Pendant: Jaspar, Sapphires, Diamond, Gold, Silver by Jeff Taylor

This pendant by jeweler Jeff Taylor exemplifies his tendency toward free but balanced design, arresting use of color, and unique shapes, as well as symbolizes his evolution as an artist.

“I spent three quarters of my career working with more traditional jewelry work – diamond rings and wedding bands. Now I’m concentrating more on the fun stuff,” Taylor says. He sees this phase of his career as a chance to enjoy the skills he has built.

The large stone is a piece of Ocean Jaspar from Madagascar, which Taylor chose “not only for the shape and size, but for the unusual way it’s cut.” The Jaspar is set in a 22 karat gold bezel, backed with sterling silver, and surrounded by colored sapphires and a small diamond.

“I normally set stones with heavier side down,” he says,” but I liked it this way. The color is weighting the piece down.”

The gold “fins” forged by Taylor mirror some of the twists and turns of his career as an artist. He began as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was also a working musician. “A friend of mine had a ton of jewelry making equipment,” he says. “I took it with me [on the road with my band], and when I wasn’t playing music, I figured it out.”

Taylor was also a painter, which influences his work today. “When he was painting, he did a lot of pop work with bright colors,” says his wife and business partner Jeri. Adds Taylor, “I did quite a bit of diving in the ‘80s, and I remember thinking that all the colors that were hot at that time were all under the water – the oranges, turquoises, pinks.” You’ll see these colors reflected in Taylor’s work as well.

Although he often starts with a sketch, putting the piece together is an organic process for Taylor. “It happens on almost every piece,” he says. “I start with an idea, but I don’t let that get in the way.”

“I love working with trial and error, with colors and shapes,” he continues, “I love the freedom – otherwise it gets stagnant.”