Fashion & Beauty · Fine Art

Jewelry Designer Susan Ritter: Transforming the Simple Beauty of an Object into Wearable Art

Susan Ritter exited a career in advertising in 2011 to focus on her passion for creating things. Today she makes jewelry often using unfinished stones and gems. Ritter’s work is sculptural, each piece unique. She is knowledgeable about minerals and gems, their component parts and the varieties of trace elements that contribute to their stunning forms and colors. Her language sparkles with words of her trade: druzy, hematite, pseudomorph.

We discovered her work in a Manhattan boutique known for eclectic fashion. A pendant of a material that resembled raw orange diamonds with an exposed rim or underbelly of tiny white crystals and set in sterling silver, caught our eye. The feminine delicacy of the stone resonated playfully with the unpolished silver frame. The finished piece hung from a russet, raw silk cord, also designed by Ritter, with Japanese knots at each end. On the back of the piece, etched into the silver, was an autograph, a conjoined ‘SR’. We did some digging and unearthed her website www.sritternyc.com, which is replete with images of her artistry.

An exchange of emails later, we are face to face with the artist in a restaurant on the Upper West Side. An elfin, magical quality surrounds her. She is wearing multiple rings, a stack of rough gold bands each exquisitely contoured. The knockout ring is a trapezoid stone in lush shades of pink and rose, the natural color of the cobaltian calcite, set in silver. Against her pale coloring, and blue eyes, the pink is electrifying.

To our meeting Ritter has brought along a trove of materials cached in translucent Japanese boxes. Imagine a museum disgorging its most precious contents. Ritter is respectful of the stones and minerals as she places them out on a white napkin, the better to appreciate the rich formations and coloration of each. Her knowledge of the technical names is impressive. This art school graduate who learned jewelry making in Texas after college, attributes her facility with materials, as she calls them, to her parents—a furniture refinisher mother and an engineer father, both of whom respect wood and craftsmanship and the architecture of things. She spends her vacations sourcing stones like a geologist, trodding the same ground as many professionals. This dedicated “rock head,” finds beauty in the natural world.

Ritter lets us play with the stones and imagine what we’d like. We choose three and she begins to sketch the potential formation of the stones—placing the lapis lazuli on top, then to the side, adding the light green, and repositioning the transparent hunk of spessartine garnet. In three weeks, she sends a breathtaking sketch of the three stones formed into a piece of jewelry. Inside a month, it is finished. We meet again and she has prepared three cords to accompany it, one raw silk in umber, another cucumber colored taffeta, and a third linen. Ritter’s artistry is evident. She’s taken three dissimilar stones and framed them aesthetically (pictured at the top) to enhance each as well as the combination. What an eye.

Ritter is off to Arizona to continue to look at the layers in everything. To see more of her artistry, visit her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

 

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