Sarah Graham Metalsmithing

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Cookie Time!

Yes, it is that time of year, when the clich├ęd Love/Hate relationship rises to new heights – when we send a box of beloved homemade cookies to each of our stores. But before you dive into your own delicious bag of self loathing, I offer the following advice, and I hope it helps you enjoy each buttery crumb of chocolate chip goodness.

According to weight loss experts, the most effective (and, um, obvious!) ways to maintain or lose body weight is to engage in regular, sustained aerobic activity. We suggest the following exercises: Lift our heaviest gold and steel necklaces around the necks of as many customers as you possibly can. Actively play with your customer’s wild children so she can enjoy a quiet moment to buy the most expensive piece of jewelry in the store. Or take a jog downtown with ten of your favorite items to make a personal presentation to all the husbands who really, really need your advice. Following these simple ideas will make not only you, but your store inventory, much lighter – no matter how many cookies you eat!

Happy Holidays and best wishes for another fantastic year from Sarah, Michael, Denise, Sarah Greenberg, Erica, Kristen and Stefon!

Top: Denise, Angie, Susan and Laura disposing of the broken cookies

Middle: Max, the cookie supervisor, overseeing production (is that a health code violation?!)

Bottom: Perhpas we should have hired Brinks for this valuable shipment

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Denise's Auriferous Adventures

(written by Denise Long, Business Manager at Sarah Graham Metalsmithing)

New adventure and discovery began when I bought my husband a metal detector last year. I envisioned him with the detector, leisurely looking for hidden treasures on the beach, at a park, in a stream, or on a hike while I sat comfortably in a chair reading a book. Little did I know something very different was in store for us.

The owner of the prospecting store where I bought the detector in Joshua Tree, California, informed me that there were classes at Copper Mountain College on placer mining and gold detecting. With a new metal detector in hand, I knew this would be right up my husband’s alley and signed him up. When he encouraged me to come along, I thought what the heck could be out there in the middle of the desert between Joshua Tree and 29 Palms?

But what I discovered was amazing and so interesting! I had no idea that this area had been an active gold mining district as early as 1881. Nor did I know that there had ever been as many as 3,000 miners in the area at any one time. These towns were near the two largest producing mines—the Supply and the OK, both of which were closed in 1917, resulting in the abandonment of the small towns. Though some mining continued through the depression, all the mines were closed by executive order at the beginning of World War II.

Aside from the history of the place, there was much more waiting to be discovered. We used a mining technique called placer mining that involves (as we learned it) digging, classifying, dry dredging and panning for gold—exactly in that order. We began our search for gold at a sand bank close to the hills where there is quartz and black sand. The water trail running through these hills encourages great gold deposits.

For the next five weeks we explored different claims around the area of 29 Palms and the back side of Big Bear, California, with twenty people sometimes moving about a ton of dirt at a time! The hard work paid off. Many times we found “pickers”—gold that is large enough to pick up with your fingers (as opposed to gold flakes). One day, though, our search came to nil when our instructor took us to a potential new find area. (No new finds there!) Another miner stopped by our site, pointed off into the distance where he had been mining, and showed us his finds for the day—seven nicely sized pickers and nuggets! After his find that area was known as the Lucky Nugget.

On our very last day we all went out to the Lucky Nugget to see what we would strike up. This area in the Pinto Mountains was absolutely beautiful—expansive hills with water-carved paths, and plentiful large quartz rocks (always a good indication of gold deposits). We dug quite a large area and started with the usual: dig, sift, classify, dry dredge and pan. My husband got bored with the panning and decided to go play with the metal detector. He went down to the wash were we had classified and piled all the rocks (which usually someone does if they have a detector because sometimes the rocks are so covered with dirt they all look the same, and you wouldn’t know if there was gold within unless you washed all the rocks off). As he was metal detecting, we heard quite a stir. My husband’s first words were, “ I won!” Then we heard people going down to the wash and saying “I can’t believe it!” I went down to find out what the commotion was—he had found a 2.5 ounce gold nugget! It was beautiful, quite oddly shaped, and truly amazing to see in its natural form. It was a great ending to our class, but a great beginning to more adventure. After that tremendous find, there is a new claim in that area. I think the name Lucky Nugget suits it perfectly!

Friday, March 2, 2007

The Model Equation

What makes a model? The more I work with models, the more I realize I am dealing with a much more complex equation than beauty = tall, thin, and pretty.

And why even use models? The answer is, of course, that the jewelry looks so much better when worn. But associating a “face” with a brand is a notoriously tricky business. Our customers (you!) are incredibly diverse, you represent a broad range of styles, ages, bodies, ethnicities, and social backgrounds. One face can never represent all of you. So by choosing one model, do we risk alienating you?

I suspect large corporations spend countless hours and dollars analyzing which face will best resonate with their customers. We, however, rely instead on our intuition and instinct. I have had the good fortune of meeting many of you in person, and have found that, despite our uniqueness; you aren’t so different from me! So I base my decisions on my own experience, which is this: I like to look at models that appear beautiful yet natural, glamorous yet approachable, sophisticated yet friendly – in essence, all the things I aspire to be, and on my good days, all the things I am!

I love looking at beautiful women in magazines – it inspires me to try new hair styles, pull my wardrobe together more creatively, and yes, occasionally, to exercise. But my experience with these models behind the scenes, without all the hair, makeup and fabulous clothes and jewelry has given me a new perspective. As with anyone we meet, those with remarkable lives and unique experiences are far more captivating then their most gorgeous picture could ever portray.

Our Model, Krysia, is a perfect example of a great model. Her looks are enviable, it's true, but it was her other interests that really captivated all of us at her photo shoot. It turns out she has quite interesting hobbies, including knife throwing and Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art, and she treated us to a an exhibition, which we photographed and share with you here. Capoeira was created by African slaves, in Brazil, approximately 400 yrs. ago as a martial art. Capoeira possesses a very unique style that brings together beauty and power, developing mental balance, physical conditioning, self-defense, music and a profound sense of art, all at once. Capoeira can be done by anyone of any age or size. More than a martial art, Capoeira is also a social event filled with tradition and history.

Not up for knife throwing? Don't despair, the point is to nurture what we can control - our minds. Be exceptional, and you will attract exceptional people.

Working with Krysia has made the answer to my equation a bit clearer. I think it looks something like this: Beauty = Interesting, strong, and creative. Throw in some fabulous jewelry, and you are the most captivating woman in the room!

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Mining The Issue

A jewelry designer blogging about conflict diamonds? Should this blog instead be titled Conflict of Interest? One thing is for sure, I am suffering from conflicted emotions.

I am not a big fan in violence in movies, and I generally don’t go for the big action flick. So it was with reluctance that I forced myself to finally go see the movie Blood Diamond this weekend – almost a full month after it hit the theaters. And if we are going to be honest, I should admit there is another reason I wasn’t eager to see this movie – I was worried about how it would make me feel about my profession, my passion, my art.

The movie follows its main character - a rough pink diamond – through a war torn region of Sierra Leone. In the late 1990s the world became aware that rebel armies in parts of Central and Western Africa were illegally using the diamond trade to fund conflict against governments. The rebels used inhumane practices, including torture and slavery, to extract diamonds from the region. These diamonds became known as conflict diamonds, sometimes referred to as blood diamonds.

So, where does that leave us? ‘Us’ being the jewelers and customers who love, use, buy and wear diamonds everyday – are we complicit in the atrocities that occur when some diamonds are mined? What can we do to stop the suffering? Do we boycott diamonds all together, or perhaps just those from Africa?

I have mined my conscience sincerely on this issue, and have struggled to come up with a personal stance as well as a way to express those feelings to my customers. After exhaustively researching the matter, I found myself faced with enough disheartening facts that I seriously considered boycotting African diamonds – I even contacted a Canadian mine to source new stones. A solemn discussion with my husband on the issue culminated with him posing a final suggestion: “If you truly care about Africa, do what you think, in your heart, is best for their situation.”

To say their working conditions are sub par is an understatement, but to take away the job altogether is not a way to improve those conditions. They live on less than most of us can imagine, but to take away what little they have is not a humane solution. Diamonds are essential to the economies of Africa, and to boycott their diamonds we would be taking away their ability to prosper off their one natural resource. I can’t, in good conscience, recommend a boycott of African diamonds. I do, however, support an embargo on conflict diamonds.

Efforts have been made and are proving to be successful at stemming the flow of diamonds involved in these conflicts, and everyone of us who buys diamonds should support this cause. For starters, insist that the diamonds you are buying comply with The Kimberly Process. Adopted as law by 69 countries and backed by the UN, it is a process through which all diamond traders must comply to ensure that the stones were not used to fund these conflicts. Is this process perfect? Probably not, but it may just offer the best chance Africans in diamond rich regions have for a healthier, safer and more prosperous life.

The movie Blood Diamond focused on the conflict in Sierra Leone, which is now at peace, although the issue is still present in other African countries. To my surprise, I actually enjoyed the movie - it was action packed, entertaining, and well acted. It was also terribly violent, disturbing, and gut wrenching, as the subject matter dictates. The jewelry industry has been on high alert for months, dreading the release of Blood Diamond and the effect it may have on diamond sales, spending millions of dollars preparing for the fall out.

The movie has served as a wake up call for designers, retailers and customers, and in my opinion is serving as a positive motivating force for the industry. Since it’s inception, The Kimberly Process and other self imposed actions have reportedly reduced the number of conflict diamonds from 4 percent of the global trade to less than one percent.

The diamonds in our jewelry are certified conflict free in accordance with the Kimberly Process. I encourage you to educate yourself on the issue and be a proponent of conflict free diamonds. If you have an opinion or question you would like to pose, I hope you will do so.