By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. Like a diamond in the sky . . .”
If the starry night sky reflecting on the North Shore of Lake Superior were a piece of jewelry, it might look just like the “Night Sky Necklace” created by 1996 Holy Trinity High School graduate Patrick Nelson and his wife, Mary Kay Mohs.
With nearly 150 diamonds set in 18k yellow gold, the one-of-a-kind piece recently won a national design award from the Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America (MJSA).
“This is the very first time we’ve submitted a design,” said Nelson, the son of Dennis Nelson of Nelson Photography in Glencoe.
“We really just did it for fun, because we were so happy with the way [the necklace] turned out,” Mohs explained.
Mohs and Nelson have been full-time professional jewelry designers and creators since 2013. Although they’ve created many unique pieces, this is the first time they’ve done a project of this magnitude.
Stars and stones
The idea for the Night Sky Necklace was born on a visit to the North Shore with their children, Vivian and Oliver.
“During the day, we found joy collecting skipping stones along the shore, feeling them in our hands, and skipping them across the water,” Nelson noted. “In the evening, the bright stars reflecting on the water drew us in as we gazed at the constellations. We were instantly inspired to design and create a special piece of jewelry linking the skipping stones and the stars.”
Nelson and Mohs brought the necklace to life with 17 “skipping stones” made of gold, set with 148 diamonds to represent the stars in the form of constellations. An additional diamond is featured in the clasp, for a total of 2.84 carats in weight.
“To be sure we represented the constellations accurately, we referenced the International Astronomical Union, studying their sky charts and mapping of the constellations,” Nelson noted.
All the zodiac constellations are included, as well as the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, Hercules, Orion, Cassiopeia, and Cygnus. The necklace is reversible, and larger and smaller diamonds were used to represent the specific star sizes.
A hidden surprise can be seen when the diamonds are exposed to ultraviolet light (a black light) They glow in the dark.
“We chose to use fluorescent diamonds,” Nelson noted, explaining that only about 3 percent of diamonds are able to emit strong fluorescence. “It took us a couple of months working under a black light to select and find the diamonds that would best represent our vision.”
The North Star Polaris is set with the brightest fluorescent diamond in the necklace. This diamond also has the uniquely rare property of being phosphorescent; it will continue to glow even after the ultraviolet light is turned off.
After the necklace was completed, Nelson and Mohs were encouraged to submit it for the MJSA competition, which attracts jewelry designers from around the world.
One of the judges, Victoria Gomelsky, was reported in the Pioneer Press as stating, “I admire the thoughtfulness that went into the piece, and the precision and attention to detail required to execute it.”
The time required to create a work of art like this is substantial. Nelson said that while simple rings can be completed in six hours, “just the time on the bench was over 150 hours” for this necklace.
Jewelry that’s also art
All of the pieces Nelson and Mohs create are made to be collected, as they are hand-signed and individually numbered. They also incorporate a signature wave pattern, which is often subtle or hidden.
“Most of our work is inspired by nature and our surroundings,” Nelson said.
Both Nelson and Mohs are involved in the design process, which usually starts as a sketch in a notebook. From there, Mohs uses computer-aided drafting (CAD) software to produce the final design specifications.
A wax model is made, which Nelson uses to cast into gold. Nelson’s specialties are metalwork and setting gemstones.
In many ways, Nelson said that growing up in the Winsted area helped prepare him for his work today.
“Even summer jobs, like at Millerbernd Manufacturing,” he said. “There are a lot of parallels, working with steel and working with gold.”
Nelson’s passion was also sparked working at his mother’s jewelry store as a child. Intrigued by the mechanical creation of gold and platinum, he later went on to study at the Gemological Institute of America in Carlsbad, CA.
Ironically, Mohs also studied there, but they didn’t meet until a few years later. Mohs, who is originally from Alexandria, said her fascination with jewelry was inspired by her mother, who had fine jewelry and an appreciation for gemstones.
The couple began their jewelry business in 2010 as a hobby, and they were able to make it their full-time career in 2013.
“It’s taken a lot of work, but it’s starting to pay off,” Nelson said.
To learn more about Nelson and Mohs’ work, CLICK HERE.