You probably haven't heard of Karen Bizer Fine Jewelry, but reading about the company here automatically puts you a few steps ahead of other treasure seekers. Bizer's pieces all seem to share a sense of history: some look like artifacts from ancient Egypt or Byzantium; others suggest plunder from the Forbidden City or the Taj Mahal. This integrity is something that can't be faked--it's not a matter of simply copying a pretty earring in a museum display, but of learning how that earring was made. And it's her devotion to traditional techniques (still practiced by a small community of artisans), combined with a desire to create jewelry that looks and feels right (regardless of cost), that's made Karen Bizer's name as bold as an "X" that marks the spot.
Although she's a fashion industry veteran, this venture is a surprisingly new development (launched very quietly last August). Bizer started her career as an editor at Women's Wear Daily, then owned a PR firm for many years. Becoming a jewelry designer was an idea that crept up on her slowly and took hold gradually. After a first, false start, which essentially taught her how much she had to learn, Bizer decided to go back to school. She chose Manhattan's Jewelry Arts Institute, a unique academy specializing in ancient and Classical techniques. At the Institute, Bizer honed her design skills, learned how to translate ideas into mechanical drawings her goldsmiths and gem cutters could follow, and delved deep into the multi-layered challenge of using chemistry, physics, architecture, and art history to make beautiful things.
For Bizer, the process usually starts when she encounters the right raw materials. She's often inspired by unusual stones, like a 27.3 carat, pinkish-red star ruby she asked her associates to hand carve and set in a gold ring with prongs as bold as flying buttresses. Jadeite's green glow started her thinking about the Art Deco period's love affair with Asia, and morphed into a pair of white-gold earrings strung with white and black diamonds, rubies and carved jade lozenges that would look equally well on a 19th-century Chinese princess, a '20s movie star or a 21st century New Yorker. And, sometimes, the challenge of marrying two or more materials in one piece provides more inspiration than anticipated, as was the case with a shagreen-and-gold cuff, whose constellation of individually-set, multicolored diamonds kept getting larger and larger (and required eight months to perfect).
Bizer welcomes custom requests, and works tirelessly to satisfy a client's passions. She takes each commission to heart, determined to realize its full potential: even when talking about the relaunch of her own company, she says, philosophically, "It's an investment in myself." Then the sleeves are rolled up (metaphorically speaking, at least) and she goes back to work, apparently finding as much joy in the process as her customers do in the results.