Once eclipsed by big-name design houses, independent jewelry artisans are flourishing, as customers seek out beautiful, one-of-a-kind designs—personal pieces that express the designer’s unique skills and sensibility. Already home to a number of talented jewelers, Sarasota has some rising stars on the horizon. These men and women are creating fresh and exquisite pieces that are gaining recognition far beyond our shores.
Until recently, the Jewelry Design Center was a secret source for custom pieces commissioned by some of the most discerning clients in town. Now the stunning jewelry created by husband-and-wife Russell Hutcheson and Irene Cristiani is creating an audible buzz and a growing circle of disciples. The center includes a school where curious clients, Ringling design students and would-be hobbyists take courses on everything from wax casting to stone setting. In addition to dazzling technical mastery, the couple’s work displays an equal passion for precious metals and coral (by Cristiani, shown), diamonds and lesser-known gems. Jewelry Design Center, 4225 S. Tamiami Trail, (941) 925-3335
Ned Bowman has a reputation as an old world jeweler, and the incredible craftsmanship shown here has led to an international cult following via Bowman Originals’ web store on esty.com (a virtual artists’ colony) and the blogosphere. Fans wax poetic about Bowman’s playful yet cerebral blending of ages-old techniques and motifs into modern masterworks of gemstones, recycled silver and gold. “Clients love to hear about the mythology and symbolism reflected in my work; they are attracted to jewelry that is meaningful,” he says. Though his designs appear to have been excavated from an archaeological site, everything is handmade in Bowman’s State Street studio. Bowman Originals, 1400 State St., (941) 316-9594
Romance is the starting point for original jewelry created by husband and wife Karyn and Stephen Cole Powell of Jewelry by Cole. “Our customers like the romantic notion of pieces that are one of a kind,” says Karyn, who designed the Eye of the Hurricane pendant (above) crafted by Stephen, a London-trained master jeweler. Fanciful combinations of precious metals and diamonds catapulted their shop into a must-see destination for clients who view the jewels both as luxurious souvenirs and modern-day amulets. “Several women have told us they think of the Eye of the Hurricane as a lucky charm,” Stephen confides. Jewelry by Cole, 7 N. Boulevard of Presidents, (941) 388-3323
The intensely sculptural jewelry designed by Harry Roa is sold at juried art shows across the country to aficionados and collectors enchanted by his bespoke blend of meticulous craftsmanship and award-winning style. Roa works in gold and platinum set with striking diamonds and gemstones. “I like making architectural pieces that have body and structure. And I get a kick out of finding ways to make them comfortable while functioning as art to wear,” he says. With each show, Roa develops a larger national following for his aesthetically beautiful modernist pieces. Harry Roa Gallery, 1638 Main St., (941) 226-5146
The world is Barb McSweeney’s oyster now that her enchanting pearl jewelry is starring in trunk shows at five Bloomingdale’s stores across Florida. Already gracing showcases at Queens’ Wreath at The Met and The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, each highly individual piece reveals McSweeney’s inspired creativity and is influenced by the shape, tone and texture of the pearls she artfully mixes with gold and silver. “My look is natural, organic and earthy. It expresses my love of the color white, and the materials I work with,” explains the former advertising agency owner and creative director, who describes jewelry design as a hobby gone wild. Barb McSweeney, (941) 350-8742, barbmcsweeney.com