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Finalists and Judges Announced for 2017 Saul Bell Awards




Rio Grande, the organizer of the Saul Bell Design Awards (, is pleased to announce the finalists of the 17th annual international jewelry-making and hollowware competition, as well as the two panels of experts tasked with judging the finalists’ work.

Since launching in 2001, the Saul Bell Design Award has become one of the most sought-after prizes for jewelers and metalsmiths worldwide. Finalists must produce art that is not only beautiful, but also technically impeccable. It is the skill of each designer that is truly on display.

The judges of the Saul Bell Design Award competition also bring a broad range of perspectives from across the jewelry industry. 

New to the 2017 competition — Emerging Jewelry Artist, a category that engages young jewelers of exceptional skill, is now divided into two age groups. The 18-and-under group encourages high school students to compete with their peers, while the 22-and-under group invites collegiate-level work. “There is a drastic difference of skill level between these two levels,” says event coordinator Mikel Garrett. “This evens the playing field and encourages all students to enter!”

Judging takes place in eight categories: Gold/Platinum, Silver/Argentium® Silver, Enamel, Alternative Metals/Materials, Metal Clay, Hollowware/Art Objects, Emerging Jewelry Artist 18 Years of Age or Younger, and Emerging Jewelry Artist 22 Years of Age or Younger. 

The 2017 finalists were selected from hundreds of competitors, with entries hailing as far away as Dubai and Australia. Winners will be announced at an awards dinner on May 21, 2017, in Albuquerque, NM. Downloadable high-resolution photos of each entry are available at

  • “Angel’s Teardrops” by Garen Garibian (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
  • “Sinuous Line” by Henry Spencer (Effingham, NH, USA)
  • “Ruby Flora Cuff” by Ricardo Basta (Century City, CA, USA)
  • “Aqua Morgana” by Adam Neeley (Laguna Beach, CA, USA)
  • “Unfurl Rebel Jewel” by Sarah Williamson (Nevada City, CA, USA)

Silver/Argentium® Silver 
  • “Origami Butterfly” by Sophia Hu (Las Vegas, NV, USA)
  • “Aspen” by Wolfgang Vaatz (Rio Rico, AZ, USA)
  • “Stampclastic” by Matthieu Cheminee (Montreal, QC, Canada)
  • “Flipping Wedges Bangle” by Dana Fear (Cedar, MI, USA)
  • “Passarola” by Arturo Sanfelix Garcia (Valencia, Valencia, Spain)

Metal Clay 
  • “Cultivated Woodland” by Cindy Miller (Athens, AL, USA)
  • “Triptych” by Iwona Tamborska (Kraków, Poland)
  • “Fairy Flower Wreath” by Helen Sang (Pärnu, Estonia)
  • “Thorn Bird” by Wendy Wallin Malinow (Portland, OR, USA)
  • “Cheshire Cat” by Liz Sabol (Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

  • “Dried Flower Series: Chrysanthemum” by Nicolette Absil (Philadelphia, PA, USA)
    “Fool’s Errand” by Sandra McEwen (Raleigh, NC, USA)
    “Evolutionary Ring” by Palash Banerjee  (Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
    “Warm Embrace” by Marcus Synnot (Mt. Claremont, Western Australia)
    “La Luna” by Karen Olsen Ramsey (Grass Valley, CA, USA)

Hollowware/Art Objects 
  • “Discovery of Eggcellance” by Aleksandr Maryaskin (Yorktown, VA, USA)
  • “Royal Coach” by Leonardo Maldonado (Delray Beach, FL, USA)
  • “The Crane and Plum” by Haiyin Liang (Richmond, VA, USA)
  • “Nuthatch Box” by Henry Spencer (Effingham, NH, USA)
  • “Golden Botrus Teapot” by Genevieve Flynn (Kansas City, MO, USA)

Alternative Metals/Materials 
  • “Turning Necklace” by Sophia Hu (Las Vegas, NV, USA
    “Old World Vines” by Valerie Ostenak (Phoenix, AZ, USA)
    “Poison Ring No. 2” by Andy Cooperman (Seattle, WA, USA)
    “Firenze” by Valerie Jo Coulson (Pequea, PA, USA)
    “3 Lines and 9 Dots” by E. Douglas Wunder (Kutztown, PA, USA)

Emerging Jewelry Artist 18 Years of Age or Younger 
  • “Sovereign Ring” by Matthew Tom (Wellesley, MA, USA)
  • “Aspirations” by Sinclaire Vandervoort (Wellesley, MA, USA)
  • “Rocket Askew” by Autumn Lee (Auburn, WA, USA)
  • “The Reign Never Ceases” by Jhordin Prescott (Auburn, WA, USA)
  • “Locked In” by Jordan Harrison (Auburn, WA, USA)
  • Emerging Jewelry Artist 22 Years of Age or Younger
  • “Tomato Flower” by Valerie James (Lansdale, PA, USA)
  • “Embrace” by Yeonjung Hong (Providence, RI, USA)
  • “Treasure Box” by Steven Voorheis (Cannon Beach, OR, USA)
  • “Flexibility” by Jason Baide (Bozeman, MT, USA)
  • “Mismatched” by Ryan Bodley (Westerville, OH, US)

2017 Judges

Final-round judge bios and photos are available at

Final Round
  • Debbie Sheezel, internationally recognized enamelist 
  • Kaminer Haislip, award-winning silversmith and educator 
  • Mark Mann, GIA Senior Director of Global Jewelry Manufacturing Arts
  • Michael Good, metalworking pioneer and advocate
  • Kent Riable, master goldsmith 
First Round
  • Joseph DeBella, gemstone dealer, importer and jewelry designer
  • Phillip Scott, metalsmith
  • Royce Kohlmeyer, artist
  • Maria Samora, artist and designer
  • Emily Benoist Ruffin, designer and goldsmith




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