Saturday, January 2, 2010


Untouched, natural beauty is on supreme display within the western, California portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Looming trees and flowing rivers are just a sampling of the area's scenery. California's Sierra Nevada Mountains is also the residence of featured jewelry designer Karen Olsen Ramsey.

Ramsey's enthusiasm for jewelry design and creation translates into expertly crafted designs highly influenced by the power of the Art Nouveau era. "I love making jewelry! The hours melt away once I'm in my studio," she enthuses.

"The day is over before I realize. I find my mind spinning with more ideas, designs, and directions than I can transfer to sketchbook and metal."

Ramsey implements an extensive range of jewelry-making skills, and materials commonly associated with with bygone eras, and some that are not. The list includes repoussé and chasing, gold sheets, plique a jour, opals, natural freshwater pearls, and Japanese shakudo, which blends gold and copper.

"I design my jewelry with movement and flow influenced by the natural environment and the jewelry of René Lalique. I strive for perfection in my craftsmanship. I want my work to be passed on to future generations so the extra time involved in careful planning is important to me."

As is customary to so many jewelry artists, Ramsey developed a love for nature's wonders at four years of age while collecting pebbles and beach glass along the California coast. She created her very first ring by gluing the treasures she found to soda can tabs.

Of course, she would later accrue sophisticated means to construct her pieces. During the 1990s, she completed courses at the University of Illinois, and California's Revere Academy of Jewelry. Upon completing her studies, the former woodcarver was eager to build her work studio.

At the end of 2002, Ramsey took a year to develop her first collection in a studio that overlooks a canyon along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her pieces are entirely hand fabricated--including clasps and chains--without casting.

"I use the ancient techniques of chasing and repoussé to create dimensional form from flat sheets of gold. Small metal punches are repeatedly hammered into the front and back of the sheets stretching, shaping, and defining the metal."

Her labor of love produces breathtaking jewelry. Though clearly patterned after magnificent Art Nouveau pieces, Ramsey brings a subtle, somewhat streamlined quality to their appearance with soft colored gemstones and voluptuous curvatures.

In 2005, Ramsey's work won her first place in Bench Magazine's Jeweler's Passion Design Competition, as well as the magazine's Jeweler's Choice award.
Photo 1 (top right): 18-and 22-Karat Yellow Gold Les Tres Baigneurs Necklace with Enamel, Lalique Glass, Black Opal and Mississippi River Pearls
Photo 2 (bottom left): 22-Karat Gold Sole E'eterno Pendant with Black Opals
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