In his Camden Harbor studio in Maine, multiple award-winning jewelry designer Perret is busy creating some of the more graceful, playful and dynamic pieces of wearable art available to women today. His use of color treated diamonds is careful and elegant; his attention to detail exquisite.
My mother and I have been very familiar with Mr. Perret's work over the years as both customers and admirers, and it was with much excitement that I learned recently that he was a new reader of The Bling Blog. We struck up an email conversation and discovered that we are like-minded with regard to issues of quality, style and the high esteem in which a jeweler must hold his or her customer, specifically women.
A quick look at Etienne Perret's work reveals an abundant love for his craft, for women and for the concept of timeless, yet modern design. Delving a bit more deeply with him in conversation, you will be as delighted as I was by his depth of understanding of what women want, by his love of family and by his unfettered adoration of his art.
What is your background and training?
I was a forestry student at the University of Vermont back in the 1970s and made jewelry on the side which I then sold at the girl's dormitories and later at the local craft fairs. In 1975 I dropped out of school to start a small jewelry store in Camden, Maine. It was a great little store, however I felt like I was in a vacuum and needed to learn more quickly so I went to the Rhode Island School of Design where I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jewelry and Sculpture in 1978.
The jewelry design thing seemed to be under control, but I needed to know about the gemstones I was working with. Closing the store was not a possibility so I got my Graduate Gemologist degree from GIA by correspondence. It would have been great to have taken the classes in California, but I could not leave my growing business. Since then I have taken and taught at places like the Revere Academy in San Francisco.
Who/what are your design and style influences?
Describe Etienne Perret's niche and style.
What makes you unique?
What materials would you like to see come back in style?
(note: the colored diamond rainbow pieces show are done in 18kt rose or yellow gold, and platinum)
Named after the Madonna the ultimate mother with child, and not the actress.
(note: the Madonna pearl ring is designed with a large Tahitian pearl and set in platinum with pavé diamonds)
If you could design for any celebrity, who would it be?
Who else, besides you, is making beautiful jewelry?
What do you think of so-called "celebrity" jewelers and celebrities who put their names on jewelry collections?
What is your impression of this latest bit of ground-breaking research conducted by the Oxygen Network?
To that end, what is your opinion of the "No Dirty Gold" campaign?
That is a tough one. I believe it takes careful thought. To me it is much the same as whether one choose to be a vegetarian or eat the meat of animals.
First of all, I consider the world we live in to be very special. I believe it is best to leave the place we occupy a better place after we have passed through it. It is our world and we better take care of it. The act of extracting the raw materials from the ground to create jewelry is very detrimental to the environment. There are tons of earth mined for each ounce of gold or carat of diamond rough. The mining is not something we should take lightly.
On a positive note we in the jewelry industry have been leaders in recycling for centuries. Very little of the gold that has been mine through history is not still in use today. The ring that I made yesterday may well have been made from gold worn by several women throughout history.
I met a very nice man at the JCK show who only use eco-friendly recycled gold. A nice thought, however there was a day when that gold was actually dug from the ground. It just seems to me to be hard to know how and where the gold I use was mined. To me the important part is to make beautiful jewelry that will have special meaning to someone. Something that they will be able to wear for the rest of their lives.
I am most concerned with the preponderance of disposable jewelry being made today. People go to the mall buying stuff to satisfy a need to consume. Just imagine the average piece of gold jewelry sold last year in the USA was less that $70.00.
And what about the push for consumers to avoid the "conflict diamonds" and for that matter, even all diamonds no matter what?
The perfect gift for her is a weekend in our home on the coast of Maine with her children and grandchildren.
It is funny how when you spend your life making things they lose their meaning and it is other values that become important.
(all photos property of Etienne Perret, and used with his permission)