The designs of Adam Foster are a study in contrasts—some of his latest creations pair hand-carved lava rock from the Canary Islands with gold, diamonds, and even a 31-carat cut of yellow topaz. The results are a harmony of roughness and refinement. Anything is possible in the hands of this skilled craftsman, who, with a degree in metalsmithing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, combines traditional, labor-intensive techniques with cutting-edge technology to create bold pieces with a sense of importance and heritage.
The challenges of working with lava rock—stemming from its lightweight fragility and unique earth-churned formations—are what make it so alluring, says Foster. “I want the jewelry that we’re making to become heirlooms,” he says of using unlikely materials with gemstones and diamonds, “and for people to feel like they got to take a piece of the museum home with them.”
Foster’s appreciation for classical craftsmanship was awakened at age 13 when he visited northern Italy with his family. He found inspiration in the handwrought details of the region’s architecture—most notably the refined star-shaped carvings on cobalt-blue cathedral ceilings, which later inspired his celestial-themed Constellation collection. After a few more trips to Italy and finishing his art degree, Foster brought that historically informed sensibility home to St. Louis, Mo., where he established his workshop. There, he leads a team of three artisans who forge intricately textured, one-of-a-kind pieces, each of which passes through his hands before it leaves the studio. Depending on the complexity of a design, Foster and his team can start and finish a piece over the course of a few days or labor over it for several months. “We’re extremely proud to be able to do this sort of old-world technique in the middle of the country.”