Petra Class (1959 – ) trained as a silversmith in her native Germany. Her first job occurred when she was a middle school student stocking the shelves at a craft supply store. She now lives and works in San Francisco, California where she applies traditional goldsmith techniques to her hand crafted jewelry.
Her interest in jewelry design originated with a fascination for her mom’s jewelry box. Her favorite page in an encyclopedia had images of Tutankhamen’s mask and jewels and she was fascinated by her grandfather’s garden where, in summer, it was full of flowers that she could weave into necklaces.
Today, combining precious materials such as high-karat gold and gemstones in modern designs, Class has won numerous awards and has exhibited both nationally and abroad. She describes her choices of colors and textures as a way of communicating “a certain mood, an attitude towards life that in turn will be, I hope, sensed by whoever is looking at the piece.”
In an interview with the website, Artful Home, she said, “Creating jewelry is like writing music. On a creative day, it will be improvisational, while other times the elements need to be arranged and rearranged to form the right harmony or dissonance. I try to listen to the inner quality of each element to create a composition that does it justice.”
On the brand’s official website, she further states, “…having spent several years constructing tableware, my approach to jewelry making is informed foremost by the European tradition of applied art. I limit myself to creating jewelry that is wearable and also, to a big degree, to the materials traditionally perceived as precious. Within these limitations I am trying to develop my own language, hoping to be able to not only communicate my own sensibilities but also a sense of contemporary aesthetic.
“Over the years, I find certain themes reoccurring in my work, the rhythmical arrangements of several elements, repetition of similar forms or colors, the unexpected contrasts of differently textured materials…
“I am endlessly fascinated with gemstones, precious or not….by the wealth of different reds found in nature, by the sea of blues: the opaqueness of lapis, the transparency and subtlety of a lightly lilac-colored sapphire. … Within the self-imposed limitation of, for instance, making a gold brooch I feel I can, through my choice of colors and textures, communicate a certain mood, an attitude towards life that in turn will be, I hope, sensed by whoever is looking at the piece…like an improvisational jazz melody, like an abstract landscape…”
After Petra came to the US from Germany in 1991, she founded a small jewelry design studio in the San Francisco Mission District that has grown into an atelier where a small team of gifted women create an ever growing collection of sculptural, contemporary jewelry. High karat gold and gemstones are fabricated into these wearable works of art.
Petra has been an innovator in the jewelry design world for the past 30 years and is the driving force behind the studio. Her classical training in Europe combines with the colorful creativity of California living. The firm’s contemporary jewelry is hand fabricated using precious and semi-precious gemstones and high karat gold. Its work can be found in numerous stores and art galleries around the US and at a number of San Francisco retailers including Gump’s, Love and Luxe, and Lava 9.
Siedra Loeffler has been working as studio manager, metalsmith and designer for the Petra Class studio since 2014. After studying metalsmithing at Earlham College in the Midwest, she moved to New York City to work as a bench jeweler.
Siedra says, “Our work is created in 22 and 18 karat gold. We use gemstones to emphasize our love for color and we like to play with combinations of cut and rough stones, often limiting ourselves to a single color family. Lately, we have found ourselves working with monochrome, minimalist designs cutting stones in a way that leaves the rough surface partially intact or slicing bigger gems and using the geometric elements that present themselves. We use materials perceived as precious to invoke the eternal awe for the beauty nature brings forth.”
Morgan is another of the metalsmiths and designers for the studio. She grew up on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She studied Photography and Metals at the University of Redlands. Morgan moved to San Francisco in 2014 and has been working for Petra since her arrival.
The Petra Class jewelry collections are named Blues, Greens, Reds/Yellows, Gold, and Colors and include bracelets, brooches, earrings, handmade chains, necklaces, pendant necklaces, and rings.
Petra uses the colors of gems as painters use pigment, creating juxtapositions that make a statement. Pink tourmalines and blue sapphires, both in their natural shape and form, are wrapped in their settings, almost becoming one with the gold that encases them. The pieces are more than the sum of their individual elements and words can only approximate their qualities.
Class has won numerous awards and exhibited both nationally and abroad. Some of her selected exhibitions and awards include “The Art of Gold,” Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA, 2005, “Metalsmiths from the American West,” Montana State University, MT, 2002, the Ernie Kim Award, Richmond Art Center, Richmond, CA, 2001, Best of Show Award, ACC San Francisco, 2000,and the Best First Time Exhibitor Award, ACE Evanston, 1999.
Petra Class has developed a language of composition and materials that communicates her unique sensibilities and aesthetic. Initially scared away by the perfection of highly polished cut diamonds, Class was attracted to the character of uncut natural stones and their understated, yet seductive, quality. The contrast of the rough, uncut stones with the preciousness of gold and polished diamonds, and the repetition of shapes within each composition, became key components of Class’s jewelry-making vocabulary. Also key is the creation of Class’s beautiful one-of-a-kind, hand-formed bezels, surrounding each stone with the fluidity of gold.Recently, she told the website Liten, “I am endlessly fascinated with … the opaqueness of lapis, the transparency and subtlety of a lightly lilac-colored sapphire. One can almost paint with these stones.”