Karats | VailDaily.com


Antique gold coin and arrowhead set in 18-karat gold

122 east meadow drive  |  vail  •  970.476.4760  •  karatsvail.com


featuring Dan Telleen


“I found Kintsugi and related to it,” Telleen says. “It’s about family, and healing and connection, finding a new home for orphan pieces.”

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Some artists seem stuck in their particular style, technique or medium; others continue to grow and adapt, always open to new ideas. 


Dan Telleen, owner of Karats and making jewelry in Vail since 1970, is of the latter persuasion.


Karats — Telleen’s “working studio,” gallery and veritable museum for custom-made rings, bracelets, earrings and other pieces destined to become family heirlooms, he says — is a truly magical place where not only precious gems and stones but historical objects dating back to the beginnings of civilization, mankind and even the universe emerge as contemporary art in the form of wearable jewelry. 


More and more these days, Telleen and his “family” of gem setters and goldsmiths have been adapting a Japanese technique for repairing what is broken, typically pottery, with gold, to emphasize the beauty of the object, into their work with jewelry.


“Kintsugi, as the practice is known, gives new life or rebirth to damaged or aging ceramic objects by celebrating their flaws and history,” says Telleen, reading an anonymous quote widely associated with the technique. “One can consider how we might live a Kintsugi life, finding value in the missing pieces, cracks and chips — bringing to light the scars that have come from life experiences, finding new purpose through aging and loss, seeing the beauty of ‘imperfection’ and loving ourselves, family and friends even with flaws.”


Telleen and company recently produced a necklace made from two items brought into Karats by a local downvalley woman: a broken arrowhead found by her son; and a U.S. quarter coin shot through by a sharpshooting relative. 


“It has family meaning,” he says. “You know this piece is going to be passed on from generation to generation.”


Another woman, a widow, brought her diamond-studded wedding ring into Karats looking for a way to continue wearing it in a more casual way. Telleen fashioned a removable “jacket” for the ring in 18K gold. 


“This gives new life and new purpose — a rebirth,” he says.


Telleen is especially proud of a broken shell ear ornament from Nagaland — home to indigenous tribes of headhunters living between Burma and India — that’s now the central part of a beautiful necklace. And a pair of “mismatched” gold earrings “gives new identity” to free-form pearl, he says. 


A gold locket incorporating two U.S. coins — one beautifully deformed by a steam-driven hammer at the 1892 Worlds Fair in Chicago — makes a “mutilated item more important than it was before.”


— by stephen lloyd wood

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