Creating beautiful jewelry is the specialty of Beth Judge. And she is very aware of and grateful for her ability and talent to create.
“I love doing this, and I consider it a gift given to me that I am able to do what I love.”
A graduated gemologist, goldsmith, and award-winning designer, Ms. Judge opened her new studio and showroom, Beth Ann Designs at 20 Seminary Avenue in Hopewell in November,
The beauty and creativity of design has always had a magnetism for her. “As a girl, I was always interested in art, and I loved to make things. I started designing jewelry at age 16, and I had a wonderful mentor, my high school teacher. He was also a jewelry designer on the side. I went on to get a BA in fine art, majoring in metals.”
Before going into business for herself, Ms. Judge honed her skills by working for other jewelry firms in the area. “I was a bench jeweler for retail stores, and I did repair and custom design,” she says. “I always wanted to make my own jewelry, and I have been doing that for the past 12 years.
“When the opportunity to open here came along, it was just what I wanted, which was to be in a more accessible location. This space was small enough to show my work in an intimate setting, but also with room for my workshop. My stones, my raw materials are right here in my workshop. I have a huge selection of loose stones. I can tell a customer exactly what is possible, and it was also important for me to offer a very comfortable setting for clients to sit down and talk about what they want.”
It is indeed a charming showroom for Ms. Judge’s creations. Display cabinets are filled with her one-of-kind necklaces, pendants, earrings, bracelets, and brooches. Her pendants are a specialty, featuring graceful designs reminiscent of feathers or leaves that seem to float in the air. She is even able to create reversible pieces, such as a pendant with orange and blue enamel in sterling silver on one side, and sterling silver cut-out with black background on the other, on a carnelian chain.
“I really like to work with stones,” she notes. “Right now, I am working on a pendant with a pink drusy stone, with tanzanite.”
Ms. Judge creates all of her pieces in her workshop in the back of the studio, where, as she says, “I enjoy the creative process of visualizing something and then having it actually in my hand. I also very much like working with someone to create a design for them, whether it is new or a re-design of an older piece.”
This can often begin with a drawing, and Ms. Judge will frequently have questions for the client. “When and where will they wear it? To a formal or informal occasion? With an elegant dress or with a T-shirt and jeans?”
Ms. Judge has a full selection of her pieces — including the first pair of earrings she made at 16 — on display, and they reveal expert craftsmanship and are aesthetically beautiful. A series of delicate and graceful bracelets are particularly intriguing. “They are hand-forged silver with one-of-a-kind stones, and hand-made settings,” she points out. “The stones vary and can include malachite and dalmation stones, among others.”
A more dramatic large link bracelet features candy stripe jasper with sterling silver, and is sure to be a conversation piece. An especially lovely amethyst necklace includes sterling silver, accented with gold, and with a drop of ametrine.
“I also have a lot of freshwater pearls,” notes Ms. Judge. “They can be dyed, and I often include them as part of a piece. I also try to make things as versatile as possible. For example, I could have a pendant on a strand of pearls, or it could be placed on a gold chain, and work as well with either.”
An award-winning designer, Ms. Judge has received the highly prestigious DeBeers award for design three times, twice for her brooches, and also for a necklace when she was still a student. One of the brooches was eventually auctioned by Christie’s.
On Saturday, December 8, Ms. Judge, in collaboration with jewelry designer Sheila Fernekes, will host a reception, “Holiday Adornments” at Beth Ann Designs Studio.
“This is an opportunity for people to come and see the studio and showroom and our work. Sheila specializes in beaded pieces, including necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc. We will have refreshments, and people can browse and buy and ask questions. It will be from 10 a.m. to 4, and it’s a chance to find some great holiday gifts, which we will put in a box and wrap for you.”
Ms. Judge’s pieces are within a wide price range, with earrings from $35. Some of her silver bracelets are $179. She notes that there has been a sharp increase in the price of metals today. “Over the last four or five years, the price of gold has become extraordinarily high, and two years ago, the price of silver doubled. This is certainly a consideration for customers, and for me in how I approach a design. Of course, I will always be adding new pieces, so there will always be something new for people to see.”
In addition to her designs, Ms. Judge, as a gemologist, does appraisal work. “I will look at the stone under the microscope, and check for inclusions (little lines or marks).
“I really enjoy everything — all the different aspects of my work,” she adds. “I believe that what I can offer no one else in the area does. I wear so many hats. I’m a designer, with extensive background in repair, custom-design, and re-design of older pieces. I am very encouraged since I opened. The word-of-mouth has been great, and I have developed a base of many regular customers. I look forward to introducing even more people to my work.”
Beth Ann Designs is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and by appointment. (609) 466-6467. www.bethannjudge.com.