Renowned precious metal artist and Austinite Zoltan David recalls once being asked by a famous jewelry designer if he was a designer or an artist. "I am both," he replied. Zoltan’s design — which are on display in both his flagship gallery at the Hill Country Galleria and at his newer boutique gallery at The Oasis — are based in two principles: engineering and imaginative fantasy. Taking a look at this creative process and into this mind, it’s clear he is one of those creative types who works both sides of his brain equally.
"The four cornerstones of proper jewelry design are originality, beauty, wearability and durability," Zoltan says, on the need to be both an artist and a designer. "For originality and beauty you need imagination and fantasy — for wearability and durability you need science and engineering."
Zoltan David's latest collection, "Knight Dreams" is a stunning collection, full of black pieces of jewelry with precious metals and gems adorned in inventive ways. Zoltan’s process of creating the "Knight Dreams" collection illustrates the use of science and engineering in his creations.
In nature, there are no black metals — any metal that is black in color has been coated in some manner, and all of these coatings wear and scratch off in short order. After a year and a half of research and development, Zoltan created a black colored metal that was wear- and scratch-resistant. With this knowledge in hand, he went on to create an original and beautiful jewelry collection of midnight black, high polished metal, ornamented with precious metals and gems — which is where he applies the "fantasy" part of the design process.
In another instance of engineering and fantasy, Zoltan was working long hours at his goldsmith's bench when he discovered a new way to manipulate inlaid metals. This aha moment of engineering resulted in a metal ornamentation patent — one of only nine ever awarded in history, and the only metal ornamentation patent presently in use in the jewelry industry. With this new found technique, he applied his fantasy and developed the "Duchess" collection, a couture body of work that has garnered over a dozen national and international design awards.
"Design and artistry are both latent gifts that can be developed into powerful and very capable skills over time. But whether an artist or a designer, inspiration is the launching pad and this inspiration will come to anyone who is passionate and devoted to their path,” says Zoltan. “I use my intuition, my accumulated knowledge and my passion to create something beautiful and it always starts as an inspiration. The creative process is nebulous, it is like water in your hand, you can cup and hold it, but try to grasp it in your hands and it will escape."
Recently, Zoltan was at work with a client on a ring focused around an electric blue Paraiba tourmaline — an incredibly rare gemstone. The client had wanted a ring in one of Zoltan's iconic designs, made in all yellow gold with very little diamond "bling."
But Zoltan knew that in the case of the electric blue tourmaline, the yellow of the gold would result in the "greening" of the gem. Yellow and blue light or color makes green light or color, and he wanted to preserve the blue color of the gem.
As Zoltan often tells his craftsmen, "we are basically working with the manipulation of light." Textures, shapes, precious metals, colors and gems, all feed an image to the observer. Zoltan’s solution for the client's ring was to use yellow gold on the exterior of the ring but platinum (white light) on any area of the ring that would reflect light towards the gem. This is a perfect example of the ways Zoltan employs science and engineering in a design.
It’s always enlightening to gain a glimpse into a creative mind. The work Zoltan produces reflects his skill for design and the engineering of a piece, while also constantly reflecting his uniqueness as an artist. It's a creative process that works: from both places of science and fantasy, Zoltan produces powerful, one of a kind pieces that are functional and wearable — and incredibly beautiful.