Steven Kretchmer, the most visible innovator on the American jewelry
scene today, passed away on July 8, 2006 as a result of injuries
sustained in a motorcycle accident.
The son of Dr. Norman Kretchmer, a pioneering Pediatric biochemist
and Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development, and Midge Kretchmer, a modern Dance choreographer,
Steven began making jewelry in 1969. Although the Kretchmer bloodline
can be traced back several generations to jewelers of Romanian
royalty, Steven’s interest in precious metals and fine jewelry design
was self-initiated. He was driven by his own unique vision.
However, Steven’s journey into precious metal design followed a
complex path of exploration. His determined work ethic and dedicated
self-discipline have carried him across the globe in search of his
future, even bringing him to Alaska as a crew member of a fishing
boat, and earning him black belts in three forms of martial arts.
Throughout his journey, the world of fine jewelry and precious metal
always occupied Steven’s focus. In 1976, he earned his Bachelor of
fine Arts degree in Jewelry and Metalsmithing at the Rhode Island
School of Design. Steven then traveled to Milan, Italy, where he
worked as a goldsmith, learning traditional goldsmithing techniques
from master craftsmen. It was in his second year in Milan that
Steven met his wife Alma, the future Vice President and co-creator
of his company, and his stepdaughter, Claudia. “The sudden presence
of a family in my life forced me to steer my precious metal art in a
new, productive direction. They had become my inspiration.”
After living in Italy for two years, Steven returned to the United
States. He pursued his studies at the University of Michigan where,
in 1982, he received his Master of Fine Arts degree in the Department
of Metalwork and Jewelry Design. He then moved to New Mexico where he
worked designing and creating in his own goldsmithing studio applying
techniques and exotic alloys such as 18k mokume gane gold, blue gold
and purple gold.
In 1985, Steven’s unique techniques and cutting-edge designs earned
him first place in Contemporary Jewelry at the Santa Fe Festival of
the Arts. Steven’s radical metallurgical innovations took him to
Harry Winston Inc. in New York City where he researched, developed
and produced jewelry components made from unique golds, most
importantly 18k blue gold.
In the next few years, while developing his career as an independent
custom designer and goldsmith for various retailers and private
clients, Steven worked as a precious metals consultant to firms
around the world. During his time, he developed a number of patents
for precious metal product inventions and alloys including
multicolored layered golds and tension settings. In 1991, after years
of work and dedication, Steven Kretchmer Design, Inc. was founded in
Los Angeles, CA.
In 1992, just one year after his company was formed, Steven was voted
Designer of the Year by the Jeweler’s of America trade show.
The following year, Steven reviewed techniques, innovations and
offered production methods for manufacturers aiding in the promotion
of platinum with the Platinum Group International. During this time,
Steven gave seminars across the United States concerning innovations
and technological advancements in the field of jewelry design.
With the rising success of his designs and the growth of his company,
Steven found himself wanting distance from the big city distractions
and chaos of Los Angeles. In 1993, Steven and Alma purchase an old
stone schoolhouse in the serene hills of New York’s Hudson Valley.
Built in 1899, the historic building underwent three years of
extensive renovations before it became Steven and Alma’s Ringing
Metal Studios in June of 1996. A registered national landmark, the
large schoolhouse has offered Steven an isolated sanctuary where his
family, his company and his spirit could thrive.
In the open space of its new environment, Steven’s company began to
flourish. The unique and simple elegance of his patented tension- set
jewelry became increasingly visible in the national jewelry scene. In
February of 1998, Steven’s new general purpose alloy, Plat/S+ was
introduced at a national conference sponsored by Platinum Guild and
MJSA and became available to the trade. That June, the Contemporary
Design Group honored him with the Designer MVP Award for excellence
in design and leadership of his peers.
In the same month, Steven was listed in JCK Magazine as one of the 10
collectible designers most mentioned by a panel of top professionals
in fine jewelry including those at Sotheby’s and Christie’s of New
York. The panel named Steven as “a superlative jeweler who’s awards
for excellence, ground breaking designs, and fearless risk-taking
set the present-day standard for fine jewelry design.”
Despite the success of his unique gold alloys and tension-set
jewelry, Steven’s innovative mind could not keep still. In 2003,
Steven developed PolariumAE, a new permanently magnetic platinum
alloy developed for a revolutionary line of fine jewelry, including
earrings that exhibit amazing behaviors, such as levitation.
It did what Steven himself loved to do most, unify art and science.
James Binnion Metal Arts