At nearly a century old, Oregon's International Rose Test Garden continues to be the premier "testing ground for new rose varieties." Though currently closed for the winter, the lush grounds are populated with additional gardens each providing a distinct function. Oregon is also the home of featured jewelry designer Kevia Jeffrey-West.
Whether you focus on it or not, we are dual creatures of thriving intellect and instinct. For the most part, we live our lives through the mind and the senses while only catching glimpses of our lesser-known inherent capacities. Those small glimpses often come as a surprise and lead to further exploration and investigation.
Jeffrey-West's journey into the world of jewelry design is an example of how the quiet urges of the heart or soul sometimes wins out over the practical intellect.
The allure of beautiful color and classic forms began early enough for the designer. Her mother's clothing design career made a lasting impact as a child, and she admired the skills required to bring something into existence using color and texture.
In the years to follow, Jeffrey-West would explore her intellectual interests studying psychology at Lewis and Clark College. She also participated in community outreach and social justice programs while working towards bachelor and master degrees.
All the while, her love for clothing fashion eventually expanded into jewelry and she fed this interest through a hobby of sketching, collecting stones, and meeting with jewelers.
By 2003, Jeffrey-West's outreach work led her to Santa Barbara where she attended the University of California to participate in a research program. The Pacific coastline would prove to be an enticing backdrop that further stirred her instinctual tendencies.
"My career path has been anything but straight and narrow. I planned to become a university professor and was close to finishing my doctorate when I realized my hobby was where my heart truly was," she says.
"I resisted at first but luckily the universe kept pulling me in the direction of fashion and eight years after designing my first pieces, I realized that the jewelry industry is the only place I belong."
After proprietors of several local boutiques expressed interest in some of her pieces, Jeffrey-West officially launched her company, Kevia Jewelry, in 2005. Her collections follow themes celebrating nature, ancient jewelry-making techniques, author Octavia Butler, and 18th century French artwork.
Though generally subtle in design, the jewelry pops with color and unique forms that highlight the designer's signature matte, textured, 22-karat gold vermeil.
"I am fascinated by ancient Egyptian and Etruscan jewelry, you really get the sense that ancient gold jewelry was rare, precious, and revered," she explains. "My preference is handmade work both because it feels strongly tied to the earliest jewelry-making techniques causing each piece to be slightly different and one-of-a-kind."
Viewing her pieces brought to mind a flower before and after it blooms; you see the buildup of small details that make the flower what it is. The flower's initial form is clean, simple and then bursts into an alternate composition of brilliant color and unique structure.
In a similar fashion, Jeffrey-West builds on individual details. There are gemstones of different colors, sizes, and facets, irregular forms like the branch detailing of the rings from the Bamboo Collection, and the rope-like surface of earrings from the Gilt Collection. I particularly like the scooped, frosting-like texture of the pastel-colored gemstones in her Rococo Collection.
"My goal has always been to offer fine jewelry quality designs that are affordable. I want women to find a piece that they love to the point it becomes a part of their daily look, a signature piece. I like to create collectable pieces that will stand up as time passes."
Along with features in publications, Kevia Jewelry has been prominent on popular television shows including Lie to Me, Private Practice, and Desperate Housewives.
Photo 1 (top right): 22-Karat Gold Vermeil Brocade Ring with Cubic Zirconia
Photo 2 (bottom left): 14-Karat Gold Vermeil Italian Chain Necklace with Artisan Cut Crystal