1st Place - Gold/Platinum
When Garen Garibian moved to the United States from Armenia 20 years ago, he was a surgeon. A short stint filling in for a friend at a jewelry shop in Michigan changed his chosen career path. His winning piece showcases how his skills as a surgeon have translated into his work as a jeweler—each element is painstakingly precise. Garen works out of a studio in the LA jewelry district. He collaborates with jewelry stores and private clients to create custom pieces unlike anything else available on the market. This is Garen's first Saul Bell Design Award.
MARLENE RICHEY: TELL US ABOUT YOUR WINNING PIECE, "THE QUEEN."
Garen Garibian: The idea and design didn't come to me right away. I bought some stones and the center pink pearl at JCK. I always had a feeling for this ring in my mind. I carved the wings and started changing and adjusting the proportions, then I designed it on the computer. The piece is very symmetrical and had to be precise. The printing took time. Everything about the piece was a challenge. I chose multi-colored sapphires (blue and pink with graduating shades of each) for the piece. You can turn the ring upside down and inside out and easily see it was properly crafted. The pearl is screwed in so it can be changed or taken out. The moonstones on the petals had to be individually cut to fit. There is enamel underneath the stones to bring out the exact color I visualized. It all worked perfectly.
MR: WHAT METALS DID YOU USE IN "THE QUEEN?"
GG: 18k pink and white gold.
MR: HOW LONG DID THE PIECE TAKE TO COMPLETE?
GG: I found time in between my regular work, so it took two years but not full time. It was a gradual process. If there was something I didn't like, I would change it.
MR: WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE PIECE?
GG: Every project is a learning process, but the most important thing I learned was to change the character of the stones by using other materials such as enamel.
MR: ARE YOU GOING TO SELL IT?
GG: Yes, I will sell it to someone who appreciates it, not so much for the money, but because they want to have it. My regular work is to do custom orders for jewelry stores. I hate to work on the same ring twice. It has to be something new every time. I enjoy what I do, so it is more like a hobby than a job.
MR: TELL US ABOUT YOUR STUDIO.
GG: The coziness and the location are my favorite things about my studio. When I open up my window, I can see a square in downtown LA. When I walk out, there are a lot of restaurants. My building, the James Oviatt Building, was built in 1920, and everything in the building is custom-made. It is a piece of art itself. I love being in this building. All of the building materials and accessories were shipped from France. People are always shooting movies in the lobby. It is very interesting. The restaurant scene in Pretty Woman was filmed in the restaurant downstairs. There is a lot of art on the walls of my office with no empty spaces.
MR: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TOOL?
GG: The microscope. I wear an Optivisor when I am polishing. My laser welder is very helpful and makes the job so much easier. The Graver Max is also wonderful.
MR: WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER THAT YOU LOVED MAKING JEWELRY?
GG: I was a surgeon back in Armenia. When I came to the United States, I was working on getting my green card, at the same time a friend was working in a jewelry store in Michigan. My friend was moving to California, so I took his place doing repairs and setting stones. I fell in love with jewelry and didn't want to go back to being a doctor. Also, I have an arts background. I love to paint and studied painting in Armenia.
MR: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN MAKING JEWELRY?
GG: A little over 20 years. I work with jewelry stores and I have a base of clients. People come to me to design pieces.
MR: WHEN ARE YOU MOST CREATIVE?
GG: When I am hiking. When my brain is free and things come to me. Sometimes I don't even realize how far I have hiked.
You can see more of Garen's work at ggjewelrydesign.com.
Interview by Marlene Richey