From GIA, Carlsbad, Calif. - The Gemological Institute of America’s (GIA) 2006 Museum Lecture Series concluded with designer Barbara Berk’s presentation, “Of Potholders and Pigtails: Contemporary Applications of Textile Techniques in Metal." Berk revealed how she applied her childhood love of fabric and sewing to the weaving of precious metals by hand, thereby creating the “fabric” that becomes her jewelry, during her Oct. 18 lecture at the Institute’s headquarters in Carlsbad.
"Aqua Rhapsody," features a 31.08 ct unenhanced Nigerian Aquamarine. Photo by Robert Weldon, Courtesy GIA
“Barbara’s work is an amazing meld of artistry and technology,” said GIA Museum Director Elise Misiorowski. “Her beautiful woven gold and platinum jewelry is often embellished with pearls and carved gems, and combines a love of the fiber arts expressed in precious metal.”
“I take advantage of the physical properties and the working characteristics of the metals to create the sculptures that become my jewelry,” explained Berk.
The designer showed the audience several pictures to demonstrate the weaving techniques she uses. For her “Crown” pendant, which features a 14.07-ct. pink tourmaline briolette and Akoya and freshwater cultured pearls, Berk used both 18K and 22K gold wires to provide “different degrees of malleability or strength.” This dense weave is based on an ancient rug-weaving technique called Soumak, which originated in Shemakha, Azerbaijan, near Eurasia’s Caucasus Mountains.
"Crown" Pendant, Photo by Dana Davis - Courtesy GIA
The San Francisco Bay Area–based designer also uses a technique called "plain weave," which generates a different texture and, according to Berk, “is the simplest of woven structures.”
“If you’ve ever woven a potholder, you’ve done it – those stretchy loops manipulated in an ‘over one, under one’ pattern create a plain weave,” she said. The technique was used on the 18K gold sheet and wire in the “Ruffle” brooch she wore during her lecture.
"Ruffle" Brooch, Photo by Dana Davis, Courtesy GIA
An award-winning designer and GIA graduate, Berk has been honored by such industry groups as the American Gem Trade Association, the Women’s Jewelry Association, and the JCK International Jewelry Show.