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The Art and Jewelry of J.Grahl Design


Another face…
I started doing these chess sets in 1971 ( I’m feeling old again…), there are 11 so far.
The theme is middle ages. The king is Nordic, The Queen Spanish, The Bishop Anglican, The Knights have varied a bit from Germanic to a early version of Henry the Eighth’s armor (before he turned tubby…)The castle is a take on Falkenstein, and the pawns are Welsh Foot soldiers .
Each of the boards have been different along with details in the pieces and the bases. This board is my favorite, It’s cherry wood with cast iron and bronze accents, enclosed with German hand rolled glass. The playing surface is Sterling silver and Gaboon ebony (black).
The chess pieces are 14k yellow and white gold with gem set accents.(about 11.5 pounds of gold) . This one has been residing in the Museum at the Gemological Institute of America until recently.
It takes about a year to see one of these through.
These were the first pieces I ever carved (modeled). I commissioned another artist to do the originals & he couldn’t get the job done, I was on deadline to deliver the commission so no choice, I learned how to carve & this is the end result.

I’ll upload new shots Monday…
I’m still trying to get the hang of this…



This looks rather like the next step up from the Faberge eggs. Was
this your intention? Amazing !

Best, Mary A


My goodness! Went to your site. Amazing work.
Jo Haemer


Thanks Jo,
Trying to figure out how to upload more pictures,

J.Grahl Design (Pearls)

Hi Mary,
Yes & No,
These , as you’ll see when I can figure out how to post more, are an evolution, more mechanical and more varied in material use.
The main distinction is that we are a small & rather simple shop. Our work must reflect our skill set. Objects like the eggs help push us into uncharted areas.


And then there’s rare…
This piece was created to profile a flawless, 12.75 ct. Alexandrite, one of the world’s rarest gems.
The intention, from the beginning, was to create an art piece, wearable, but designed to be felt, held.
This piece is entirely fabricated, crafted using 18K yellow , green and rose gold with platinum understructure supporting the (removable) Alexandrite. This centerpiece resist a bed of rose gold, capped by green gold leaves, bordered by yellow gold.
There are 2 custom cut, 1/2 round diamonds bordering the center stone, these are captured in bezels that are also the finials of the Alexandrian column that forms the ring’s shank.
The details are all of the era of Alexander the great, There are rose gold coils (mimicking Pomegranate stalks) with green gold leaves bordering the bas-relief portraits of Alexander the Great on one side, and Alexander the First on the other.
The color change nature of fine Alexndrite is very present here, it’s called dichroism, and exhibits a color shift from a deep red to green depending on the type of light you’re viewing it in.


Don’t some things just bug you…?
Our beetle is less creepy-crawly and maybe a bit charmed.
It’s fortunate enough to be adorned in 18K gold and platinum,accented with Pave’ set diamonds, and proudly wears a Brazilian Indicolite tourmaline (blue tourmaline) on it’s posterior.
Sorted of a “Gold Bug” with upgrades…
Jewelry has a deep history of being expressed in insects, certainly the Egyptian Scarab is one of the most recognized, but the middle ages through the late 19th century produced a great number of pieces. Artists tend to draw from nature and the familiar, and for many, certain insects are a sign of good luck, again , the scarab is a great example.
Photography by Sylvia Bissonnette


One of our Creations using coind and design elements from the 1622 spanish shipwerck, Nuestra Señora de Atocha.
This piece, in Steve Atherton’s collection, was created in 55% lead crystal, Sterling silver and 18K yellow gold.
The desk set uses the magnifying glass to view a very rare Grade 1 Eight Reales coin inset into the lead crystal, The letter opener uses a remnant of an Eight Reales, called a “Frag” (fragment).
The fine coin under the glass was never exposerd to the deposits or erosion that many of the other coins were, thus the example of the to opposing states of preservation.
The lead crystal has a map of the area the Atocha sunk in etched from the bottom.
Sylvia Bissonnette Photo


Outta’ the box…
Well sort of.
Here is a letter opener stand And desk box created in our studio.
The letter opener is sterling silver, 18K yellow gold, forged stainless steel blade.
Accented with a Tahitian, cultured black pearl with diamond and akoya pearl details.
The base (box) is solid Madagascar ebony, with a stamp tray & lid in Sterling and 18K.
The spring loaded drawer is released with a push on the small Tahitian pearl button in the forefront.
This was a team project in our studio with Charles Holt doing the woodwork, Elizabeth Wong doing the wax work, & Jim Grahl doing the design and metalwork.
Photography by Sylvia Bissonnette.


There is much to say about the eggs, Briefly, They are all of our design and manufacture. They are each one of one,
The materials in each are 18K, 22K, plat, Diamond, Black jade, Limoges enamels, plus much more . The unique mechanical movements, some musical, are of our own crafting as well.
I’ll expand in the future.
Thanks for looking
(there are several more to post as well).


A flavor of an earlier time…
This was done for the Orange County Philharmonic,
It’s a perfumer, in the French style.
Constructed in 18K yellow gold with a small Ruby at the stem that unscrewed from the top. The era is Victorian, well past the need for massive doses of perfume to act as a mask to one’s habits of sanitation, this is to dispense one drop, behind the ear. For a close encounter no doubt.
Hand fabricated and engraved.


Peas in a pod…
This piece was created for a client in San Diego who is a passionate gardner.
She wanted a treat & her favorite thing to grow were peas…
So… the fabrication thing again, with many twists.
This piece is formed with a sheet of platinum, fused to a sheet of 22K yellow gold. It was then formed into the basic pea pod, and capped with a fabricated 18K green gold stem & leaves, which also form the base for the pin stem in back. Then, Undrilled fine Akoya cultured pearls were inserted, and the balance of the forming was done to hold the pearls (gently)in place. It is great fun and a real challenge to play with nature, I’d be hard pressed to do this again but it was rewarding to see the piece take form.



My other half…
Sylvia Bissonnnette is a great friend, amazing photo artist, and, I’ve often said, the one who makes me look better than I am…
This is one of many of Sylvia’s photos I’ll display. Her ability to add a feminine touch to my somewhat engineering-like style always warms my heart.
It is a letter opener with a hand carved Green Beryl form Idar Oberstien, Germany, accented with a beautiful shield cut ruby , crafted in 18K yellow gold, sterling silver, with hand forged stainless steel blade.
We nick named it…
Lyin’ in the leaves.


Old … and oldish…
This is one of my favorites, Fun but with deep history.
The coin is an eight Reales from the Santa Margarita Wreck of 1622. This is the sister ship to the Señora Nuestra De Atocha wreck That I have had years of involvement with.
The Santa Margarita pieces are far more rare, This one is a double strike (hit twice with the coin die) which sets it apart.
I wanted to do a framework that was consistent with the era, and used accents that were playful to my eye.
Sterling, 18K, rubies,emeralds, sapphires and pearls.
In 1622, a Queen’s piece, Today, a playful artifact.
Thanks, Jim


Hi Jim,

It is overwhelming for beginners like me. I can only think ‘When I am going
to come to this stage of making art in metal?’. Ages I guess.

But it also inspires me to do something better than what I am doing now.
Explore more.

so beautiful.

Thanks for sharing.



Hi Kavita,
I think this is all about exposure…
See what inspires you, practice, surround yourself with like minded people.
Life is never done… you just keep learning., and , wherever your “There” is, keep aiming for it.
I keep thinking " some day I’ll get it right"…
It hasn’t happened yet.
I keep trying though.


18K yellow Gold, a bit of platinum and diamonds…
It’s kinda like chemistry, get the right elements together and you get something greater then the sum of the parts.
Add in the fact that the emerald is over 20 ct., and…
The whole piece is hand fabricated, including the chain, and we have an Emerald pendant.
Photo by Sylvia Bissonnette


Show pieces…
A fair amount of our pieces ,over the years, have been designed to show off a particular product or talent of the commissioner,
Case in point;
A remarkable Diamond, Platinum and Tahitian cultured Black Pearl and South Sea cultured White Pearl suite.
Commissioned by an overseas Diamond cutter / broker. This piece was intended to bring attention to the quality of his stones. Of course all else had to be in unison, so all the pearls and (we hope) the workmanship had to be of the finest level.
All hand fabricated platinum, D, VVS1 diamonds, sore eyes, …
Well here is to the brave, willing to take a leap into the world of no compromise.
Photo, Sylvia Bissonnette


More DECO…
The 30’s had style, an approach that strived for simplicity and minimalism.
It also had very specific parameters for color and materials.
In the classic Bauhaus tradition I present My interpretation of a simple pendant, Carved black jade, Mother of Pearl, diamonds as accents and 18K yellow gold.
Suspended on a French “Matchbook” chain.
Sylvia Bissonnette photo


I love round…
Thusly, I love pearls.
Any excuse to work with a pearl I jump at.
In this case, a beautiful Tahitian cultured Black Pearl, 12 mm in diameter, sitting in a hand fabricated 18K yellow gold ring with platinum and diamond accents.
So… you might notice I qualify “Cultured” a lot.
By US law, the word “Pearl” can only be used independently in describing the content of a piece of jewelry (Whew…) when the “Pearl” is natural.
So if the pearl is, in any way, cultured by a human being, the word “Cultured” must be included. In the case of the Tahitian “Cultured” Pearls, that’s all there is… The last known natural pearl was taken out of Tahiti about 1890 ish…, effectively rendering Tahitian Pearls extinct…
In the mid 1960’s Mr. Mikimoto and Robert Wan experimented with nucleating the indigenous mollusk and slowly the Tahitian Black (Cultured) pearl industry evolved.
I was fortunate enough to meet both Wan & Mikimoto in the late 60’s and went on to do specialty pieces for Robert Wan and most of the other pioneers in Tahiti’s culturing industry.
The color ranges are truly amazing and inspiring, and thankfully, I still have deep roots in that world.