The power of jewelry
Vail, CO, Colorado
VAIL ” If anyone understands the pull of fine gem stones it’s Carolyn Tyler.
A lost opal pendant once sent Tyler on an odyssey that eventually led her to life in Bali and a 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.
The tale of the opal is a good one, and to hear the story in its entirety is worth the trip into Karats, where Tyler is exhibiting this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But the pull of the opal doesn’t surprise Tyler too much. She has never underestimated the power of jewelry.
“Jewelry is the highest art form there is,” Tyler said. “Jewelry speaks to people’s souls.”
Case in point is Tyler’s famous “duck ring.” Tyler was browsing through a book on the Cairo Museum in Egypt when she discovered a photograph of a gold arm cuff around the mummy of King Ramesses II. The cuff had the same intense detail of granulation, small decorative gold dots, that the Balinese use in their jewelry. She commissioned her craftsman in Bali to shrink the cuff down to a ring, complete with the detail and the two duck (or geese) feet that have come to symbolize the Egyptian relic. At its center, Tyler placed an opal, of course, the stone she had once purchased to replace the lost opal.
“The geese feet are symbolic,” Tyler said. “They protect the spirit or soul back to heaven.”
A woman from Georgia saw the ring on Tyler’s finger and had to have it. After much resistance, Tyler sold the piece to her.
“After I sold it, my luck turned,” Tyler said. “Bad things started happening. The woman who bought it heard about what had happened to me and she sent it back. She said, ‘This wasn’t meant to be on my hand, but will you break your rule and make me another?'”
Tyler has since made about 60 of her duck rings, one which adorns Goldie Hawn’s hand. She has three with her at Karats this weekend. Whether it was the opal or the design, Tyler believes the ring has some serious juju in it.
“There must be something still stickin’ to it, even after 5,000 years,” she said.
Tyler is sentimental over all of her jewelry, which is why she enjoys traveling around the country and talking with the people who admire her work.
“I like to the meet the person who will become the adoptive parents of my child,” she said. “I’ve completed the circle, then. The jewelry has found itself a home.”
Tyler’s jewelry always begins with the stones, and she collects only the ones that “speak to her,” she said. Some nights, she’ll just spread the stones out on a table to play, to feel their energy with no intentions of sketching a design.
Unlike a lot of jewelry makers overseas, Tyler’s goldsmiths work without a production line. One craftsman takes one design and follows it through to the end. Everything is handmade.
“My craftsman are the custodians of the stones, and they fall in love with these stones, too,” Tyler said.
Tyler has always pride herself on making jewelry that is royal and whimsical, fun pieces that everyone can wear. But lately, she’s focusing on a couture line, pieces featuring rare stones that will eventually become heirlooms.
“I’m creating highly individual pieces in the old tradition of craftsman from the turn of the century, like when Tiffany was creating lamps. Or like some of Buccellati’s piece,” Tyler said.
Part of her couture line is a lot of rare mandarin garnets she found. Tyler made them into a suite of earrings, a ring and necklace. The collection of orange stones are set in her usual gold matte finish, but this time, she’s added an etched pattern to the gold, which reminds her of frost on a window.
“This color is very hard to find and I wanted to keep them all together,” she said. “I didn’t want them to go out bit by bit. It will find its home.”
For Tyler, creating jewelry is about more than expensive baubles to complete an outfit. She wants her work, the stones she chooses, to resonate deeper with people.
“I think people need beauty,” Tyler said. “Looking at something beautiful produces endorphins, which relieves pain, boosts the immune system and makes you feel good. I guess you could say, beauty heals.”
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