Style

Charlotte-area jewelry designers you should know

Dawn Vertrees shows off a sterling silver bracelet, cast from a wax sculpture she designed to look like a partially coralized starfish.
Dawn Vertrees shows off a sterling silver bracelet, cast from a wax sculpture she designed to look like a partially coralized starfish. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Producing both custom work and their own lines, these jewelry designers offer very different esthetics. We continue to seek local makers of interesting clothing and accessories. Know someone we should know about? Email style@charlotteobserver.com.

Dawn Vertrees

Online at Etsy, 11 Main and at www.dawnvertrees.com; $69 and up

In a studio in her condo overlooking Lake Norman, a barefoot Dawn Vertrees creates designs inspired by nature: silver, gold and semi-precious and precious gems become organic shapes – leaves, sea fan coral, starfish, orchids. One of her most popular is a sterling silver starfish ring in which the starfish clasps the finger, just as it would in nature.

Vertrees grew up in the Lake Norman area and worked for her family’s business for 25 years before moving to Florida and remarrying. That’s when she began making jewelry, using clay and later porcelain. She won a three-year apprenticeship – but cut it short after three months when her husband was laid off.

“He came home and said that hobby I was working on was going to have to make us a living,” Vertrees said.

They sold everything, she said, and lived out of a motor home for four years as she showed and sold at shows around the country. When they moved back to Lake Norman, to be near children and grandchildren, he found work quickly, then helped design her studio. Now customers find her on Etsy. Online her works range from $69 to $1,200. Her custom pieces are $250 to $4,500, and her sculptures start at $500 and go for up to $20,000.

She’s learned to do things her way. Most jewelers who do similar work carve designs in hard wax, she says. Vertrees instead uses soft wax, building layers in a signature style.

Her newest technique reflects her dislike of prongs to hold stones: She envisioned a ring with leaves wrapping around the finger and holding a stone in place. Several jewelers she consulted weren’t sure it could be done, but as Vertrees says: “Once I see something in my mind, I’ll go for it. I finally have the confidence to do what I want to do.”

Just a week ago, the ring – a sterling silver leaf and twig holding an uncut amethyst she found on a trip to Hiddenite – arrived from the Rhode Island foundry that casts her work.

What happened when she opened the box?

“I clapped my hands like a little girl,” she said. “I have a grin on my face that will not go away!”

Black Shamrock Design & Jewelry

Jane Black-Limerick and Kevin Loop. At Boris + Natasha in Plaza Midwood and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/blackshamrockjewelry; $28 and up.

From traditionally classic to downright funky, Black Shamrock creates natural pieces using metals that range from platinum to brass, and stones varying from diamonds to turquoise and everything in between.

Eighteen years ago, Jane Black-Limerick took a ring into a jewelry store in South Carolina hoping to have it redesigned. She left after meeting her future husband (Michael), who was the store manager, and future business partner, Kevin Loop, who worked there. (Sidenote: She also got her ring redesigned!)

In 2011, Black-Limerick and Loop created Black Shamrock. Loop is a second-generation jeweler from Baldwinsville, N.Y., while Black-Limerick brings design skills honed while doing home interiors. “I guess you can say it’s in my blood,” she says. She also handles sales.

“Natural is what we are all about,” says Black-Limerick. Most of the stones they use are cut from the rough. “It’s amazing that the stones we use come from the ground that we walk on.”

Loop studied metalsmithing at SUNY Oswego and began his career as a part-time bench jeweler for his family’s business. He learned lapidary (gem) work and stone polishing next. Many of Black Shamrock’s offerings are custom, and most are one-of-a-kind.

They hope to expand into different markets in and around Charlotte. Their latest collection is named Black ICE, with statement pieces using black diamonds and black jade.

Asked to name a favorite piece, Jane says: “We did an all-natural white and blue anniversary ring that was to die for. Every part of it sparkled with almost 4 carats in diamonds.

“I am also a sucker for all of the engagement rings and wedding bands we have done. It means a lot that people wear our jewelry as a sign of their love for one another every day of their lives.”

Darrell Roach Designs

On Instagram at www.instagram.com/drjeweldesign; 646-982-3323; $25 and up.

In 1999, Darrell Roach launched his jewelry business making simple designs from copper wire. He progressed to working with Lucite, silver, gold, wood and leather. He says he’s always experimenting and loves the science behind what he does. His creations start at $25 and go up to $3,000 for custom pieces incorporating diamonds.

He says his big break came in 2010 when he moved to L.A. and a stylist he met at a party asked if he could design jewelry for a photo shoot with a celebrity client. It had to be “phenomenal” – and she needed it in two hours. The celebrity was Prince, says Roach, and he loved the pieces so much he bought them all. “To have a legendary artist appreciate your work is amazing,” Roach said.

Rihanna wore his designs in a photo spread in Vogue Italia, Beyonce sported his works in her video for a duet with Lady Gaga, and his jewelry has been mentioned in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He did the jewelry for former Project Runway contestant Korto Momolu’s collection at New York Fashion Week in fall 2014, and singer Elle King is a fan.

Now he’s back in his native Charlotte working in a space inside The Portal, Metaphysical Gems & Minerals in Elizabeth, right around the corner from where he grew up. And he’s back to his “mad scientist” ways of experimentation, he says. He’s currently obsessed with giving metal a grain that looks like wood. He mixes different chemicals to get a patina he desires and sometimes adds fabrics to get a specific texture. “I’m using old techniques that have been around, it’s just that I’m putting my own spin on it.”

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