The American Jewelry Design Council, which recognizes and promotes the appreciation of original jewelry design as art, bestowed its rarely given Benne Award for Lifetime Achievement on designer, metalsmith, teacher, and author Alan Revere on February 8, during the Tucson gem shows. The award, named for Italian Renaissance goldsmith and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to the world of jewelry design.
AJDC President Barbara Heinrich presented Revere with a trophy on the floor of the AGTA GemFair in Tucson. The trophy was designed by AJDC member Michael Bondanza and features an 18k gold map of the United States on top of a patinated bronze base. A diamond is placed in San Francisco, where Revere created his jewelry collection, founded and operated the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, and worked for 43 years before retiring in 2017. The award is engraved with Revere’s name and says: “in recognition of your lifetime contribution to the world of jewelry design and education.”
“The sculpture represents the origin of AJDC in a swirl of creativity deep in Mother Earth, the very source of our precious metals and gems,” according to the AJDC. “The force extends and twists as it rises to the surface, to the golden land where we live and work and create. This sculpture expresses our commonality and our evolution as artists. It is a symbol of unity, creativity, beauty and triumph. It encourages each of us to realize our full potential.”
“The AJDC is proud to acknowledge Alan Revere’s contribution to the jewelry industry and his influence on contemporary jewelry design,” said Heinrich. “As an award winning designer, author, teacher, and mentor to thousands, Alan has left his mark in metal, in print, and in the hands and hearts of jewelers all over the world. Alan brought European craftsmanship and aesthetics across the ocean and across the millennia at a very important time for our community.”
After receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree, Revere traveled to Pforzheim, Germany, where he learned classical jewelry making at the Fachhochschule für Gestaltung (School of Design). Returning to America, Revere was drawn to San Francisco, where he began making jewelry and teaching to a ready audience of aspiring professionals. It was not long before Revere opened his own school, the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, so that he could bring old-world skills and knowledge to eager students in San Francisco. During the 38 years that the Academy was open, Revere, who was only one of many instructors, personally taught over 10,000 people how to make jewelry.
By doing so, “Alan Revere provided an opportunity with proven methods and proper procedures to impart traditional jewelry skills to a whole new generation of enthusiastic makers,” says designer Michael David Sturlin, an early student at the school. Sturlin, who eventually joined the faculty and taught there, pointed out that Revere showed many other jewelers how to teach as well, thereby “perpetuating the art of goldsmithing, jewelry making, and designing here in North America, by using instructional techniques that previously had not been available.”
Revere’s original entry into the jewelry industry in the 1970s came at an auspicious moment, just as a new generation of designers was advocating for an elevation of design to the forefront of contemporary jewelry making. The movement ushered in a renaissance in American jewelry design that continues to this day. Revere, who was creating and showing his own designer collection, was invited as an early member of the American Jewelry Design Council, just as the young group began to advocate for greater status and recognition. Revere would eventually become AJDC president, as well as founding the Contemporary Jewelry Design Group.
In addition to these activities, Revere also published seven books on jewelry making over the course of his career, starting with the groundbreaking Professional Goldsmithing: A Contemporary Guide to Traditional Jewelry Techniques in 1991. The book used common language to teach jewelry making skills, via a series of well-thought-out projects, just as Revere had learned in Germany. Twenty years later, an expanded version of that book with 35 projects, called Professional Jewelry Making, was published in 2011. This book is considered to be a bible by many in the field. Five of Revere’s books are still in print and the others can be found on the secondary market. The author’s 8-part video series, Revere on Goldsmithing, is slated to be re-released for its 25th anniversary later this year.
In Tucson, Revere was honored at an afternoon ceremony at the AGTA GemFair, and then hosted a dinner at the Arizona Inn. Many of Revere’s former students, now accomplished designers and jewelers, toasted him and talked about the impact he had on their lives as a slide show of their work ran during the event. Also attending the dinner were many AJDC members, trade partners, and others on whom Alan’s career had an effect. Women attendees who own his jewelry designs wore them, and 40 others were accessorized in earrings that Revere brought from his personal collection.
In accepting his award, and the many accolades he received, Revere said: “The truth is that I am here today because of you, my former students and colleagues. Each one of you added your flavor to the mix and each of you has taken your work way beyond what I ever imagined. That’s a dream come true.”
Revere told the gathered crowd that his career had taught him the wisdom of “following your bliss, because that’s how dreams come true.” He said that his goal has always been to bring more beauty into the world, and that his own efforts are expanded geometrically through the work of his students and their students.
Jewelry makers today can benefit from Revere’s legacy by joining a new Facebook Group called “Let’s Make Professional Jewelry,” which sprang up spontaneously in 2018, without his knowledge. The group grew quickly and invited Revere to become an administrator. Now with over 4,000 students from a hundred countries, individuals are working through the projects in Revere’s book, Professional Jewelry Making, as he guides and encourages them from a distance.
Often referred to as a “master’s master,” Alan Revere’s legacy affirms his choice as the winner of the Benne Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Written by Peggy Jo Donahue