Philip Zahm Designs
Philip Zahm Designs (Est. 2000) In a Gem Scene article called, “The Beauty of Color” by Diana S. Zimmerman, she writes, “There is nothing ordinary about Philip Zahm Designs. But then there is nothing ordinary about Philip Zahm, either. From his childhood dream of becoming a guitar maker to his grown-up passion for making spectacular jewelry, Zahm’s cutting-edge sense of color and beauty is as sophisticated as it is daring.”
For over forty years, Philip Zahm has traveled the globe in his effort to find beautiful, high quality gems. He then designs stunning and original jewelry that enhances the beauty and color of each stone.
Experts say he blends the power of nature with expert craftsmanship and makes rings, bracelets, pendants and earrings that are on the “must have” wish list of many women.
Zahm works with over forty different hand-selected, dazzling gemstones in only the richest and most stunning colors. Each item is hand crafted in 18 karat gold or platinum and demonstrates fine craftsmanship and detail. The designs are always up-to-date, fashionable, and rarely something one sees on anyone else.
Beautiful objects and the world of colored gemstones inspire Zahm’s designs. He has won many cutting-edge awards from AGTA, two Spectrum Awards for his gemstone cutting and jewelry design, and won two Jewelers Choice awards from JCK.
Philip Zahm focuses on jewelry art pieces, one-of-a-kind designs, and complex, multidimensional jewelry pieces. Zahm has a collection of beautifully made pieces displaying rainbows of colored gemstones in unique settings. His passion for gems and jewelry results in a stunning combination of wondrous designs and brilliant color.
According to an interview conducted by Stacey Collins that appears on the Philip Zahn Designs official website, Zahm is a veteran world traveler who journeyed to Spain in his early twenties to study guitar making. He returned home to Northern California to start his own manufacturing business. When his brother arrived with a bag of raw fire agates that the brother had purchased in Mexico, Zahm loved the stones. Since Philip enjoyed working with his hands, he decided to take a class in gem cutting.
The decision forever changed his life. His skills landed a job cutting stones for a local jeweler. “I worked really hard,” he says, “and managed to save $1,000. In 1975, I jumped on a plane and headed to Guadalajara, Mexico after which [I] drove north to Magdalena to [see] the opal mines.”
Zahm’s initial experience buying emeralds was in 1978 on his first trip to Brazil. “I didn’t buy very many emeralds on that first trip,” he says. “It was a huge learning experience for me on so many levels, and represented a big move into the realm of more expensive gemstones.” Previously, he had been working primarily with cabochons, mainly fire agates and opal, but in Brazil he purchased mostly faceted tourmaline, aquamarine, and topaz.
Following this trip, he went back to Brazil several times a year and learned the language. “I also learned a lot about Brazilian emeralds and the way they were treated.”
In 1981, a rich deposit of emeralds was found in the Brazilian state of Goiás and Zahm and a friend flew to Goiânia, where they rented a car and drove fifty miles on small gravel roads to a tiny village where people were mining emeralds along the river. “It was quite an experience because no other foreigners were there. It was only the Brazilians. But, in the end, we did not find anything worthwhile.”
In 1983, Zahm traveled to Bogotá in search of the famed Colombian emeralds. “In Colombia, emeralds are the only game in town,” he says. For three days, he sat in the office of a Japanese dealer, looking at all the emeralds that came through. “I spent over $30,000 on that trip, but did not return to Colombia for several years.”
When he finally did return, he had the help of his friend and emerald expert, Ron Ringsrud. “Ron was kind enough to share his connections and experience with me. I even stayed at a little house he owned in a neighborhood adjacent to the emerald buying district in Bogotá. Starting at 9 or 10 every morning, I would walk along the cobblestone streets to the offices and spend the day looking at emeralds. I made two more trips to Colombia over the next few years.”
Zahm bought as many stones as he could afford, and began cutting them into cabochons. With adventure in his blood, his next trip was to Kenya to purchase tanzanite and tsavorite. “During those years, it was dangerous there,” he explains. “For that reason, almost no gem dealers ventured into that part of the world. Plus, I had to carry large amounts of cash with me and that added a second layer of danger.”
For the next two decades, Zahm toured the globe searching for the finest stones. He quickly garnered a reputation as a world-class gem dealer. His creative side, however, wanted more. So, in 2000, he launched Philip Zahm Designs. “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he says. “Working with my family, my staff and my amazing clients is the greatest gift in the world.”
He works closely with his wife, Bonnie, daughter, Sorrel, and manager, Mark Davis, on every design. “We also use two very talented artists, Judith Evans and Andrew Paetzold. They transform our ideas into three-dimensional drawings. These are further refined, and when we are all happy with each tiny detail, they are sent to our 15-year partner in Bangkok for manufacturing. The workmanship is exceptional and they are great people to work with. Over the years, we’ve become close friends.”
Zahm’s highly collectable and award-winning pieces display emeralds, rubies, and sapphires combined into enticing color palettes including the neon blue-green of Paraiba tourmaline, the fiery orange-reds of Spessarite, the intense greens of Tsavorite, and the glowing prisms of Opal. “There are so many beautiful gems,” he says, “in every color of the rainbow. We let each stone’s unique personality guide our inspiration, and then set them in 18K gold, platinum, or palladium.”
Philip Zahm’s Sainte Chapelle collection is one example. It was named after a church in Paris. “My wife, Bonnie, and I were mesmerized by the extraordinary beauty of its stained glass—the way light dances off its windows. I knew I wanted to capture that extraordinary beauty in a very special collection.”
“We designed several one-off Art pieces, including a stained glass ring before creating the consumer line. We searched for just the right stones, and, of course, cut them in ways that both compliment and contrast the vividness of their colors.” As a result of Zahm’s 30+ years as a gem dealer, he could choose from a vast inventory.
The results were so stunning that AGTA awarded the ring top honors with its Spectrum Award for Best Use of Color. Margarita, the consumer version of the ring, won the 2014 JCK Jewelers’ Choice Award for Best Ring Design. Awards kept coming: the Sainte Chapelle bracelet was a 2015 JCK Jewelers’ Choice Award finalist.
To celebrate his success with spectacular gems, Philip and Bonnie published a book honoring the Sainte Chapelle Collection.
Notable pieces by Philip Zahm include a ring that centers on a Pink Tourmaline with a very intense dark pink color. The stone weighs 3.29 ct. and is an oval measuring 11.5mm x 9mm. It has.19ct total weight of gem quality diamonds set micro pave in a split shank. Hidden diamonds are set in boxes on the side.
The Spessartite Garnet ring is Ideochromatic, meaning it is colored by a fundamental element in its composition. In this case it is Manganese which produces an orange color. An 8mm x 11mm oval, its shape accentuates the orange pink color. In 18K yellow and white gold with eight diamonds set below the stone in a crown like structure, the ring speaks elegance in a modern style. Signed 18K with the Philip Zahm hallmark, the weight of the stone 3.68.
Zahm’s collections of rings, bracelets, earrings, and pendants are made by a small team of highly creative individuals dedicated to providing the finest, precious gemstone jewelry and gems. Most are available in 18K gold and platinum enhanced by diamonds. Each piece is one of a kind.
Philip Zahm is a man who found greatness, not by being the largest brand, but in the larger sense of the word—by creating greatness in art. Art that expresses the joy and beauty of color through the intangible magic of his spectacular creations. Zahm is a former Administrative Chair of the AGTA Board of Directors.
Zahm has said, “I’m passionate about colored stones. They are our hallmark. Every piece we create is designed to evoke an emotion – a sense of joy, of fun, sophistication, and elegance … Colors reflect the spectrum of emotions we feel. Why shouldn’t we be able to express them in the jewelry we wear?”