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Nature, Ancient Arts Inspire Jeweler to Design Something Special

Rona Fisher went from driving a cab in San Francisco to making jewelry in Germany to owning her own studio in Philadelphia.

Designing and creating one-of-a-kind pieces inspired by nature and the ancient arts define Rona Fisher Jewelry Design just north of Center City. Free spirit defines Rona.

She is the daughter of an art teacher who grew up “making stuff,” typically painting, her major at what was then the Philadelphia College of Art (today University of the Arts). Her parents worried she wouldn’t earn enough to make a living, and she didn’t for a good while, taking off for the West Coast in her 20s.

“I started driving a taxi in San Francisco, which was really a blast,” Rona says. “Every night was a party. It was so much fun.”

Rona cautioned herself not to get too stuck in a lifestyle she didn’t want to be her future. She began making silver and gold jewelry, selling what she could at street fairs. But it was actually a fare of a different sort that changed her life. She struck up a conversation with the German tourists in the backseat of her cab, sympathizing with their nasty hotel experience in the city that was affecting their trip. On a whim, she offered to put them up in her apartment for the duration of their stay, and they accepted. When they were ready to return home, they said, “You know we owe you a couple of months in Munich!”

They were serious, and Rona didn’t have to think too long. She was unattached, without a mortgage, and eager for a change. “I ran to the Sausalito flea markets, sold everything I owned, and took off to Munich that fast,” she says.

Rona lived that adventure for eight years “bothering every goldsmith shop and anybody who would talk to me with questions.”

How do you make this? How do you do that?

She absorbed from master goldsmiths while selling her work at Europe’s oldest continuing flea market held every Sunday. “It was a totally medieval, ancient little marketplace with old buildings and cobblestone,” she says. “All the crafts people arranged the things they made around junk.”

It was illegal to sell new items at the flea market, one trick of many Rona learned in order to make a living there. She discovered another market on Saturdays and began showing in galleries impressed with her unorthodox designs that were flowing, asymmetrical, and far removed from cookie-cutter work. She yearned to open her own and had hopes of leasing a storefront, but the bureaucracy of the government prevented her from making a viable living there.

“That’s when I realized it was time to come home,” she says.

Rona returned to the States and combined what she had learned in Europe with classes and workshops here. Rather than stick to one style, she explored several. “Every display case had something entirely different,” she says. Customers thought each of the looks was made by a separate artist. That prompted Rona to hone in on what she was most passionate about. Rona Fisher Jewelry Design is the visual answer to that.

Rivers inspire Rona, particularly the rush of water over stones. Her time in Europe led her to favor the textures in ancient, forged iron. She creates balance by using asymmetry. Her pieces evoke what she feels while near a stream, appealing to all the senses. Ideally the wearer shares in that energy and inspiration.

All of her pieces are made of precious metals using responsibly recycled 18k gold sterling silver and 14k white gold. She starts with a sketch then draws it in 3D in a CAD program, prints, and casts. Surface textures are added by hand and gemstones are set. Everything is produced in-house.

Her versatile designs include necklaces; bracelets; engagement, wedding, singular stackable rings; and custom pieces. Having extra time to experiment during the pandemic led to the design of lobster and carabiner clasps that complement the links and blend with the pattern.

“A lot of designers go buy a clasp and I don’t like that idea,” she says. “Putting all this effort into a beautiful design and then buying a mass-produced clasp doesn’t look or feel right — as if the clasp were a separate entity and not part of the design. Making them here in the studio is time consuming, but I feel it’s worth the extra effort.”

Rona exhibits at approximately 15 shows annually as well as in galleries from Maine to California. Rose Squared Art Shows are among her favorites. She anticipates being an exhibitor at the Anderson Park show in the fall of 2024. Stop by her booth to browse and say hello!