This week’s Designer Interview features Brooklyn jewelry artisan Susan Highsmith, a new designer whom we are featuring this week for our Small Business Weekend event. Susan crafts hand-carved wax molds for her beautiful pieces, resulting in beautifully intricate and creative pieces that will last a lifetime.
For Small Business Weekend, we’re featuring Susan’s larger Zodiac collection of pendants and signet rings in our showroom and taking 15 percent off all orders! Susan’s fine-crafted collection takes about three weeks to fabricate, so this is the perfect time to place your orders for the holiday rush. Reserve your private shopping appointment and we’ll see you at the shop!
Meaghan: Can you tell us a bit about your work for our clients who may not be familiar with your brand?
Susan: My collection is handmade in my Brooklyn studio. I create pieces by carving them in wax and then I get them cast in metal through the ancient technique of lost wax casting. Once cast in gold, I clean and finish the jewelry. If I’m not in my studio, you can most likely find my dog Mia and me in the jewelry district. She loves to accompany me and knows exactly where to find the treats! We’re often at my caster’s office, paying a visit to my stone setter, or sourcing gemstones and findings.
Meaghan: From where do you draw inspiration and how do you go about channeling that into jewelry?
Susan: I am inspired by things that have antiquity to them, especially the details of older buildings and jewelry that have survived for generations. While this influences my work, I generally design from an improvisational place. I begin with a simple idea or starting point and intuitively carve my way through a piece. There is something very serene and meditative about the process of wax carving. It’s incredibly peaceful creating in my studio while being surrounded by tools, photos, and objects I’ve collected over the years that are meaningful to me.
Meaghan: For what type of client do you design and how do you want wearers of your jewelry to feel in your work?
Susan: My clients tend to appreciate jewelry that has significance and pieces that they will treasure for a lifetime. Since each piece is crafted by hand, it is an honor when people have a personal connection to what I create. I want them to feel that it was made just for them.
Meaghan: Do you have a favorite design in your collection? Why?
Susan: The Toi et Moi necklace is one of my personal favorites and I think it’s the sweetest gift for someone special in your life. It’s a gold pendant with a delicate carving around the border that reads “Toi et Moi” on one side and ” You and Me” on the other. I was inspired by a few things when I made the piece. I have a love for toi et moi rings, which were popular engagement rings centuries ago and are very romantic and symbolic. The design consists of two stones resting side by side, or close to each other, symbolizing two souls becoming one. One of the first examples was in 1776 when Napoleon gifted Josephine a stunning diamond and sapphire toi et moi ring. The necklace I designed is an ode to these rings and also to my first rescue dog named Mable, as I would playfully tell her that it’s “you and me!” I have found that people love having a connection to the jewelry they wear, and the message behind this necklace is sentimental and meaningful.
Meaghan: Do you have any sustainability goals in your studio and how do you source materials for your collection?
Susan: In my process, the precious metals that I use are recycled. All of the excess gold goes back into a new piece or returned to my caster to be used again. I source my materials through people that I trust and I’m fortunate to have long-standing relationships with all of them. The gemstones that I use are ethically sourced and compliant with the Kimberly Process. The beauty of working with fine jewelry is that I strive to create pieces that are treasured for life and handed down, which makes them everlasting.
Meaghan: This year has been challenging for everyone. As a creative, how are you continuing to find inspiration in your own work?
Susan: While it has been a challenging year, luckily, I never seem to run out of ideas. The issue is I can’t seem to find the time to execute them all, which is a great problem to have! I genuinely love what I do and continuing to experiment with new designs brings me joy as I grow and evolve.
Thank you, Susan!
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.