Picture a challenge in which you are sent a box of raw materials, with no advance information about what’s inside, and have four weeks to design and fabricate a piece of jewelry using only its contents. Your creation will be sent to New York, showcased at a national expo, and sold to benefit a charity that is near and dear to your heart. And, you’ll be one of only three jewelers in the nation selected to participate.
The Gem Gallery’s Jason Baide was honored with an invitation to join Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America’s (MJSA) “Mystery Box Challenge.” Baide, a young jewelry maker, fifth-generation Montanan, and Bozeman native, has been honing his craft since he’s been old enough to sit at the workbench. He joined his family’s business, graduated from Montana State University, and now his skill and artistry as a designer and goldsmith are earning national recognition. “It was a really special opportunity. This is something that well-known designers are asked to do. To have the chance to participate was a big honor,” says Baide.
Baide is accustomed to crafting jewelry within certain parameters, such as a client’s budget, lifestyle, or vision for their piece. With this project, there were no limitations other than to use what was sent. It was up to him to dream up the rest. He leapt at the opportunity. “I like pushing myself, and this was different from my normal style,” Baide says, “It was exciting to try something new and to commit to the challenge with no idea what I’d have to work with.”
When the box arrived, Baide opened it to find a sheet of sterling silver, a sheet of titanium, a sterling silver mesh chain, a round chrome diopside, and two oval garnets. Though the clock was ticking, he spent the first week just thinking. Next, he experimented with samples and cut paper models to get a feel for his vision. By the end of the month, he had transformed the pile of parts into an exquisite pair of earrings, shaped as calla lily blooms with garnet centers. It was time to send them off to MJSA’s annual expo in New York.
The expo brings together leading industry professionals to share ideas, network, and attend educational seminars. Having his craftsmanship displayed front and center was inspiring, says Baide. “It was incredible, meeting some big names of the industry after they’d seen and heard about my work.” It is a rare accomplishment for a young Bozemanite to merit such accolades in this highly competitive industry.
As important to Baide as his personal accomplishment was that the Mystery Box pieces were raffled to benefit the MJSA Education Foundation, an organization whose mission he believes is vital to the future of his trade. He explains: “The foundation promotes more accessible pathways into our industry. Traditionally, it was closed to newcomers and you pretty much had to be born into it. Through scholarships and other opportunities, MJSA is making significant changes toward wider accessibility.”
Baide was already in New York when the expo took place. He was attending diamond identification and grading classes through the Gemological Institute of America as part of his Graduate Gemologist degree, a program considered to be the gold standard in education for jewelry industry professionals.
Baide looks forward to bringing his new knowledge and experience back to his home bench at The Gem Gallery, where he’ll continue to design unique pieces as a custom designer and goldsmith. “Custom designing is one of my favorite challenges,” he says. “There’s so much more that goes into it than just a beautiful design. A good ring design should be beautiful, but it should also complement the personality and lifestyle of the wearer.” His diamond certification will be used for appraising and repairing jewelry.
If you’d like to learn more about what Baide’s up to and see what’s new at The Gem Gallery, or check out the latest in Yogo Sapphire creations, stop in at: 402 East Main Street, Bozeman, or visit gemgallery.com.