Local jeweler adorns celebrities
December 19, 2007
Parkite Rebekah Abrams has always had a passion for jewelry.
"When I was 13, I used to put together beaded earrings and sold them at the grocery store," Abrams laughed. "It’s nice to do something every day where I can be creative."
The Sudbury, Mass. native, has had many adventures in her life as an alpine ski racer and ski coach, and has since worked as a personal chef, a Park City nanny, a line cook at Mariposa in Deer Valley and now, as a new, professional jeweler in town, whose jewelry is quickly gaining popularity around the world.
Abrams opened her exclusive jewelry business, RJ Designs, in Park City in 2003. After four short years, she is already selling her jewelry to dozens of retail shops across the United States. Her jewelry has been featured in magazines and is selling to top celebrities, including Lindsay Lohan, who Abrams said recently purchased a pair of her sterling silver hoop earrings at Mary Jane’s clothing boutique on Main Street.
"I’m influenced by what looks right, by what looks easy on the eye. Something that’s easy to understand," Abrams said. "It’s not complicated, it’s not fussy. A lot of guys like my jewelry because they understand it."
After studying metal smithing and jewelry design in high school and while attending St. Lawrence University in New York, Abrams took her studies abroad to Florence, Italy and in India for two semesters, where she learned the ancient and modern techniques of soldering, polishing and hammering metals in the jewelry trade.
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"It was unbelievable," she said. "It was interesting to learn the traditional jewelry techniques [in India] versus Florence where the [techniques] are more modern."
Abrams learned the more traditional forms of metal casting and jewelry design in India in small villages where she said she would watch jewelers cast metal without the use of electricity. Abrams said many jewelers would use fire for casting and do the polishing by hand.
"I watched people making things without a pourer and hand-finishing everything," Abrams said. "It was very labor-intensive. It makes you appreciate electricity."
After her overseas adventures, Abrams took up two more apprenticeships in the United States. One, in Massachusetts, with Deborah Richardson of Deborah Richardson Designs and, the other, in Steamboat, Colo., with wedding band and ring designer Sarah Buckles of Silver Spur Jewelers.
Abrams said her apprenticeships and study abroad experiences taught her many difficult techniques in the metal smithing and jewelry trade.
Richardson taught her Anticlastic, a technique that involves moving the metal in two different directions, a good technique for creating curvy, round bracelets, Abrams explained.
Abrams has learned the art of faceting and other difficult techniques during her studies in India and with Sarah Buckles. While she mostly works with sterling silver and 14-karat gold, implementing simple jewelry designs, she said she is happy she has a broad knowledge of the different techniques in her trade.
"It was good to have my skill set," Abrams said. "It made me appreciate the difficult [techniques]."
Abrams said the jewelry business is definitely a trade, where education is paramount to succeeding.
"It’s passed on techniques that are learned by doing things hands-on. Nothing comes easily," she said.
Abram said, while she is not necessarily influenced by any particular design or designer, she tries to focus on what looks good. She said her jewelry is made for every day wear and not for the occasional fancy event.
"I don’t want people to go to their jewelry box to use my jewelry for a black-tie event," she said. "It’s something subtle, but complimentary. You can wear it everyday."
Abrams works in her own studio at Kimball Junction, where she casts her metal, and shapes, hammers and manipulates it into interesting shapes and designs.
Some of the popular pieces of RJ Designs jewelry that are hot on the market right now include Abram’s triple-O necklaces, as well as her sterling silver hoop, square and leaf earrings. She also uses delicate hearts in a lot of her designs.
"Hearts are big right now," she said.
Abrams occasionally designs chunky silver rings that can be purchased in town at Mary Jane’s boutique on Main Street or Cole Sport in Park City. Other sterling silver and 14-karat gold rings with funky shapes and designs are also available in different shapes and sizes.
The jewelry designer sells most of her jewelry line at Mary Jane’s boutique on Main Street. Abrams said she works closely with Mary Jane’s owner Lori Harris to come up with the most up-to-date designs and fashions of the day.
"[Mary Jane’s] sells the most in the country," Abrams said. "Because it’s local. It’s in my backyard."
Abrams said people enjoy wearing her jewelry because it’s classy. It’s made of high quality materials, and it has an authentic touch because everything is handmade.
"It’s unique. You can’t buy it anywhere in the world," Abrams said. "You can’t go to Nordstrom to get something like this. It’s all made locally. It makes great souvenirs."
Abrams said her jewelry also makes great gifts for that special someone during the holidays.
Abram currently sells her jewelry at Lola Bella and Apt. 202 in Salt Lake City, as well.
RJ Designs jewelry can be purchased on the Web site, at http://www.shoprjdesigns.com, which is shipped from Mary Jane’s boutique, or at any of the boutiques or retailers listed on the Web site.
For more information, visit http://www.shoprjdesigns.com, visit http://www.maryjanesshoes.com or call Mary Jane’s at 645-7463. To see the jewelry in person, visit Mary Jane’s boutique at 613 Main Street or Cole Sport in Deer Valley or at 1615 Park Ave.