Heirlooms in the making in Vail | VailDaily.com
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Heirlooms in the making in Vail

Cassie Pence
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyA Balinese craftsman applies tiny dots of gold, an ancient jewelry
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After sticking to her guns for 15 years, jewelry designer Carolyn Tyler finally got her day in the sun.

Saks Fifth Avenue is shining a big light on Tyler. The upscale department store is not only carrying her jewelry in its newly remodeled fine jewelry salons, Saks is featuring her one-of-a kind jewelry (not a common practice for the retail giant.) Tyler has no two pieces that are exactly alike ” not even for Saks.

For years at industry shows, stores like Saks and Neimans have sniffed around Tyler’s booth, but the request was always the same.

“Can you do production,” Saks would ask, meaning can she make multiple castings of one design.

“That’s not what my jewelry is about,” Tyler says. “First, I’m a designer and I’m supporting 20 master craftsmen in Bali. That’s the beauty of my work. It’s all hand fabricated. Each piece is created from scratch by hand.”

Between then and now, the market changed. Saks’ clientele went from successful business women buying themselves something nice, to another echelon of clients who will spend the kind of money necessary to buy something someone else can’t have. The new, emerging ultra luxury market demanded one-of-a-kind jewelry like Tyler’s, and now Saks is selling her pieces in New York and Beverly Hills, two flagship stores, along with a list of other prime locations. Of course, they all carry something different by Tyler.

“Now people are looking for couture jewelry,” Tyler says. “Estate pieces of the future.”

Tyler has always thought of her 22-karat designs as classic. They have the look and feel of ancient treasures with whimsical shapes formed in her signature warm gold, ” the color of a nugget if you were panning for gold,” as Tyler describes it.

Tyler brings her newest collection to Karats in Vail Village for a trunk show Saturday Feb. 16 and Sunday Feb. 17. Fresh off the Tucson gem show, Tyler also comes bearing exotic and rare loose stones for possible custom orders.

“I’ve brought some really special stones with me that any stone collector would appreciate. I have Paraiba tourmaline from Mozambique and rhodochrosite, which is the color of a watermelon Jolly Rancher,” Tyler says.

If anyone understands the pull of fine gemstones it’s Tyler. A lost opal pendant once sent Tyler on an odyssey that eventually led her to Bali and her thriving jewelry-making business. She had surrendered the opal as gone forever, when years later, the cosmos returned it. Since then, Tyler has never removed the necklace from the place over her heart.

Stones have smitten Tyler from the beginning and continue to be her favorite part of the design process. She loves discovering rare and beautiful gems only to give them new life in 22-karat gold.

“I choose every stone by hand. It takes hours, but that’s the part I love,” Tyler says.

At her workshop in Bali, 12 full time and eight part time Balinese goldsmiths ” some decendents of jewelers for royal families and priests ” bring Tyler’s designs to fruition using ancient techniques. Tyler is helping to preserve the ancient craft of granulation. The Egyptians invented it, but very few cultures still practice granulation ” a painstaking embellishment technique where goldsmiths drop gold filings onto a hot stone or brick and the pieces sizzle into tiny, perfectly round balls of gold.

Craftsmen then take the golden spheres and form a decorative pattern that Tyler has drawn for them, adhering the dots to sculpted shapes using a thin lightly moisten paintbrush, copper powder and gummy-like glue made from one of the local berries. The Balinese use a large, but soft flame controlled by foot bellows to fuse it all together, and when the piece glows a very particular color, they dip it into cold water. Otherwise the piece can melt into a puddle in a split second. The technique gives Tyler’s jewelry a delicate effect.

Some of Tyler’s pieces take three months to create so it’s no wonder they’re gaining a reputation as heirlooms in the making. Yes, Tyler is quite happy with her new-found success with Saks.

“(Saks) Beverly Hills told me it’s their first foray into couture jewelry. Other than estate jewelry they’ve never sold one-of-a-kind designs,” Tyler says. “It’s quite a compliment. Such stores have so much talent to choose from and I’m honored they’ve chosen me.”


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