A San Francisco Gem
Walking into Frank Ancona’s jewelry studio and salon off of Union Square is always one of my favorite things to do in San Francisco.
Each time I’m met with a treasure trove of beautifully designed and executed works of art. Then there is the fun of being with one of the most charming, funny and talented man in San Francisco. This is a perfect formula for an always memorable visit!
I love the idea that Frank only buys stones and pearls having envisioned their design completed.
He is also a genius in helping his loyal clientele find the perfect piece to collect, as they would antiques and art that is truly a unique expression of them.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let these exquisite pieces of jewelry speak for themselves!
Giant Baroque South Sea Diamond Pearl Lavaliere ( pendant )
on a 34″ faceted gold chain .
28 ct. Aquamarine Ring from the famous Santa Maria mines
Green Tourmalines and Diamonds
Rare 45 ct Mint Tourmaline dia and Aquamarine bead necklace
2,000 yr old Ancient coin of Alexander the Great with Tahitian pearls and
cabochon Emeralds 18kt yellow gold
Frank Ancona fastening the clasp of a 21 mm Strawberry shape Baroque South Sea pearl dia Lavaliere Pendant and 20mm Batoque white South Sea pearl earclips 18kt.
Spin Wheel cut Lemon Yellow Citrine and Tourmaline Earrings
Aquamarine and Blue Sapphire Earrings
Deco style Peridot Aquamarine and Gold Beryl Earrings 18kt and 85 ct. Cabochon Aquamarine and Peridot Torsade 18kt
Pastel Pink Tourmaline, yellow Sapphire and Aquamarine Earrings and 2 strands of 15.5 mm Natural Deep Mauve Freshwater Pearl with Antique style Rose gold diamond clasp.
28 ct rare Rubellite ring
28ct.Emerald cut Green Tourmaline Ring
Frank Ancona’s designs are carried in such high end stores as Gumps and Wilkes Bashford. The great news is that his designs are not as costly when bought privately from him, at his studio on Maiden Lane. Call 415-392-3232 to make an appointment.
Photography by Ashley Urban.
Frank was kind enough to answer some of my questions:
Q: What first attracted you to jewelry?
A: The history of jewelry, romance, and lore and of course the beauty of the incredible gemstones and their splendor, which inspire me to create designs to incorporate them.
Q: How did your career evolve?
A: I was a Fine Art major in college and studied fine painting and drawing, in the era when you had to learn how to paint and draw realistically. I had to find employment when I moved to San Francisco after college and the only job I had previously was a part time job in an old time jewelry firm in Kansas City, my hometown. I was hired on the spot at Gumps, even though I had little experience. I wondered why they hired me so quickly. I think they thought I was a go-getter, but the truth was I was so naïve I went to the President of Gumps and asked about a position not knowing they had a personnel department.
Later they found out I could draw, so they had me do sketches for clients’ special requests and then I started designing their own line of jewelry. They featured me by name in their catalog, which had also never been done before. Today you have jewelry designers wherever you look. I became according to one publication: “One of the four people in the firmament of stars in the history of Gumps.” I left Gumps to start my own business in 1978, but they coaxed me to return again for 2 years, when I eventually left again. I am still quite close to the people at Gumps. I have had my jewelry with them and Wilkes Bashford off and on over the years as well. The volume of my work is done at the studio on Maiden Lane, where my private clients come.
Q: Color is an important element in all of your designs. Can you tell me how you go about choosing the perfect stone or pearl for one of your creations?
A: They choose me. Although they have to meet certain high standards. Each stone has a different hue in the same color family, so I choose the colors that are most compelling. Fine stones have pure clean color, but I love when classic gemstones produce eccentric colors. The unusual colors must be pleasant to the eye as well. Each stone has its own persona. Of course in addition to choosing stones and pearls that are fine material, they must have a special personality too.
Q: How do you go about creating a new piece?
A: I never bought a stone that I haven’t envisioned it completed. An image just pops into my head and I almost never deviate from my original mental image. I like to think that I tap into the Mother Lode of creative energy when it happens
Q: What are your sources of inspiration?
A: Usually nature and architecture, but it can be almost anything.
Q: Your clients have referred to your designs as their personal “talismans”. How do you design each piece to reflect the specific desires of your clients?
A: Everything that exists has energy and different stones emit different energies. The ones that are the most beautiful to me give me a positive feeling. If it’s a special order, the client usually has something in mind. I then help them materialize what they are imagining into a 3 dimensional form and suggest what design is best for them and what stones.
One client had been to every major jeweler to find a setting for a large diamond but she owned but with no luck. I met her by chance through someone and she asked if she could come to my studio. I asked her a few questions and when she arrived with a photo from a magazine, saying it wasn’t exactly what she wanted but it was heading in the right direction. I had gone ahead and done some drawings for her since I knew the shape and carat weight of the stone, but she hadn’t seen them yet. When she did, she screamed and said, “that’s it”. It was in the direction of the photo but completely a one of a kind design that was exclusively hers.
I don’t know how it happens. It just happens. I don’t ask how. It’s like asking someone who can sing where does his or her voice come from. Everyone is born with vocal chords, but only some make them instruments. I think once you set your mind in a creative mode it becomes an instrument as well.
Q: If you could choose one fashion designer to collaborate with, who would it be?
A: I don’t know any living ones but Valentino and Oscar de la Renta did some very simple and fabulous gowns and dresses. Armani clothes are wonderful for jewelry.
Q: How have your designs evolved?
A: I now try to make my designs timeless, so at first glance you don’t know when it was made. I’d rather someone not recognize a design of mine than state the era it was made. Although there are exceptions to everything, I am influenced by the Deco period, which was influence by the Egyptian era and Ancient Rome.
Q: If you could see any woman in history or in the present wearing your beautiful designs, who would that be?
Q: Sophia Loren was always my dream client before I met you.