Saratoga Springs native Evan deJonghe combines modern tools with classic techniques to create stunning custom jewelry.
For Saratoga-based jeweler and gemologist Evan deJonghe, it’s all about designing something his customers will love—and getting to embrace his creative side at the same time. In an age where so much is mass-produced, Evan and his father Dennis go against the grain to meticulously make each piece sold inside their Broadway store, deJonghe Original Jewelry.
Evan is constantly pushing himself to design, then create something more challenging with every new piece, with the customer always foremost in his mind. His goal is to give each one something they’ll love for a lifetime, he says.
With a business degree from McGill University and a certificate from the Gemological Institute of America, Evan’s process weds modern tools with classic technique—the latter something he learned from his father, so that together, they’re able to offer customers one-of-a-kind, wearable art.
Read on to learn more about what inspires Evan’s craft and the source of his inspiration.
In your own words, how would you describe yourself and what you do?
I love what I do because I get to be creative everyday. I also see very unusual, rare gemstones daily, which is quite interesting to me because of their colors and origin. I like to interact with my customers to create something special, which is a very rewarding experience for me. They’re always so amazed when we sketch ideas in front of them and develop heirloom jewelry they’ll have forever.
Tell us about how you got started.
I got started just by growing up around my parents. They’ve owned deJonghe Original Jewelry since before I was born, so simply growing up in this environment inspired me. I would always peek over my dad’s shoulder when he was working, so I got to see the process from an early age and started designing jewelry myself when I was in high school. It sort of took off from there.
Tell us about your process. Are you self-taught or professionally-trained?
I apprenticed with my dad for years, and literally studied with him at the bench. Now we do things differently, but we work together. I use computer aided design (CAD) while he creates wax models by hand, and we’re able to meld our two techniques to create jewelry.
For the most part, my process starts with a gemstone—regardless of whether that’s from the customer or something I found from a gem dealer. Then the sketching begins and the creative process really takes over. If it’s a piece I’m designing for the shop, I’m usually interested in doing something I haven’t done before. If it’s for a customer, then I’ll ask them what kind of piece they’re looking for, how do they want it to work, what’s the meaning behind it and also what’s the purpose. Once I have that I can start sketching, and then together we’ll develop a piece of jewelry they’ll love.
From there I’ll continue the process in CAD, create it three-dimensionally, then print it on a 3D printer in a wax model, so the customer can actually see, touch and feel the piece, and the gemstones fit in where they’re supposed to. Then we cast it into the metal they want and do all our finishing work and setting.
My dad works differently. He’ll carve a piece by hand in wax, instead of using CAD and 3D printing. It’s the same way he’s been doing it for 40 years, and his designs have a different style to them because of that. At times we’ll work on the same piece of jewelry using many different techniques and tools. By using these different approaches it allows us to transform advanced designs into unique jewelry.
What inspires you, in terms of your craft?
Sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine a piece right away and that’s a little bit where my dad and I differ. He can typically just start sketching ideas and get his creativity flowing right away, where I need a little more time to think things through. I’m inspired greatly by my environment – things like nature, my relationships and surroundings. My dad as a jeweler and his designs also inspire me, and you could say he’s part of my environment. He and I work really well together and bounce a lot of designs off one another.
Beyond that, every gemstone speaks to me differently and I like to design around that. I usually find the gemstone first and then talk to the customer about what’s important to them.
Has Saratoga always been home?
Saratoga has always been home and it’s very important to me for that reason, and the community has always played an integral part in my upbringing. My dad and I have collaborated with a lot of organizations in Saratoga, including SPAC, the Preservation Foundation and Universal Preservation Hall, to create jewelry to help them raise money for causes we believe in. My dad held a chair on the Saratoga Preservation Foundation for 10 years and I’m currently on the board at the Universal Preservation Hall. We also have a big Saratoga jewelry collection celebrating different landmarks like “the Spirit of Life” sculpture and the carousel.
What’s next for you and your business?
I want to continue growing this business, and growing the brand. It’s important to me that people understand how we’re different from your typical jewelry store in that we create all of our own jewelry in our studio. Most don’t do that. But with us, everything is made onsite and you can’t find pieces like ours anywhere else. I’m continuing to show the inner workings and “behind the scenes” in my marketing – especially social media. My Instagram account focuses a lot on the process showing the tools, hands and techniques used to make our jewelry. Our customers like to see this and appreciate how special it is to own a deJonghe original.