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Designer Profile: Christine Guibara

October 31, 2015

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Designer Profile: Christine Guibara

October 31, 2015 BY Alon Ben-Shoshan IN Artisan Craftsmanship

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Christine Guibara grew up around metal. She remembers helping her father Albert, a bronze sculptor, pour and weld metal. She spent days in his foundry in Burlingame, California, where he made whimsical large-scale installations of animals, automobiles, and people with lanky limbs. So perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that her first experiments in making jewelry involved dropping molten metal into water and seeing what kinds of shapes formed.

 

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These initial experiments in water-casting produced the shapes that would become her signature style: organic, natural forms resembling those found in nature. One of her most iconic pieces is a gold ring with a small oyster shell cupping an iridescent pearl. The first one she made was, in fact, melted down from her father’s wedding band. Since then, she’s turned the water-cast forms into rings, long pendant necklaces, and earrings. “It would take so long to form those organic shapes by hand,” says Christine. Better to leave it to nature—the alchemical reaction of a poured alloy as it comes in contact with cold water.

 

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As the the daughter of a sculptor and interior designer—Christine, who goes by “Chrissy,” was always doing something creative. Most importantly, she saw that despite the challenges, it was possible to make a living doing creative work. Her parents made it look like a normal, rather than unconventional path. She majored in business at UCLA, but she remembers her study abroad in Florence, Italy as particularly influential on her artistic trajectory. One day, she was led through the cobblestoned paths of Florence, through a dark alley, and up to the third floor of an apartment. The living room of the apartment was a jewelry showroom: exquisitely crafted pieces that she still remembers to this day. In the next room over, old Italian men were hunched over their desks, soldering, engraving, and assembling jewelry. “I loved that feeling,” recalls Chrissy. She never forgot that poignant scene of artisans at work in their atelier, and has since sought to recreate that in her own studio.

 

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After graduating from UCLA in 2008, she immediately went to fashion school at FIDM. Though she was initially torn between jewelry and clothing, as she learned more about the two careers, she realized that the business of jewelry made more sense to her: trends were slower-moving. Not only was jewelry a keepsake that people could wear for a lifetime, but it was also very intimate and personalized form of adornment. After FIDM, she went to the Revere Academy in San Francisco, where she honed her technical jewelry-making skills. She immersed herself in a three-month program where she learned about gold-smithing, wax-carving, and stone setting.

 

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Her first client, a friend who wanted to customize a piece for his girlfriend, approached her while she was still in jewelry school. Since then, she’s developed her own collection, which she describes as “subtly elegant” and often asymmetrical. “I aim more for balance than symmetry,” says Christine. She also focuses a lot of her time on bridal and custom work. One of her most memorable pieces was a tiara she made for a couple’s 30th wedding ceremony, which included the largest diamond she’s ever sold. She had never made anything like it before, but to her, the project was all about innovation. “How does this tiara come together? And how does it come apart?” she asked herself. In the end, the tiara was convertible: the main diamond detached to become a necklace; the sapphires on the two sides of the crown could be removed and worn as earrings. The project was a success.

 

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But perhaps her most rigorous custom project was her own wedding ring. “My husband proposed with string. He knew not to get me anything,” says Christine, laughing. She was elated that she would be able to make it herself. She started searching for a diamond right away, but she was overwhelmed by the options. Having seen so many diamonds, she wanted something different. “It was so hard to choose … I looked through at least 100 stones,” she recalls. One day she got a call from the man who sources her diamonds, who told her he had found the one. “How do you know?” she asked. “I just know,” he responded. The diamond had an old european cut, with a circular girdle and larger facets, which gave it a confetti-like sparkle. “It was love at first sight.”

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