In 1976, one year after Tom Mathis opened Symmetry Jewelers and Designers (8138 Hampson St., 504-861-9925; www.symmetry-jewelers.com), the jeweler created a custom piece for a new client's wife: a sea scene featuring a starfish. Over the years, the client, David James, would request more than 140 custom pieces. His collection tells the story of evolving aesthetics and manufacturing techniques over five decades. It is on display at Symmetry now.
"You can tell the older pieces are the ones with the frillier, more fanciful designs," says Symmetry president Richard Mathis, citing the Pegasus brooch and unicorn pendant as examples. "The '70s are really represented by all the fantasy pieces, while the sea scene and all the fish pieces are very '80s."
Earlier pieces were manufactured by hand using sheet metal, engravings and pierce work, Richard says. They often incorporate multiple colors of gold that range from white and yellow to rose and green. "You can tell that anything in multiple colors of gold was rendered by hand," Richard says.
While modern pieces are still handcrafted, the initial rendering is done with computer graphics. 3-D printers create the translated sketches from thermal plastic before they are cast.
The use of mathematically precise computer modeling hasn't dimmed the unique personalities of Tom's pieces. Technology has made them more intricate and original. Some trends have continued over the years, such as the floral and art nouveau pieces, which were in style in the '90s, Richard says. Pieces such as a pink flower pearl ring demonstrate the marriage of coloring techniques perfected in the past and today's technology. — PAIGE RITA NULTY