14 kt White Gold and Pink Sapphire ‘Treasure’ Ring
A few weeks ago I was in NYC for a friend’s birthday dinner, and seated next to me was a woman with the most beautiful engagement ring and wedding band on her finger. When I complimented her she told me everything she was wearing was from jewelry designer Tammy Kohl of Takohl Jewelry in Chicago. The engagement ring was inspired by an antique piece from the 1920’s that her fiancé at the time took to Takohl, and the band split opened like a bagel, and had engraving on the inside.
When I got home I Googled Takohl Jewelry and discovered many amazing things about Tammy. The split ‘Treasure’ ring is a patented design, and she also coined the term ‘regemeration’ – which she has a copyright for – where by she takes any ring and reworks it to look newer and more modern. I also learned that she commits a great deal of time to philanthropic work.
I called the company’s offices, and asked to speak with her. We had a spirited chat about her most recent collection, and what inspires her unique designs.
14 kt White Gold with Black Faceted Pearl and Diamonds
Can you tell me about how you got into jewelry design?
I was raised on a farm in rural Wisconsin, and when you grow up on a farm you have a job at a early age, so I chose to help my Dad with the repair of the machinery. I was fascinated with the welding and forming of metal. The hinges and hitches and gears that connect one piece to the next to make them all correlate together to harvest the crops fascinated me. So working with metal has always been a love of mine.
When it came time for college, my Father did not want me to go, citing I had a good job right there on the farm. I begged to go, being an A student and all. He finally gave in and said I can go if I paid for my school all on my own. So off to College I went knowing that I would find a way to pay for it. I settled into the art department at the University of Wisconsin to study design, sculpture, and jewelry. Encouraged by my teachers I soon put my first jewelry collections (at 19 years old) and realized I’d started a jewelry design company. One of my first accounts was Saks Fifth Avenue, among others all over the country. Those accounts required me to hire a staff, and my business was up and running.
To me, making jewelry can easily be compared to fixing tractors, but it’s a whole lot more fun.
My grandmother gave me a necklace before she passed when I was a teenager. A few months later I was playing with it and I discovered a trap door, and it opened to reveal a locket with a hidden message she wanted me to find one day. She always inspired me to do what I loved. I found myself always going back to Grandma’s words in the locket and realized that other people would like to also inspire their loved ones.
5 mm Bezel-set Diamond ‘Treasure’ Ring
One day after I got into the business I was designing a simple wedding band for a client but wanted to make it more involved and sentimental…and the design for the Treasure Ring took shape. Soon I was granted design and utility patents and selling to over 70 stores around the country. People now use the ring to encapsulate their own messages that inspires their graduates, profess their love, and to commemorate family events, to name a few uses for the design. Many celebrities also have the Treasure Ring, including Renee Zellweger, Tim Allen, Michael Jordan, Teri Hatcher, Carson Daley and John Elway among others.
Sterling Silver Necklace with a Multiple Semi-Precious Stone Pendant
What inspires your work?
I am inspired by the great design of nature, and by architecture, both ancient and new. However people in their uniqueness, are my biggest inspiration – discovering what design elements relate to my client’s persona is a fascination of mine.
My career has been filed with custom work, designing important sentimental jewels for individuals. Being able to translate a clients personal sense of style into a piece of jewelry that will be their favorite long-term is truly my gift. One thing I realized is that a lot of people have an old sentimental piece of jewelry that they never wear anymore. Or perhaps they inherited a fancy Tiffany brooch that just isn’t their style currently. I absolutely love to do is re-style those pieces, pull out all of the stones and melt down the gold and transform the dust collector into their favorite piece of jewelry. I trademarked a term ‘regemeration’, which involves interviewing the customer and getting several adjectives to describe their style. Photos of the person are also necessary. Then I sketch new ideas on paper and show the client the fresh take on the metals and stones. It is recycling at its finest.
In researching your company I read that you are involved in a bit of philanthropy, can you tell me about that?
Giving back to help others get to a better place is the best feeling in the world. I regularly get calls from organizations looking for help in raising money for their cause, and since I cannot do everything, I choose causes that personally mean a lot to me. I feel that when you give you get back more in spades. I like helping organizations create a signature piece that can be sold to raise more money for their organizations. The charities that hit home with me are many, but I’ll tell you about a few of them.
World Bicycle Relief has given and distributed over 145, 000 bicycles to poverty-stricken regions of the world.
They started when they saw a direct need after the tsunami hit Thailand and India in 2005 and completely destroyed the region. Moving quickly after the disaster, they delivered 24, 000 bicycles to the region with lightning speed to provide healing, through transportation and personal mobility. Now their focus has shifted to Africa where deserving students can safely get to school without being raped or injured, also cutting travel time into fractions compared to the typical walking commute of many hours each way to their destinations. The bikes also empower health care workers to get to AIDS patients in remote areas of Zambia, and make a huge difference in the cultural landscape of remote Africa. The founders FK and Leah Day have incredible vision for making a difference in the world. You can go to www.worldbicyclereleif.org to learn more.
Another organization I support it Saving Tiny Hearts. I have a jeweler that has been with me for the past 17 years named Arthur. He and his wife Vilma had a baby several years ago that was born with a detrimental heart defect. Their daughter Camille underwent 5 open heart surgeries in her first two weeks of life, and unfortunately did not make it. It was a painful scenario to watch unfold. Saving Tiny Hearts is an organization that raises money for medical research, and for care for the families going through such a traumatic experience. If you’re interested in learning more, check out their website at www.savingtinyhearts.org.
And finally there’s Chicago House, a ground breaking charity run by Rev. Stan Sloan. This organization provides housing, employment, legal, medical and other supportive services to the HIV AIDS and transgender community. They guide their people toward self-sufficiency and bring hope, promise and possibilities to their lives. I am in awe of how they are changing the face of that community. You can learn more at www.chicagohouse.org
My involvement has been to create cool gifts for past benefit speakers including Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State. I added a Chicago House inspired custom silver and gold brooch to her famous brooch collection. Also I donated gold Takohl Treasure Rings for their live auctions and have built elaborate bird cages for their annual bird cage sale by top designers in the country. Anything I can do to help as I know how much they appreciate all the effort so much.
(There is a benefit for Chicago house on Sept 18th. Hillary Clinton will be addressing the luncheon crowd. The details are at www.chicagohouse.org.)
Can you tell me about the new collection that is out now?
My newest collection is a bridal collection. Exploring new ways of showcasing a gorgeous center stone is an interesting challenge, because just about every designer in the world has gone after that vision. Finding something unique and original is a bit daunting. I love gemstones, and as such I like seeing the whole gem, not just the top of the stone. If people pay for a great gemstone, I feel that one should see as much of the stone as possible. By showcasing the side view, as well as the cullet, you get a work of art from every angle. We just are finishing up the collection, and will be releasing it October 1st to retailers across the country, in addition to our main showroom in downtown Chicago.
A special word of thanks to Tammy’s assistant Laurin Freitas, for working so hard to organize the images for this post. Take a moment to look at all the inspiring designs in the Takohl collection by following the link below.