Monday, June 1, 2009


Today we're back in the USA taking in all the sights and sounds of Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, California.

It's hard to decide on just what to do as there are quite a number of places to explore. There's the Maritime National Historical Park, Forbes Island, and Ghirardelli Square. San Francisco is also the hometown of featured jewelry designer Shahasp Valentine.

The free from and unrelenting beauty of nature, as well as the iconic historic designs of period architecture always captivated Valentine. She possessed an artistic predilection early in life.

At the age of 13, she took a lapidary class where she learned to cut, engrave on, and polish gemstones. In high school, she followed her lapidary training with stone setting, mold making, metal casting, and wax techniques.

In the late 80's, after graduating college, Valentine became the youngest fine jewelry manger in Macy's history (at the time). By 1991, she officially began her career as a jewelry artist, and within 7 years, she exclusively worked with Precious Metal Clay (or PMC).

PMC is exactly what it sounds like: it is a type of clay composed of small particles of gold or silver that is suspended in an organic binder. Jewelry making using PMC was developed during the early 90's in Japan, and was introduced to the United States in 1996.

When making PMC jewelry, the temperature setting of a kiln oven must be very precise: 900°C for silver, and 1,000°C for gold. Timing is also important. If PMC is not "fired" long enough, the metal doesn't fuse properly, and if PMC is "fired" too long, the metal will melt. Ideally, the right combination of time and heat settings will burn off the organic binder allowing the precious metal particles to surface.

Valentine fashions designs that are both rustic and regal. The pieces in her Organic Series Collection are so natural and organic they look nurtured and coaxed by the hand of Mother Nature. “I purposely try not to imitate traditionally made jewelry and do all finishing by hand," she says.

"This new and revolutionary medium has given me the freedom to create the feeling and movement I've always wanted in my work but could not achieve using traditional jewelry techniques."

Her Modern Artifacts Collection is equally stunning, and the influence of her far away travels to London, Rome, Athens, Cairo, and Paris is marvelously evident. She has masterfully captured the look of antiquities and Old World designs while making her creations uniquely modern.

Valentine uses fine silver, 22-karat and 24-karat gold PMC in her incredibly evocative designer jewelry. The Lily Necklace, from her Organic Series Collection features a single pearl, nestled on curved, shell-like PMC. It is delicate. It is elegant. I get an image of Neptune's daughter rising from the surf, drenched in these necklaces.

AJM Magazine, Studio PMC, Lapidary Journal Magazine, and Colored Stone Magazine are only a handful of the publications featuring Valentine's work. Many galleries, including Stewart Center Gallery, and Metalworks Gallery, have featured her pieces in exhibitions.
Photo 1 (top right): Fine Silver PMC Lily Necklace with White Pearl from Organic Series Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): Fine Silver PMC French Shell Necklace with Pink Tourmaline, White Zircons, and Pearls from Modern Artifacts Collection
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