by Jeremy Jones
I recently witnessed a conversation between two women during an opening reception at the Carla Massoni Gallery in Chestertown, Md.. It was a moment that would make Chestnut Hill proud.
“Excuse me, but I love your ring,” said one woman to another. “Is that a Caleb Meyer?”
“Yes, yes it is,” the other woman replied. “My husband had it made for me for our 25th wedding anniversary.”
I had the pleasure of “introducing” Caleb Meyer to the community in a story for the Local when he first opened his shop at 8127 Germantown Ave. It was 1994, and the talented, ambitious young artisan was only 28 years-old.
Now, I have the honor of presenting Caleb Meyer and his handcrafted platinum and gold jewelry as the quintessence of what our Shop Local column is all about: highlighting an enterprise that features services or items exclusive to Chestnut Hill.
The exchange between the two women at Massoni Gallery reveals what it means to be an artist with a signature look. It is a rare accomplishment.
Logos, labels and initials are potent marketing tools, but would you be able to recognize many of today’s hot designers’ work without those prompts? Signature designs are born of a very select few, such as Coco Channel, Steuben, Tiffany, Harry Winston and Bulgari. Caleb Meyer is on his way to achieving equal regard.
Originally from Williamsport, Pa., and a graduate of Haverford College, Meyer learned his trade and his appreciation for American Craft from his father James Meyer, a nationally acclaimed jewelry artist, and his mother Anne, an equally accomplished potter.
Meyer apprenticed in his father’s shop where he mastered complex fabrication and forging techniques. It was during this apprenticeship that he realized goldsmithing allowed him to combine his love of creative design with his respect for skillful and meticulous technique.
“I think making jewelry has two different components: craftsmanship – how things are built, how they go together, what they are made of,” Meyer said, “and composition – the different aspects of the design of a piece, like visual balance, strength of composition, bold versus delicate, and finding the right design for the materials you’re working with.
“I have natural aptitude as a craftsman. It’s not ever just something that you do – it’s something that you understand, but becoming a designer and developing a trademark look takes a long time.”
The design vocabulary of that trademark look is first articulated by a uniquely delicate and fine bezel set – most bezel settings are heavy and inelegant. Additionally, Meyer’s design protects the stone and makes it more durable and more comfortable to wear.
Meyer is also known for his signature “platform setting,” used primarily for engagement rings, so the ring and the wedding band sit and fit together seamlessly.
Another element of the Meyer trademark-look is the asymmetrical presence of natural motifs of leaves and curls. His passionate play with asymmetry draws the observer in to take a closer look, and makes for a rewarding aha moment.
“Even though a lot of my work is asymmetrical, I want it to be balanced,” said Meyer. “It is a challenge that I love.”
The icing atop Meyer’s most breathtaking designs is the presence of antique-cut diamonds ordained by generations of history and culled from the finest sources.
“I love them, I love their light performance, I love the way they look in our jewelry,” Meyer said.
Each custom-designed piece has a hallmark bearing “CM,” and all of the jewelry is stamped with “CMS.”
The studio, now located at 8520 Germantown Ave., thrives on the open network between gallery and workshop.
“The connection between the workshop and the gallery is what makes our store unique because the customer has access to the actual craftsmen,” Meyer said.
The gallery is a symphony of fine American Craft. Handmade grace notes in woodwork, glass, sterling silver and pottery echo the voice of Wharton Esherick and the robust spirit of the American Craft movement.
“I want people to use and appreciate handmade items in their everyday life because I think it is enriching and rewarding,” Meyer said. “Being in the presence of beautiful things leads to contemplation and peace.”
Gallery manager Stephanie Richards is a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America, with an eye for impeccable craftsmanship and superior design. She has been with Caleb Meyer Studio for 11 years, and was introduced to American Craft when she worked for Meyer’s father in his Williamsport studio, prior to moving to Philadelphia.
Meyer lives in Mt. Airy with his wife, Tina Diaz, an attorney, and their three children. The eldest will enter Stanford University this fall.
“What drives me most,” said Meyer about his work, “is enjoying people’s connection to beauty, to things they wear all the time. And that moment when you present a finished piece to a customer – it is a joy to watch them put it on. Their vision is realized and so is ours. It’s what keeps me going.”