Jewelry From Nature
by Elizabeth Weiss
Nature is one infinitely beautiful picture and jeweler Cole Sheckler of Ithaca, New York, has long been drawing his inspiration from the world around him. After studying photography at Wesleyan University, he took his cameras and lenses to California but ended up returning to the East coast with an eye for jewelry and gems instead. Completely self-taught, “I learned the slow, hard way: reading books and figuring things out for myself,” remembers Sheckler. “Whenever I ran across a problem, I hit the books trying to figure out an answer. Surprisingly, few of the people I know in the crafts world learned their trade in a classroom.”
Sheckler began his career by selling his jewelry wholesale to shops but, he says, “My major break was in 1981 when I did a Sugarloaf Crafts Festival.” After more than 25 years of full-time jewelry making, Sheckler has developed a following, thanks to his unusual and sometimes rare gems as well as his original, organic designs. His fans come to him for jasper and gold pendants, diamond wedding bands, opal tanzanite necklaces, and so much more including custom designs made with rare gems like alexandrite and demantoid. “My ideas have evolved gradually over the years. I am not strongly influenced by modern design. I try to use flowing lines that mimic the natural shapes in nature rather than the manmade.”
It’s easy to see Sheckler’s inspirations reflected in his fine jewelry designs. Many works include detailed, miniature re-creations of some of the most delicate shapes in nature, often a leaf or a flower. But it’s gemstones that are Sheckler’s first love in jewelry and he goes out of his way to highlight them in his work. “My real specialty is with opals. I buy the very best grade from miners in Australia and cut and polish them myself. I also cut many of the gems I use and am often inspired by the gemstones,” he says. He uses his fabricated technique to build the gold part of a piece and then combines it with the symmetrical, polished facets of a finished gem—it’s a time-consuming process but Sheckler has developed a method that works for him and pleases his loyal customers.