A Pair of Western Gems: a Special Artist Collaboration

A Bond over Salt River Horses

In the middle of the room at Scottsdale’s Celebration of Fine Art stood a giant piece of blue labradorite. It shimmeredWestern gems whimsically in the light, appearing like water with a bronze horse wading across it.

At that moment, Julie Schwalbe, gemologist behind Forever Facets, fell in love with Salt River Crossing, a stunning work in bronze by artist Sandi Ciaramitaro. Julie and Sandi soon became acquainted over this piece and another, which Julie acquired, called Beauty.

Sandi describes the inspiration behind Beauty:
“Beauty was formed after an encounter I had with the wild Salt River horses. I was standing there across the river admiring a colt. I could tell the colt was curious and was stunned when I saw the colt lead the adult horses across the river to see me. They soon ran circles around me within arm’s reach – and there was no separation, no fear between me and the wild horses. The colt’s parents were teaching him, rolling around, and then nursing within ten feet from me. It was a surreal experience, and out of that was born the piece that Julie has now.”

Partnering with Artist Sandi Ciaramitaro

Leading a life out loud of passion and purpose, artist Sandi Ciaramitaro has worn many hats. Previously an auto body designer at General Motors and then a stay-at-home mother, Sandi began creating Southwest-inspired fine art in oil, watercolor, and bronze mediums in 2002.

Julie and Sandi share a love for horses, for stone, for helping others, and for life itself. For the artists, it was an immediate, intuitive bond over these shared passions.

Sandi says,
“I don’t partner with just anyone – I’m the pickiest artist there is! I am all about detail. I’m about perfection. I like to do things that no one has done before in a manner that’s never been done.

Julie’s transparency, honesty, and knowledge of geology is what drew me to her. We both enjoy the history of gem stones while they are still in the mountain. We don’t see just the colors – we see the entire piece, the history, and and we only use the best quality.”

A Dazzling Band of Gems

Western gemsThe artists began to collaborate and first discussed stones. Sandi shared with Julie that she had a bronze hat for which she needed a headband designed, one that the collector could remove and wear.

It took a few months to see the headband come to life, as Julie traveled in search of the right stones and collaborated with experts to create the finished headband. But all the effort was well worth the wait when the finished piece was unveiled.

Thousands of collectors visit the Celebration of Fine Art show each year, including Sandi’s special collector group. And everyone immediately fell in love with this piece.

Sandi enthuses, “They would stop by and say it was spectacular – nothing held back. And it is! The size and type of stones and the detailed work by Julie was a huge hit. I have never partnered with anyone, and I may never partner again. But I will work with Julie because her work is nothing shy of spectacular.”

Hopes for the Hat Band

Julie and Sandi are looking forward to seeing their beautiful work of art traveling and inspiring others. Perhaps showcased at a venue such as a luxury automotive show, this piece’s unique melding of two mediums could spark others’ vision as to what the artists could create for them in turn.

The Little Cowboy

The hat itself continues to bring new life to other sculptures as well. Sandy’s newest sculpture, poured recently, is of a little cowboy named Truett, who has rescued a mini donkey. In the piece titled, “If he follows me home, can we keep ’em, Pa?” Truett wears the very hat used in the collaboration.

Measuring six feet long and four feet high and due to be finished in bronze by October, this endearing life-sized sculpture will help fund the Triple R Rescue, where Tic was rescued. The series is named Tic and Truett and is based on a true story!

Future Dreams

Sandi’s goal is to eventually have Tic and Truett hosted at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where young children can explore, smile, and enjoy a bit of light during their difficult struggles. She’d also like to have a piece in a museum one day.

Together, Julie and Sandi dream of collaborations to come and future pieces not yet released. Their work will most likely stay in the Western realm, showcase exquisite gems — and be nothing short of spectacular.

Sandi sums it up best:
“In the end, it’s just fun. We truly love what we do. It’s about bringing a smile to someone’s face, and that’s why we do it. The reason why Julie and I work well together is because she has a heart like mine!”


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