The Little Green Dress: Unearthing Nature's Jewelry
by Natalie Bencivenga
May 14, 2020
We’ve all seen her: The effortlessly chic, boho-inspired woman wearing expertly ripped jeans paired with a seductively soft t-shirt and a gorgeous statement necklace made from natural stones and polished metals. Her wavy hair blows in the breeze as she holds her latte at such an angle that you happen to notice the sparkling crystal cocktail ring glistening in the sun. Upon further investigation, you realize that those entrancing pieces were none other than gems from Pittsburgh-based jewelry designer, Renee Piatt.
“I love to up-cycle and find hidden treasures that can be reimagined,” said Ms. Piatt. Who knew eco-friendly could be so chic? Having started in the world of floral design, she quickly realized that jewelry was her passion. Eight years later, her recognizable pieces are coveted by Pittsburgh’s fashionistas of all ages.
“I started making things that I thought were elegant and had a refined feel to them,” said Ms. Piatt. “My pieces are made for nature lovers and those who appreciate the beauty that comes straight out of the earth. I wanted my pieces to be something that you won’t find anywhere else,” she added.
The stones inspire the work. She enjoys the imperfections found in natural gems and credits the uniqueness of the stones’ inclusions as to what make her pieces stand out. “My jewelry is for everyone, but in particular, those who appreciate the little intricacies of natural stones and the tiny minute details in these stones that are lost when cut only for clarity in high end jewelry,” said Ms. Piatt.
She notes that natural stones have more personality. Typically, they are more affordable, too. Some of her favorite gems to use are amethysts and a variety of druzies. “Druzy is a fine crystalline material that grows on the inside of a geode and is created by water. The water flows through the minerals which grow to create unique crystals that beautifully reflect the light. I mostly source natural druzy and try to hand-select every single stone that is used to create my pieces.”
Other stones she enjoys working with include larimar, which is only found in the Dominican Republic. “It’s a stone that really mimics the waves of the ocean. I also use moonstone and labradorite because the good ones have a natural blue flash that pops.” By holding them at eye level, she can check each stone for that flash, making sure each piece is of high quality.
“The stones speak to me and that determines what kind of pieces they will become. Size, shape and weight play a major factor in what I create. Pairing stones for earrings can be really challenging, too. I want to tone down sparkle and glitz so that it can be worn every day,” she said.
And when she isn’t creating pieces from scratch, she enjoys the process of treasure hunting at local vintage shops -- finding diamonds in the rough -- so to speak. “Upcycling vintage jewelry can be a great way to stay eco-friendly while still on trend,” added Ms. Piatt. By finding beautiful stones inside dated settings, she can recreate the pieces into something new. “I like discovering a gem’s purpose, finding a place for it in the here and now, and creating pieces that will work for everyone, at every price point.”
Prices range from $29 to $500.