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How Christina's Dad Influences Her Hand-Stamped Jewelry Designs Today

In the world of jewelry making, the intricate art of hand engraving holds a special place. The precision and skill required to carve detailed designs into metal is nothing short of awe-inspiring. 

Christina has a unique connection to this traditional craft through her father. He apprenticed as a jewelry hand engraver in Germany, later becoming a journeyman and eventually moving to the United States to continue his craft. 

Though he recently passed away, the lessons and stories he shared from his time as an engraver continue to inspire Christina's work and influence her approach to jewelry making. 

In this interview, Christina opens up about her father's impact on her craft, the challenges and joys of upholding a similar tradition, and the importance of handmade artistry in a world dominated by machines.

Hand engraving is a unique and intricate art. Can you describe the training and skills your father had to acquire as an apprentice in Germany?

CK: My dad grew up in post-World War II Germany and, around the U.S. 9th grade, decided to attend a trade school to learn a skilled profession, such as machinist or jeweler. Starting with the basics of jewelry making, he soon chose to specialize in hand engraving, an intricate art form that involves drawing a design and then carving it into metal with sharp steel tools.

His journey in the jewelry world began at the very bottom, cleaning the studio and doing the more mundane tasks, before gradually working his way up to an apprentice and then a journeyman. While the next step would typically be to become a master jeweler, my dad took a different path. In 1967, he seized the opportunity to move to the U.S. and open a jeweler’s repair shop in Atlanta, Georgia.

Up until the 1990s, my dad continued to practice hand engraving, working for various jewelry stores and crafting coat of arms rings as heirloom pieces for families.

Are there any particular engravings that your father created which you hold close to your heart? How do they reflect his craftsmanship?

CK: Growing up, I didn't fully appreciate my dad's craftsmanship when he was still hand engraving and creating jewelry for me. He made me a beautiful signet ring with my initials when I was very young, and at around 12, I asked him to craft a dragonfly ring for me.

That dragonfly ring is nothing short of incredible. It features a meticulously hand-engraved cross-hatch design on the insect's body, and the dragonfly itself is expertly pierced (sawed) out of the metal, integrating seamlessly into the ring band.

The coat of arms rings my dad crafted were incredibly detailed. These were tiny rings, with the surface to engrave on being no larger than 1 inch. To the naked eye, they were stunning, but under magnification, you could see the minute details—individual hairs on a horse's mane or the veins in a leaf of ivy. His attention to detail and craftsmanship were truly unparalleled.

You've mentioned that you tried your hand at engraving but found it too physically difficult. Can you delve deeper into that experience and how it made you feel about your father’s skills?

CK: Given my dad's German background, his approach to teaching was to start with the most challenging method. This way, as you progress and the tools and processes become more user-friendly, you learn to truly appreciate the craft.

At the age of 12, I expressed a desire to learn hand engraving. I wanted to master the art of etching words into metal. Obliging, my dad handed me a small square of silver, his engraving block, and a set of his gravers. It's important to note that engraving on silver, given its hardness, is quite a difficult task; solid gold, being much softer, is typically more suited to the job.

My task was to engrave the letters A, B, and C into the silver. The letter A proved relatively straightforward. The challenge with straight lines is maintaining direction once you get started. The letter B, however, was a different story. While I managed to etch the long line without any trouble, the curves were a nightmare. My hand felt like it was about to fall off, and instead of smooth curves, I ended up with a series of horrid little scootches.

Feeling utterly defeated, I confessed to my dad that the task was too difficult. In response, he simply laughed, praised my efforts, and suggested we could try again once I was a little older and stronger.

How did your transition from trying hand engraving to hand stamping come about? How do you see hand stamping as an extension or evolution of your father's legacy?

CK: When I was around 25, I felt a strong urge to create something unique. At the time, I was working part-time at my dad’s jewelry supply store, and he suggested I take some jewelry classes. During my learning journey, I came up with the idea of making fortune cookies with little message tags. The only methods I knew for inscribing words on jewelry were hand or machine engraving, both of which were either too difficult or too expensive for me. That’s when I stumbled upon these tiny little stamps that could be used to imprint words onto metal. I spent hours practicing, striving to stamp the letters as straight and consistently as possible.

While hand stamping may not require the same level of skill or artistry as hand engraving, I like to think that I’m crafting jewelry that holds deep meaning for the wearer, pieces that might even become cherished family heirlooms in the future.

While hand stamping and hand engraving are different, both require a keen eye and precision. How do you think your father's influence manifests in your current jewelry designs?

CK: I've inherited my dad's eye for detail and his preference for clean, straightforward designs. His influence has taught me to appreciate the skill and craftsmanship required to create jewelry that appears simple and clean—there's nowhere to hide.

My dad has shared countless stories and lessons from his time as a jewelry hand engraver, each of which continues to influence my work today. Some of the key takeaways include:

My dad has shared countless stories and lessons from his time as a jewelry hand engraver, each of which continues to influence my work today. Some of the key takeaways include:

    1. Patience is key. Working out a design can often be a lengthy process.
    2. Flexibility is crucial. Be open to making changes if it means improving the design.
    3. Integrity is non-negotiable. If you wouldn't be proud to put your name on it, then it shouldn't be sold.
    4. Quality takes time. Handmade items should never be rushed.

As someone who is upholding a similar tradition in your own way, what message or legacy do you wish to pass on to future generations about the importance of craftsmanship, tradition, and personal connection in the art of jewelry-making?

 CK: One significant lesson I've learned is that instant gratification isn't always best. The anticipation and wait for something special and handmade adds to its value, making it more appreciated and treasured.

Additionally, it's important to recognize and appreciate the skills of true artists and craftsmen. The years of practice and innate talent required to create something with one's hands is truly remarkable. While machines and computers can produce perfect results, there's an unparalleled beauty in the art of imperfections and handmade creations.

Through her dedication to her art and the lessons she has embraced from her father's teachings, Christina continues to honor his memory and the timeless tradition of handmade jewelry.


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