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The Washington Post Sunday Magazine

“The Breakdown: Precious Petals, Inside a Jeweler’s craft” by Erin Hartigan, October 4th 2009

Emma Villedrouin so fixates on jewelry that she notices people’s baubles before registering their outfits.

“Some people wear one pendant every day, and it is a part of who they are,” the 38-year o-old jewelry maker says.  “I love that something that came out of my hands becomes a part of a person.”

Villedrouin works out of her Washington home, creating custom pieces by appointment and selling others at Bijoux Jewels in Lutherville, Md.

“I’m not a corporation” she says.  “For me, it’s very direct: I make it, they wear it and they’re happy.  I like knowing my customers.”

A single creation can take from a few hours to more than a week to complete; most run from $280 to $2,800, but special assignments, such as engagement rings can cost more.  Villedrouin travels to gem shows around the country to find stones for her designs, which are often inspired by botany and vintage traditions.

  • Her “Fleurie” earrings, shown here, layer gold and citrine to ressemble apple blossoms, Japanese pearls dot the centers and dangle from the blossoms.

  • This citrine was hand cut in Germany by a master carver.  The yellow variety of quartz is often mistaken for topaz.

  • 18Karat gold is 75 percent pure gold; the rest is a blend of other metals, such as silver, copper and zinc.

  • Villedrouin uses a jeweler’s saw to cut out flat sheets of gold into tiny shapes for each piece.

  • Most metal work is done with tiny peening hammers, but Villedrouin uses her great-grandmother’s everyday hammer to texture the gold petals.

  • The pair took five hours to create and sells for $1700.  The pegs and jump rings are attached with a soldering torch.

  • Once finished, the earrings are submerged in acid to brighten the color.