Carolyn Tyler (????- ) Nature, mythology, art, music and dance inspire the jewelry of designer Carolyn Tyler. Themes from ancient civilizations and tribal art included in her work reflect her background in archaeology and anthropology. Using time-trusted and tested techniques such as granulation, filigree, and repousse, her pieces seem to evoke lost treasures.
According to Tyler’s official website, when asked how she came to be a jewelry designer living in Bali, she tells the story of the ‘Stolen Opal.’
During her 1990 divorce proceeding, a rare lavender opal pendant she purchased during a school holiday in Greece 15 years earlier, went missing. To alleviate her stress over the situation, she traveled to Bali for solace and met a goldsmith who re-created her beloved treasure.
When fellow tourists asked where they could find one like it, she had more made. After selling several versions of the original from around her neck, she crafted a lavender opal ring, modeled after a famous arm cuff worn by King Ramses II, in place of the necklace and sold these. It launched her into a full-time jewelry designing career In Bali.
Ten years later, in her hometown of Santa Barbara, Carolyn ran into her ex-husband who offered to reveal what he had done with her cherished pendant. She declined the offer.
In 2006, Carolyn opened a jewelry store across the street from where she had encountered her ex. On the third day of business, a woman came in and asked how Carolyn started in jewelry design. Tyler told the woman the Story of the Stolen Opal. After answering many questions, the woman revealed that she had an opal pendant that fit the description and that was given to her by a friend the year it was stolen.
The friend had received it from a prospective suitor (the ex) as a gift, but never felt “right” about it, so she gave it away to the woman who came to see Carolyn. That woman also never wanted to wear it, but couldn’t part with it. Finally, she brought it to Carolyn who confirmed it was indeed the Stolen Opal finally returned after fifteen years.
While Carolyn’s trip to Bali inspired her jewelry career, her first jobs were far removed from that vocation. She began her work life as a graphic designer and later ran a small advertising agency.
In 1989 she traveled to Southeast Asia where she encountered many talented artisans and began designing clothing and home accessories for her new business, Exotica. In 1993, she closed her advertising and import businesses and moved to Indonesia.
She operates her business from her self-designed home, called, “the Pelangi Estate,” a luxury boutique style villa that consists of 3 separate properties; all of them decorated by Carolyn. She describes the location as “an oversized piece of jewelry which functions as a house.” It is here where she envisions and sketches her whimsical and royal creations. With the help of her team of master craftsmen, she literally turns her dreams into gold.
Tyler’s designs are hand-fabricated from 100% recycled (“green”) gold which is also known as ‘eco-gold’ because no new mining is required to produce it. The gold is refined and re-alloyed to produce lustrous and strong 22k gold. Carolyn also uses sterling and fine silver, as well as precious and semi-precious gemstones in her creations. Some of the designs contain antique beads, ancient coins from Europe and Asia, unusual gems, fossilized ivory carvings and/or rare pearls with extraordinary color.
Using time-honored goldsmithing techniques, Tyler creates pieces that are evocative of treasures from the past. Her preference for working in 18-24 karat gold gives her jewelry unusual luster, weight, and lasting value and possibly heirlooms.
Carolyn has said that, [Her] “true passion is hunting for and finding a unique gem, pearl or artifact that commands me to transcend the merely ‘artful’ and create a design where beauty and meaning are forged into a piece with talismanic power for the wearer.
““Usually, I pick a central stone, look at the colors in it and pull out accent stones. I just trace the stone and sit there with it, see if it wants to be a pin or a pendant or both. I love mixing and matching colors, especially combinations like purple and chartreuse — slightly jarring but satisfying.”
The creations are executed with skill and patience by the Tyler’s team of Balinese goldsmiths, whose forefathers worked as court artisans for Javanese royalty and Hindu temple priests. With centuries of collective experience in perfecting their craft, they have gained a world-renowned mastery of decorative techniques including granulation, filigree, carving, and engraving.
Granulation, the process of fusing miniscule spheres of gold to a flat surface, without solder, to create a pattern or texture, is the most technically challenging style of embellishment and the skill for which these artisans are most noted.
Since no casting or molds are used, each piece is truly one of a kind. When a design is repeated, as in limited editions, care is taken to use different stones, so no two pieces are ever exactly the same. Smaller pieces typically take three to seven days to complete, while large and complex pieces have taken months to perfect. After completion, the pieces are ritually blessed with Temple holy water, to transfer protection and good fortune to the wearer.
The gemstones and pearls used in Carolyn Tyler Jewelry are natural (i.e.: no synthetic, man-made gems.) Some stones have been heat-treated to enhance their color. Other enhancements, such as diffusion and beryllium treatment (especially of colored sapphire and diamond), and dyeing (as with certain freshwater pearls) can be part of the process. All ancient coins, artifacts, and fossils are original and authentic unless otherwise described.
Also, unless otherwise stated, all designs are original and rendered in 22k gold, bearing the karat stamp (22k is 93% pure gold, 18k is 75% pure gold). The country-of-origin stamp and Maker’s Mark, as well as a unique serial number are also inscribed on every piece. All designs have been registered with the US patent office and are copyrighted.
Carolyn Tyler’s jewelry is individually handmade making each piece virtually one of a kind. Because these designs are not machine made, they may have very slight imperfections that can add to their handcrafted quality and value.
The velvety, matte finish characteristic on much of Carolyn Tyler’s jewelry is achieved by depletion-gilding and wears to a rich patina over time on rings and other pieces which experience heavy wear.
Many earring designs have fold-down posts, enabling people without pierced ears to wear them comfortably. This feature also gives the wearer an option to wear the earring on a chain or as a pendant.
Many pendant designs also have a removable bail that gives the wearer the option to use the piece as a brooch. Some necklaces can be wrapped around the wrist to be worn as a bracelet or around the waist as a belt or belly chain. Tyler’s long “Convertible Lariats” with gold tassels unscrew in several places so they can be worn as three nesting necklaces or two necklaces and two bracelets.
Sometimes Carolyn uses a hammer and punches on metal, hitting the metal from the back or inside. In that way, she manages to raise a design on the metal’s surface. This is the art of repousse, a technique that is also called chasing and embossing.
Tyler likes to work with metals but does not always start with sheets of metal. Sometimes she works with thin, metal rods. She has learned how to shape and weave them to produce filigree where thin pieces of metal are used to make a delicate design.
Carolyn’s versatility also incorporates 21st Century techniques that mimic those used by early goldsmiths. From nuanced variations to bold statements, Carolyn Tyler’s jewelry reflects outstanding craftsmanship and design. It’s found in the brilliance of the stones as well as in the piece’s spirituality.