Great Scott!

I should be embarrassed to post this. I am embarrassed. Out with it: I own every bracelet in the photo at the top of this post. Count ’em yourself—seventeen. They were made by the lapidary artist and silversmith Scott Diffrient, and purchased in Santa Fe over a number of years. Reader, how can I admit this? I said in my previous post that Scott deserves a post of his own, and he truly does. When I first saw his work, I was blown away by its beauty and elegance. The man loves stone. He glorifies it.

Here’s how it went. It was the first day of our first trip to Santa Fe, and we were shopping for jewelry, which in Santa Fe is like shopping for produce at a farmers market. Jewelry is everywhere—sold in a thousand shops, outdoors around the Plaza, all over town. I was mad for all of it. But I knew my own style, and I couldn’t see most of those big Southwestern pieces translating to my New York life and wardrobe. Which didn’t stop me from buying some of them.

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My first two Diffrient cuffs, in chrysocolla and gaspeite. Chrysocolla is a turquoise-related stone that grows near copper, and gaspeite is an extremely rare nickel carbonate.

Then we walked into a store called Packard’s, which had two cases of Scott’s jewelry. Once I saw the cuff bracelets, I couldn’t look at anything else. Their aesthetic was definitely Southwestern, and they featured the stones I loved in Mexican and Native American jewelry. But there was also something urban about them: they were slim, sophisticated, stackable. The lapidary work was superb.

They were not inexpensive. But I had to have one. The store had several in my size (my wrists are small, unlike the rest of me), but I couldn’t choose. It turned out I really had to have two, to make the most of the color contrast. The salesperson, Libby Chadd, an artist who has become a friend, was extremely helpful, guiding me to stones that suited me and looked great together.

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My next cuff: top quality sugilite. Doesn’t it look amazing next to the chrysocolla?

I need to say here that everyone we’ve met in Santa Fe really wants to be in Santa Fe. You’ll meet wonderful artists behind many a jewelry counter. Libby loves Scott’s work as much as I do. Together, over the years, we traversed the color wheel.

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But sugilite looks pretty great next to red coral, too.

Scott has many other beautiful designs, but it’s the cuffs I collect. (“Collect,” of course, is a dignified term for having no self control. I can’t stop. I may never stop. The bracelets he designs for men are too large in scale for me, or I’d own a bunch of those too.)

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And red coral, in turn, does something magic for Cripple Creek turquoise.

Packard’s went out of business a few years ago and was replaced by another high-end store called Malouf on the Plaza. They, too, carry Scott’s designs, which you can view here. It was in Malouf that I met Scott himself two years ago. He was there with his wife, Florence Sohn. It was like meeting a rock star (literally!)—except that they’re both exceptionally warm, centered people. Florence was wearing a cuff of Ithaca Peak turquoise (from Arizona, near the Kingman mine) of the most gorgeous electric blue. I asked her, “Does Scott have any more of this?” He did.

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The Ithaca Peak turquoise cuff Scott made for me

Scott and Florence invited us to visit their studio in Galisteo, half an hour outside Santa Fe, and last summer, we did. Galisteo is tiny, the sort of high-desert village where you can’t count on your GPS but there aren’t that many wrong turns you can make. The Diffrients live in an old adobe house they restored by hand. They also built studios—one for him, one for her—and created a sustainable garden, which provides a lot of their food. (“Sorry your bracelet took so long,” Florence wrote me once.”We had to harvest the corn.) Scott’s studio is a Zen retreat, immaculate and orderly, each cutting and polishing machine kept under a cover made by Florence.

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Carico Lake turquoise cuff with the stones bezeled in gold

They showed us around. They gave us lunch. Best of all, Scott showed us his work: finished jewelry, and stones waiting to be set. There in the desert light, the stones glowed; they spoke. One stone in particular spoke to me: A pendant, not yet strung, of lime-green Carico Lake turquoise. Scott carved it from what’s called a pseudomorph, a mineral that grows in the space where something else has been—in this case, a clam—and takes its shape.

Lime-green Carico Lake is rare; pseudomorphs are even rarer. The green color is caused by the presence of zinc and another mineral, faustite; the gold-colored inclusions are limonite, an iron ore. I knew the pendant was a significant stone. But on that lovely afternoon, it seemed perfectly logical  to say, “Yes, let’s make a necklace.”

It took time, as fine work does. Scott cut and polished each bead by hand, including the gold spacers. (Florence sent me a video of the polishing process, below.) The finished piece is breathtaking, like nothing else I will aspire to own. Indeed, it made me stop buying jewelry altogether—for a while.

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Lime-green Carico Lake Turquoise necklace, hand made by Scott Diffrient. The pendant was carved from a pseudomorph, a clam fossilized by turquoise.

 

3 thoughts on “Great Scott!

  1. This is an education. To me a bracelet is just a . . . bracelet. I didn’t know there were ‘cuff bracelets’ and (presumably) other types of bracelet. The only other word I know for bracelet is bangle, but that’s solid metal (or plastic in my case). But these are extremely beautiful — I LOVE the green. In fact, I love the green ones the most, and probably the photo of the first two you owned are the ones I would swoon over, even though all the rest are lovely in their many and various ways. And the necklace is extraordinary, and would be so even without the pendant (which my autocorrect has just twice changed to ‘penance’). The gold and green together is extraordinarily lovely. I love bracelets, but rarely wear then because being left-handed I wear a watch on my right hand and a bracelet on my left, and then it gets in the way when I want to write. Of course, if I were wearing these bracelets I would not be writing at all. I would just be gazing at them smittenly. (I invented that adverb just for these bracelets.)

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  2. Love all that!!!! Having lived in northern NM for 28 years and often spending time in Santa Fe, these gorgeous pieces and your descriptions prompt a lot of nostalgia. Re Galisteo, try the Galisteo Inn some time. It is SO lovely and gracious, and be sure to have dinner there, if that is still an option. XXOO

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  3. WowI I’m impressed!!!

    And Scott Diffrient is truly a master lapidarist, so you know good stones when you see ’em, that’s for sure. Scott will be making a personal appearance tomorrow (July 2nd) at Malouf on the Plaza in Santa Fe. Stop by if you’re in the neighborhood!

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