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Eileen McClelland

The 2016 Saul Bell Design Award Competition Call For Entries



Hey, jewelry designers , are you ready to push the limits of your skill and imagination?

Rio Grande has issued the call for entries for the 2016 Saul Bell Design Award competition.

Entries are being accepted through Oct. 23, 2015; the entry form and detailed information can be found at All finalist pieces are due by Jan. 30, 2016.

As a judge this year in the final round of the prestigious competition, I was able to see for myself how much thought, meticulous planning and organization goes into not only the jewelry design submissions, but the contest and judging process as well.

I had the rare opportunity to spend hours studying examples of outstanding jewelry design on site in Albuquerque, NM, courtesy of Rio Grande, which hosts the annual competition. I was in very talented company on the judge panel, with Todd Reed, Victoria Lansford, Blaine Lewis and Janet Deleuse, experts all.

None of the decisions in any of the categories was easy. In fact, we took so much time examining each piece that we ran over our allotted time limit.


We were invited to handle each piece and also got the chance to view it on a model.

So, if you have a design idea in mind, rest assured that everyone involved in the competition takes the judging process very seriously. Each entry is treated with the utmost respect.

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out this year’s winners at

“These are people who care deeply and passionately about our craft; most of them have dedicated a lifetime to honing their skills,” says Alan Bell, President of Rio Grande. “Everyone in the industry benefits from their design leadership and the excitement they bring to the jewelry and metal arts—the new directions and possibilities that emanate from them, and spread to the wider jewelry world.”

When judging the contest we were instructed to consider originality of design, successful incorporation of materials, wearability (except in the hollowware category), and quality of workmanship.

"Knowing the caliber of work that is submitted to the competition, it was an honor to have my design selected as a finalist,” says Sandy Mikel, who took second place in 2015 for Alternative Metals/Materials. “It was a judgment of the quality of my workmanship as well. It means I have no excuse for not meeting the same standard on any work I do, and raises the bar for what I do in the future."


The 2016 Saul Bell Design Award Competition Call For Entries

Susan Blennerhassett took home second place in the 2015 Gold/Platinum category for a pair of diamond-crusted “red carpet” earrings. “These earrings are being appreciated at an international level, instead of just in Australia where I’ve done awards before,” she says, “and that gives me confidence to continue going in the direction I’ve been going.”

The 2016 Saul Bell Design Award Competition Call For Entries

The winning pieces will be promoted throughout the industry and displayed in the Plumb Club during the 2016 JCK Las Vegas show.

“I have been fortunate enough to win many of the jewelry industry’s top design awards, and I can say that the Saul Bell Award is the most important to me,” says Ryan Roberts, multi-year prizewinner. “No other competition covers so many aspects of what it takes to make a great piece of jewelry. Winning a Saul Bell truly means that you’ve had your work scrutinized by the industry’s top designers, jewelers, and jewelry media professionals. I feel it is the most important design competition in the business.”




When the Kids Have Their Own Careers, Wilkerson Can Help You to Retire

Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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