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Friday, February 3, 2023

Bejeweled

Posey County jeweler Laine Benthall, 29, adjusts the flame on her jeweler’s torch, which is so hot it burns blue, enough to melt metal. Behind safety goggles, her eyes focus on the tiny piece of precious metal she grasps with tongs. She’s soldering together two pieces of sterling silver that she will then hammer into a custom ring for a client who’s just placed an order through her Etsy store.

This is one of many techniques Benthall uses in handcrafting her jewelry, a passion that was apparent even when she was a little girl. Benthall was just 9 when she was innately drawn to beads and charms, fashioning necklaces for her mother, Leah. When she earned a swimming scholarship to attend Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Ga., majoring in metals and jewelry was a natural choice. Benthall enjoys the tactile experience of working with precious metals. When creating a piece, “I always have an idea,” she says. But, “Usually I don’t have a sketch first.” Rather, she lets the materials guide the design.

After college, she moved to Oahu, Hawaii, to work as a bench jeweler, fabricating pieces for a designer for 18 months before returning to Posey County, Ind. That’s where she officially started her business, Laine Benthall Jewelry Designs, in November 2009. She sells 10 to 25 pieces monthly on her online store on Etsy. Her work also can be found in boutiques like Art Venue in Bloomington, Ind., and Atelier Jewelry in Nashville, Tenn. She displays and sells her pieces at about five fine art shows annually. Additionally, a quarter of her creations are custom designs that she often sketches out.

Much of Benthall’s inspiration comes from nature. She grew up in an outdoorsy Posey County family where lake swimming, river boating, and hiking in the woods were regular parts of family life, and her days spent surfing in Hawaii hold a special place in her heart. She’s particularly drawn to nature’s visual patterns, like ripples in water or rings in a tree, and many of her pieces reflect those patterns in a way that is open to interpretation. She describes her work as clean, dainty, delicate, and classy, though certain pieces offer a more industrial edge. For Benthall, one of the most important elements of her contemporary designs is that she handcrafts every single piece herself. This work is her creative expression, and she loves that she creates mini-sculptures that people can wear.

One of her proudest pieces to date is a ring she crafted for her mother last year. When her mother pulled together a collection of jewels that she never wore, Benthall took the gems from each and arranged them in one ring. It was her first piece made in solid gold. “Together we came up with an arrangement that she liked and I thought I could pull off in the fabrication process,” she says.

“When I look back, I think, ‘Wow, I never thought I would become a jewelry maker as a profession,’” Laine says. “But I should’ve thought that. It was obvious. I’d always have these ideas, and I’d just want to try them.”

Laine Benthall sells her products under Laine Benthall Jewelry Designs on www.etsy.com.

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