By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
After Brenda Smith retired from a career as an ad agency Creative Director, a jewelry store merchant friend got her hooked on a whole new design path. This one paved with gemstones, precious metals, and myriad awards that confirmed her career change was a good one.
“She encouraged me to take metalsmithing classes, and I couldn’t get enough,” says Smith.
From silversmithing and goldsmithing, wax carving, casting, wire wrapping, beading, and stone cutting, Smith took as many classes as she could, strengthening her skills with each course’s conclusion.
One skill stood out thanks to her past life in design before computers: sketching.
“I was trained to draw by hand, so I drew conceptual designs before creating the jewelry,” she says.
Seeking further approval that her graphic design skills would transfer to jewelry, she enrolled in the prestigious Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts to study with contemporary jewelry designers, including Alan Revere.
“Alan assured me that I had the skills to move forward and encouraged me to enter competitions,” she recalls. “After winning several, my confidence was amplified, and after making 20 pieces, I realized that I needed to start selling them to support my habit.”
As Smith refined her design voice, a signature started to evolve. However, it wasn’t one with a repeating pattern or motif like many artists. “My goal was never to imprint my jewelry with a consistent motif, rather to let each piece speak for itself since the inspiration varies,” she explains.
Instead, a sculptural femininity took root and effortlessly wove itself through her collections, all rich in often oversize colored gemstones and cultured Pearls.
“There are plenty of Diamond jewelry manufacturers available,” she notes. “I like to find innovative ways to feature one-of-a-kind gemstone cuts and concepts. I especially seek uncalibrated gemstones because they force me to think more creatively to craft an unexpected work of art.”
Goal accomplished, as each of her bodies of work puts compelling gems and noble metals on a pedestal. In her One of a Kind works, collectors can find carved Rock Crystal flowers with Tahitian Pearl pistils and Ammolite dragonflies. In Simply, vibrant colored gemstones and rose-cut Diamonds are framed in yellow gold. In Jewelry of Faith, lovely scrollwork in silver or karat gold is fashioned into religious symbols, many with cultured Pearls per the “Pearl of Great Price” from scripture. And in her Black n’ Gold n’ Diamonds collection, organic-looking surfaces of bold silhouettes in blackened silver are accented with yellow gold and Diamond melee, making for some overtly dramatic designs. That collection originated after Smith embarked on a small-scale blacksmithing project.
“I define my jewelry as the jewelry of fine art,” she explains. “It’s not just an arrangement of gemstones and elements, and it’s much more interesting when I have concepts in mind.”
In fact, her Celebration earrings were inspired by fireworks—and look just like them. And her Lace rings were inspired by a doily that her grandmother crocheted. To wit, that pattern—“A Hawaiian-inspired pineapple pattern from the 1950s,” says Smith—is clear to see.
Instruction & Awards
Today, Smith wholesales her work to a select group of fine-jewelry stores and galleries. She’s even been known to teach jewelry classes. A point of concern from those experiences existed in the students’ collective creativity.
“I noticed that students just wanted to start soldering and putting pieces together, and eventually everything would look the same, with slight variations,” she says. “I had to stress to them to create the design first in their imaginations. The results would be much more desirable and creative. I stressed that the objective was to create something special, not just to mount a stone. It was fun, but as my business grew, teaching had to take second place.”
Her design awards mushroomed alongside her creations. To date, Smith has won eight International Pearl Design Competition awards from the Cultured Pearl Association of America, four AGTA Spectrum & Cutting Edge AwardsTM, and many others. She’s also seen some pieces find homes in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and the Tellus Museum of Natural Science in Atlanta. Meanwhile, others have landed on stars at the Emmy Awards and Oscars. All things considered, it appears Smith’s career switch was the right move. Just don’t expect her to stay in one design lane.
“As an artist, I don’t want my work placed in a preconceived box,” she says. “I strive to push boundaries.”
Fast Facts on Brenda Smith of Brenda Smith Jewelry
Contact: Brenda Smith, Designer and Founder
Years in Business: 10
Headquarters: Woodstock, Ga.
Phone Number: 770-337-6399
Email: [email protected]
Instagram: @brendasjewelry @jewelryoffaith
Facebook: Brenda Smith Jewelry
Starting Retail Prices: $150 in silver, $350 in gold, $6,000 in platinum
Average Retail Tickets: $10,000 for One of a Kind, $1,600 for Simply, $1,600 for Black n’ Gold n’ Diamonds, and $950 for Jewelry of Faith
Trade Shows: AGTA GemFairTM Tucson, Atlanta Jewelry Show
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