For several years I’ve been enchanted by ads in glossy American magazines of the innovative designs by Gauthier, a designer who lives and works in Scottsdale Arizona. I even tried to have one of his ring settings copied. Bad idea. There’s no way that Gauthier’s sleek masterpiece could have been done by anyone else.
When I learned that I had to be in Scottsdale for a few days I immediately set up an appointment with the man himself. Even if I hadn’t known the address on this up –scale, boutique- filled street of fine art galleries and specialized shopping, I could have easily picked out the elegant, contemporary architecturally designed shop. The unusual angles and materials were quick give aways, taking so many elements from the jewelry that I had seen in print.
In just 20 years, this stylish store with some of the most creative jewelry I’ve seen in a long time has become renowned throughout the world. In 1989 he opened his first and tiny store and for the first 7 years he had no other jewelry makers working with him. He did all the work himself from start to finish. He still does all the major stone settings but I don’t have the time to do the pave or channel work now. It’s really a head scratcher since Scottsdale may be a smart winter retreat but a surprise in this laid back city where Gauthier’s ‘Wear Art’ is the hub. The only other shop is in a newish shopping area, Kierland Commons, where the product selection is different. Although some of the items are more moderately priced, the price points get as high as they do in this shop, the haute couture of gems and styles.
Casually dressed, which is de rigueur in Scottsdale, in a mauve coloured open necked polo t-shirt, this tall, handsome man apologized for being late. However this gave time to preview the slanted showcases, stainless steel vitrines and the workmen in the atelier behind a large window where three men from Russia excel in “old world” pave work. About 9 workers ranging from apprentice level to master jewelle s and come from every corner of the world. It also gave me the opportunity to meet his director of marketing and senior design consultant, Tom McKeever who has been with Gauthier for 12 years and points out many of the intriguing qualities behind these glass cases before Gauthier arrives.
We’re a destination so these two shops are the only places you can purchase Gauthier’s jewelry,” McKeever tells me. “Considering that these are all wax casted, all hand crafted and we do not mass produce, we have a great following,” he tells me. “I’d say 60% of our clients are from out of town or have multiple homes and one is in this area. But clients from all over the world, every country in Europe and South American, are collectors. Gauthier is the epitome of what every jeweller wants to be. And from a collector’s standpoint we have very rare stones which we purchase from dealers who come to us. We have a very select group that we have worked with for years and we’re very loyal to them. We know that we’re getting only the finest goods. Very rarely do we go to jewelry fairs.”
Typically only 8 to 10 designs are made of each item. “We want to be able keep the quality up and let people see what a world class jeweller could do and we’ve done so successfully,” McKeever continues. “We also want our clients to know that they have exclusive items that are not mass produced and once we’ve sold out we don’t do that design again. We also adore the fact that they are recognizable and Gauthier inserts a small sapphire on the outside of each item.”
Enter Scott Gauthier, born in small town Green Bay, Wisconsin but looking very South of France in his demeanor. His explanation and good reason for his lateness is family related. Apologies over, he tells me that every piece in the shop has been designed by him. And all metals work is done on location. I see one knock out neck piece completely paved and a smooth as velvet featuring 1200 fully cut diamonds with 36 1/2/ carats (US $112,375). The crescent shapes are linked together and it’s difficult to tell where they begin and end, the work is so fine. Also displayed beside this magical collier is another with multi coloured sapphires and he has designed it so that the ends flare up (US$ 44.780) “It’s more interactive,” he tells me.
The architectural interior at Gauthier Jewery
More wearable than the completely diamond pave neckpiece, both are superb examples of the finest stones and finishing. Just below is a matching multi coloured sapphire ring with diamonds featuring orange sapphires ( US$5,360) “You have to take into consideration the amount of labour that has gone into these pieces and you have to consider that they are all handmade, hand carved, hand cast and hand linked, you have almost a lost art,” says Gauthier, not apologizing for the cost. We could make 15 rings in the time it takes us to make this one neckpiece.” Another special design is individually elongated links with channels of diamonds each link separated by a similarly shaped solid 18K gold link which lies perfectly on the neck and hits in just the right spot.
An 11.66 carat VVS diamond ring has its own rareness but also has hidden beauty in a setting with banquettes under the stone. “There’s always something special about our setting including the small sapphire which is our birthmark or signature,” says the gallant man. “If you look under the ring you’ll find a square shank so it won’t twist. The ring will always stay upright and well balanced. “
Gauthier specializes in fancy diamonds; yellow, pink, blue, green and yes, even a rare red diamond not too long ago. Along with the designs, Gauthier has made channel setting one of his specialties. “You can put any of our work under a loupe and there are not wiggle lines. Our channel lines are perfectly clean. “Along with dynamic design are stones that aren’t often seen -Savorite, Alexandrite, rhodilite garnets, green tourmaline, Star sapphires. “When it comes to our gem stones I select only the best and unusual. “
Architectural is the word that especially covers his ring collection. A golden South Sea pearl has a small mechanism which spins the pearl. I notice that some stones are set at very usual angles where the technique makes the stone seem to float. Also seen are timeless and very classic looks too. But the stand out is the award winning mandarin garnet ring. Architectural with multi levels, it resembles a very gilded and costly wedding cake. There is another ring that every way you look at it, there’s a little surprise. There are diamonds going around the bottom of the shank. The two award winners are not for sale but if Gauthier were to reproduce them, it would be in the US$40,000 range.
“Everyone loves our rings even though we’re known for our necklaces. I can’t tell you how often we’re asked to lend pieces for the Red Carpet. We choose not to do that. We don’t want our limited pieces to be over exposed.” His latest challenge is working with a black diamond collection.
Another ring that catches my attention is what he calls the architecture Yin Yang ring which can be worn individually or apart. There’s a Princess cut diamond on one and a round diamond on the other and Gauthier points out they are stackable. Here he‘s marrying curvature with architecture. And he emphasizes that these can be made with coloured stones or with larger or smaller stones. Sold separately, the round stone is US$12,150 and the Princess is US $11,620. Everything at Wear Art is custom. “We can let our imagination go wild. My clients like to show jewelry as an expression of who they are,” he says. “People here dress down in clothes but not in jewelry. You can walk around here with a 10 carat diamond ring and feel very comfortable and safe.”
Best sellers? Because they do everything in limited editions, there isn’t a long shelve life. What has become popular is a new ‘gents section’ with over 110 pieces for guys. There are bracelets, rings, pendants, cufflinks, belt buckles all set with gem stones.
As for the economy tanking, those who usually buy are still buying big pieces. What has slowed down are the smaller pieces in the US$1500 where you can also find texture, high polish or sand blasted techniques that make the statement of being more expensive.
Gauthier’s fine jewelry shop in Scottsdale, AZ
“Life doesn’t stop for the wealthy. High end clients are looking for investments such as are very rare stones like large pink diamonds, or very rare sapphires, black opal, colour change tourmaline. Those large stone are certainly good investments and can easily be passed on to family members. “
So at Gauthier, bling is forever and for both genders.