Tucked away above the Silverhorn Gallery in Montecito California is a well-kept secret, one of only a handful of European-style jewelry design studios in the entire country. This design team is a group of six highly trained and talented individuals, who transform gems into unforgettable works of art. The Silverhorn workshop is the go-to source for the gem cognoscenti when they want a one of a kind treasured piece of jewelry.
According to Michael and Carole Ridding, who started Silverhorn in 1976, there are only a few European countries, where old master jewelry and gold smith techniques are still taught today. “When we began our business we knew we wanted to specialize in fine jewelry, not mass produced items. In order for fine jewelry to have value, the materials need to be rare. Rarity is often overlooked by today’s jewelry purveyors who rely on molds and ready made settings.”
“We search the world to locate rare gemstones of the highest quality,” Michael continues. “These gems deserve to have one of a kind settings, created by hand. In order to meet this challenge and put our own signature style to the pieces, it was obvious that we would need to establish our own design studio.”
Each one of the Silverhorn designers has studied their craft for 5 years before qualifying for an apprenticeship. Following their apprenticeship with master craftsmen, they go on to fine European design houses, work with private clients or receive commissions from the likes of Friederich in Frankfurt or Cartier in Paris. That is when they come to Michael’s attention. He is always on the lookout for young talent. The designers are invited to Santa Barbara and experience the natural beauty and relaxed, sophisticated lifestyle.
Most of the designers on staff have been with Silverhorn for more than 5 years. Those who have left have started their own successful design businesses, but often continue to work on Silverhorn commissions. It is a true example of an extended family business.
Each designer has their own old world, wooden work bench, complete with leather apron slung from the bench, not their waist, to catch the precious fragments of gold, platinum or a loose stone. Fine Swiss and German tools line the benches, most carried with them from their days at school like a culinary student’s set of knives.
Noel Bendle, the manager of the workshop,has been with Silverhorn for over fifteen years and shies away from the title, preferring to mange the process, commissions and due dates, rather than the people.
“We are all equal here,” he states modestly. “We share ideas and techniques freely; we all learn from one another.”
Meeting directly with clients is all part of the job. “Designing a custom made piece of jewelry is a collaboration between the designer and the client”, states Noel. “Not all clients are able to articulate their vision, so we help by the power of observation. We look at their fashion style, the jewelry they are wearing and ask questions about their lifestyle.”
Clients can browse through books of sketches and photos to review Silverhorn’s extensive selection of over 30 years of designs. Once the design is approved, a wax model of the piece is created for the client to try on. This time honored tradition reminds one of the fashion couturier creating a muslin garment before the fabric is cut.
This kind of painstaking hand crafted work is Silverhorn’s signature and their creative team wins awards for craftsmanship and their modern designs year after year.
The Silverhorn designers continue to create their high quality pieces which are impossible to reproduce. “The importance of highly specialized crafts people is one of the keys to Silverhorn’s success,” says Mike Ridding. “Each one of our design team is the very best at his craft and this is essential to our overall look. It is this collaboration which creates significant, collectible pieces that indeed are rare.” Silverhorn jewelry appears in museums and fine art collections around the world, on Hollywood’s red carpet and everyday on local residents.
Silverhorn is known for their collection of museum quality Minerals Specimens, a natural resource of enduring and long lasting value. The superb quality, diversity, pedigree and size of Silverhorn’s rare mineral specimen inventory attracts a wide range of discriminating clients. In addition, a quality selection of gemstone boxes, figurines and frames are ideal for gift giving.
S I L V E R H O R N G A L L E R Y & S T U D I O
1155 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara, CA
Four Seasons Biltmore, 1260 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, CA
For more information please visit the Silverhorn website: www.Silverhorn.com