Bold, luxurious and unexpected, Sarah Graham is the fine jewelry artist to watch. She turns nature, even the gritty and bizarre, into luxury—and now, after 15 years of creating some of the most fascinating jewelry in private, her studio is finally open to the public.
Upon entering Sarah’s studio, located in the Dogpatch of San Francisco, I felt as if I were experiencing a time-lapse video of the neighborhood’s evolution from a working class, industrial hub to the center of the Bay’s biotech industry, overflowing with tech crusaders. The neighborhood’s transformation is similar to Sarah’s creations. I was mesmerized as I watched her spin nature’s found objects into gold by combining old world craftsmanship with the latest innovations in design. Accompanied by the musical sounds of a hammer on metal and the methodical hum of her Form1+ 3D printer, Sarah tells me that she loves “what transpires from the melding of old and new methodologies.”
A look around the showroom and studio affirms that Sarah draws inspiration from the unconventional. Curious items like aged brick, iron room dividers, vintage artifacts perched on old saw blades, a collection of sea shells, a frog skeleton, and even Cheerios(!) are among the clever objects that are seamlessly curated to create an experience that is inspiring and new.
Sarah works meticulously in defining her signature look of gold and black metals sparkling with colored diamonds. I asked her how she developed such a unique and recognizable style. Sarah chuckled and replied, “It was the black that presented the biggest challenge. I was determined to achieve a deep, strong, and unapologetic black look that iron possesses, but without the inherent corrosive nature. I spent seven years on this focus.” The material that finally met Sarah’s keen high standards is Oxidized Cobalt Chrome. She is the only jeweler using this material in this way. Sarah’s black Chrome is a distinctively darker, softer and deeper finish than any other oxidized silver. This inspired Cindy Edelstien, an expert in the designer jewelry industry, to declare: “No one gets black like Sarah Graham.”
And no one does nature like Sarah either. The motivation behind all her collections is to extrapolate the unexpected details found in nature into infinitely wearable pieces. Who would imagine that Jacaranda pods, decayed wood, or a microscopic view of single cell marine organisms would make statement jewelry pieces? “I was originally a biology major, and eventually landed in business school. So I ultimately found a way to combine my two passions,” Sarah explains.
Intriguing, subtle, and never literal, her interpretations of the organic elicit questions and often enlighten the collector. Who knew that sea urchins have teeth? “As a devotee of Ernst Haeckel, I strive to make beautiful wearable jewelry that piques the curiosity in unexpected ways,” Sarah tells me.
Sarah’s clients are devoted fans of her work. Once a piece of her jewelry touches the skin, they are hooked. They are also hooked to Sarah’s mission. She is committed to using only the finest recycled 18-karat gold and conflict-free diamonds. Among the many reasons that make her customers loyal, many say that they love her pieces because they are conversation starters. They love that her unique engagement rings reflect their bold and confident styles. Some praise the one-of-a-kind pendants that feature their children’s fingerprints and do not look like “mom jewelry”. I particularly like that Sarah is a San Francisco designer whose work tells a story.
Learn more about Sarah Graham and schedule an appointment to experience her studio at www.sarahgraham.com
Text by Shinmin Li