The Tale of a Magic Crystal and Andy Lifschutz’s Earrings
This edition is equal parts nature and nurture.
Have you ever heard of rose silver? Neither had we. And somehow, this glowy silver-copper alloy is not even the most interesting thing about the starburst-like earrings that the Brooklyn jeweler Andy Lifschutz made for Of a Kind. We’ll let him tell the origin story —erica
You have got to check out Andy’s awesome edition—just 40 pairs, and they’re right over here.
The from-the-earth inspiration.
“My friend, Rebecka Froberg—she and Rachel Rose and I all used to work from a shared studio—went on a road trip through New Mexico and Arizona and went to a bunch of different rock shops. She found a crystal—the earrings are taken from a real grown-in-nature crystal formation. The symmetry is insane. It’s so freaking cool. I work with crystals all the time, and she felt strongly that I should have it and do something with it.”
The Of a Kind earrings (at bottom) awaiting their finishing touches.
“I’m a rock hound and have been since I was five. In taking the stone around to different rock hounds—the response I would get was like, ‘Oh. My. God. I have never seen anything like that.’ It was compelling to share this crystal, to have it cast and show the beauty of nature through metal.”
“A lot of metal that is used by jewelers today is reclaimed. But the impact of refining metal—even if it is recycled—can be almost as bad as mining new metal unless you’re doing it in a way that’s green. One major supplier of green metals is United Metals, and they’re at the forefront. They have really good-quality alloys as well, like this rose silver.“
Playing with fire.
“The earrings are cast in Midtown Manhattan. They come back with what’s called a sprue, a metal piece that has to be cut off and sanded. Once it’s sanded down, I drill a little hole right in the back of the earring where the post will be soldered in place. You have to be really careful to have that centered. I take the post, put it into the hole, and place a piece of solder where I want the two pieces to join. With silver, it’s really important that you heat the whole piece up evenly. It’s a very specific thing, soldering—there’s that moment where you’re either going to melt it or it’s going to happen. It takes a lot of practice to get to that point.”
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Andy Lifschutz Goes Global
His ideas about travel are right in line with his philosophies about jewelry.
Andy Lifschutz has lived in all sorts of places—Bologna, New York, London, Portland, Santorini—and his journeys have taken him to many, many more. “I started travelling when I was 13—I went to Russia for an exchange program—and that blew me away,” the jeweler, now in Brooklyn, says. And while he doesn’t continent-hop to source inspiration, exactly, his expeditions no doubt affect his work. “They’ve shaped me, and what comes out of me is an expression of that and a composite of that,” Andy explains. “A lot of the pieces that I have created have a tribal and an ancient feel to them. In my travel and in my study, that’s what I’ve been drawn to.” Here are four of the destinations that mean the most. —erica
Egypt: “That’s in the White Desert on the western side of Egypt, and our guide there is holding up that rock. Paul Theroux is a favorite writer of mine, and he published a book called Dark Star Safari where he travels overland from Cairo to Capetown. It was actually my initiative to attempt to do that same trip.“
Greece: “This is of an ancient village close to the village I lived in on Santorini, Perissa. It was built into the side of this cliff—really freaking weird. There was lore among the locals about it being a leper colony. I spent a lot of time in Greece—four summers in the Greek Islands specifically where a lot of the folklore of our human history comes from. It’s a very moving place. Just waking up on the Greek Islands—it’s an inspiring life.”
Ethiopia: “I spent about five weeks on my own travelling around Ethiopia, which still stands out in terms of influence. There was a distinct amount of happiness compared to how impoverished people were and how hard their lives were. I took this photo on a bus in northern Ethiopia, close to Gondar.”
Oregon: “Oregon! Home! Oregon has an interesting Native American influence, actually. That’s right outside of Estacada on a hiking trip two years ago. It was such a rainy year that even though it was mid-July, the mosquitoes were still so thick. That looks beautiful, but you’re getting bitten.”
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Meet Andy Lifschutz
His life in heavy metal.
The story starts with a rose, but it isn’t half as cheesy as that makes it sound. “I was living in London, and my girlfriend at the time was importing jewelry from Rome,” the now-Brooklyn-dwelling designer Andy Lifschutz recounts. “The stuff was all hand-crafted, and I was blown away by it. I was like, ‘Dude, I need to know how to do this.’ There was this silver rose with all of these petals, and I wanted to be able to recreate that. When I started apprenticing with Kristin Hanson, that was actually the first piece I wanted to work on. She was like, ‘You’re crazy, man! How about we make a basic ring first?’”
But the man was full-speed-ahead, doing 14-hour days in the studio to hone his casting and metalsmithing skills. “When I started, my intention was to make one-of-a-kind art pieces that were gallery-worthy,” Andy explains. It’s hard to draw in a lot of people—to really get your aesthetic and voice out there—doing one-offs, though, and in 2009 Andy had what he calls an “aha moment,” talking his way into Content, a design show at the Ace Hotel in Portland with broader reach. “I created a collection just for the show. It combined machine parts, hand-carved ebony, and sterling silver. That was an immediate springboard for having a brand,” he says. And while the overall vibe of that brand has shifted over time, Andy is never afraid of going loud. As he says, “Most of my pieces make really big statements, and so the people who I envision wearing them are doing some really major stuff.” —erica
Photograph courtesy of Tyler Kohlhoff.