Ross Coppelman has been handcrafting jewelry for half a century.
Inside Ross Coppelman’s showroom and workshop in Dennis, every piece of jewelry is made by hand. In fact, when visitors step into the shop on 6A, they will see jewelry makers, and Coppelman himself, hammering, soldering, and tinkering away in the workshop. Coppelman’s designs are varied, and each new style reflects his longevity in the business. For this issue, we spoke with Coppelman about his approach to jewelry design.
You graduated from Harvard with degrees in English and Psychology, what drew you to your profession as a jeweler?
When I got out of college, I wanted to do something manual instead of mental. I was looking for something grounded, and I thought I would try a craft. I didn’t have any inclination into which craft, but I was moving to Cape Cod, and the first person I spoke to was a jeweler and he offered me a job, so that’s what I did. I didn’t go into it with a passion for making jewelry or for art, but that definitely came later.
When and why did you open your own shop on the Cape?
I started off doing mall shows up and down the East Coast—that was really hard, even at a young age. I was also wholesaling my work to lots of shops around the country. All this time I had been working in my house. Our family was growing, and it was time to move the business out. I rented a tiny studio with a little showroom where I started to sell to clients here on the Cape. Then 8 years later I moved to more a visible location on Route 6A in Dennis. With a showroom and workshop, the business took off, and I was able to stop doing shows. Today, my work is only available at my shop, through my website or at the Granary Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard. At the beginning of my career I wanted to be a hermit, locked away doing my work, but now one of my favorite parts is seeing and interacting with customers.
You’ve been designing jewelry for over 50 years!
Do you intend to stop any time soon?
The short answer is no. I really don’t know when I am going to stop. Honestly, it’s never been more fun, interesting or creative for me than it is right now. I don’t know what I would do if I stopped making jewelry, I find it so satisfying. Some people can’t wait to retire, so they can do what they want to do, but I am fortunate that I am doing what I want to do now.
You find a lot of your inspiration locally. Tell our readers what inspires you here on the Cape and how it makes its way into your work.
For my first 30 years as a jeweler, I was inspired more by antiquity than by the world around me on Cape Cod. Then in 2002, my wife and I moved onto a tidal marsh in Yarmouth Port and nature beat me over the head with its beauty. Every day I was seeing birds, wildlife, water—it was beautiful. As a result, my work did a compete 180, and everything since then has been very influenced by what I see around me.
When we first moved into that house, I developed a whole line of wave-inspired jewelry—the Ocean Collection. Then I began to look closely at the patterns of sand on my favorite beaches and at the bird life all around me. All of this found its way into my work and evolved into their own design collections like the Bird Collection and the Gold Dust Collection. Leaves, branches, tree bark, and swirling water have been my latest inspirations. They show up sometimes as specific images and sometimes as the textures I create in the metals.
Your medium seems like it can be difficult to experiment with, what is your creative process and how do you continue to create new pieces all of the time?
I do have a certain process, but like any artist, there is this whole inexplicable thing that happens when I’m designing pieces. The seeds get planted somehow—and these days those seeds for me are all nature-inspired seeds. I’m also pretty restless, so I’m always wanting to come up with something new. When working on a new design, I don’t draw it first, I work directly with the metal. Most people draw first, but it doesn’t work like that for me. When I work with metal that’s when the inspiration wiggles in.
What are people most surprised by when they visit your shop?
People come in and either they are out of here in three minutes or they stay for an hour. That’s what makes my work stand out, it’s not like anybody else’s – for some that’s a plus because they want something that looks different.
Everything is made by hand. I use 18K gold, and I also use semi-precious stones and crystals, and things that don’t typical make their way into jewelry. I do wedding rings, which is great because they aren’t like anyone else’s wedding rings.
I think most people are surprised by the range: The shop represents 50 years of design and most people are surprised that one person has made all of these designs.