Sea Sounds seashell bag, 2003

Judy Geib plus alpha

Location: Brooklyn, New York
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Judy Geib is one of a new breed of independent jewelry designers who offer an idea of an exquisite jewel very different from the one presented by established houses and luxury brands. A graphic designer who also studied fine arts, Geib decided to turn her interest in making jewelry into a career in 2001.

With no formal training in jewelry design, Geib works intuitively and thinks that “not having learned what you’re supposed to do” with precious stones and metals allows her the freedom to concoct her own methods of expression. Her art and graphic-design background is evident in the way she looks at stones for their color and in the intricate patterns she translates into delicate filigree compositions for bracelets, necklaces, and hair ornaments.

Geib’s love of craft permeates all of her work. Her jewelry is handmade, and she insists that parures—matching sets of jewels—be displayed on the customfitted, crocheted wool boxes she provides to retailers. She gives each collection a whimsical name like “Especialidades” or “Xtravagant Bijoux,” and presents the pieces in small handbound catalogues that recall historic specimen books of birds or wildflowers. There is a rustic charm to the pieces Geib crafts from rare gems. None of the forms are perfect; nor are the stones too polished or pristine. Gold is shaped into chunky squares and rectangles. Emeralds are clustered in settings that are rough and burnished. The hammered gold of the filigree pieces is uneven, and the forms are at times slightly off-kilter.

Geib’s Sea Sounds Sea Shell bags, with their dense clusters of shells that jingle when you walk, have an exotic, almost baroque sensibility, but are, in fact, a meditative exercise in handcrafting. A hole is drilled into each shell so that it can be crocheted into the body of the bag. Geib originally made these bags for fun, but they soon became coveted by her friends, and she is now contemplating posting a do-it-yourself instruction manual on her Web site. The seemingly nonchalant mix of what Geib calls “the luxe and the brut,” craft and refinement, is at the heart of her work.