Skip Navigation LinksHome > Judges

The Judges

Each year Rio Grande carefully selects a panel of judges with a broad range of perspectives from around the jewelry world. Many accomplished and respected artists, designers, editors and industry experts have participated over the last 14 years. Meet 2014's panel of judges.

Saul Bell Design Award Final-Round Judges, 2014

Ryan Roberts

Ryan Roberts began his career as an apprentice in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and worked for a time in Hawaii with his aunt, who is a goldsmith. Most of his expertise, however, came by way of self-study, through trial and error, driven by his passion for working with precious metal and gemstones. Wrought primarily in platinum and high-karat gold, and set with unique and precious gems, Ryan’s design features an architectural crispness rendered timeless by the flair of romanticism at its heart.

Jurgen Maerz 

Jurgen Maerz learned the art of jewelry-making at a young age through a formal apprenticeship in Germany. He has worked in all aspects of jewelry-making from production to managing his own studio. Specializing in working with platinum, Jurgen has served as a consultant around the world and was the Director of Technical Education the Platinum Guild International for 13 years. He created the platinum education program that GIA still uses to this day. A renowned expert in working with platinum and a respected author and teacher, Jurgen is a familiar presenter at the Santa Symposium for Jewelry Manufacturing and has been several times been recognized for his work in improving casting and manufacturing processes for creating jewelry with platinum and other precious metals.

Chris Ploof

Struck at an early age by the passion to manipulate materials that seemed, at first glance, to be unyielding, Chris Ploof thrives on challenge and is driven by curiosity; as he likes to say, "Impossible is a temporary condition." His design often revolves around unusual materials such as meteoric iron and Damascus steel beautifully crafted together with karat gold using ancient techniques as well as cutting-edge processes. He loves sharing what he’s learned through writing, teaching and consulting across the industry.

Kate Wolf

Kate Wolf has three loves: carving wax, designing tools and teaching. From the first time she sat down at a jeweler’s bench, she knew the passion to design and create jewelry would be with her forever. With a BFA in Metalsmithing and Jewelry, she worked for the Franklin Mint as a master model-maker and as the Director of Production. She went on to found her own school for jewelry making, to launch her own brand of tools, WolfTools, and to collaborate with manufacturers to create specialized products perfectly suited to the needs of jewelers. She loves exploring new techniques and teaching those techniques to classrooms of new and passionate jewelry makers.

Jim Binnion 

Jim Binnion learned the basics of jewelry making in high school and has spent his entire adult life expanding that knowledge. Always drawn to the beauty and workmanship of Japanese metal craft, Jim knew, after seeing examples of mokume gane for the first time, that this technique would figure prominently in his work. He established James Binnion Metal Arts in 1991 and began working exclusively with other mokume artists to develop his knowledge of metallurgy and the techniques for producing this incredibly patterned metal, and then to create jewelry using it.

Stephanie Johnstone
First Round Judges
Lorna Durgham  
Yvonne M. Padilla  
Stephanie Johnstone  
Neil Bell  
Jeannine Daniels  


First Round Judges Second Round Judges
G.L. Miller Jennifer Heebner 
Gregg Burgard Hannah Connorton
Paula Brenton Marlene Richey
Bill Pollack Ron Beauchamp
Bernie Butterfield  Phaedra Barrack


First Round Judges Second Round Judges
Michael Sugarman Maria Samora
G.L. Miller Charles Lewton-Brain
Sessin Durgham Tina Wojtkielo Snyder
Ron Beauchamp Carolyn Benesh
Stephen & Nancy Attaway Wayne Meeten


First Round Judges Second Round Judges
Emily Benoist-Ruffin Robly Glover
Mark Gillihan Victoria Gomelsky
Mark Nelson Pam Levine
Pat Pruitt Robert Liu
John Sartin Tim McCreight


First Round Judges Second Round Judges
Phil Poirier Carolyn Benesh
Valerie Fairchild Ronda Coryell
Ellen Knight Geoffrey Giles
Scott Patrick Linda Kay-Moses
Cody Sanderson Whitney Sielaff


First Round Judges Second Round Judges
Mark Gillihan Phil Poirier
Koch Fred Pat Pruitt
Debra Gavel Amy Roper Lyons
Eleanor Macnish Sara Smith
Yvonne Padilla
Scott Patrick


2014 Final Judging