The Spectator - March 14, 2007
By George Austin

Jewelry With a Special Meaning

On the front of the 14 carat gold pendant that has seven diamonds in a ball is a tiny sculpture of woman holding her baby. On the back of the pendant, there is a prayer written by the designer that reads, “My beautiful child I love you so. How much I prayed for you. I want you to know. A precious gift from the Lord up above. Never have I felt a greater love.” Such jewelry designed by Susan Howard has brought tears to people’s eyes, but that is what she wants.

“The special thing about this is each piece has a prayer that I wrote, and women are getting very emotional about this piece.” Ms. Howard said of the pendant which she has named A Greater Love. “My whole passion for designing this jewelry is based upon opening the doors to people’s emotions.”

The pendant is part of a line Ms. Howard is designing called Comfort Wear Jewelry. All of the jewelry designed has meaning to a person’s life. They each have symbolic pictures on the front and a prayer on the back. The line will address not only the joyous events of people’s lives, but also their difficulties. She has designed memorial jewelry meant to bring comfort to people grieving the loss of a loved one, whether it be the death of a child, parent, spouse, sudden death or military spouse. There are inspirational prayers on the back of each piece that are specific to the situation and are written by Ms. Howard.

“It is something that I’m passionate about,” Ms. Howard, a 1985 graduate of Somerset High School, said. “I love emotions, good or bad. It keeps me connected to the human emotions that we all have.”

The Comfort Wear Jewelry will be available at Pierce Jewelers on County Street in Somerset and at Hannoush Jewelers in the Swansea Mall. Ms. Howard said Stuller, the largest jewelry manufacturer in the United States, is interested in the line.

“My goal for this product and for the whole line is for it to be in countless jewelry stores for consumers to be able to purchase,” Ms. Howard said.

Ms. Howard has a couple of favorite pieces in the Comfort Wear Jewelry line. One addresses forgiveness. On the front of the pendant is a dove in flight, carrying an olive branch, representing deliverance and the peace one feels when granting or receiving forgiveness. The other favorite is designed to help people overcome difficulties. The pendant has an eagle in flight with a cross, representing strength, courage and triumph. There are prayers on the backs of both pieces. But the piece that is closest to her heart addresses people coping with disabilities, their caregivers, family members and friends. The piece, entitled A Beautiful Treasure, was inspired by her friend who is a quadriplegic, but who has touched so many people by sending them messages via e-mail which she types with one finger and a back scratcher. Ms. Howard said the friendship she has with that person has been her greatest gift from God. The front of the piece has a treasure chest on it and there is a prayer on the back.

Ms. Howard, a Christian jewelry designer, sketches the designs for the pendants before sending them to a manufacturer. She had local artist Bryan Fox do some finishing work for her pictures. Then the designs are sent to a sculptor who makes a clay model. A plastic model of the piece is created and then tool makers use a machine to trace it and cut it into a piece of steel. The piece is hardened and driven into a die so that the pieces can be stamped out.

“I do all of the polish work.” Ms. Howard said.

Ms. Howard said she truly owes her career to Somerset High School. When she was a student at the high school, Ms. Howard said she was thinking of going to college to become a teacher, like her father, Thomas Lachance. But art teacher, Amy Goulart encouraged her to go to the Jewelry Institute. Ms. Howard said she seemed to have a natural talent for making jewelry from the time she came to the high school.

“My teachers were truly amazed at what I was able to do with minimal tools at the high school,” Ms. Howard said.

After graduating from the Jewelry Institute, Ms. Howard worked at a store in Brockton for three years and then developed her own business at home. She has worked for Kay Jewelers in the Swansea Mall and has done work for Zales and Whitehall.

“I have a very long list of private clients who call me when they want a special piece,” Ms. Howard said. “I’m back working at home.”

Ms. Howard said she can not wear nice clothes while she is doing her goldsmith’s job because it is very dusty and grimy work.

“It is a dirty job,” Ms. Howard said. “You can not have nice nails. It’s almost like mechanics’ fingers.”

Ms. Howard said she has survived in the jewelry business by doing repairs.

“Everyone always has broken jewelry,” Ms. Howard said. “I’ve never met a piece of jewelry I couldn’t fix. I do get joy out of bringing an old piece back to its original state and there’s always a supply of work.”

Ms. Howard said it was difficult to make it in the jewelry business as a woman. She said there were not many women in the business when she first started. She said there are more female goldsmiths today.

While she has been working at home, Ms. Howard and her brother, Scott Lachance, have started a religious jewelry web store. This is where the idea for the Comfort Wear line came from.

“We would get calls from people all over the country for a piece that had true meaning behind it in relation to something they were going through,” Ms. Howard said.

So, Ms. Howard started writing messages on crosses. She says her creative spirit came from this experience.

Ms. Howard’s husband, Shaun, is a teacher and they have three children, Hannah, 7, Rebecca, 6, and Sarah, 3. They are inspirations for her work, especially the A Greater Love piece, which is also made in sterling silver, has drawn strong reactions from many people so far.

“The response I have received to it has been tremendous, from mothers giving them to daughters for weddings, from mothers giving them to little girls.” Ms Howard said. “It kind of presents the love that the mother feels for that child.”

 

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