Most of the time, before making a jewel or piece of jewellery, the first volumes are represented on paper and then reworked by the jeweller who will give them shape and life.
The role of the designer (aka draftsman) is essential: using different techniques, he brings a jewel to life. Using all the colours of the gemstone « palette », and a choice of different materials (yellow gold, white gold, brass, silver, leather, textiles, etc.) and using also shape and texture (glossy, matt, brushed, etc.), the designer gives life to jewel with his paintbrush.
He knows how to translate the words of the “creators” into technical drawings, he is the link between the concept and its jewellery interpretation. Besides, the creator is sometimes an excellent designer himself, such as Frédéric Mané* who works in particular for the Maison Mathon Paris, and whom we thank for sharing his drawings with us.
The most common method is to start with a coloured drawing (a sketch) representing the materials that will be used later on for manufacturing.
Light plays a fundamental role in the creation of a drawing or a gouache. Its presence or absence are essential elements. The light comes from the top left corner and goes in the direction of the bottom right. This turns the materials into light-reflecting volumes. To get a better idea, look at how light reflects on a vehicle. Jewellery drawings have to take light into consideration as in reality. Here below, a gouache by Christophe Lainé* who also kindly accepted to share his drawings with us.
The artist, using paint, will represent the reflections and effects of transparency. The gold may be curved or twisted, and the stones barely sketched with a subtle brush stroke. The effect is astonishing: the most successful drawings give the illusion of reality and sometimes confuse the viewer.
Traditionally, the designer uses gouache, which he applies with great care onto thick gray, black or white paper. This painting method is still today the most adapted to render realistic metals and stones. To prove this point, one only has to plunge into the archives of the jewellery Maison Chaumet, Mellerio or Mathon Paris: trends come and go, but the expertise and beauty of drawings is timeless and striking.
Other creators have embraced more modern methods: some opt for felt pens or watercolours, others use a specific oil… The true revolution however came from a distant universe: industry. Indeed, it has now been a decade that computer-aided design (CAD) has joined the creation departments of our favourite jewellery Maisons, adding its share of innovations.
However, the traditional method has not lost ground, on the contrary, it has found a new scope with CAD.
Today, it is possible to use a fully detailed 3D model quite easily. Retouching is made easier and alterations requested by the jeweller can be made in real time. Many pitfalls are thus avoided during manufacture! From then on, it becomes very easy to provide a drawing with different profiles which give a precise idea of the final creation.
The profiles of these designers are specific: they are expected to be artists and to have a complete knowledge of jewellery manufacture. This latter aspect is essential: the best collaborations between designers and jewellers are based on good mutual understanding!
For example this beautiful and educational film made by the Maison Mathon Paris shows the manufacturing secrets of the Samarcande ring designed by Fréderic Mané.
Johnny Walter – L’Académie des Métiers d’Art
* teachers at the Paris Académie des Métiers d’Art