Lord of the Rings

Jeweler Clare Yares turns rock fragments into fine art

San Francisco painter Claribel Cone, who started buying Yares' jewelry about 20 years ago when she lived in Phoenix, points to the varied shapes Yares gives his stones, and the way he often bleeds silver into gold on the ring shanks, giving the ring a smooth iridescence.

Yares is particularly interested in shifting the scale in his work, says Cone, making the small appear larger by forcing the eye to zoom in on tiny details. "He made a ring for me once and set the stone so that it came down to the shank like a spaceship," she says. "He was really interested in how that tiny point on that stone was reflected down below--and how you could see through it, as if it were a little window."

Yares always cuts his stones by hand. He'll often begin with a rounded disc--like a Peppermint Patty--of precut and polished stone, called a cabochon. Invariably he shapes it into subtleties that are easy to miss or overlook.

Rawdin and others point out that he likes to undercut his stones, to bring light in under them and play off their concave surfaces. And he often uses reflective settings that mirror and illuminate stones from below.

These and other small touches are Yares' way of one-upping other jewelers who might be looking to borrow an idea. Instead of pounding on his chest, or making something that dares the wearer to put it on, he simply tweaks the angle of a bezel (the collar part of the ring that grips a stone), adds gold links to a silver chain, or constructs cuff links that flex with the movement of the wrist.

Many of the artist's special tweaks reflect his desire to make his jewelry as comfortable as possible. Many other art jewelers in the past 20 years have been testing the limits of safety and wearability. But Yares has been content to make simple-looking things that people want to wear.

His 80 or so works at The Hand and the Spirit show that his form of change all these years has been continual refinement. Nothing dramatic. He's channeled his stubborn effort into reducing his forms to their simplest outcomes, making their parts work like pure musical improvisations. All the members playing separately, but in unison.

And never the same thing twice.
"There's a certain point where the excitement extends itself," he says. "You get to that point, and you just can't stop. You have to keep going because you just have to see it through--see the birth of this object."

His pace changes with mood. He can work for weeks at a time on a piece, sometimes contemplating the angle of a cut. Or he can hammer one out in a matter of days.

"One of my conclusions is that I do this work for one other person," he says, "the person that discovers it and responds to it. I think I work a little faster sometimes if I know someone is waiting to see it fresh. That's what really gets me in the groove. It even makes me a little giddy."

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