"Sign us up," we thought as we entered the arts district store for a tour of Scott Gauthier's studio, located in the back of the shop, to ooh and aaah over his rare gem collection and take a look at how he conceptualizes and builds by hand his unique, sculptural pieces.
Gauthier brought us back to his work station, a desk of endless drawers, covered in tiny envelopes containing almost-done rings, ideas for rings, and stones in little clear, round cases, as well as metal carving tools and bright blue wax for molding.
At other stations in the workroom, a pair of men were working on two stonesetting projects. One is delicately hammering a bright blue stone into a ring, a process Gauthier says is time consuming and ensures that the rock won't leave its setting without sacrificing the look of the jewelry. The other is painstakingling arranging small diamonds (again by hand, always by hand) one by one with what looks like a pair of tweezers into a pavé setting.
Gauthier takes us to the beginning of how a piece in his workshop is made with the lost-wax casting technique. Drawing inspiration from the stone he's working with, first he'll carve out what the piece of jewelry will look like from a chunk of blue wax that looks like a bar of soap.
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Then, he creates a plaster of Paris mold around the carving, which melts out, and lets the mold harden. He goes on to melt metal into the mold, let it solidify, and then Gauthier drops the mold into a bucket of water -- instantly (and dramatically) shattering it and freeing the jewelry. After that, the piece is filed, sanded, and polished. Then stones are added. And voilà. Jewelry.
We returned to the front and Gauthier brought out boxes and boxes of rare gems. Some rocks have only been found in one mine in Brazil, another is worth this-many million dollars. He tosses around numbers and names that make our heads spin. Then he brings out his award-winning rings. Moving gemstone bands, weighty metals that require some finger lifting, and asymmetrical pieces sit on the table. How much? Eh, they're not really for sale.
The tour comes to an end, and we're bummed that our Breakfast at Tiffany's-esque morning is over. We'll be back though. And prepared to max out our credit on some of that wearable art.