I still get surprised by the breadth and depth of the jewelry business. For example, I recently “discovered” gem carver and jewelry maker Naomi Sarna. And that’s only because I was contacted by the affable and hard-charging Georgia Fleming, a longtime luxury magazine salesperson who is serving as Sarna’s public relations representative.
|Hand-carved 203.2-gram Rose de France amethyst.|
The fact is I should have been aware of Sarna and her work as she’s been right under my nose as she has been racking up prizes at the Spectrum Awards for the past five years for her gem carvings and her one-of-a-kind jewelry. I did get to meet the energetic and good-natured Sarna in December and get an up close view of her work, which combines fluid shapes, motion, plenty of color, and a skilled combination of several jewelry-making techniques. It blends art with craft.
The surprising thing about Sarna is that she has only been involved in gem carving and jewelry making for about five years, bursting onto the scene winning awards and accolades in a field that usually takes decades to perfect.
|18k white gold petal set with approximately 650 gems, including VS-G white diamonds, yellow diamonds, pink diamonds, brown diamonds, green diamonds, amethysts and multi-colored sapphires.|
This year alone, she took honors in the Spectrum Awards competition sponsored by the American Gem Trade Association for “Best Use of Pearls,” for an 18k rose gold necklace with white cultured pearls accented with pink diamonds; Platinum Honors for Men's Wear for her "His and His" rings featuring brown natural diamonds; and First Place for Gem Carving for her "Rose de France" 1,015-carat amethyst carving.
|Pendant featuring a hand-carved aquamarine complimented by 18K white gold and VS-G white diamonds.|
Sarna became successful enough in other businesses to have the financial freedom to dive full-time into gem carving and jewelry design. This and her longtime love of art and design is what she credits for her fast rise. As an art student she said she was fascinated by drapery in classical sculpture and Renaissance painting.
|Brooch featuring an 80-ct. hand-carved aquamarine set in 18k white gold with VS-G white diamonds.|
“I like to incorporate this love of the flow of fabric into my gem carvings and set pieces,” she said. “I think of my pieces as more than sculpture; the carving of the gem is only one part of the vision. The gem in its setting must also be in balance because there is a harmony between the jewel and the wearer. I enjoy the challenge of finding that balance and harmony.”
|Pasha ring featuring a hand-carved 63.5 ct smoky quartz set in platinum and 18K yellow gold with VS-G white diamonds.|
Sarna treats her pearl jewelry differently. Whether natural or cultured, she will leave pearls alone, them in their original shapes, although she prefers unusual forms.
|First Wave brooch featuring a Chinese freshwater pearl set in 18k yellow gold with multi-colored sapphires.|
Her work has taken her many places including Tanzania, where she teaches the local Maasai people how to make jewelry. She does this in collaboration with TanzaniteOne, the largest and only commercial company that mines Tanzanite from the world’s only known source of the precious gem. Other mines in this region are set aside for artisanal miners from the local area.
|147-gram hand-carved topaz titled "River Wind."|
Her first time there she gave them 30 pliers so they create jewelry with wire. “I held them (the pliers) up and asked does anybody know what these are? They have never seen pliers before. I taught them how to do this. I knew they would be able to do it because they do fantastic bead work so I knew they would be able pick this up very quickly.”
She adds, “And off it went. It was love at first sight.”
|Aquamarine Brooch featuring a hand-carved 91.64 ct aquamarine encased in 18k white gold set with VS-G white diamonds.|
On her return trips she bought basic items like pencils and sunglasses.
One of her Tanzanite carvings, the 275-carat L'Heure Bleu mounted on a silver base serves as a special fundraiser for the Maasai. The cost of the piece includes a trip for four to Tanzania.
|Ring featuring a hand-carved amethyst set in platinum with VS-G white diamonds.|
“The mine gave me this crystal to carve and the sale of this crystal, which is pretty expensive, will include a trip for four people to Tanzania, go to a wonderful safari, and they’ll also get to meet the Maasai ladies and their families and go down to the mine. Most importantly, it will benefit people who are impoverished.”
|Pearl ring with 18k yellow gold, multicolored diamonds and sapphires.|
Sarna works with a variety of gems but some of her favorites include opal and topaz.
Her brooches and rings are designed to fit properly so when they settle into place, it has the proper appearance.
“You know how rings flop over to the side,” she said. “Mine are designed to go over to the side right away. The way I designed the shank it has to go over this way. It becomes a part of your hand.”