Richard Melancon never gets tired of creating. The retail jeweler and his wife, LaNell, have won more than 30 state and national jewelry design competitions, yet they remain enthusiastic about each new piece they create. Harmonizing the delicate balance between creativity, feasibility and aesthetics, Richard and his team of jewelry craftsmen never fail to produce pieces that are both stunning and unique. His latest creation, Croix du Soleil, is no exception. Winning 1st place at the inaugural SJTA Torch Awards, Croix du Soleil was born out of a request from his wife and some very beautiful canary yellow diamonds. The piece has taken not one but two 1st place awards in the past year, and his enthusiasm has yet to wane.“LaNell and I sometimes discuss our design ideas and she had said to me some while ago that she’d always wanted a cross,” recalls Richard. “I’d bought the stones earlier, but really had no idea what I was going to do with them. Should I create a bracelet? Necklace? Ring? I always try to find the heart of the stones and the metal in order to create the design, which is what I did with Croix du Soleil.”
Starting with a sketch, Richard drew out a preliminary design that was tweaked into its final form. From there they started crafting the 14 karat white gold pieces so they interlocked around each other. He decided to set the yellow diamonds in 18k yellow gold mountings to complement the color of the yellow diamonds and to provide a nice contrast to the white gold in the framework of the piece.
At the last minute, when it was time to place the emerald cut yellow diamond in the middle, Richard decided to tweak his design once more. Instead of the yellow diamond in the center he opted for a very white .77 radiant cut diamond to create the illusion of the yellow diamonds spraying out from the center.
This last minute change added an extra dimension to the design that pleased Richard. But it wasn’t until they were almost done that the design started to “take a life of its own.”
Richard and his master goldsmith, Kenneth Hardy, discovered that when they turned the piece upside down it took on a completely new, equally appealing independent design, making it multifunctional as well as beautiful.
“We noticed when we put it upside down it had a weeping willow appearance, and on its side it looked like a fish. That’s when I decided to put a loop at the bottom, top and on the side so that it could hang several different ways. I love multifunctional jewelry you can wear in different ways.”
Richard hadn’t planned for the design to function that way, but he was pleasantly surprised when it did. With more than 60 hours invested in this piece, it was satisfying to watch it evolve before his eyes.
As is the tradition with every custom Melancon design, Richard and his team give each piece a name. Many earn their name according to their look or from a significant person, but this particular piece just wouldn’t lend itself to a name. So they hosted a contest to name it and allowed the public to submit entries. The winner received a $100 gift certificate.
With hundreds of entries to sort through, the Melancon team finally agreed upon Croix du Soleil. Meaning cross of the sun. The name fit the piece perfectly.
Richard and LaNell have been designing together for 20 years. Together with Hardy they have won more custom jewelry design awards than any other jeweler in the state of Louisiana. Recently they created a photo album of their custom designs that features not only the designs which have won awards, but many which have never been entered. Called “The Art of Custom Jewelry Design,” the album can be previewed by visiting their website www.mJewelers.com
The other endeavor which they are equally proud of has nothing to do with jewelry design. Richard and LaNell have personally dedicated themselves to raising funds and awareness for Breast Cancer research. In true Louisiana fashion, they organized the first benefit in 2007 in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of Melancon Jewelers. Called Links Des Pink, the organization has raised more than $35,000 for Breast Cancer research through a number of different fund raisers including a golf tournament, a ladies night out and an event called Pinking the Town. Be sure to visit the Links Des Pink website at www.linksdespink.org.
Other notable Melancon Jewelers achievements include:
- This year Melancon’s celebrates their 30th anniversary.
- Between Richard, LaNell and Kenneth they have over 100 years of Design Experience
- Voted Jeweler of the Year three times by the Louisiana Jewelers Association
- Voted “The Best Jewelry Store” on 4 different occasions by public.