Jewelry as fine art |

Jewelry as fine art

Stew Mosberg

One of the delights of walking through Vail Village is window-shopping. And, of course, stepping inside the many shops and galleries along the way certainly adds to the experience.

It is particularly gratifying when you walk into Karats on East Meadow Drive. What at first appears to be a fine jewelry store is also a wonderful vest-pocket art gallery.

A staunch advocate of the arts, Dan Telleen, the jewelry designer and owner of Karats, manages to fill the shop’s every nook and cranny with fabulous artwork. This doesn’t make for easy viewing or the best lighting, but it does create a sense of exigency.

As a working studio, creating jewelry that is every bit fine art in its own right, Karats has three jewelers working on site using kiln, centrifuge and polishers to produce unique and exceptional museum quality pieces.

Speaking of his work, Telleen describes it in terms of “jewelry that is sculpture for the hand, where the hand is the podium for displaying art.”

Many of his designs marry antique artifacts and organic materials with gold and other precious metals, turning already valuable objects into something even more special. Ancient Greek and Roman coins, meteorite fragments or prehistoric fossils set into exquisite jewelry, fill the showcases.

Worth seeking out when you visit, is a letter opener that has an artistically-tooled blade and a meteorite handle; the pedestal which is part of the design, makes this utilitarian object a conversational display piece for any desk.

These one-of-a-kind pieces also share gallery space with the work of several other jewelers. In fact, there is an organic theme in all the art on display throughout the shop.

In addition to the necklaces, rings, earrings and pins that are showcased at Karats, the talent exhibited includes painting, sculpture and ceramics.

There are close to a dozen small paintings by renowned local artist Susan Heiderer, interesting bronzes by Steve Tobin and Mark Newton and the fabulous pottery of the “Mata Ortiz” artisans.

Mata Ortiz, as the work itself has come to be known, is a tiny village in Chihuahua, Mexico. Discovered in 1976, the originator of the movement, Juan Quezada, has since inspired dozens of other artisans in the hamlet.

As a result, the workmanship and extraordinary pottery coming from that place is world-renowned for it’s intricacy, and originality.

The thin-walled, exquisitely-painted ceramic ware is as good as you will find anywhere.

Karats, incidentally, is the jumping-off point for Vail’s Apres Ski Art Walk Saturdays at 5 p.m.

Most galleries located on East Meadow Drive are included in this Vail Valley art tradition. Try not to miss it or them.

Stew Mosberg works out of Blue River, Colorado. He is the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, holds a degree in Design from the University of Florida and is the author of two books on design. He can be reached at

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