Brandon Holschuh: Designer

My fascination with Brandon Holschuh began when I spied an incredibly unique bead he made on Instagram. I vividly remember I was sitting in my hotel room in Edinburgh, Scotland, and my jaw about hit the floor. I was thrilled when I found out he was showing in San Francisco in August when I returned to California, and I got to meet him in person and check out a similar bead. I love everything about it, from the clearly hand-fabricated texture to the diamonds and variation in metal colors.

I hope you enjoy my interview with Brandon where you’ll find out more about this talented Ohio-based designer.

You told me that you’ve had a life long fascination with beads. Is this what got you going in jewelry design?

Yes, I began collecting ancient and ethnic beads as a teenager. Everything started as a collection. I began collecting beads, artifacts, coins, bones, parts, gemstones, rocks and any small object that had a story. I love learning about the history of the object, the provenance and I equally love the retelling the [object] story as well.

I learned to work with metal as a vehicle to help present the object or artifact. So making a metal armature or a mount to hold the objects began the evolution to jewelry. Copper turned to silver… silver turned to gold… and little by little diamonds creeped in. Our current work still pays homage to beads, but they are diamond beads. They are still strung on wire, but it’s now platinum. The forms are still present but they are also raised in platinum, gold and palladium. We have stayed consistent with the aesthetic throughout the evolution, but the materials are precious, the designs more complex and the whole feel is more refined.


Sculptural Herkimer diamond pin with flame set stones, 24K gold and oxidized silver

Your pieces have such a raw, organic, yet luxe aesthetic. What’s your inspiration for your designs?

It seems to silly to even say this, but it’s the absolute truth — we honestly let the metal tell us what it wants to be. We process the material in such a way that we have a unique and intimate understanding of its properties, its working capacity and its ability to change shape. This working relationship is how we push the metal to its limits. We get asked a lot about our process and it’s sometimes shocking to hear that our forms, shapes and designs are entirely hand-fabricated. We do not carve wax or cast anything. Each piece incorporates so many processes and various techniques it’s entirely a product of process. We do a lot of fusing, reticulation, forming, raising and sinking. We experiment a lot and we welcome unexpected results. We integrate those into the designs. We make a lot of parts. With those parts we make small objects. With those objects, we decide if it’s going to be a brooch or a ring or a necklace. Once in a while we stumble upon two parts that are similar. Those usually become earrings or cufflinks. The whole design process is organic, as is the work.


Piling on the rings


Stacking them up…

What do you find are the most challenging and rewarding things about being a jewelry designer?

I’m an artist. My medium happens to be jewelry. I make small wearable sculptures. Even though I’m a jeweler, I’m still an artist who has a voice. I use jewelry to communicate an idea. Just like a painter makes you feel a certain way when you view their painting, I use jewelry to evoke a certain emotion. More importantly our work still has a conceptual component. Actually, it has three main components that must be met to consider a piece complete. Here they are, in order:


A finished piece must be immediately beautiful. It must be accepted by the general public as an object of beauty. It must exude luxury, refinement and sheer beauty in design and material. This is for the client, the customer and the collector.

Next, it must be well made. It must gain accolades and admiration from other makers, jewelers and craftspeople who appreciate the vast and dynamic processes that go into each piece. We must trigger the question of how it’s made, what processes were used and what the complexity of the design is. This is for those who make and our counterparts. It’s also for the critics, jurors, judges and masters of the craft.

The final component is conceptual. We make work that communicates an idea. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it’s expertly crafted. But it also has meaning. We excel here. We challenge the design to communicate a concept or to tell a story without words. Sometimes the viewer creates their own connection to the work. This interpretation is personal. Mostly it’s an emotion. Sometimes it’s literal. We have made pieces that are purely conceptual. This is for the sentimental, the heirloom seekers. This is also for academia and those who want a deeper connection with the objects in their lives. We love to tell the stories. Remember, it’s always about the story.


Bracelets galore!

If you weren’t a jeweler, what would you be doing?

Nothing. I can’t imagine a life where jewelry isn’t in my thoughts and actions in every minute of every day. My time is spent equally between my loving and supportive family and my studio. I have two amazing daughters and between my duties as a husband and father, there isn’t any time for much else.


This brooch features 15 carats of diamonds!!

OK, and now I have something VERY special to share with you. This is the debut of Brandon’s off-the-charts gorgeous emerald and diamond ring.

Did your eyes just go wide with delight? I bet! Here are a few more images of this beauty, which features an 8+ carat emerald, over a carat in diamonds, and all hand fabricated in 18K gold. The emerald just glows from within. I’ve never seen anything like it, have you??

Brandon — you have a true gift.


Hanging out with Brandon

If you’d like to contact Brandon about his work, you can reach him at [email protected] or 216-577-6365. There are also links to his website and Instagram at the beginning of this article. I have a feeling there are more than a few future Brandon Holschuh collectors reading this article…


TAP by Todd Pownell

I became a BIG fan of TAP by Todd Powell after seeing his line at the Union Square location of Gallery of Jewels in San Francisco. My clients were equally adoring, and quite a few of them now proudly have his pieces in their own jewelry box. What really set this line apart for me was how the diamonds are often set upside down. Such a chic way to deconstruct the typical piece of diamond jewelry.

diamond jewelry from tap by todd pownell
Launched in 2008, this husband/wife team created their line in their live/work space in Cleveland, Ohio. Here’s a shot of their space and team from their website. Looks like a creative wonderland!

tap by todd pownell team
When I spoke with them at the Couture show, I asked them who their customer is. Todd responded, “Someone who appreciates something unexpected — a mix of chaos and order. Often it’s a particular diamond that mysteriously draws a person in; the winking and twilight effect in how the diamonds flash.” I totally get that, as I have experienced how certainly pieces seem to magnetically attract me.

You are really the master of setting diamonds “upside down.” How did this become part of your intrinsic style? It’s so cool!

I first started setting smaller single cut diamonds upside down into pieces for a wanted “twinkling” diamond effect in pieces in which I wanted a “night sky” motif or look. As a gemologist, I understood that the pavillion would function as a deep or high-angled rose cut, and the table would then became the “bottom” of the stone in which the light would internally reflect off of in more of a broad flash or winking effect, instead of the usual bling look. The cool factor, as you say, was achieved simply by doing the unexpected, but it was a fully conscious understood decision on my part.

Here’s an out-of-this-world pair of earrings I admired at the Couture show. They feature 8.31 carats of diamonds, ranging from white to grey to subtly colored. It’s a mix of inverted and pin-set stones on a sheet of white gold, backed in yellow gold.

tap by todd pownell diamond earrings
How do you and Debra compliment each other in the jewelry design and making process?

I had a strictly technical goldsmith & stone setting training, and I followed that up with a full graduate gemologist education. Debra is the studio artist and was educated in art history & jewelry studio practices.  She spent 7 years in Germany working and maintaining a studio and participating in the gallery scene. The difference and combination of our backgrounds and exposure was especially complimentary in developing our studio practice today. I do most of the initial designing of our current line and Debra fine-tunes our final decisions and does all of our custom wax modeling in studio. She also handles our studio’s internal pubic relations. Our small TAP team and myself do all the fabricating and I final finish each piece. We also both compliment each other in creating a positive working studio environment, which is very enriching for us.


Todd and Debra
Todd and Debra

I have to share this necklace I was ogling out at the Couture show, made of yellow diamond “slabs” in a mosaic pattern with marquis diamonds in the “cracks.” Can you believe this one-of-a-kind piece?

tap by todd pownell yellow diamond necklace
Do you have any current favorites you’ve been working on?

This wide 18K cuff is brand new and something a little different for us. It is 25mm wide at the top and tapers to 2mm wide. It has a hinge and spring mechanism that opens and closes to wear. The diamonds (3.35cts TW) are bead set into darkened palladium. I like the structure and tension within the design and the bold look of the piece. This is a fresh piece made for the upcoming Couture show.

tap by todd pownell cuff

This line is also a strong force in the world of alternative bridal rings. I tried on this prong set pear-shaped ring, and I could easily envision a bride wearing it. OR…I’d wear it as a right hand ring; you know I’m a big believer in women buying themselves jewelry!

tap by todd pownell diamond ring
There was such a wide array of styles at the show, it was honestly a bit overwhelming. With the mix of metals, textures and designs, I was in diamond heaven!!

tap by todd pownell diamond rings
Although I didn’t see this ring in person, I can’t help but falling in love with it. It’s a golden dish full of sparkling treasures.

tap by todd pownell ring with diamonds
I hope this look into the world of TAP by Todd Pownell has brightened your day. If you’d like to see some of their work in person, click here for a list of retailers.