology by GIA, newsletters of trade organizations such as JVC, NAJA, DDC, IDMA and more.

3. TV DVDs: Sopranos, 24, 30 Rock

4. Movies: Avatar, GodFather movies, James Bond movies, Gladiator, 300

5. Books: many Holocause related books as I research and investigate many events that relate to the Holocaust as well as volunteer in Non for Profit organizations. I am against genocides of any kind and think that the world should learn from what happened in Nazi Germany so it never happens again to any nation. Some examples: books of award winning New York Times American author,Edwin Black, such as” IBM and the Holocaust”; The “Hitler of History” by John Lukacs; “Ethics and Extermination: Reflections on Nazi…”

by Michael Burleigh.

6. Authors: Dan Brown, Edwin Black, Ram Oren

7. Music: wide range of music that include Israeli, Greek, Latin, American Rock and Pop, Classic, New Age Music

8. Favorite Bands & Singers: ColdPlay, Madonna, Depeche Mode, Mashina (Israeli Band), Ishtar of the Alabina band

9. Apple Computers and Steve Jobs

10. Peter Lik Fine Art Photography

Credit goes to Diana Jarrett for the pulling the information for this interview together and to Mindat and NiceIce for the photos of Diamond Rough.


Dror Galili – Innovation in the Diamond Industry

February 2, 2010

Dror Galili is well-known within the diamond industry as Vice President, Business Development of the leading global diamond group, Almod Diamonds, and as Regional Director of its subsidiary, Almod Namibia. For the past few years, his energy and vision …

Read the full article →

Lee Marshall – Innovator, Inventor & Dreamer…

June 1, 2009

January 2010 – Addendum: the newest of Knew Concepts saws is a truly remarkable replacement for the saw jewelers use daily! Cynthia Eid wrote a great piece which gives info on the progression of these saws … Development of the Latest Knew Concept …

Read the full article →

Lee Marshall – Innovator, Inventor & Dreamer…

June 1, 2009

January 2010 – Addendum: the newest of Knew Concepts saws is a truly remarkable replacement for the saw jewelers use daily! Cynthia Eid wrote a great piece which gives info on the progression of these saws … Development of the Latest Knew Concept …

Read the full article →

Jessica Dow of Different Seasons Jewelry

August 4, 2008

Jessica Dow with
Different Seasons Jewelry

If you have picked up the new ArtJewelry magazine you will see there is a new type of feature – the cover pendant accounts for three different techniques and step by step instructions in this issue! This is a great idea as it allows the issue to cover more beginning techniques like bezels while also offering the advanced artists a tutorial on engraving!

The featured artist(s) are Different Seasons Jewelry better known as Jessica Dow and Mark Anderson!!

I have known Jessica for a couple years now and in that time I seen her go from an insecure talent to a confident artist that, through her new partnership, will be a force to be reckoned with!

Tell us a little about you and what attracted you to the jewelry field.

I have always loved jewelry and gems but my greatest passion is for design. When I started playing with jewelry fabrication I began to see how designing jewelry seemed to tap into my talents and passion for art perfectly. From a very young age I felt I was an artist at heart. I had played around with other art mediums since my young teen years but had never found the one thing I felt truly connected to. Once I started designing and making jewelry I felt I had found my calling and I had discovered my artistic niche. I have one main goal when designing and fabricating my jewelry… to make something of beauty and quality. I love seeing my jewelry bring happiness to others!

What type of training have you had? how did you get your start and the progression that got you where you are today.

I started making jewelry after attending a couple of basic classes taught by Joe Hesselgrave at the Parks and Rec center in Tucson Arizona. After learning the bare bones of soldering I opted out of the class and started working by myself at home. At the time I was a single mother of a special needs child and leaving home to attend classes was difficult. I found some used equipment and tools through Kent’s Tools in Tucson. I also bought some books such as The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight and Decorative Techniques for Craftsmen by Oppi Untracht. I believe I spent under $200.00 setting up the entire workshop. I was almost immediately drawn to the art of piercing. I love sketching and piercing allowed me to draw my own templates and bring those drawings to life in metal. Piercing has continued to be my favorite fabrication technique.

A year ago I moved to Wisconsin and joined forces with my fiancé Mark Anderson. Mark has been working with lapidary arts and jewelry design for about 8 years. He is one of the most talented artists I have ever worked with.

I started out doing my own lapidary work – cabbing my own material expanded my design abilities and enabled me to work with gems that were previously out of my price range. I rarely cut cabs anymore. Mark handles that aspect of our business which allows me the benefit of custom cut gems to fit my designs as well as more time to devote towards jewelry. It’s hard to do it all yourself… working with Mark and my mother Martha has allowed me to focus on the aspects of jewelry making that I love most. I am currently training with Mark in the art of lost wax casting. I have been carving my first wax models and have been observing Mark during every step of the casting process. We have also gotten the tools and materials needed to begin adding enameling to our jewelry…. we’re both very excited to begin experimenting with various enameling techniques! Mark is also teaching me advanced gem setting techniques such as channel setting and flush setting. I am excited to watch my work transform and progress as I learn new techniques. I feel I am merely at the beginning of an exciting journey.

Give the one piece of advice you wish you had gotten as a jewelry artist just starting out.
When learning a technique, take the time to learn it the correct way! Once I started working with Mark I discovered I had developed some bad habits with a couple of techniques. I not only had to learn the technique again the correct way but I also found it took me much longer due to having to break my old bad habits. If you are not in the position to get professional instruction, be sure you’re learning from a good book by authors such as Tim McCreight or Oppi Untracht.

If you had the chance what would you do differently…more formal training? less? wider range?
Being the mother of a special needs child made it impossible for me to enroll in formal training in the first years of my jewelry making. I have found myself wishing I could have had the opportunity to attend classes at a school such as The Revere Academy. I am looking into finding the means to take some classes at Revere sometime this year to learn gold granulation.

We all have one aspect of our job that we like most…what is your favorite part of the jewelry making process?
I love everything about my job. From the moment I wake up I look forward to going into the studio. But if I had to pick one aspect of my work it would be sketching and piercing. Piercing has become second nature to me and I find it to be therapeutic and relaxing. I find the saw almost becomes an extension of my hand and I feel as though I am bringing my sketch to life. I have greatly improved with my piercing skills over the years but I know I can always get better. I feel as though I have merely scratched the surface of what there is to learn within this industry and I will always have something new to learn.

I also enjoy working hand in hand with a client in the process of custom jewelry design. Creating a piece with individuality that has special significance brings me real satisfaction. I have found the ability to listen and to be open to new ideas has had a positive impact on both my finished piece as well as the overall experience for my clients. I prefer not to rush through a project. I will create multiple sketches for my clients until we both feel the design is right. This does not feel like “work” to me… I enjoy every moment and I hope the joy I feel for my craft shows through in the pieces I create.

Your early pieces have a variety of gemstones…however, you seemed to have fallen hard for the Andamooka Opal – what makes it so special?
My passion with gems began with my love affair with Andamooka Gem Matrix opal. Andamooka Gem Matrix opal came to me through my very good friends Allan and Novi Shultz. Allan has worked as a miner in the Andamooka opal fields and has a lapidary workshop and opal showroom in Port Elliot, South Australia. In October 2006 I spent a wonderful month as their house-guest. Allan was very generous in passing his knowledge of mining, treating, cutting and polishing this unique variety of opal.
I was able to see what Andamooka Matrix opal varieties look like directly after it’s pulled from the earth and how to spot the potential with the untreated rough. This opal is a bit more high maintenance than other opal types. The Gem Matrix variety requires a two part sugar/sulfuric acid treatment and the Rainbow Matrix (also referred to as “concrete”) requires a less toxic sugar/heat firing treatment process. This treatment has been the one factor that keeps this opal type a bit more affordable than other pure or untreated opal varieties. While the price of this opal was part of my initial draw to Andamooka Gem Matrix , the beauty and personality of the material has kept me a loyal fan.
While working with Mark has broadened my horizons and I now work with a wide variety of gem materials, Andamooka Gem Matrix will forever be one of my top choices for jewelry designs. I highly recommend Allan Shultz as a source for high quality opal in both rough and finished form. Allan’s Opal shop~
Tell us about the two people you have collaborated with – Martha Borzoni and Mark Anderson – their influences and their affect on your work.
I have a rare opportunity to work with two very talented artists… my fiancé Mark Anderson and my mother Martha Borzoni. Since we met Mark has been a constant source of inspiration to me on both a personal and professional level. Mark has a wealth of knowledge both as a training gemologist, a skilled lapidary and a top notch jeweler. Mark has taught me a great deal about advanced fabrication techniques and gemstones…. rocks are his passion! His clean & elegant approach to contemporary jewelry design compliments my more feminine, art nouveau inspired style perfectly. We balance each other out and our collaborations are among my favorites in my portfolio. Most of the work I produce has Mark’s influence within it in some way, whether it’s the stones he cuts for me, his various advanced gem settings or the hand engraved detailing work he adds to my designs. Our Blue Velvet pendant is a perfect example. His hand engraving brings out the curves in the flower and his tension-set sapphire bail adds a modern, classy touch. I love working with Mark… I feel immense gratitude for the blessing of having a life partner who shares my passion for jewelry, gems and art.

Mark and I both consider my mother Martha Borzoni to be a valuable asset to our little company Different Seasons. Martha has developed into an extraordinary gem carver and wax carver. I have watched her progress from teaching herself how to cab opal about 2 years ago to the skilled opal carver she is today. My mother has always had immense artistic talent. From as early as I can remember I watched my mother draw and paint. My sister and I traveled with my mother a great deal as children. Her talents as an artist were often our means to a meal….she would set up her easel and do portraits on the beaches of Mexico, Maine or
wherever we happened to be on any given day.

My mother’s interest for carving stemmed from her own childhood. My grandfather was a master wood carver and from her earliest years she had a desire to carve herself. Her first medium was ice-cream… she would sit and carve her bowl of chocolate ice-cream and watch it transform into flowing, beautiful shapes.

What or who inspires you?
Nature is what inspires my jewelry most. It’s quite simple… I find the natural world to be the most beautiful aspect of life and I want my jewelry to emulate that same beauty. I will spend hours studying and sketching the form of flowers, leaves, trees, insects, reptiles… whatever sparks inspiration in me. I go back to my sketches and many of them are transformed into a piece of jewelry. My love for gems is also one of the most influential aspects of my design process. A unique gemstone will speak to me and it seems to guide me in designing a frame to house and compliment its beauty.

I also love to look through the work of other artists. The Art Nouveau jewelry movement of the late 1800’s-early 1900’s has been one of my main sources for inspiration. Rene Lalique, Georges Fouquet and Jean Paul Miller are a few of my favorite jewelers. The Belgian architect and designer Victor Horta and Alphonse Mucha are also among my favorite artists and I refer to their work often for jewelry design concepts.

It would be nearly impossible to list all the artists I admire and find inspiration in. On a day to day basis my partner Mark is my greatest source of inspiration. He has one of the most inventive, artistic minds of anyone I’ve ever met. He approaches every project with an extraordinary level of determination and commitment that brings out the best not only in himself but the people that work with him as well.

I remember your first posts to the Yahoo Groups that we were both on – talk about the journey from fabricating your early designs to the commission work you do today – how did you get your name out?

I had been making jewelry for just over a year when I sent a photo of one of my pierced opal pendants to Lapidary Journal’s Jewelry Artists magazine along with the photos I had taken during the fabrication process. I never expected anything to actually come of it…. I had assumed only an experienced jeweler with a solid reputation could get into a magazine the likes of Lapidary Journal. Lapidary Journal had been one of my biggest sources of inspiration when I first started making jewelry & cutting gems. I had dreams of getting my work within its pages someday. I literally nearly fell off my computer chair from shock when I opened up my e-mail and saw a message from one of the magazine’s editors. She told me she wanted to print an article with one of my pierced opal pendants! I was thrilled and intimidated at the same time. It ended up being more work than I had anticipated but it was one of the best learning experiences I’ve had within this business thus far. That first article was just the beginning… since then Mark and I have had four full length step-by-step articles published, two gallery features, our recent cover with Art Jewelry magazine and we have another article coming out sometime this fall or winter.

Our “Sunstone Waves” article in Jewelry Artist was actually more of an assignment than a submission. The magazine had an issue coming out with a focus on Sunstone. We were asked to carve and set a sunstone gem in a sterling silver pendant. Mark did an amazing job with the carving and I designed and fabricated a pendant to compliment the gem carving. It was a fun project.
Have you been influenced by the opinions of teachers or other artists?
This is actually an interesting question. As a novice jeweler I enjoyed challenging myself with new fabrication techniques. Before I embarked on my process of self-education I had taken a few beginner jewelry silversmithing classes at a local Parks and Rec center. I had told my teacher that I wanted to make a reversible pendant. He discouraged me and told me it was too ambitious. He also thought it was silly to decorate the back of a pendant when it would be hidden… it was, in his opinion, a waste of time and work for something that didn’t have good selling potential. Hearing his comments made me even more determined to attempt the reversible concept. At first I had quite a few ugly, half-melted disasters. One of the first reversible designs I was proud of was a piece from a series inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was a sterling silver pendant with the Eye of Horus pierced out from the back exposing the blue-green color of the chrysocolla cab I had cut.

Mark and I are still experimenting with reversible jewelry designs. Most recently we’d done a series of reversible spectrolite pendants. My sketchbook has been my most powerful tool with my progress as a jewelry designer. I will sit and draw for hours with a beautiful stone as my inspiration. Sometimes I get something wonderful very quickly and at times I have to return to my sketchbook multiple times until the right design comes to me.
Recently Mark and I started collaborating with other artists. The first artist we’ve chosen to work with is Casey Swanson. Casey is an amazing wire-wrapper and jeweler. Mark started teaching Casey some advanced gem setting techniques. During one of our three day sessions with Casey the three of us collaborated and completed our first pendant together. Mark used the piece as an opportunity to show Casey the entire process of channel setting, flush setting and bezel setting. More collaborations with Casey, Mark and I are currently in-process. I highly recommend doing collaboration projects with other artists. It’s an extraordinary learning experience.


These are the books that I learned and lived by in my first 2 years making jewelry…. and I still refer to these books and others by the authors below…

The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreightMetal

Techniques for Craftsmen by Oppi Untracht

The Ganoksin Website~ The Gem and Jewelry World’s Foremost Resource on The Internet.

There is a wonderful Artisan Crafts community within DeviantART. Monthly contests, jewelry and metalsmithing groups, and a high level of artist-to-artist interaction has made this our favorite non-professional art related site to exhibit our work online.Different Seasons Jewelry on DeviantART~

Robyn Hawk’s Blogger sites (The Daily Jewel, Jewelry and Gem Artisans, A Fly on the Wall-View & Reviews, Tucson Gem Show~ Live!)

Allan’s Opal shop~

Art Jewelry Magazine~ Check out Art Jewelry’s website for free projects, forums, subscriber’s gallery, forums and blogs.

Lapidary Journal’s Jewelry Artist Magazine

Yahoo’s “Jewelry Arts” Group ~ This group gave me support and encouragement during my first years of making jewelry. I highly recommend this group to a jeweler of any experience level as a source of inspiration, support and jewelry related information.

The thing we have always loved about Jessica is that she is so willing to share her art…for more great photos and how-to help check out:

#1 Casting Tree before and after.Here is a blog on a recent casting project. It’s not exactly a tutorial but it shows all the wax models before and after casting as well as the casting tree Mark made.

Casting Blog Link~

#2 Pierced Andamooka Matrix Gem opal Pendant from Jewelry Artist June,2007.Step-by-step photo for my pierced opal pendant from June, 2007 Lapidary Journal.

#3 Process photos from one of my older pieces called “Carnelian Flame”Carnelian Flame Fabrication w/ soldering photos~

Different Seasons Jewelry at:

Follow Jessica on:
DeviantArt –
MetalChasers –
MySpace –
Facebook –
Xanga –

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Jessica Dow of Different Seasons Jewelry

August 4, 2008

Jessica Dow withDifferent Seasons Jewelry you have picked up the new ArtJewelry magazine you will see there is a new type of feature – the cover pendant accounts for three different techniques and step by step ins…

Read the full article →

Charles Lewton-Brain: Maker, Innovator, Teacher

November 16, 2007
Charles Lewton-Brain studied and worked in Europe and North America. He lectures and publishes in a number of countries on his research into rapid methods of manipulating metal and it’s surface for artistic and manufacturing reasons. He has taught at the Alberta College of Art and Design since 1986 as well as writing, exhibiting and working in his studio. He is known internationally for inventing Fold-Forming, an original system of working sheet metal using simple tools that is a new way of working metal. He and his partner Dee Fontans opened The Lewton-Brain/Fontans Centre for Jewellery Studies in 1991 in Calgary where they teach jewellery making, exhibit innovative work from elsewhere in Canada and offer information on contemporary art jewellery. In 1994 he founded Brain Press to publish ‘Cheap Thrills in the Tool Shop’, a book of inexpensive tool options and bench tricks for goldsmiths. Other books include ‘Small Scale Photography’ and ‘Hinges and Hinge-Based Catches for Jewellers and Goldsmiths’. 1996 brought the collaboration with Dr. E. Aspler and The Ganoksin Project.

Brain Press publishes the results of Charles Lewton-Brain’s research, on metalworking and goldsmithing, workshop safety and jewelry photography; specialized, professional information for metalsmithing and jewelry making. His commitment “is to make quality information available for self education and the development of our field.” or at his Lulu storefront at:

Over 500 pages of his writing on jewelry techniques can be found free of charge in the Tips from the Jeweler’s Bench section at:


This interview is a slight departure from my previous posts as it was written as a result of conversation and the multitude of articles published by this charming and inspirational man…Thank You Charles!

On a vacation to Taos, New Mexico with his girlfriend, Charles remembers watching a Native American gentleman grinding Turquoise and fabricating silver jewelry. His skills and willingness to share them with the young artist left a strong impression on the 17 year old working toward a career in the Graphic Arts.

From his start as a Graphics student at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design the artist, the maker talks about spending “…my time in metals finding ways of drawing with the material, of working fast and with a commitment to the mark or decision that echoes my early love of drawing in pen and ink. So work with patinas, compositional approaches to applying gold to metals, fold-forming and my recent electroforming work all have to do with drawing.”

This man didn’t “find his passion” and then hide out in a studio working on masterpieces, hoping to be discovered. He mentored artists everywhere by example, by teaching them, introducing new techniques and publishing information so they could do it to!

Through a commitment to practice, exhibition and publishing he has become one of the most inspirational artists of our time. He is widely published and has an international following in topics ranging from techniques in metal, PR methods and studio safety to research papers on historical and technical subjects.

As an artist or in Charles’ terms – “a maker” – he invented fold-forming, a large system of working sheet metals that was completely new to the world. The technique uses simple hand tools to produce complex three dimensional and relief forms and structures rapidly. With numerous shapes and possibilities this technique and its results are widely used for sculpture, decorative blacksmithing and jewelry. The British Museum research lab (Metals Head, Paul Craddock) and the Rolex Awards for Enterprise confirmed this as a new, original approach to working metals in 1990.

His contemporary work has been in the area of “Wearable art” – challenging audience and wearer. This new work has been shown in numerous venues, magazines and the internet. His focus, since 1997, has been his “Cage” series with applications from Body Art to Jewelry, concentrating on the later. “Cage” jewelry is made by welding Stainless Steel wire with an Orthodontic Fusion Welder, the wire is then electroformed and literally grown in a copper-acid bath, finally it gets a heavy gold electroplating. Metalsmiths in jewelry programs worldwide have been taught techniques and work esthetics he developed and found ways to work them into their portfolios, crediting his teachings for their success as artists.

As an educator Charles has influenced many students, and directly taught his ideas about position, philosophy, learning and technique to several thousand people through workshops and lectures. He taught at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design from 1982-84, and in Calgary since 1986 at the Alberta College of Art and Design, where he has been jewellery/metals program head for over ten years. He has given over two hundred workshops and lectures internationally. Several years ago he reached a pivotal moment… “a student of mine was born the year I graduated college. I’ve now been at this for 34 years, and revel in one of the true joys of the metals world: you will never know it all, never run out of new things to learn, never stop making mistakes and discovering accidental insights in the material, the making, the wonder.”

You can see his complete professional history at:

So –you now know a little about the man, the “maker”, the teacher…now I want to share snippets of his words on different subjects…

On The Jewelry/Metal Community
“When I was twenty-one I was lucky enough to go on a trip round the world on a boat for 4 months. Every place we landed I went and sought out jewelers and metal workers, dressed politely, taking my chasing hammer, some punches and pieces I’d made. Everywhere I was taken in, fed, housed, treated as family. When you make jewelry, no matter how you make it you are in a club, and all of you are in that global club.”

On Jewelry
“Adornment, making decorative objects for the body, is one of the most ancient of human activities. Jewelry is in fact the oldest evidence of human activity. Ten years ago the oldest worked objects found showing signs of consciousness were dated to 45,000 years, three years ago it was pushed to 70,000 and last year to 100,000 years. And the oldest items found are beads. That’s how long we’ve been making jewelry. That is so long ago that I suspect it is hardwired into us, almost biology rather than culture.

Archeologists theorize that rather than merely being evidence of consciousness the act of self adornment, and working materials for self adornment may have actually driven the development of consciousness in early humans. That self adornment is what helped make us into thinking humans.”

On Ganoksin
With Dr. Hanuman Aspler, I co-founded the Ganoksin Project in 1996. This idealistic site has grown to be the largest source on the net for jewelry related information. We have over 4 million unique visitors a year who stay for an average of 17 pages. We have more than 600,000 pages of information, 700 pages of it my writing which is what started the site. The Orchid list is our email news list with over 6,500 members worldwide, and it takes our colleague Ton eight hours to prepare the 50 edited emails emitted daily, and archived on the site. We have partnership deals to republish content with 12 magazines including Jewelry Artist, Art Jewelry, Colored stone, MJSA journal, Metalsmith magazine and European Jeweller (GZ) magazine. If you like what we do please donate, as the whole thing runs on spit and the goodwill of its users. Together we co-founded the Clasp conference with the Bell group, SNAG, MJSA and Brad and Debby Simon’s bench media. This is a cross disciplinary project designed to break through the information silos of art jewelry, industry and bench jewelry sideways, sharing information and cross fertilizing to mutual benefit.

On Putting Your Goals On Paper
“You too can take control over your life and guide it towards what you want. Here is an opportunity for you to take charge of your life and construct it to what you want out of it. This means considering three and five year goals, writing it down, experimenting with potential paths just as you compose with your materials in art making. A written outline does not nail you down, instead it provides a skeleton to build on or change. And it is a funny thing, but merely writing it down seems to make it happen, seems to somehow guide innumerable small decisions and opportunities towards your goals.”

On Changing the Culture
“Every time you show your work, get published, get in an exhibition, sell a piece you are adding a small brick to the whole, adding to and creating a deeper, richer, more exciting place to be. It is the thousands of layers of decisions that make ancient cities and cultures interesting, and when you act as a maker, particularly if you spread your ideas using the media you are contributing to creating a better world.”

On Design
“There are a number of approaches to design. One is formal design where you are dealing with issues of composition, symmetry, asymmetry, visual weight. Another is to begin with content, meaning, emotion, and design a piece that tells a story, illustrates part of a sentence, a tale. This places the object in a larger context.
Whichever approaches turn you on it takes study and practice. And failure. I figure most of the pieces I make are ‘bad pieces’, and sometimes (more in recent times) I get lucky and the work is good. And the piece that is my ‘bad piece’ someone else will love. Where I worked in Germany, if every goldsmith in the shop agreed that a piece was an absolute dog you knew it was going to be a best seller. Who am I to tell others what to love? If something brings joy to someone why should I deny that to them? Anyway, you can practice design, get books on design principles, and draw and use collage because it is faster and less expensive in working out a design. In this way you will get through those ‘bad paintings’ faster. Choose a meaning to your work, make it part of a story, and designing will come easier as well as providing the public a bridge to your work, a way in to share, and appreciate what you are doing.”

On the Internet
“The internet dissolves geography, and Ebooks lets someone in Australia, or Africa, or the United States have immediate access to information, to create a book or paper right at their desk.”

On his “Cage” series
“…in recent years I have been working with grids, as metaphors for human culture and the limits we place on ourselves. The series is called Cage work, and is made with an electronics fusion welder. I weld stainless steel wire, then electro-formed on it in copper, a blending of 20th and 19th century technologies, then have it electroformed in 24k gold on top.”

On Materials & Practice
“The material you use is just that, a material. It comes with characteristics, ways of working, and unconventional approaches to its use. It is how it is used, or accepted by audience that matters. Creating good work takes ideas, skill and practice…lots of practice. It has been said that 1500 hours of doing anything, flying a plane, making jewelry, carpentry make one an expert.

A teacher of mine had a teacher of his tell him that “…every painter has so many bad paintings in them, and all you can do is keep painting until most of the bad ones are gone”. I tell my students that to learn something technical it takes three times to begin to understand it, five times to do it right and thirty times to be competent. Practice makes perfect.”

On Writing It Down
“Generate content. Tell stories about your life, your ideas, your work.

Document everything.

Documentation gives people the ‘cultural handles’ they can use to make money on you, then you get to go along for the ride busily making whatever it is you want to and earning a living from the people in the art business who are making money on you and your cultural image. Give the people who are disposed to making money the tools to do it with you.”

On “That Business Thing”
“The point is to survive and prosper as an artist. This means that one has to deal with the basics of running a small business, independent contracting, contracts and marketing. It is the marketing that feeds one as no amount of wonderful art work will pay the rent and purchase materials unless it has a market. It is important that you possess the tools not merely to survive but to prosper as artists and individuals. This includes a good understanding of grants, PR methods, materials and sources, computer use, photography, basic digital image handling, marketing, presentation, oral and written justification of work, basic business and tax approaches etc. You have to be a better, smarter business person than most business people. And living off grants while you make your art work is a business choice.”

On Being a “Professional Artist”
“It is important that the role of artist in our culture not be a marginalized one. The stigma attached to actually earning a decent living from making art is a false one no doubt propagated by galleries, non-artist writers and certain academics who couldn’t survive a week on the street if they tried. There is no need to have negative compromise be part of ones experience as a successful artist. You can have what you want without giving up anything of what you want to do.

I had an interesting conversation several years ago with an artist. She was feeling that she had somehow failed or opted out because she had a part time job for three days a week so as to have two days a week in the studio. I pointed out to her that a professional artist, who does it full time, probably gets about two days a week in the studio, the rest of that work week being taken up with paperwork, running around, doing non-art things. We are not counting the evening and weekend hours that one puts in anyway. There was, then, little qualitative difference in her experience from that of a full time artist. And she had benefits and no roller coaster worries about the rent. I came to the conclusion that either path was valid, since each offered a very similar art making experience.”

On Identity
“As a maker, identity, and the ability to express and communicate entertaining and intriguing aspects of it are what pays the rent, buys the bread. It is in fact a part of being a professional.

We do not make toasters. We make objects that grow from our lives, our minds, our materials and process. Not to mention our experience. There is an old story of someone questioning the price of a mug and asking how long it took to make. Then potter responds with “30 years and 15 minutes”.

You are buying the maker’s juice when you buy that mug. If it were just to hold a liquid Styrofoam works just as well. The buyer uses the maker as a metaphor for their own identity, their own inclinations and beliefs. The more stories and elements visible for the client to connect with the more likely it is that they will do so. Identity as a maker is vital in the relationship with audience.”

On Creating Your Identity
“You have to do it for yourself. Jeweler Thomas Mann once had a piece of his on the cover of American Craft, and various people whined about him sleazing the editors, getting on the cover. He hadn’t done anything, so he called the editors and asked “Why did you put my piece on the cover?’, and they said “you were the only one who sent a picture”. You would not believe how often one hears that refrain. Being a successful artist means keeping current press kits and photographic documentation. It means acting professionally and carrying out most of what you begin.

If you don’t engage with the culture nothing will happen. Simply having PR tools available allows things to happen. If you give your gallery all the digital images in all the dpi resolutions for print or web, and statements etc who do you think they will use when they need something? If you have them ready to email on an instant the likelihood of you being used is higher.”

…and Finally
Here are some guidelines to use when practicing as a maker.

Strive to have:

An attitude of thinking and questioning.

An attitude of conscious choice.

A knowledge of intent and how to realize it in personal terms.

Technical skill sufficient to fully realize personal artistic vision.

An understanding of choice in the finishing and resolution of their work.

Self Confidence to continue as an artist with a personally comfortable level of commitment.

Skills, research and resource finding abilities to allow you to prosper as artists and individuals.

An open minded, accepting view of the world without prejudice or unconsidered bias.

A knowledge and understanding that personal choice and a conscious life is available to you as artists and individuals.

An appreciation for hard work and persistence.

A professional attitude to work, behavior and professional commitments.

Top Ten List
This is Charles Lewton Brain’s list of References for the “Maker”

Theory and Practice of Goldsmithing
by Erhard Brepohl –
(while this book is available in the original German – I have linked you to the English version)

Metal Techniques for Craftsmen by Oppi Untracht –

The Ganoksin Website –

The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight, actually, anything by Tim McCreight –

Professional Goldsmithing by Alan Revere –

Design and Creation of Jewelry by Robert Von Neuman –

Contemporary Jewelry by Philip Morton –

Any setting video by Blaine Lewis –

Metalwork and Enameling by Herbert Maryon –

Any Santa Fe Symposium book –

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Charles Lewton-Brain: Maker, Innovator, Teacher

November 16, 2007

Charles Lewton-Brain studied and worked in Europe and North America. He lectures and publishes in a number of countries on his research into rapid methods of manipulating metal and it’s surface for artistic and manufacturing reasons. He has taught at t…

Read the full article →

Richard Hughes: Gemologist & Adventurer

August 5, 2007
Richard Hughes at the storied Kuh-i-Lal spinel mines, which lie high on a mountain above the Panj (Pamir) River, which separates Afghanistan (left) from Tajikistan (right). Photo: Dana Schorr.

A Brief BIO:

A native of the United States, Richard Hughes has spent many years in Asia, where his interest in precious stones was first kindled. Richard graduated from Bangkok’s Asian Institute of Gemological Sciences in 1979; shortly thereafter he was invited to join their staff. He was later appointed executive vice-president, a position he held for close to a decade. Today he is Gemological Administrator and Webmaster at the American Gem Trade Association Gemological Testing Center.

Traveling to scores of countries in search of precious stones, Richard Hughes has authored two books and more than a hundred articles on all aspects of the gem and jewelry trades. His work can be found at,, and
Richard is not afraid to speak his mind, displaying an uncanny knack for touching upon controversial subjects, including politics. Agree or disagree, there is no question his writings and lectures are among the most passionate in the world of gems, which is perhaps why his work has attracted such a strong following.


In preparing for this interview I went to to learn a little more about Richard. WOW! What a whirlwind journey through life. This BIO is written with all the thrills of a great adventure story, take a minute to check out the full story at:

You have been to places that most people will never have the opportunity to visit from Burma, Chanthaburi, Sri Lanka and Nepal…to Kathmandu! What affect has this first hand experience had on your work in the laboratory?

In my opinion, there is no substitute for hands’ on experience, and for natural gemstones this necessarily begins at the mines. Be it origin determination or separating natural from treated or synthetic gems, it all begins at the source.

If you had the chance to do it again, what would you do differently…more formal training? less? wider range?

I wouldn’t change a thing. Moving to Asia at such a young age allowed me to experience gemstones at a level most just dream about. And now that I’ve had the chance to work in a well-equipped lab, I appreciate how valuable hands-on experience at the source can be.

You have worked with a number of prestigious companies and laboratories in the Gem Industry…tell us about your current postion at AGTA?

I am involved in serious gem testing, which means preparing lab reports. Natural vs. treated vs. synthetic and origins.

We all have one aspect of our job that we like most…what is your favorite part of the gem grading process?

Using the microscope. Every day is like Sunday when looking at gems in the microscope, and I’m fortunate that I specialize in corundums, which are among the most interesting in the microscope.

I noticed recently that the major gem labs are now doing gem reports that determine the regional origin of the stone? How does that work?

Origin determination involves a bit of science and a whole lot of experience in looking at gems from around the world.

What is a gemologist and what are some of the employment opportunities for someone with certification in this field?

A gemologist is simply one who practices gemology, which is a knowledge of gems. The opportunities in this field are wide open, from the mines to markets to the jewelry store.

Who or what inspires you?

That would be a long list. In this field, I’ve had a number of heroes. G.F. Kunz and Edward Gübelin for their literate writings on precious stones, John Koivula for his photomicrographs, Alan Hodgekinson for his shoestring gemology, Bill Larson and Vincent Pardieu for their passion for the subject, John Sinkankas for his love of the subject’s literature. Bernd Munsteiner for bringing art back to gem cutting. John Emmett for his amazing knowledge of all things scientific. Outside the field, Steve McCurry for his amazing photographs of people, Thom Hartmann for his willingness to listen to others, even those he disagrees with. And of course, my family.

I noticed while reading your bio that you worked at Pala…that region is on my list of fieldtrips this Fall. Can you give me any pointers?

At Pala the mines are privately owned, and so unless you know the miners it’s difficult to actually visit a working mine. However, the town of Fallbrook has a nice mineral museum, The Collector at Pala International in Fallbrook has a wonderful store with exhibits of gems and minerals, and the GIA is in Carlsbad. San Diego also has a good natural history museum, Mike Scott’s collection is now on display at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, and the LA County Museum of Natural History is good as well. So there’s plenty to do here in SoCal.


Rough ruby reputed to be from Tajikistan. It was this material which set the authors off on their quest for the source. Photo © Wimon Manorotkul/Pala International.

Top Ten Reference List:

1. George Kunz: Book of the Pearl

2. Edward Gübelin: Internal World of Gemstones (and his collaborations with John Koivula)

3. John Sinkankas: Gemology, An Annotated Bibliography

4. Gems & Gemology magazine: Alice Keller has probably done more than anyone over the past 30 years to improve gemology. Magazine is available from GIA at

5. Steve McCurry: South Southeast – I found the following information

6. DVD: 1 Giant Leap – information available at:

7.DVD: Apocalypse Now, The Godfather Films, anything from Coppola

8.Music: I listen to a wide range, everything from Miles Davis to Madonna, Zawinul to ZZ Top. Much of the inspiration for my writing comes from music, which I listen to constantly.

9. Apple Computers and Steve Jobs.

10.Like the music of Miles Davis, the epitome of less is more. Less is more, so that’s all I have ;-))

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