From Spools to Jewels
Can spools of copper wire be converted into elegant jewelry? “Yes” is the reply from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the British Museum, London, and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington. Gift shops at these prestigious institutions plus many art galleries commission custom designs and feature unique jewelry like that illustrated here.
Stelios Paraskevas, the artist who winds, weaves, braids or crochets the wire into muchsought-after jewelry, comes by his dependence on and devotion to copper naturally—he was born on Cyprus. (Ed. Note:The name copper comes from cyprium, which means metal from Cyprus, a Mediterranean island and one of the earliest sources of the red metal.) There, as he puts it, “was a lot of copper all over.” He adds: “Copper is a wonderful material to work with. It’s soft and easy to bend in shapes, yet when plated, it gets hard.” Electroplating provides a multitude of colors, ranging from copper to bronze to gold to silver and many other striking hues. Plating also prevents the materials from tarnishing or changing color over time.
All of his jewelry is handmade from ordinary wire of various gauges in circular or flattened form. Often working seven days a week, he uses simple tools such as rollers, hammers, pliers, tweezers and a soldering iron. Stelios says he doesn’t sell his jewelry at retail because he couldn’t keep up with that kind of demand. As he explains, “I don’t want to use mass production techniques because I couldn’t maintain high quality control.” He and his wife, Carol, run the Norwalk, Connecticut-based business called Stelios, Inc.
“I love my work. I love working with my hands and my mind,” he says. “I love to make new designs with copper — compared with other metals it’s more satisfying and not expensive. That helps to keep my work enjoyable and my products more affordable.” Stelios’ design philosophy is to keep it simple. “I’m using a pure, warm, natural metal for simple designs that complement and enhance those who wear them. Besides, simplicity sells.”
For Men, Too
While most of Stelios’ creations are for women, he is embarking on new designs for men. These include cufflinks, tie tacks, belt buckles and watch bands. To extend his creative instincts, he visits his suppliers frequently to find out what new wire and wire shapes are available. In addition to copper, he sometimes uses tinned copper, brass and stainless steel. In some cases, the suppliers will even fabricate a specially shaped wire to help achieve a new design. His usual sources are Tappan Wire, Blauvelt, New York, and New England Wire Co., Lisbon, New Hampshire.
In spite of his early exposure to copper, Paraskevas didn’t embark on his artistic career until after he had emigrated to the USA 35 years ago. Following his studies in economics at New York University, he opened a clothing store in White Plains, New York. During a lull in activity one day, he cut the bottom off an empty soda can, painted a scene from his home in Cyprus on it and fashioned it into an earring. A customer who admired it bought it. Paraskevas went on to exploit this unexpected opportunity into a new career and thriving business.
New England Wire: 603-838-6624
Stelios, Inc.: 203-866-4000
Tappan Wire: 845-353-9000
Also in this Issue:
- From Spools to Jewels
- Model Home Inspires Nation’s Builders
- Brass Is Best for Clocks
- Bells Are Ringing