Gems of Knowledge: Artist/Goldsmith Shares his Craft

His lifelong love of nature is reflected in nearly every facet of the jewelry Doug Canivet creates today. “I grew up in a semirural area of Toronto, Canada. While close to the city, there were still many untouched natural areas,” says Canivet. It was here he developed an early appreciation of the natural world, something that was nurtured by his parents. “My mother gave me a portion of her flower garden where I planted wildflowers I had found in the woods near our home,” he recalls fondly.

Jeweler Doug Canivet’s work is deeply influenced by the natural world.
Portrait by Colby Rabon

“When I was 11 or 12, I became interested in geology that, sometime in my mid-teens, morphed into an interest in stones that could be cut and polished to become gems.” This led him to take several courses in jewelry making at George Brown College in Toronto where he studied under Berlin-trained goldsmith Christel Klocke.

18kt green gold pendant set with 9 round brilliant cut diamonds using both cast and handmade elements.

“One of the pieces I made in those classes won a small award in a regional craft exhibition. It became very apparent that I should study goldsmithing full time,” says Canivet. He was accepted into the second year of a three-year program and graduated in 1975 at the age of 25. In the years that followed, he continued to get guidance from two accomplished goldsmiths, German and Italian masters at the art of jewelry-making. “Both were very generous in passing on their knowledge at a time when most goldsmiths tended to hide their secret techniques from others.”

The neck ring, bangle bracelet and earrings are from the “Silken Silver Collection.” All are hand fabricated using a folding technique developed by Canivet over many years. No two pieces are ever identical (Even the earrings are slightly different.). These are just an example of the many different shapes and sizes found in the collection. (See below for other pieces from the collection).

He has paid homage to his early instructors by continuing to help others learn the craft, including five years he spent as a teacher at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) in San Diego. And now, at his Inspirata Vita Design Studio in Asheville, he takes great pleasure in hosting workshops in which he guides students through the process of making their own jewelry. “I also offer couples a hands-on experience by making their own wedding bands.”

Earrings from the Silken Silver Collection.

He says Inspirata Vita (translated from Italian as Inspired by Life) is “an acknowledgement of the fact that jewelry is most often used to celebrate some of life’s most important moments,” says, Canivet. “The name is a constant reminder that we are privileged to part of our clients’ lives at those times.”

Bangle bracelet from the Silken Silver Collection.

Canivet officially opened Inspirata Vita in November where he is joined by son Daniel, a GIA Graduate Gemologist and a talented designer and craftsman in his own right. “He cuts gemstones … and creates his own jewelry pieces,” says Canivet.

Sterling silver star charm/pendant cast and hand finished. This is part of the “Christmas Collection” of small silver ornaments that can be hung on a tree or worn as pendants or charms.

Most of the hand-working techniques employed today in the jewelry arts have their origins in ancient times. But modern techniques, including 3D printing have earned their place in the art as well. Canivet explains, “An item is modeled and modified using computer-aided design software (CAD) and rendered in images that look almost like photos of the real thing. These designs can then be printed in a wax-like resin and cast using traditional methods.” He says Daniel is an expert CAD modeler.

14kt yellow gold ring set with oval pink tourmaline and round brilliant cut diamonds using both cast and hand fabricated elements.

And so the knowledge base continues to expand. “No matter how much work someone has done in the past,” says Canivet, “each new project has unique challenges. There is always something I haven’t learned or mastered yet.”

Inspirata Vita Design Studio is located in The Refinery at 207 Coxe Avenue/Suite 6 in Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood. For more information, visit inspiratavita.com, call 828-407-7407 or email info@inspiratavita.com.

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