Winsome Designs

The balanced craftsmanship of jewelry maker Marie Chamblin Dirom.

A discreet sign hanging over the door of jewelry designer and gemologist Marie Chamblin Dirom’s studio in Richmond’s historic Fan District does little to alert passersby to the treasures she has been creating inside for more than 10 years. But the lissome Dirom, who earned a BFA in fine craft from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Graduate Gemologist degree from the Gemological Institute of America, hasn’t needed splashy advertising to help her carve out a niche in the competitive fine jewelry business. Her designs—at once winsome and ageless—speak for themselves.

“I am not a fan of shiny metal,” says Dirom, age 45, who started Chamblin Design in her native Richmond in 1993 after a stint working as a diamond grader in the diamond district in Los Angeles. “I prefer to use a special media in my sandblaster to create just the right matte finish texture that enhances the metal and puts the focus on the design and the stones.”

Dirom uses 18 karat gold, whose color she describes as the “richer European yellow with a little green in it,” and an array of stones. A glance around her studio—which was at one time a drugstore, but has been transformed into a cool airy space with a warmly painted tin ceiling—reveals necklaces, earrings and bracelets that cradle stones as diverse as translucent pink tourmaline, fiery mandarin orange Madagascar garnet, opaque South Sea pearls and silky-rich blue aquamarine.

“Every piece needs to be balanced. Nuance, craftsmanship and design all have to come together to be right,” says Dirom, who has won the award for best jewelry design four times at the prestigious Visual Arts Center Craft + Design Show in Richmond. Though her jewelry is high-impact (who wouldn’t be dazzled by cognac diamonds or green garnets from Mali?), Dirom insists that it be “wearable and not fussy.” Despite the fact that the price tag for her jewelry averages around $4,000, Dirom’s approach resonates with clients: One of them has collected 28 pairs of Chamblin Design earrings alone. Says Dirom, who survived stage three breast and lymph cancer in 2004, “Jewelry is such a personal and wonderful business. I feel very lucky making a living out of doing what I love.”

Dirom’s jewelry, priced from $1,200 to $10,000, is available at the VMFA Shop and in her studio by appointment.

ChamblinDesign.com

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