Gem Award for Jewelry Design Nominees

They are Marla Aaron, Marie Lichtenberg, and Jean Prounis.

Jewelry from designers Jean Prounis, Marla Aaron, and Marie Lichtenberg
How do you a judge a work of art, be it large like a mural, in motion like a movie, or small like a piece of jewelry?

It’s a difficult task that, in many cases, comes down to personal preference. Which work moves you the most?

It is a question each of the Gem Awards judges had to answer this year when looking at the three outstanding nominees for the Gem Award for Jewelry Design: Marla Aaron, Marie Lichtenberg, and Jean Prounis.

They all bring their individual histories, personalities, and viewpoints to their work and craft jewelry that is distinctly theirs and theirs alone. 

Ahead of the 22nd annual Gem Awards tonight, we present multiple “Pieces of the Week” featuring  designs from each the three Jewelry Design nominees, in no particular order.

Jean Prounis
Prounis produces jewels that are timeless, tiny works of art that pay homage to ancient forms and objects. Each piece is meticulously crafted; each gemstone carefully chosen.

These earrings are a perfect example.   

Named after an elongated jar used in Ancient Greece, the “Amphora” earrings feature golden citrine, nasturtium seed-shaped Roman glass beads, and fawn-colored jasper.

Jean Prounis Amphora earrings
Jean Prounis “Amphora” earrings

“This pair is a culmination of attending the Tucson gem shows over several years,” Prounis said. “I’m quite proud of them.”

Those attending the Gem Awards will get the opportunity to see these earrings, as the designer said she plans to wear them to the party.

Marla Aaron
Aaron got her start when she transformed a carabiner meant for climbing into her signature lock, but she didn’t stop there.

Twelve years, countless innovations, and one vending machine later, Aaron is still creating, as is evidenced by the “Rolling Spheres” collection. 

The project started with the search for an individual or company with the ability to cut diamonds as full, faceted spheres.   

Later, Aaron added other gemstones, like the Greenland rubies pictured above, and balls of gold in different colors to Rolling Spheres, with the goal of being able to offer a variety of price points.

The mechanism is a ball-bearing structure in which the balls are able to rotate 360 degrees freely. They are held in place, but not set. The mechanism is patent pending.

Marie Lichtenberg
How do you take antique and vintage items, be they forçat chains or the all-knowing Magic 8 Ball, and make them seem fresh and appealing to a new generation?

Lichtenberg, a former fashion editor for Elle, approaches the challenge with the perfect blend of sentimentality, humor, and artistic vision.

Lichtenberg’s “Love You to the Moon” scapular is enough to make this editor wish she wasn’t single  while her “Dick in a Box” ring makes people laugh while sending a message of female empowerment.

Marie Lichtenberg Love Is Blind locket
Marie Lichtenberg “Love Is Blind” locket

Her “Love Is Blind” box locket is in the same vein, as it combines a hopeful, sentimental (if not a bit saccharine) message with a cheeky little surprise. 

The locket is 18-karat yellow gold with 0.89 carats of diamonds, 0.39 carats of rubies, and enamel