By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
Not often in a profession can an individual create, then be judged statewide and receive recognition for their work on a yearly basis. Colton Bartel of Collins Diamonds has recently received such a nod from the Kansas Jewelers Association with two very unique pieces he created with his own two hands.
“I entered a couple of pieces,” Bartel said. “They have a jewelry design contest every year. There are several different categories. Out of each of those categories, they pick a first, second, third and things like that. Then out of the combined show, they pick a Best of Show, which goes on to a national competition in New York and then they pick a Jewelers Choice, which basically all the jewelers in the state that attend the convention, vote on their favorite piece. That is the one that I won overall – Jewelers Choice,” he explained. “I won the Jewelers Choice, first place in category and second place in category this year with the two pieces.
“The Martini Glass Pendant, which is the one that won first place and Jewelers Choice, it has a watermelon tourmaline slice in it,” he continued. “It is kind of an unusual stone. Actually, the crystal itself, the inside of it is pink and the outside of it is green, that is where they get the name. They usually slice across the plane so you can see all of the colors. With this particular stone, they faceted it in a wedge shape. Even before I bought the stone, I knew what the design was going to be for it.
“The other one is called the Bell Tower ring,” he continued. “It is actually a two-tone piece, it is 14-karat white and yellow. It is much more of an architectural piece. The main stone is blue topaz, it basically looks like a faceted tear drop. It has a yellow wire that runs through that stone which allows it to move from the top, so it kind of swings back and forth like a bell. If you look at it from the side, the shape and textures that I put on the ring actually mimic a cathedral. It does have diamonds that run from the bottom all the way up to the other side.”
Designing is nothing new for Bartel, he actually began designing when he was 13 years old.
“I have been doing some benchwork on and off since I was about 13,” he said. “I do it full time now. Also, I am a gemologist. Basically, here at the store I am a gemologist, designer and goldsmith.”
Bartel’s parents have owned Collins Diamonds for 29 years. Currently at 26 years of age, Bartel has been a part of the jewelry business his entire life.
“I have always kind of been into art,” he said. “I was an art major in college. I really like more hands-on stuff. I used to draw and paint a lot, but I really like creating three-dimensional objects, something you can hold, look at and use.
“I am kind of like my dad, I have always been fascinated with gem stones, rocks and things like that,” he continued. “When I was little, I had a huge rock collection – several not-so-precious stones mixed with a few of the nicer things. Over the last few years, I started collecting more higher end stuff, which gives me the ability to put them in pieces I design. I really go towards the more unique stones and the more unique cuts.”
Bartel has extensive training in his field. His designs are not only extremely creative, but made in the most professional possible way.
“I went to Seward County, graduated in 2005 in graphics design,” he said. “After that, I went to Virginia Beach, Va., to the New Approach School for Jewelers for stone setting and bench. After that, I ended up in Carlsbad,Calif., which is the headquarters for GIA or Gemological Institute of America. They are the ones that developed all of the standards for diamond grading, stone identification, as well as all of the instruments we use to make those calls. I graduated from there in 2007 with graduate gemologist, accredited jewelry professional, graduate of diamonds and graduate of colored stone degrees. Both my dad and I are graduate gemologists, both of GIA.”
Bartel constructs his pieces by hand, which make them that much more unique – like the two pieces that recently received statewide recognition.
“All the pieces I make are done by hand,” he said. “Both of these pieces are fabrication, they were built straight out of the metal instead of going through a wax casting. The ring was actually cast, but a lot of the components to it were done by a laser welder. Not very many jewelers get the luxury of a laser welder. We can be very precise with it. That is actually what allowed me to create these two pieces, otherwise, it couldn’t have been done with traditional methods.”
Bartel enjoys the freedom of creativity he is allowed at Collins Diamonds. He has learned a lot over the years and still loves what he does each and every day.
“It is fun, I get to experiment,” he said. “I get to see every aspect of the industry. I get to meet a lot of really neat people – every once in awhile a celebrity or two, of course, they like jewelry, too. We like for our jewelry to be unique, we like it to be luxurious, that is what our business is – luxury.”