Professional jewelry designer Caroline Glemann believes that jewelry should be accessible—this is why she sells pieces in her Williamsburg, Brooklyn boutique that are affordable, and why she works with clients to design custom, one-of-a-kind engagement rings and other pieces, using materials ranging from high-end diamonds to less expensive, less traditional material. This is also why she uses her studio/workshop in the basement of her gallery to teach classes to other aspiring jewelers. “It always seems like there’s this huge separation in a jewelry store between the customer and the seller—the seller will often assume someone can’t afford something and treat them accordingly,” Caroline explained to the Art Ready group during our visit. “I want the experience to be more personal.”
Beyond fabricating the jewelry based on clients’ specifications, Caroline can also offer the service of picking unique stones from her most trusted dealers in Manhattan’s diamond district/jewelry exchange, located around 47th Street. “I can pick a better stone than people can pick on their own,” she explained, adding that dealers can over-charge.
Caroline gave students a chance to look around at the finished pieces in her small gallery/shop, which goes by the name of “Liloveve” (a play on the words “Live” and “Love”). The bulk of the visit, however, took place in the workshop downstairs, where Caroline showed some of the key tools she uses, from molds to make her most popular rings, to a metal-cutting saw blade, to a collection of metal bands used to determine customers’ ring sizes.
As a testament to her ability to making her art form accessible, Caroline gave a live demonstration of melting and re-shaping silver, using a blow torch and rectangular mold. A believer in recycling materials, Caroline melted down an old ring, at silver’s melting point of 1800 degrees. She poured the silver into the mold and removed it with tongs as it began to cool right away. Surprisingly enough, once she submerged the glowing hot piece in water, it cooled down instantly to the point of being touchable with bare hands.
Caroline explained that this has to do with the unique properties of silver; it also oxidizes when burns, giving it a black and charred appearance. But, as Caroline demonstrated next, when placed in an acid bath, the silver becomes shiny again. A special machine can then give it the polished appearance of most silver that is sold in stores. Silver is also somewhat malleable, especially thinner pieces, and before it cools down too much it can be bent into different shapes.
Working with Caroline as a mentor, Art Ready students would be able to engage in all these different basic jewelry-making processes towards both helping produce Liloveve work, and towards making their own projects. They would also get to experience the business side by accompanying Caroline on at least one trip to the diamond district—in keeping with her belief that all parts of the industry should be made more accessible.
Caroline’s personal story of her path to where she is now did convey the message that it takes a lot of passion and dedication to be a successful jewelry designer, but it might also involve being at the right place at the right time. Caroline realized she wanted to make her own jewelry, and that she might actually be good at it, when she was helping out at a major jewelry fair. The owner of the booth where she was working suggested she make her own necklace for fun. “A customer then walked up and asked me what I would charge her for this necklace. I jokingly said, ‘300 dollars.’” Caroline re-counted. “Amazingly enough, she said yes to that price. After that, I was hooked.” While Caroline then emphasized that jewelry-making not an easy discipline, involving expensive materials and time-consuming work, any Art Ready student wishing to enter this field or even try it out for fun will surely have a huge head-start working with Caroline, someone who is clearly not hesitant to share some tricks of the trade, putting others in the right place at the right time too.