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A Fun Trip to Albuquerque ... Where I Won the Saul Bell Award!

Karin Jacobson design award pearls travel

I just returned from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I attended the Santa Fe Symposium and the Saul Bell Awards (spoiler alert: I won an award!), both hosted by the jewelry supply company Rio Grande. My husband Adam was excited to join me, and we had the best time on our trip! Albuquerque is an incredibly friendly town and the people at Rio Grande are terrific ... and they really gave us the VIP treatment!

Here is my original photo submission for the Saul Bell Award. With this I became a finalist, and then I sent the actual pieces in to Rio Grande for the second round of judging!

The main reason for traveling all the way to Albuquerque was to receive my Saul Bell Award in the category Fashion/Bridge Collection, which won first prize! (If you’re not familiar with the terminology, “fashion” or “bridge” jewelry is made primarily out of silver instead of “fine jewelry” which would be primarily gold, palladium, or platinum. My collection also had 18 karat gold, diamonds, and pearls; but was mostly made of sterling silver.)

The Saul Bell Awards dinner was on Sunday night, and it was so much fun! The evening started with a cocktail reception for the finalists and their guests. I got to meet more of the people from Rio Grande who made the whole night so amazing, as well as a bunch of the other finalists - including my friend Sophia Hu, who I first met when she was my neighbor in Baltimore at the ACC show, and who also won a Saul Bell Award that night!

Clockwise from the upper right: I'm not sure I could be grinning any wider!; hamming it up with Sophia Hu; getting a quick snapshot with Adam before going into the ballroom; and smiling with my new friend Mikey Garrett who works for Rio Grande and was a HUGE part of why the event was such a success!

After the cocktail party, we headed over to the ballroom, where the finalists’ entries were on display. There was also a slide show of the finalists’ work shown on a giant screen and a video played about the winners. (Did I mention that they really made us feel like superstars that night?) I had to get lots of photos of that!

It was incredibly gratifying seeing my pieces on display among so many talented artist's stellar pieces! Also shown in the lower left is Sophia Hu's entry; and in the lower right is the Best in Show Award winner by Debbie Sheezel.
Of course I had to get photos of the big screen!!
Clockwise from top left: Rio Grande is a family business - here I am with Molly Bell, who is Saul Bell's daughter; Look! I found someone wearing my jewelry! Molly Bell had purchased earrings and a necklace from me last year in New York, so her daughter wore them to the event; and I found someone from Minneapolis - the fabulous & talented Sara Commers; and finally, here I am with my poster - still smiling my biggest smile!

There’s nothing better than hearing your name called to win First Place in your category! I’m pretty sure I was all smiles all night, but when I got to go up and receive my award, I think my smile almost went from ear to ear!

Feeling SO happy! (And Sophia looks pretty happy too!)

In addition to the fun and excitement of the awards ceremony, I was invited to attend the Santa Fe Symposium – a three day workshop packed full of interesting speakers. There was so much great information that I have lots of new ideas and techniques I'm going to try. Needless to say, I took plenty of notes!

Clockwise from top left: enjoying a class on Chinese filigree techniques; one of the speakers brought some steel tooling from some very early Tiffany rings; admiring an earring by one of the other Saul Bell Winners, Valerie Jo Coulson; a group of Saul Bell Award winners having a peek at each other's work!

And, Adam & I got a tour of the Rio Grande “mothership” – the headquarters and production facility. It was fascinating! While we were there, I was able to spend nearly two hours getting some one-on-one tools advice from Phil in the tech lab.  He demonstrated the micro TIG welder I’ve been wanting for what feels like forever (and plan to purchase with my prize money!) and he let us both try some welds. I’m even more excited now than I was before!  I also got to ask lots of questions about other tools, machinery, and processes – it was SO much fun, and so incredibly valuable to see the tools in person!

We weren’t allowed to snap photos in the actual production area, but I did get a few snapshots in a classroom.

Although I was mostly busy with the symposium, Adam and I did carve out some time to see some of Albuquerque. We visited the Gruet winery for a wine tasting, and made several trips to Old Town Albuquerque, which was just a short walk from the hotel.

Adam and I put on our most serious wine tasting faces at the Gruet winery on a gorgeous afternoon in Albuquerque!
Some of the scenery in Old Town Albuquerque, including a classic car show that we stumbled upon in the upper right, and the kitty that joined us for lunch on the patio!

The whole experience was amazing. Rio Grande put on an exceptional event, and treated us like superstars! We were delighted by how friendly and welcoming everyone from Rio Grande was - I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity to win the Saul Bell Design Award and attend the Santa Fe Symposium. I know I’ll go back again … and with any luck, maybe I’ll get to go again as a Saul Bell Finalist – I’m certainly going to submit more designs!



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  • Rebecca L Sizemore on

    Classy, and lovely!

  • Jill Birckelbaw on

    Congrats!!! That is fantastic!!

  • Sue Holman on

    Hi Karin – so happy for you! Love your creative newsletters. Travel home safe,
    Sue Holman
    (See you at the next Walker Jewelry Mart)

  • Mary Simon-Casati on

    Congratulations! I think it’s great that you won an award. Your and your work deserves the recognition. Owning a piece of your jewelry is definitely on my bucket list!

  • Mary Simon-Casati on

    Congratulations! I think it’s great that you won an award. Your and your work deserves the recognition. Owning a piece of your jewelry is definitely on my bucket list!


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