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Los Angeles, CA 90048

An Interview With Variance Objects

We at New Stone Age are no strangers to beautiful and unusual jewelry. Still, even after 33 years in this business, every once in a while we come across a designer whose work is unlike anything we’ve seen before. When we saw the gorgeously organic, one of a kind pieces from Variance Objects, we were blown away, and we jumped at the chance to add the line to our collection.
 
Variance Objects embraces and celebrates the natural beauty of raw materials. Designer Nicole Rimedio, who lives and works in Santa Cruz, California, has a passion for sourcing the most unusual rough gemstones and mineral specimens. Her organic metalwork is designed to showcase the unique features of the stones. Rimedio works in oxidized sterling silver, yellow, rose and white gold, which she often combines to form multi-hued and fascinatingly textured alloys.
 
We recently invited Nicole to talk with us about her unique design process, and about the inspiration behind her beautiful jewelry line.
 
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New Stone Age: Variance Objects was founded in 2013. How did you get started on the path of becoming a jewelry designer?
 
Nicole: It was kind of like a calling. I moved to NYC in 2004, after graduating college. While I was in NYC, I bought my first torch, which just happened to be one of those crème brulee torches. I started making jewelry in my tiny apartment and selling it on the streets of Manhattan. I had the idea for Variance in 2010 and it immediately became my whole focus. It took until 2013 to get it off the ground.

 
New Stone Age: Was jewelry a new venture for you, or was it something you always had a passion for?
 
Nicole: The truth is, I have been making jewelry since I was a child, carrying gemstones around in my pockets. I’ve always loved jewelry but I thought, and was told, that it was a great hobby but not a career. So I went to graduate school for landscape architecture. By the time I finished that program, I was depressed and in need of inspiration. I think that dissatisfaction with my life was the catalyst for getting back to what I always wanted to do in the first place.
 
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New Stone Age: As you mentioned, your educational background is in landscape architecture. There aren’t obvious parallels between that field and the world of jewelry design, but we’re curious if you find any overlap between the disciplines. Does your knowledge of landscaping principles influence the way you design jewelry?
 
Nicole: At first I really didn’t see the connection between the two. I saw landscape architecture as a mistake. However, I started to see that jewelry was just a miniature version of landscape architecture. Each of them is about the response to what already exists. For instance, you build a house on the hillside. You can either allow the hillside to influence how the house is built or you can flatten the hillside. Variance jewelry chooses to respond to the hillside.
 
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New Stone Age: Your work has a wonderfully organic aesthetic, and shows a deep appreciation for the natural beauty of gemstones. When you’re designing a piece, what does your process look like? Do you start with the stone and design around it, or do you start by casting the metals and then find a stone to complement the design?
 
Nicole: Everything is happening at once. I have several pieces in process at any time and I go back and forth between cutting the stones and fabricating the metals.
 
Because we do all our own stone cutting, it gives us the freedom to cut stones in unusual and unique ways. We want to cut and polish a stone but we strive to do it in a way that leaves its natural beauty intact.
 
In our process, the stone is the rigid or unchanging aspect while the metal is fluid. With the metal, we are always in a state of flexibility. That’s because we don’t cast. We fabricate everything. Up until the very last moment, the metal is moving around the stone. You might not think of gold and silver as fluid but when you introduce the element of fire into the equation, then it makes sense.
 
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New Stone Age: We are fascinated with the unique alloys you form from a blend of sterling silver and rose, yellow and white gold. The process gives each ring, pendant and stud an almost magical, multi-hued sheen. The variegated, perfectly imperfect finish is such a fitting frame for the vibrant natural beauty of the gemstones you use. How did you arrive at this alchemy-like technique?
 
Nicole: First off, let me say that I really appreciate your insight into the jewelry. When I got the idea for Variance I knew there would be some sort of weird precious metal alloy. I learned about electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, so I figured if the two could bind in nature then I could probably do all kinds of unusual things with the two metals.
 
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New Stone Age: Your jewelry showcases such a wonderful variety of colorful precious and semiprecious stones. Viewing your display case in our store is a little like gazing upon an impeccably curated mineral collection that just happens to be wearable. How do you source your stones?
 
Nicole: Because we are always buying rough stones, we have a broad range of sources. We go to gem shows, make connections with dealers around the world, and are sometimes privy to the personal collections of Bay Area rock hounds. We have a good source for ethically-mined diamonds, the only stone that we don’t cut in our studio.
 
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New Stone Age: Where do you gain inspiration for your designs?
 
Nicole: At this point, I’m inspired by the process. Integral to the Variance process is the openness to chaos. Being open to chaos means that I allow the elements I’m working with to be themselves. I allow fire to impact the gold and silver and vice versa. Because of this we have a lot of unexpected occurrences on the jewelry bench. At one level, there are certain specifications to meet but in another way there are no mistakes. So-called “mistakes or problems” almost always result in an improvement, a new design, or an especially beautiful piece. It’s important to have a view that bumps in the road are really just opportunities.
 
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New Stone Age: We’d love to get a peek into your process. Can you walk us through a typical workday?
 
Nicole: My partner Scott and I run Variance together, and our studio is in our house, although our growth has gotten to where we probably need a bigger space soon. Our cat, Roosevelt, keeps us company and loves to model the jewelry.
 
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Each day starts with tea, meditation and our morning meeting. From there, I move to soldering for a few hours, and then we go for our morning walk for coffee and to the post office. Next is setting stones and finishing, and then on to stone cutting and polishing. The truth is that I love what I do. It’s really a seven day a week job, with my workday going into the evening. We work a lot of hours but I am not complaining. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
 
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New Stone Age: When you’re working on a piece, do you ever think about where it will end up, and what kind of person will wear it? How do you want your jewelry to make people feel when they wear it?
 
Nicole: Yep. Often, if I’m making a custom piece, I learn a lot about a person but in only the narrowest of ways, so I’m left to imagine the rest of them. When I’m making pieces for a store’s collection, it always seems like there are some pieces that have particular people they’re looking for. It’s like that with stones in our studio too. Sometimes a particular stone will sit around for ages waiting for its person to show up. I hope that when people wear my jewelry, they feel like they’ve found their piece.
 
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New Stone Age: Is there anything else you’d like to impart to your fans in Los Angeles?
 
Nicole: Thank you for being a Variance lover.
 
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