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09 June 2010

Archives March 2009 : Jeweler of the Month

Jeweler of the Month:
Herb West

I moved my family to Atlanta in 1962 to establish my medical practice. In 1963 when I inquired what my wife might like for an up-coming gift-giving occasion, she said she would like an Opal ring. Funds were short then so I sought help in finding a stone from a friend who in his retirement made jewelry. He obtained a very nice Mexican fire opal for me. When I asked about mounting the stone, he responded that I could do it under his supervision. I did, and the ring was a success, and I was hooked. I signed up for classes of jewelry making. As I accomplished what was offered in one class I would move to another and another advanced class. I was tutored by individual artists – Susan Zimmerman for wax work, Chris Litwin (who later moved to work with “Harry Winston”), Patrick Baylor (a ‘Swiss master jeweler’), Ken Lawrence and others. All had a contributing hand in my becoming proficient in this art form.

After years of making jewelry for the family, I began creating custom pieces for friends, one of whom is an actress who asked me for two different necklaces for her Hollywood Premier events.
I had been participating in local craft shows and then when I retired from medicine, I exhibited in national juried shows. It is a fun experience. We enjoy the ambience of different cities, the association with talented vendors, and the sincere interest of the attendees of the show. I have received top awards at shows on a number of occasions.

My preference is gem quality opal and gold. For choice stones I travel to the mines in Australia, Mexico and Africa and I attend the Tucson Gem Show. My sources are competent, trustworthy people who know and seek out the size and kind of opals I buy. My work is available in galleries both local and in Santa Fe, N.M.

Before deciding how I am going to do a project, I study and ponder each individual stone to come up with a design that will accentuate that particular opal. Diamonds or colored stones may be chosen to compliment the main stone.

I also work with silver and a variety of colored stones. I gain much pleasure and satisfaction from making beautiful adornments with magnificent gifts from nature.

What was your first piece?
The Mexican Fire Opal Ring I made for my wife.

Where do you find design inspiration?
Most of the time I buy the stone because I like it. The stone will sit until in the middle of the night, while I’m sleeping at 3 am the idea pops into my head.

What is your favorite part of making jewelry?
I enjoy the whole process. Honestly, if no one wanted to buy my jewelry, I would still make the jewelry. I enjoy it, it’s fun.

What is on your bench now?
An opal and silver necklace and an opal and gold necklace that I am working.

What is your most indispensable tool?
I can’t single out any one tool. The most indispensable tool is the one that I need at that time.

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