Whether worn for ornamental or sentimental reasons, jewelry can offer an artistic reflection of its owner's identity. The belief that jewelry is an art form has inspired Richard and Tom Mathis, co-owners of Symmetry Jewelers and Designers (8138 Hampson St., 504-861-9925; www.symmetryjewelers.com), since 1975.
"We were one of the first ... in the country to start featuring jewelry as more of a gallery exhibit," Richard Mathis says. Richard styles display cases in a way that resembles an art exhibit more than a jewelry store. Rather than placing pieces in neat rows, he artfully arranges them on trays and in mannequin hands, grouping them by designer so customers can get a feel for each jewelry maker's body of work and aesthetic.
The full-service store offers antique jewelry restoration, repairs and custom designs. It features the work of local, national and international jewelry artists, as well as in-house designer Tom Mathis.
"Our mission, when we (were) first founded, was showing individual jewelry designers who make each piece," Richard says.
James Carter, whose collections have been sold at Symmetry since the 1980s, is among those designers. He depicts dreamy nature motifs using gold, silver and cloisonne. There are the rustic yet elegant cuffs and necklaces from the Juvite collection by Greg Kibersky, a Polish designer. For those seeking more feminine pieces, the collection by Nina Nguyen offers dainty earrings and bold cocktail rings.
Tom Mathis' own designs fuse contemporary with Old World style. His pieces range from gold cross necklaces to men's belt buckles. However, his engagement rings are the most popular items in his design portfolio. The styles range from diamond settings with intricate engravings and New Orleans details like fleurs-de-lis to more traditional designs. Some rings can be made with the customer's choice of precious metal, diamonds or colored gemstones.
While Tom has worked on large projects, such as designing class rings for Tulane University, he prides himself on crafting one-of-a-kind jewelry for individual clients. Through 3-D technology, Symmetry works with clients who want to create their own custom designs. The better prepared the clients are, with clear concepts and design sketches, the easier it is to create the ring they want, Richard says. Symmetry's ability to create something that doesn't yet exist sets it apart from other jewelry stores, he says.
"There are very few things in life now that can truly belong to you," Richard says. "If you come in and get a piece of jewelry made, it's really going to be the only piece that is made that way."