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2014 AGTA Spectrum Awards

By Jacquie De Almeida

Llyn Strelau is not much for wearing rings.

As a bench jeweller, his hands get roughed up quite a bit and with them, so does a ring. Instead, the Calgary-based jeweller prefers to make a fashion statement through a wardrobe of cufflinks.

He’s hoping the trend will catch on, particularly given his second-place finish at the 2014 American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) Spectrum Awards.

It’s the second time he’s won in the men’s category and his 16th win at the gem awards.

Strelau’s interchangeable ‘HEXactly’ cufflinks feature emerald and blue sapphire, each stone comprising a front and back on German-made bayonet findings.

“Men like mechanical things,” says Strelau, who also happens to be Jewellery Business’s new bench tips columnist.

“This is a tidy way to change things up, so you could have a back and a bunch of fronts or mixed backs and fronts,” he explains. “It’s like women wearing earrings that don’t match exactly.”

Now in its 30th year, the Spectrum Awards celebrate the use of gemstones in several categories, including Bridal, Business/Day Wear, and Classical. Entries are judged on the basis of overall beauty and wearability, innovative design, and effective use of materials. The quality of gemstones and workmanship, consumer appeal, and the ability to create a positive impression of natural coloured gemstones are also part of the judging process.  

A trip to the Big Sur Jade Festival last year set the stage for Vancouver-born Gregore Morin’s ‘Spring Time’ jade earrings, for which he picked up a third-place finish in the Business/Day Wear category.

Knowing he had a leaf design in mind, Morin—a 17-time winner at the Spectrum Awards—looked to his drawing books for a complementing element. Having incorporated ladybugs in his past designs, Morin settled on butterflies this time.

Mounting them, however, presented a technical challenge and required custom-ordered 0.3-mm diamond drills that allowed Morin to drill up into the butterfly’s body to mount the base and antennae, as well as drill into the jade.

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“Finding an adhesive that would work was also difficult,” Morin says from his studio in Santa Barbara, Calif. “The lemon chrysoprase is slightly absorbent and it looked like someone had used oil on it, so a lot of the adhesives I tried didn’t work.

I had to mount pins at slightly different angles to give them a mechanical bond, as well. Getting the holes in the butterflies and the jade to line up was really challenging.”

Judges for the competition were retailer Jennifer McCurry from Marissa Collections, fashion and beauty editor, Jennie Ma, from The Knot, jewellery designer Barbara Heinrich from Barbara Heinrich Studio, lapidarist John Hatleberg, and manufacturer Jose Hess. Here’s a look at the winning pieces.

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