Peck jewelry students get golden opportunity with diamonds

A woman uses a small hammer on a piece of jewelry she's making.

UWM’s jewelry and metalsmithing students are getting the opportunity to add some extra sparkle to their education this fall.

The 12 students are taking part in a new Kesslers Diamonds student showcase. Each of the students in the Peck School of the Arts advanced jewelry and metalsmithing course received a 10-point diamond to work with as they practice stone setting. During October, they will create a one-of-a-kind piece of wearable art, incorporating the diamond and reconfiguring sterling silver silverware donated by another supporter of the program, Debra Bradley.

At the end of the month, the pieces will go on display downtown at the Kesslers Diamonds store at 450 E. Mason St. From Nov. 1 to 9, Kesslers owner-employees, UWM faculty, students, students’ families and community members will vote for their favorite work. Three winning students will receive scholarships of $1,000, $500 and $300. In addition, all the students will get to keep their work, including the diamond.

A pair of hands are shown with tiny diamonds and tools.
Jewelry making is exacting work. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

The contest is the brainchild of Cory O’Brien Borkowski, a 2017 UWM graduate who earned her BFA in art/jewelry & metalsmithing and is now a goldsmith at Kesslers. The firm has become a community partner of the UWM jewelry metalsmithing program, donating casting equipment, funds towards program development, setting up a new internship program and currently employing five UWM alumni.

Borkowski, with the support of Richard Kessler and Keith Morrow,worked in collaboration with Professor Yevgeniya Kaganovich, who heads UWM’s jewelry and metalsmithing program, and Erica Meier, who teaches this year’s construction and fabrication course, in organizing the contest and exhibition.

“Kesslers Diamonds’ support for our students’ creative practices has been incredible,” said Kaganovich. “From the financial and material donations, to Richard Kessler’s inspiring visit, to the student Kesslers Diamonds tour, to the newly established internship program, these experiences have been invaluable to our students’ professional development and possible future careers. Cory has been the biggest champion for our program and has been a pleasure to work with on this project.”

“We came up with the idea, and it just came together,” said Borkowski. “It was really cool to work the UWM program and faculty on the project.”

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