Engagement Rings Styled by Ricco

Posted by Ellen Hoffman on

Engagement Ring as an Art Form

I am a painter as well as a jeweler, and I bring the eye of the painter to the jewelry designs that I make. Like every artist, I have a personal sense of style.  Developed over the years, and honed by trial and error, my designs reflect an amalgam of different experiences and approaches to jewelry design.  Some designs have worked out well, others not so well, but all have contributed to the kind of work I do now.  

In general, I like clean,  uncluttered design. I'm not so concerned with geometry and perfection, leaning more toward the organic and fluid sense of line. I'm more partial to Wabi-sabi than machine-made perfection.  My work reveals the human hand that made it. I don't try to erase those marks. I'm not perfect and neither is my work, but I'm not careless or sloppy or indifferent. I aim for the most beautiful piece that I can humanly achieve. I aim for balance between order and emotion (see Dionysus vs Apollo.)  I intensely dislike CAD/CAM and micro pave' (encrusting the form with tiny diamonds or other stones.)


How to describe my style? There is no one answer, because my inspiration comes from several sources. I can tell you that I draw a lot of inspiration from antiquity.  There was much more reverence for gems and materials in earlier times because it was so much more rare and special than the jewelry of today.  A large portion of today's jewelry is mass-produced and impersonal. There is just so much of it, and so much of it has nothing special about it.  (It can still be "pretty" of course, but pretty is not the same as special.)  

I like to work with classical design motifs that have proven themselves through time, to create pieces like this solid 22K gold bracelet: 

22K gold wide cuff bracelet 

This bracelet might have been worn by an Egyptian queen over 3,000 years ago. Nothing to it,  you might say, but that's the point:  No need to say more. The color of the metal is unmistakable--it's the real deal, real gold.  You see it and know it's real.   The power of the design comes through understatement, not through over-the-top display.  The more you try to impress, the less the impact. That's my view of it anyway. This one is sophistication in spades.

Designs like this have lasted through the ages because they are clean and uncomplicated forms. Understatement trumps glitter. Sophistication trumps bling.

Natural forms

Another strong influence in my designs comes from nature.  I use a lot of vine-y, flowing lines, sinuous, organic shapes.  I love pearls, jewels of the sea, luminous and feminine, yet they can be striking and powerful-- even in men's jewelry.

But antiquity and natural forms are not my only sources of inspiration. I am always looking for new ways to set stones and join metal.  Some design direction emerges from the challenge of physically putting pieces together in a pleasing way. I try to follow what the metal tells me it wants to do.  It's definitely an art process, like sculpture.  Not like sculpture; it is sculpture.  Being a painter is a plus, because the elements of art are the same in all media.  It's all a question of balance and taste, expression and restraint, Apollo and Dionysus, Wabi-sabi and perfection.

Sustainability and Responsibility

I'm also sensitive to responsible ecological practices, including “green” approaches to fabrication and recycling.  One of the best ways to avoid using conflict diamonds, for example, is to use stones that were cut before the age of electrical machinery: antique diamonds.  These were hand-cut and polished and have great charm and personality.  They are rare and in increasing demand lately, so these are a good option for a diamond engagement ring.  More about them here.

Jewelry design perspective

In general, my designs do not represent any one period or style. I am open to explore in any of them, including contemporary and cutting-edge design.  

However...  I've been at this task for over 40 years now and have seen styles come and go. I have a sense of design trajectory over time, especially in the area of handcrafted or custom-made jewelry. This sets me apart from some of the newcomers, and offers me some perspective in evaluating trends that pop up from time-to-time  

One example of a current trend is jewelry design using the computer and digital models. Known as CAD/CAM (computer assisted design/computer assisted manufacturing), it is a growing segment of the jewelry market.  Here's an example:

This trend, I have to confess, makes me cringe.  Why?  Because I see these machine-made products becoming the junk of tomorrow.   Jewelry made this way is just not going to last. This particular example, by the way, is, in my opinion, a dangerous object to have on a finger owing to the projections that can snag on something and result in injury to the finger.  Think it doesn't happen?  Do a search.

Besides, how can it have any soul when it was created by a robot?  The results may be seen by some as contemporary and “cool,”  but to me, they are soulless. To me, this seems totally out of place in wedding ring design--where love, one of the most elemental human emotions, should be the paramount message.  

Of course I realize that I am being judgmental and opinionated.  But that's the essence of an artist's viewpoint: He or she makes judgments and selections according to artistic sensibility. That's what I have to offer--a sense of taste and style as I see it and as I practice it.

I realize that style is a very personal issue and we are all entitled to our own preferences. But if you resonate with my concepts of style, then we can discuss how to harmonize them with some of your own (perhaps unrecognized?) stylistic preferences. I'm willing to adapt and incorporate others' ideas, especially those of the person who will wear the jewelry or give it as a gift.

But what I don't do is to copy and reproduce someone else’s design wholesale.

If this sounds appealing and you'd like to discuss the possibilities of working on an engagement or wedding ring, or other piece of jewelry for you or for a gift, just contact Ellen and we'll set up an appointment.