Making of a Jewel: Intro to Carelle's WJA Grant

Making of a Jewel: Intro to Carelle's WJA Grant

Inspired by the beauty of a young life cut too short, Chana Regev, principal of New York–based Carelle, created the Brooke Leaf Collection. It honors the life of Brooke Tivol McGrath, who, at 28, passed away from meningitis earlier this year. McGrath’s family had a history in the jewelry industry going back four generations. She started her jewelry career at her family’s Kansas City retail store Tivol. After college, McGrath moved to NewYork, where she worked at Fabrikant before becoming the director of marketing for Carelle.

During her four years at the company, she used her expertise to further develop the up-and-coming brand. To inspire other young women to enter the jewelry industry, Regev, in conjunction with the Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA), launched the Carelle Scholarship for Design in honor of McGrath. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the collection will be used to fund the scholarship. The collection is based on the Brooke Leaf Pendant, an 18-karat rose gold and diamond leaf motif supporting a Rose de France amethyst.

The color combination honors the memory of McGrath, who wore a pair of Carelle Rose de France and rose gold earrings to work every day. The leaf motif is used because it is the signature of Carelle’s brand. Beyond the brand identity, the leaf supports the stone in the pendant and symbolizes the delicate balance of life. Each piece is lovingly crafted in the Carelle work- shop by skilled artisans from the initial concept to the final completion.

The collection was conceptualized by Regev, who incorporated the leaf motif that McGrath believed was the cornerstone of the Carelle brand. Each pendant is based on a rendering (Figure A), which is then turned into a model handmade by a modelmaker. A rubber model of the components for the piece is made (Figure B).
Once several wax items have been made from the model, the individual waxes are put together on a tube to form a “tree.” The wax tree is then put into a metal flask that gets filled with investment, a type of plaster, until the flask is full (Figure C). The tree dries and hardens and then goes into a furnace over- night, where the wax melts and evaporates, leaving an imprint of the wax in the plaster, which has now become hollow. In the morning, the flask is put in the casting machine and gold is poured into the tree where the wax used to be. The gold hardens and the tree is put into cold water, which then dissolves the investment, leaving a gold tree (Figure D). The gold pieces are cut off the tree and the artisans begin filing, cleaning and polishing the metal parts.
Then the metal pieces go to the diamond setter, who sets the diamonds in the piece (Figure E). In the case of the Brooke Leaf, diamonds are on the outside of the piece and the inside leaf so that they shine through the center stone. The pieces are polished again. A custom-cut amethyst disc is added (Figure F) and the metal pieces are assembled in a laser machine (Figure G), which allows the jeweler to hold the piece in his hand while welding it together. The laser machine provides more flexibility as there is no heat to damage any of the pieces.

The last step is to laser-engrave the piece with the phrase Brooke Leaf and the Carelle brand name (Figure H). The piece gets a final polish and a chain and it is ready to wear. Photo of necklace by Don Kozusko. All other photography by Irena Sapilak.

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