ON THE PICTURE : Two-tone diamond engagement ring with vine motif set in 18k yellow gold and 19k white gold. Photo courtesy of Lynn’s Jewelry Studio
by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
For over 50 years, Lynn’s Jewelry Studio in Ventura has provided the finest metal and gemstone designs to customers throughout Southern California. Founded in 1970 by Bob Lynn, the boutique is renowned for its exceptional craftsmanship, surpassed only by its customer service and passion for unique design. Current owner John Muscarella, who took over from Lynn after the founder’s retirement in 2017, continues that legacy while building one of his own.
Originally from the East Coast, Muscarella’s family moved to California when he was 10 years old. He grew up in Thousand Oaks and attended Newbury Park High School, where his passion for jewelry creation and design was forged.
“Newbury Park High School had a jewelry class. . . and I fell in love with jewelry. I was in second in high school. »
Muscarella prefers to work with her hands and also enjoys crafts like woodworking and stained glass. But her first love has always been jewelry.
“Working from the idea to taking this concept and creating a model to cast it in metal to the finished product – I still love it today.”
Muscarella learned his craft on the job, noting that he’s had exactly three jobs since he started working in 1978: first at Adelphi Jewelers in Thousand Oaks, later at Bill’s Custom Jewelry and Repair in Camarillo. His career at Lynn’s began in 1996, and he’s been there ever since.
Inspiration is everywhere
“I’m a very creative person,” Muscarella says, and that quality comes through in the custom jewelry on display in her shop and studio off Market Street. An elephant head sculpted in pink tourmaline is set in a set of gold elephant leaves that serve as the centerpiece of a necklace made up of dozens of freshwater pearls. A piece of honeycomb rendered in white gold and yellow diamonds features a small golden bee. A brilliant South Sea pearl is surrounded by a group of golden orchids. He has also turned many of his daughters’ drawings into wearable art.
“My youngest daughter has been creating jewelry with me since she was three,” he says proudly, noting that she would often draw a picture and ask him to do something with it. One piece he loved so much – an identification bracelet with little pandas – that he made a mold of it. “One of my favorite pieces – when she learned to sign her name, I converted her signature into a charm.”
He also finds ideas by talking to his clients. He enjoys the process of combining his design sensibility with their imagination, and finds this process to be creatively and socially rewarding. Many of his clients become friends.
But in truth, the muse hits Muscarella often and just about anywhere. When he travels, unusual things catch his eye: the shape of a wrought iron fence, an antique door hinge, crown molding.
“I take pictures of the weirdest things,” he laughs. “I see jewelry design in everything. I have sometimes dreamed of designs.
And sometimes there is an inexplicable but very real connection with a stone. One of her latest pieces, for example, features a grass-green sapphire surrounded by bright pink sapphires – the essence of spring, captured in a ring.
“Once I saw the stone, I saw the ring it would go into.”
put a ring on it
Naturally, Lynn’s does a lot of work for engagements and weddings. And Muscarella’s customers come to him in a variety of ways.
“Some people come into the street,” he says. “He has no idea what she wants . . . but he wants to get engaged.
The customer could buy something in the case. But more often than not, Muscarella will help them choose a diamond and then mount it in a simple, traditional engagement ring. After the proposal and presentation of the ring, the couple returns with the ring and the diamond “is put in a drawing in which she has a decision”.
“Sometimes the bride-to-be comes in, picks out a few designs that we have in stock, and then she comes back and picks something out of what she picked out. This way she gets something she likes, but also has a choice.
The most fun, however, “is when they come in and we sit down and they have pictures of whatever they want. We will combine the different designs and they will get something of their own.
Lynn’s has a very handy tool to start this process: a presentation box with a variety of stones in multiple sizes and cuts, with bands and settings to go with them. Customers can try on a range of configurations and sizes, and see how they look on the hand; like a LEGO® set for jewelry.
Tools of the trade
Behind the sparkling windows hides Muscarella’s workshop, where the magic happens.
His drawings usually begin with sketches on paper, which he then develops in three dimensions in an AutoCAD program on the computer. With this, he can create a wax resin model using a 3D printer.
It’s a meticulous process: the models are built up layer by layer, one micron at a time. The finished product can easily consist of 1,200 layers of wax resin or more. But the effort is worth it, because it faithfully preserves every detail, every nuance. And that allows Muscarella to cast just about anything in metal.
The CAD-created model is then surrounded by plaster and baked at 1,300 degrees – solidifying the plaster, but melting the wax resin. The cavity left behind serves as a mold. (The whole process is called the lost wax method). Molten gold or silver is poured into this mold to create the metal jewelry, which can then be fitted with gemstones and other embellishments.
The workshop also has space for jewelry courses. Enrollment is limited to four students each, so Muscarella can provide personal attention and guidance. The opportunity to learn design, torch, solder, finish and polish from a master jeweler with Muscarella’s decades of experience is rare indeed – and students come from all over Southern California to attend. assist.
A pearl of career
Diamonds, sapphires, rubies, opals, pearls, tourmalines. . . Muscarella has made beautiful jewelry with all of this and more. A special stone is the Gabrielle cut diamond, created by master cutter Gabriel S. “Gaby” Tolkowsky. Prized for their incredible brilliance achieved with 105 facets (an ideal cut is only 58), Gabrielle diamonds are no longer made – and are therefore very hard to find.
He loves all gems and stones, but Muscarella’s favorite might be chrysoberyl cat’s eye, which features natural color changes. Look to his right hand to see a particularly beautiful example. . . set in a custom band designed by the jeweler himself.
Whether it’s creating a bridal set, breathing new life into old jewelry, or designing something completely original, Muscarella brings as much passion to his work today as he did there. ago all those teen years in her first jewelry class.
“I found what I love,” he says. “There are so many things you can do. Everything can be created. »
Lynn’s Jewelry Studio, 4572 Telephone Road, Suite 906, Ventura, 805-642-5500, lynnsjewelry.com.