Mary van der Aa’s Alien Pendant

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Beam Me Up

Behind the design of a Star Trek-inspired pendant

By Tina Snyder

Most designers would agree: It’s a rare treat to be given creative free rein on a custom design project. Such was the case with this 14k white and 18k yellow gold moldavite, trapiche emerald, and black spinel pendant by Mary van der Aa of Port Huron, Michigan.

“One of my best clients asked me to make something ‘alien-like’ for him from a large piece of moldavite measuring about 46 mm by 38 mm,” says van der Aa. “I told him, to do this I needed total creative freedom and no deadline—and that he wouldn’t see any sketches or work-in-progress until the piece was finished—and he agreed!”

A type of tektite, moldavite is a green or blue-green vitreous silica projectile glass formed by a meteorite impact in southern Germany about 15 million years ago. The material is extremely fragile, thus limiting one’s design options.

“As a jeweler, you have to be very cautious during the setting process,” says van der Aa. “One issue I struggled with when designing this piece was how to set it in a way so as not to apply pressure and take the chance of the moldavite breaking.”

In fact, the design process took about a year, with van der Aa tapping into her client’s love of Star Trek to bring the alien theme to life around the unusually shaped moldavite. Designing around such a large stone required quite a bit of metal—5 ounces to be exact. When van der Aa asked her client if he wanted the piece executed in silver or gold, he gave her the green light on the latter.

Mary van der Aa
Port Huron, Michigan