Long ago (no fair asking how long), Gene was a pre-med student. One day he added up how long it would take to pay off his student loans if he actually went to medical school. The result was just too terrifying. He had always loved jewelry. Family legend has it that at age four he interrogated a jewelry store clerk about the pearls on display: “Are those cultured or natural? Where did they come from?” So, he decided that creating jewelry would be a viable career option. To that end, he hired on as an “Indian” during the Native American jewelry craze in the seventies. This was a good learning experience but Gene realized that the credibility gap for a blonde haired, blue eyed Indian was fairly wide and that the turquoise jewelry craze couldn’t go on forever. So he took courses at local colleges and became the apprentice to several master goldsmiths. Eventually he became the designer goldsmith for Argenzio Brothers, a fine old jewelry store in Denver. Sadly, Argenzio’s was bought by the mega jewelry corporation, Zale’s. Not being a mega corporation kind of guy, Gene struck out on his own and started Millard Designs in 1982.
Not as long ago, Molly was an underweight, over-caffeinated criminal defense lawyer. Soon after she and Gene met, he asked her if she would like to run away on a sailboat for a few months. After that she might consider joining him in the jewelry business as he was in desperate need of an inlay stone cutter and it wouldn’t hurt if she was a decent cook. Being tired of angry clients, whining clients, clients who didn’t pay, pantyhose and high heels, Molly shocked her law firm by saying “Adios abogados – I am running away on a sailboat with a man I hardly know and then I am becoming a jeweler!!!” Since Gene & Molly still liked each other after the sailboat adventure (this was not guaranteed), she agreed to come on as inlay stone cutter, apprentice metal smith and resident chef.
It's been almost twenty-five years of jewelry making and sailing together. We still like each other most of the time! We had the good sense to have our work benches facing opposite directions. This is so one must take the time to turn around and face the person at whom he or she wants to hurl a sharp jewelry making tool. So, we can say "No one has been intentionally harmed in the making of your jewelry."
Meanwhile, we sent our first sailboat, Mariah, on to a new captain and his young family. It was very strange to see her sail away without us. We are in the process of refurbishing a new old boat, Sabai. She will be a beauty but she's working us pretty darned hard.
TECHNIQUES AND PRODUCTION
We collaborate on most designs although we have specialized roles in the production process. We share the grunt work and make time to produce our own individual designs to keep it fun for both us and you.
We perform every step of the production process from the sketch to the final polish. Nothing is outsourced and we employ no elves.
Our designs are both cast and fabricated with some designs combining both techniques. We prefer solid, sculptural designs with unusual, non-traditional shapes. We are not big fans of symmetry so our designs tend to be asymmetrical. You will seldom see us set a stone in the middle of the top of a ring. The joke around the studio is that Molly would never make earrings that matched if the public didn’t generally expect a pair of earrings to be identical.
OUR MISSION AND INSPIRATION
We both love metal and gemstones and jewelry and fire, we really like fire, we love our torches . . . okay, maybe that was a little scary for the civilians. We are inspired by our materials. Who can look at a really pretty gemstone and not want to make it part of a beautiful piece of jewelry? A new texture on metal will motivate us or a new patina. We have so many designs stuffed in our heads that hanging around a studio full of stones and metal (and torches) and really cool tools just causes things to happen.
Our goal is to create striking, sculptural designs which are still wearer friendly. What good is a cool piece of jewelry that’s just too inconvenient to wear? We want our creations to be worn and loved, not to sit in a jewelry box.