Plymouth jeweler Stuart Adelman helps reimagine family heirlooms.
Longtime Plymouth jewelry designer Stuart Adelman once tried his hand at dentistry—but it wasn’t meant to be. “My father was a jeweler,” Stuart says. “I decided making jewelry was much more fun than going to dental school, and I became a jeweler full time.” He began his career in southern California but moved to Minnesota several decades ago with his young family. After several years spent running a wholesale business—where he made custom pieces for regional jewelry stores—Stuart decided to open his own studio, Artelle Designs. “We found a little place in Plymouth, and we’ve been here 22 years,” he says.
Stuart is the jewelry expert, and his wife, Ellie, handles sales, curation and other facets of the business. “I might be the artist, but nothing happens without Ellie,” Stuart says. “She makes it all possible and approves (or disapproves) most designs.”
The bread and butter of Artelle Designs is custom pieces. “We can take whatever a client has [out of] grandma’s old diamond or any other family piece, and we’ll turn it into something new,” Stuart says. “It’s really gratifying to sit down with someone, make a design that they love and hand it to them personally to see their reaction.”
Stuart is an excellent steward of his clients’ family heirlooms, whether he’s simply repairing them or fashioning old gems into a wearable piece for a younger family member. “To make something that affects someone’s emotions so much is really gratifying,” he says. “First, I look at what they have and what we might make. Do they want a ring, necklace or bracelet? Then I need to figure out what their style is.” He and the client can flip through his portfolio of about 4,000 images to find inspiration.
What really sets Artelle Designs apart is Stuart’s skill as a wax carver. Jewelry design starts with a drawing, whether on paper or in a computer program like CAD. Stuart uses CAD to create a rendered image of what the finished piece might look like. After that, he usually outputs the design to a wax milling machine, where he can make detailed tweaks to the design. Sometimes, he hand carves a wax design from scratch.
Clients can try on the wax model before the design is finalized. “Most jewelry stores use a big factory, where they output the CAD [design] to a 3D print,” Stuart says. “It’s cast in metal, and there’s no tweaking, so the designs tend to be sterile. There’s no feeling to them.”
Stuart is all about feeling, from the first design meeting with a client to the big day when he hands them the finished piece. One recent client, Gay, knew Stuart was the right person to help refashion her late mother’s diamonds. “I went to my lockbox and put on my mother’s rings,” Gay says. Then, something pivotal happened: She couldn’t get the rings off her finger. It got her thinking, “I’d had them where no one could see them. It was meant to be, so I took them to Stuart,” she says.
Stuart created a new ring for Gay from her mother’s two smaller wedding diamonds and a larger pear-shaped diamond, with eight small diamonds set into the band on either side. After adding the diamonds to the wax model so Gay could judge the overall effect, the pair revisited the question of metals. They had originally decided on white gold, before Gay asked a crucial question. “I asked if I could wear it in the pool. He said, ‘Not white gold, you can’t. It will start to disintegrate,’” Gay says. She decided on a sturdier platinum instead.
“I loved it,” Gay says of the finished ring. “It means the world to me to finally get my mom’s rings made into a beautiful piece of art that I will wear for the rest of my life.”