There are two kinds of jewelers in the world: Those that design and outsource the manufacturing of their creations to bench jewelers, and those who design and fabricate the jewels themselves.
It’s not always easy to tell which is which by looking at a finished product, but Elise Thompson, the founder of Space 85, an online gallery featuring the work of 19 jewelers who all create one-of-a-kind pieces by hand, says the difference is palpable.
“When you hold the jewelry, there’s a different feeling,” says Thompson, founder of Mejia Jewelry, one of the designers featured in the gallery. “It doesn’t tend to be so shiny. It’s not overly polished to the point where it looks commercial. When you look at it, you see the artists’ hands.”
The 19 designers who belong to the Space 85 collective, almost all women, met through a wax workshop in downtown Manhattan where Thompson has made jewelry since 2003. “Through that, I have had firsthand experience seeing what my peers have created,” she says. “I wanted to highlight the handmade nature of the jewelry. All the pieces are made with intention. Some take months to create.”
Just in time for the holiday season, the collection of jewelry currently featured on the online gallery ranges from accessibly priced stocking stuffers to luxury jewels set with esoteric gems, such as an architectural ring centered on a 1.93-carat square-cut green chrysoberyl by Mejia Jewelry ($1,850) and two pieces—a cocktail ring topped with Persian turquoise ($3,750) and a pair of 18-karat gold earrings set with green amber ($2,250)—by Patricia Kolodny.
Other standouts include a pair of “emerald three-way earrings” set with emeralds fashioned in cabochons, slices and faceted briolettes ($13,000), by Taryn Leavitt; a “Pretty Persuasion” necklace depicting a 22-karat yellow gold snake set with 2.6 carats of rubies ($12,850), by Linda Hoj; an 18-karat yellow gold ring featuring an 11.1-carat blue topaz and diamonds ($6,350) by Dori Friedberg; and a pair of 22-karat gold Ruby Pod chandelier earrings ($3,200) by i Seira.
The name of the collective is a reference to a number seen in a photo taken by the man who owns the workshop (“He’s our mentor,” says Thompson).
“When I was thinking of a name for our collective, 85 was significant — in numerology, 85 means ‘building something for the greater good of the community,’” Thompson says. “That’s what this online collective is. We’re all independent emerging designers. We do everything from designing to manufacturing to marketing to cleaning, polishing and photographing the jewelry, so this is a way to support makers.”