The Atlanta Contemporary Jewelry Show at the Carter Center, provided

This weekend, Nov. 4-6, the Carter Center will be host to a selection of 30 of the nation’s top fine art jewelers for the annual Atlanta Contemporary Jewelry Show (ACJS).

Founded in 2006 by artists Debra Lynn Gold and Leigh Griffin, the annual showcase was initially housed in a small space called the Defoor Center in West Atlanta. The event has come a long way since then, first moving to the Atlanta History Center until construction for the Cyclorama required that they relocate, and then on to the Carter Center’s Cecil P. Day Chapel. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Gold about what makes the ACJS such a special event. 

“What makes our show so unique is that my business partner and I are both exhibiting artists, so from the very beginning we knew that this had to be an artist friendly show. It wasn’t designed from the point of view of marketing or anything else; if the artists weren’t happy, if they weren’t getting a good audience, if we didn’t have good coffee for them in the morning, we knew we wouldn’t be able to keep the most talented people,” said Gold with a chuckle. “In that way this show is different, because it’s an artist-designed show.”

That’s not the only key difference between the ACJS and other similar artist showcases across the country. This event was initially conceived as a response to a lack of exhibitions that feature solely artist-made jewelry. After traveling to hundreds of artist showcases across the country for decades, Gold wondered why there were not opportunities for fine art jewelers specifically. When Griffin approached her about the space in West Atlanta and suggested that they come up with a concept for an art show, Gold knew that it was the perfect opportunity to host a fine arts jewelry show as she had always dreamed. 

“It was a simple idea,” explained Gold. Though it has been a dream come true to operate this event for the past 15 years, she admits that it’s also a labor of love. “It’s one of those things where if you knew how much work was involved before you started you probably wouldn’t have done it.” For Gold the benefits greatly outweigh the challenges. Yes, the research to identify artists, the logistics to coordinate with everyone involved, and the efforts to promote the event are significant. But ultimately the efforts are worth the payoff when they are able to bring in some of the nation’s most prestigious artists to Atlanta. As an added bonus, Griffin and Gold are both able to more easily participate in the event since it’s local. “There’s nothing exactly like this,” said Gold.

Whether you’ve got a budget of a few hundred dollars or a few thousand, there is a variety of jewelry on display at the ACJS. Some visitors come for an entire day and spend the whole time talking to the artists. Others might come in and find a gem right away. This event features a wide array of jewelry including gold, silver, porcelain, powder coated steel, blown glass, and even alternative materials such as meteorite. 

“Everything at this show has been made by hand in a person’s independent studio; nothing is manufactured,” said Gold. “I like to say that you’re seeing the work, you’re meeting the artist, and you’re hearing their stories. That’s what makes it different.” Learn more and buy tickets for this weekend’s event at the ACJS website.  

Isadora Pennington

Isadora Pennington is a freelance writer and photographer based in Atlanta. She is the editor of Sketchbook by Rough Draft, a weekly Arts newsletter.