When it comes to creating jewelry, Mikhail Smolkin is a true master.
In addition to gold, Mikhail works with silver and platinum, a gift that requires extraordinary skills. Today in the United States, it is difficult to find a jeweler who works with platinum or repairs antique silver. Mikhail is one of the few artists who takes on this type of work with great pride. Every day in his studio, Mikhail shapes metal, sets gems and carves stones -- all part of his unique creative process.
When creating an original piece, Mikhail sits with his customers while his hands follow their imagination on a pad. He creates sketches so his customers can choose a design they love. Once a design is chosen, Mikhail creates a wax model. If the customer likes it, Mikhail creates the piece in real materials. Some of his most popular pieces include painstakingly detailed family crest rings, fluid sapphire necklaces, elaborate gold wedding bands, one-of-a-kind engagement gifts and life-like cameos.
Jewelry making: the cameo.
Mikhail creates cameos by using ordinary conch shells. As he begins, he uses a small engraver to slowly carve away pieces of shell. His fingers turn an ordinary shell into a stunning cameo by carving out the image and personality of his customers. In his hands, images of his customers' mothers, daughters and sisters come to life.
As he continues chipping away at the shell, Mikhail recreates the beautiful image in the cameo. As Mikhail works, he uses several layers of the shell to awaken a range of color for the eyes, nose and cheekbones. The hair, face and even the background can be different shades. Once he has finished the cameo, Mikhail turns each into jewelry art pieces, setting them in custom-made gold brooches, rings or pendants, as simple or as elaborate as his customers wish.