The Foundry Journal

By Category: Artisan Craftsmanship Articles

The Foundry Journal

Designer Profile: Sharon Zimmerman

October 21, 2015

In the News

Style Guide

Diamond Industry

Designer Profile: Sharon Zimmerman

October 21, 2015 BY Alon Ben-Shoshan IN Artisan Craftsmanship

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Recently, a woman came to Sharon Zimmerman with a problem: the lady was an avid knitter, but her engagement ring made it difficult for her to knit. The ring had a six-pronged setting, and the prongs would catch on yarn—so frequently, in fact, that she had accidently snapped off three of the prongs. Sharon was tasked with re-setting the diamond—in essence, re-envisioning the woman’s ring so that it would be both elegant and functional, tailored specifically to the woman’s everyday routine. “She realized the ring didn’t fit her lifestyle,” says Sharon. “She couldn’t wear it while doing the thing that she loved.”

 

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San Francisco jewelry designer Sharon Zimmerman is passionate about designing for functionality. Jewelry, she says, isn’t antique china that only gets pulled out for special occasions. It should be worn everyday. The woman that Sharon Zimmerman has in mind when she designs jewelry is a woman who hikes, isn’t afraid to walk around the city, and has a job. “She’s not sedentary,” says Sharon. “She has a lifestyle and she wants the jewelry to fit in with it.” Sharon, who has a majestic presence, voluminous red hair, and piercing green eyes, speaks the way a soprano might sing: with poise and certainty, in expressive bursts. You get the sense that the woman Sharon is designing for isn’t too different from herself.

 

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Sharon grew up in Seattle in a crafty family. Her mom made all of her clothes. “Craft projects were our entertainment,” she says. “Creativity was encouraged… I was always meant to do something creative.” In high school she studied music and theater, but knew that she wouldn’t be able to sustain herself in those professions. Twelve years ago, she was living in Madison, Wisconsin, and feeling frustrated with dead-end jobs. She started taking metalsmithing classes at a community college. She had taken beading classes before that, and was making chunky glass jewelry from old chandeliers, but without the technical skills of a metalsmith, she felt limited. “As soon as I learned how to make rings, that was it,” she recalls. She immediately knew the path she wanted to take.

 

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From the beginning, Sharon has been obsessed with making jewelry that can be comfortably worn, paying careful attention to how a bracelet or ring fits. “I hate the idea of jewelry that sits in a box,” she says. Even though she’s been told that she has an edgy aesthetic, comfort is never sacrificed. This is the paradox of Sharon’s jewelry, which doesn’t shy away from angles, sharp points, and daring shapes. Her Spear Cuff Bracelet for example, has a triangular edge with etchings across its surface, but the inside of the bracelet—the part that rests against the wearer’s arm—is rounded and smooth. This is a principle that Sharon calls “comfort fit”—smooth, rounded inner surfaces—which is applied to all of her jewelry, including her wedding bands. Her fundamental view is that jewelry isn’t just about how you adorn yourself—it’s also about how it makes you feel.

 

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For Sharon, feeling good about jewelry extends beyond physical comfort—it encompasses the integrity and transparency around the source of the diamonds she uses. When she first got into jewelry, she remembers that her professors were dismissive when she asked where silver came from. “Nobody talked about it,” she said. But despite the hush-hush around the topic, she has always examined the source of her own materials, taking a “mindful approach” to designing. She’s relieved that an environmental consciousness is finally emerging within the jewelry industry, even if change is gradual and slow. “Jewelry is a luxurious purchase,” she says. “But it doesn’t have to come at the expense of human beings.”

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