|The biggest ring I've EVER worn from the Gelato Collection|
"It's all about the 'wow' here," says jewelry designer and owner Ceasar Azzam of Ceasar's Designs. His store on Walnut Street in Shadyside is a welcoming, boutique-like emporium of sparkling treasures. There, you are greeted by Ceasar himself who offers his sound and honest opinion for a very personalized and unique experience. As much as you would think a place like this is a hot-spot for newly engaged couples, Ceasar says he likes to focus more on those who treat themselves. "Most jewelry stores depend on engagement rings as their most important category of business where as I depend on self purchases -women buying for themselves. And that's reflected in everything I make, so I'm not going after the man buying her jewelry, it's more about treating yourself. Whether they have a significant other or not - that's not the point. I focus on the right hand if it's a ring - so I'd say the right hand is yours, do whatever you want with it!"
Ceasar is also known for his signature butter ring- which is a very special design made for comfort and wearability. The butter ring is used as a base for many of the rings, giving them a signature "Ceasar style." Recently Ceasar won honorable mention in the evening wear category in the 2013 AGTA Spectrum Awards for a breathtaking variation of the butter ring. Here he tells us a little more about what he does and more details on his beautiful creations!
ThePGHLook: Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you become a jeweler?
Ceasar Azzam: I was born in a jewelry family, my dad learned the trade from his uncles and I helped my dad growing up. And I went to school for economics, worked for a bank, and then went back to jewelry by attending the Gemological Institute of America - GIA - that's a world renowned jewelry school. So I studied gemology which involves the identification and grading of diamonds and colored stones. That was in 1989, in Santa Monica, the school has moved since then to Carlsbad, north of San Diego. I worked for a couple jewelry companies in Los Angeles before starting a small store north of Los Angeles with a partner who used to be the jeweler for the company I worked for so we became business partners. So, that was going good until I came to Pittsburgh in 1997, and I've been in Pittsburgh since, I love what I do and I enjoy being in Shadyside.
ThePGHLook: You are known for your extraordinary designs and redesign work. How do you come about creating your work? Do the clients have a lot of input in that or do you come up with the designs by yourself and if so, where do you feel you draw your inspiration from?
Ceasar Azzam: It depends on the project, if it's something that I'm working with a particular client on, then it's definitely a collaboration that's totally welcome and the most important part of that process is listening and have them talk it out so-to-speak, figuring out what they like or more importantly what they don't like. So you kind of navigate your way into getting an idea that will totally work for them and then start it from there and then follow up in different steps of the process like sketching something, perhaps having it done in wax which they would see, approve, modify, and then the final product - the metal of choice, the gem or no gems, however it works out. As far as the pieces that I make, I love gems! Many times the stones are the first things that kind of initiate that process, more so than claiming that some "sunrise" or something like that was the inspiration. It starts with the gems and there's so much to start from in that there are so many varieties and colors - I love colors. My job becomes creating a piece of jewelry that carries that gem and makes it wearable on the client's body comfortably. I like my pieces to be present, so they're not shy! Recently I've been using the expression "it's all about 'wow'!" There has to be a "wow" in there, if it doesn't have the "wow" then it could be boring. So I specialize in "wow!"
|Citrine in PANTONE color Tangerine Tango and Pink Tourmaline|
ThePGHLook: You're also well known for your "butter ring," you have ads that say "What on Earth is a Butter Ring," so here we go - What on Earth is a Butter Ring?
Ceasar Azzam: The Butter Ring is my signature piece that I've been making for a number of years. Recently we got the official trademark paperwork on it for the name. It's a very smooth ring that - it started as a joke using butter because somebody said "Oh, it's like butter," and I said "Yeah it's the butter ring!" It's very well balanced, the top and the bottom, when it's on the finger it doesn't spin, and I would love to show you one...
ThePGHLook: I'd love to see one!!
|Iolite Butter Ring|
Ceasar Azzam: This is an iolite - which is an indigo blue shade- it's not very well known. I make my pieces in a number of gems and this is one of the less common ones.
ThePGHLook: It's like weightless and it..
Ceasar Azzam: Doesn't wobble?
ThePGHLook: Yeah! Like I'm spinning my hand and shaking it, and it's not moving!
Ceasar Azzam: And it's a big gem - it's not tiny so that's where the balance between the top part and the bottom part comes in. And it has a certain feel that is perhaps nostalgic - maybe like a grandmother's engagement ring - it's just a simple setting that's no frills basically but that's the point, that's the while point behind it!
ThePGHLook: So while we're on this topic, you recently won a very special award in something you said was like "the Oscars of Jewelry Makers,"- the 2013 AGTA Spectrum Awards. Tell us about your piece.
Ceasar Azzam: That means the American Gem Trade Association. The piece - well I had acquired some bright green tsavorite garnet - it's a color of green that is very unique to garnets of this shape, it's a very rich green, and I didn't do anything with them until I came up with a modified butter ring that I started to call the "sprout ring" - it's like sprouts coming out of the ring. [shows me a base for the sprout ring] In the winning design, I added two more levels to it, the top is just over two-karats of bright bubblegum pink tourmaline from Brazil and then a rim of pearls around it.
|2013 AGTA Spectrum Award Winning "Printemps" Design|
Ceasar Azzam: So the base is exactly this [the sprout ring base] without the middle one so now it only has five stones instead of six and then I put another level on top of another two levels, and I made it in rose gold, 18-karat rose gold. So we got the honorable mention in the "evening wear" category. They have a number of categories like bridal, men's, evening wear, day wear, and my pieces I usually enter- and I've been entering this competition for a couple of years now - are usually evening wear because they are like statement pieces more so than toned-down pieces that are day wear. Actually, I encourage my clients to wear their's all the time, most of my pieces are everyday and night wear because they can take the beating.
ThePGHLook: And the ring is called "Printemps?"
Ceasar Azzam: It's "Pra-ton!" It's French and I have to credit my neighbor downstairs Graciana from Gardell Designs for kinda suggesting the name.
ThePGHLook: What does it mean?
Ceasar Azzam: Primtemps means "spring" in French.
ThePGHLook: Oh ok that makes sense! So, what is your favorite piece that you've ever created?
Ceasar Azzam: I think the butter ring is my favorite and variations of it. I do many variations, the idea is the wearability and the uniqueness of it.
ThePGHLook: Do you have any new pieces or collections coming out anytime soon?
Ceasar Azzam: I have a number of pieces using colored sapphires, mixed colored sapphires coming up. Cuffs, pendants, and rings with mixed colored sapphires, and some bangle bracelets as well. The bangles are on display, others are still in the works, so that's something new.
|A preview of mixed colored sapphires|
ThePGHLook: For the last question: what kind of things do you see trending or would like to see trending within the next year as far as jewelry goes?
Ceasar Azzam: Color is still very strong, mixed colors as well as something I like to focus on which is unexpected mixtures of colors, which is not something you usually see in jewelry because most of the time people think about jewelry as something that's going to be timeless. But then again, with trends and color trends especially changing, there's so many variety of gems that people don't think of when they think of jewelry, and especially when combinations of colors that are not your typical or traditional mix of colors that you would associate with jewelry. But I love doing that, as a matter of fact I have several pieces coming up with combinations of colors for the holiday season but that is something that I'm going to continue throughout next year and we follow the color palates that are published for the fashion industry, and try to work to coordinate with that as much as possible.
Check out Ceasar's Designs: http://caesarsdesigns.com/
Follow Ceasar on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CaesarsDesignsCreations