Two Jewelry Design students win Cultured Pearl Association awards

Two FIT second-year students, Victor Rouesné and Luna Gwak, have won the Cultured Pearl Association of America’s design competition, student division. This was the first year that student work was judged separately.

Victor Rouesné’s CPAA winning Voguedelier earrings

Students had to sketch (by hand or with CAD) their designs, which could feature any color, shape, or variety of fine cultured pearls available on the market. The judges were looking for designs that are “fresh, modern, wearable, and defy outdated thoughts about wearing pearls.” But fresh interpretations of old ideas were welcome.

The two Jewelry Design AAS students tied and were both awarded first prizes. Victor Rouesné won for his “Voguedelier” earrings. Luna Gwak won for her Ribbon statement necklace in 18k rose gold with akoya pearls, white diamonds, pink morganite, and light green beryl.

The earrings were inspired by Art Deco as well as Vogue covers from the mid-1920s. “We often think of pearls as white and round,” said Rouesné, “but they can come in a variety of colors and shapes, like baroque, blue, black, green, and pink.”

Pearl necklace design by Victor Rouesne for JD 238 Jewelry Design Ideations II. An amulet pendant represents a piece of fabric revealing a white pearl.

Rouesné said that if his design happens to be made someday, it will use yellow gold with white freshwater pearls ranging in size from 3 mm to 7.5 mm.

He designed the earrings for his jewelry design and ideations class. The assignment was to design pendant earrings that were inspired by Art Deco, but not something that looks like it stepped out of the 1930s.

Rouesné said he got positive feedback from Prof. Karen Bachmann, his jewelry design and ideations professor last semester. “It was my first project for her class and got such feedback on it so I had set high expectations for the rest of the semester. I also got good feedback from Prof. Michael Coan who teaches gemology.”

Before coming to FIT, Rouesné majored in fashion design in France, but did not have experience in silversmithing, working with any metals, or any knowledge in gemology.

He hopes to work as a jewelry designer for either a jewelry company or a fashion company if they have a jewelry line, to gain professional experience before creating his own jewelry company. “I hope to create a gender-neutral jewelry brand. The jewelry market is saturated with women’s jewelry brands while offering few fresh and contemporary men’s and gender-fluid jewelry.”

Luna Gwak’s CPAA winning ribbon statement necklace

Luna Gwak says “I was so happy when I found out that I had won the award! It gave me more confidence in designing a statement necklace. It was a great experience because even though the pearl is one of my favorite gems, it was my first time considering designs that feature pearls as the main gems.”

Gwak’s statement necklace was inspired by ribbon often used, she says, for gift boxes and as an adornment for people or objects. “The addition of ribbon adds excitement to the giver and receiver. I designed this necklace with a hope that people feel excitement and happiness. I  named it ‘Present for You’ necklace,” said Gwak.

“I used gouache for the painting. My gouache rendering skills, design ideation, and understanding of jewelry mechanism come from my FIT Jewelry Design studies. They were all helpful in designing and rendering this piece.

Statement ring design by Luna Gwak inspired by a bouquet for JD240 Jewelry Design Development assignment

“I cannot really tell when I started to love jewelry; it’s been a long time. After I studied Fashion Business Management in FIT Korea for a year, I wanted to study something that draw on my creativity, and that was jewelry design. When I graduate, I hope to work for a company to get more experience and knowledge about jewelry production.”

FIT also played a role in Ashleigh Branstetter’s win, the Spotlight Award—Baroque-Shape Pearls for 2022. This category focused on designs where 75 percent of the piece features one type of pearl—the baroque-shape pearl this year. “I’ve only taken  online courses at FIT,” she said. A seasoned professional, she enrolled in the FIT Rhino courses with Prof. Dana Buscaglia.

Ashleigh Branstetter winning Baroque-Shape Pearls

“She is the author of ‘Rhino 5.0 for Jewelry.’ I had purchased a CAD program called Matrix and had been learning independently.  It is a Rhino-based program, and when I noticed the Rhino online course, I decided to take it.  I can now design the CAD file on my own, or if I pay for a CAD file and need to make adjustments, I can do so.”

This year’s judges included Jean Francois Bibet, workshop and production director at Cartier, Patricia Faber, co-owner of Aaron Faber Gallery in Manhattan, Lenore Fedow, associate editor, National Jeweler; Maria Tsangaropoulos, supervisor of instruction at GIA’s NYC campus; FIT Jewelry Design professor Michael Coan (he recused himself from the student judging), Kathy Zaltas of Zaltas Gallery, in Mamaroneck, NY, and Peggy Grosz, senior vice president, Assael Pearls.

Follow Victor Rouesné on IG @VictorRouesne and Luna Gwak @dayeon_g.99. Visit Ashleigh Branstetter’s website at:

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Jewelry Design program go to:  Jewelry Design at FIT.