Many assume gold comes from within the earth. But the truth, supported by science, is way more cosmic.
Jewelry artist David Vrooman says gold began with imploding stars. Before the dust ever touched ground, it sent its elements throughout the universe — elements that got mixed with other components and created our planet.
“By the time gold reaches my benchtop, it’s covered untold distances and seen things I can’t even imagine,” says Vrooman. Shaping it with his own vision, he pays homage to what he calls gold’s “incredible celestial journey.”
Vrooman’s fascination with jewelry began with a shoebox filled with silver wire and a few tools he discovered in a supply closet in his high-school art class. “I cut some of the wire into short lengths, twisted them together, hammered them flat, and bent them like the letter ‘C’ to make ear cuffs,” he recalls. He sold these for $3 each in the hallway between classes — until the art teacher found out about his fledgling business and shut it down.
The teacher, in an effort to redirect Vrooman’s entrepreneurial efforts, referred him to a crystal shop for materials. Turns out the proprietor had just purchased some jewelry-making equipment with the idea of building inventory for his store. “He asked if I’d like to help, and I did.” Occasionally, they had surplus jewelry that Vrooman would sell to other shops in the area.
One of these sales calls led him to a street hustler, who, Vrooman says, “could never outrun his past. But he was fearless and a great salesman. Anyway, he had a man working for him, Bertram Jacobs, a bench jeweler from Trinidad with decades of experience. He could see I was serious about learning and took me under his wing.”
Vrooman went on to work for a German goldsmith and later for Maier & Berkele Jewelers in Atlanta, where he was taught to handle large volumes of high-end repair work. “It was very intimidating at first, but an enormous learning experience overall,” he says. After that, he worked for noted enamelist Ricky Frank, where he learned product design and the logistics of art shows and gallery relationships.
Vrooman started his own jewelry-design business under a couple of names before using his own. Working in his home studio near downtown Asheville, he says his pieces generally start with a stone and the feeling it gives him: “Shy and seductive, like a moonstone, or fiery and dynamic, like a red or orange garnet.” From there, he plays with different elements to determine scale, texture, and what metals to use. He often makes a sketch to help crystallize his ideas.
“But it’s meant only as a guideline,” he says. “The map is not the terrain. When I hit on an idea or feeling and it gives me goosebumps on my arms, I know it’s time to jump into the metal.”
Vrooman Designs, Ariel Gallery, 19 Biltmore Ave. For more information, see arielcraftgallery.com or vroomandesigns.com. (You can also see Vrooman’s work at the biannual Craft Fairs of the Southern Highlands; southernhighlandguild.org).