Jane Bartel: Coast to Coast Sparkle
Jewelry Designer, Jane Bartel attributes the ocean for her West Coast inspiration, and her love of New York for the integration of a chic city vibe. Ethically handcrafted in New York City, Bartel’s jewels express a deep respect for nature through her unique and adventurous style.
How did you get started in the jewelry industry?
Before moving to NY full-time with my husband, we lived with our two kids in the Hollywood Hills. I was the owner and creative director of a boutique design agency (Bartel Design Group) for almost twenty years. Closing the studio to spend more time with my kids before they were grown up was a big, important decision that I have never regretted. Being home was great, but I am a creative person, a producer and a serial entrepreneur! Jewelry has always been a love of mine. I began taking metalsmithing classes at Barnsdall Park and in a private studio in Santa Monica before transitioning to wax carving, which is my favorite way to create jewelry. Wax carving is a Zen experience that allows the abstract artist that I am to emerge.
What are the biggest differences between the East and West coast, and how have they both inspired your work and designs?
New York and Los Angeles are polar opposites! I grew up in West LA taking the bus to the beach every day in the summer. We rode our bikes up PCH to the Malibu pier. I was planning to be a Marine Biologist until my love for graphic design took over. I distinctly remember coming to NY for the first time to attend a Milton Glaser “Type X” event when I was 22 and could not get over the architecture, the noise, the energy of the city. That shocking thrill of NY has never left me. Easy access to the coastline and sea life in LA inspired my deep love for the ocean, which is evident in my designs. I am however at the end of the day a city girl and am inspired by everything that NY throws at me.
You have a deep respect and connection to nature, where does Jane Bartel Jewelry stand in terms of sustainability?
Sustainability is a great word, but I prefer to say Responsible. I try hard to work with stone dealers that know where and how the stones are mined. Many of the gemstones I use are mined in the US. This was not always true and in the last five years my knowledge of the mining industry has grown. Three years ago, I attended the “Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference” and it blew my mind. There was so much I did not know. I did not know about the use of mercury to extract gold, or the awful effect on the miners and the environment. I did not understand the cycle between artisanal miners and gold, and how this is the only way for them to make a living. This was when I joined “The Ethical Metalsmiths Group” as well as became a supporter of Toby Pomeroy’s amazing project “Mercury Free Mining,” which is working to eliminate mercury in the mining process. I work with a fabulous caster in NY who uses certified “Fairmined” gold. I buy my diamonds from Hoover & Strong, which are recut and recycled. I am still not able to find affordable recycled chain, but I do buy from local manufacturers in the USA. I’m trying!
We love the unique look of your jewelry. Tell us a little bit about the lost-wax casting technique, and why you have chosen it for many of your designs.
Working in wax allows me to explore textures from natural objects such as seashells or rocks or dirt or even fabrics. With wax the process is organic, and often I start out thinking I am going to make one thing and end up with something else. Carving and sculpting are intuitive processes that allow forms to evolve in a wonderful way. I can also be as precise as I choose when I am carving with hard wax. I make my models from wax and then they are cast in sterling silver to make a master metal model. Once this master is perfect, it is molded so that multiples of each piece can be cast in different metals. Wax is fun too, and rewarding to work with.
As you mentioned, much of your inspiration comes from nature, and NYC is an urban jungle. Is it harder for you find inspiration in large cities? Is there a specific place you go to relax and draw your inspiration from?
Inspiration is everywhere in New York, jungle being the key word. I live four blocks from Central Park, which I think of as my backyard. I can walk to the Hudson River or the East River or Riverside Park. Weirdly nature is abundant in New York since there are many public spaces and parks. Sitting on a bench looking at the American Elms in Central Park fills me with joy. I miss being able to drive up the coast in California and the easy hiking, but everything I need is here in New York. I have a gigantic collection of seashells, so if I’m feeling the need for the sea, I pull them out and try to remember which beach they came from. There was a lot of that this past year.
What was the first piece you designed? How have your designs changed since your first piece?
Honestly, I can’t remember the first piece I designed, but the first significant piece of jewelry that I carved by hand is a ring that I still sell on my website. It is called the “Athena” ring, but I used to call it the “Pope” ring because it reminded me of the ring that you kiss when you meet the Pope! I have learned many techniques since that piece, and use textures in much of my new work. I will always keep an attachment to the inspiration of the ocean and sea life. This can be the feeling you have of being at the ocean or holding a shell or floating in the sea and definitely swanning around the infinity pool in your caftan at sunset sipping rose.
A lot of your pieces are created around a gemstone. Do you have a favorite gem to work with or wear?
I am currently in love with pearls, sapphires and blue zircons. Pearls because well, pearls! The natural organic beauty of pearls is exciting. I recently created my first pearl ring and am finishing up two pairs of pearl earrings. Sapphires are wonderful because of their wide range of colors and you can cast them in place. This means that I embed the sapphires directly into my wax models and then they are directly cast into 18K gold. Sapphires are hard enough to withstand the heat of the casting process. You can see this technique in my “Ocean” collection. Blue Zircon is just such a gorgeous blue! I keep educating people that zircon has nothing to do with cubic zirconia; it is a rare and natural gemstone of great value.
We see that you use recycled gold. Tell us about the significance of this, and why you made this conscious choice to work with recycled.
Everyone should be working with recycled metals, whether it is silver or gold or platinum. The earth only has so many resources to go around. I want to feel as good as I can creating jewelry that will hopefully be passed along for generations. I do not want to make disposable jewelry. Feel good while looking good.
How do you think your jewelry reflects you as a designer? How do you want someone to feel when they walk away wearing a Jane Bartel piece?
My jewelry is handcrafted and uniquely original. I want this person to feel special and happy with the knowledge that the jewelry they have purchased has lasting value. That their piece of jewelry came from my hands and my eclectic spirit. They won’t see it on everyone walking down the street. I find my clients have an affinity for originality and craftsmanship, which sets them apart and makes them a perfect match for me.
In an ideal world, what celebrity would you love to see rocking Jane Bartel Jewelry, and which piece would be worn? Why?
Hands down Margot Robbie would be my first choice. She is one of our finest actresses, absolutely stunning, and involved with causes that are important to women. She has taken a stand for human rights, women’s rights, gender equality and LBGT rights. I think that Margot Robbie surprised everyone with her power. I would love to see Margot wearing anything from my “Ocean” collection, but in particular my custom, one-of-a-kind 18K cast in place sapphire rings.
Want to continue sharing Jane Bartel’s connection of nature and jewelry? To stay up to date with Jane’s designs and collections by visiting https://janebarteljewelry.com and following @janebarteljewlery.