Saul Bell Design Award

Awards offer the icing on the cake of the hard work of an artist. They can also take an unknown artist to a wider public market. Achieving recognition from industry professionals opens the door to a broader audience for an artist’s work. Design is the way an artist expresses their interpretation of the world, the way they set themselves apart from other artists. Through the creation of a piece that exhibits the vision in their head, an artist creates something uniquely their own. Having that individual expression recognized and rewarded is a significant achievement on the artist’s path. Bringing that sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to an artist is the goal of the Saul Bell Design Award.

“Every jeweler and metalsmith is a winner the moment they explore the boundaries of design.” This was the belief of Saul Bell, a master jeweler and watchmaker who came to Albuquerque in 1937 with the goal of serving the artists who lived there. As an ongoing commitment to his legacy, his family has established the Saul Bell Design Award. It was their belief that this award posed the best way to honor Saul Bell himself and continue his commitment to recognizing the creativity and skill of jewelers and artists. Since the inaugural presentation given in 2001, the award continues to honor what Saul believed in: artists who use their “hard work, creativity and truth of heart to take risks”.

Saul Bell loved to share his knowledge about making jewelry and he had a considerable amount of that knowledge. As a young boy of eight, his father started teaching him how to work on jewelry by having him cut the spurs off of sand castings. By the time he was in his teens, Saul was an experienced bench jeweler. Putting the experience and the knowledge to work, he started his own business. Sadly, the Great Depression put an end to that venture. Left with little more than his tools and looking for a new start, Saul and his wife headed west, settling in Albuquerque in 1937.

Saul continued to ply his trade in his new home town and continued to encourage others in the field. His family says he loved nothing better than to share his knowledge of making jewelry. In 1944, he founded Rio Grande Jewelry Supply. Today his company continues his legacy by providing support to those in the jewelry industry. The design award is one way budding artists can put their designs out in the market for people to see. Saul believed in the importance of design, seeing it as a way for jewelry artists to “shake free emotions, challenge perceptions and interpretations of the world, and take some risks of imagination.”

The goal of the Saul Bell Design Award is to promote those ideals that Saul held dear. Registration for the 2019 award will open in summer 2018. The competition offers nine categories, including two for Emerging Artists. In 2018, two new categories of Jewelry Collection were added to allow a place for designers who wish to put together a “cohesive collection” of jewelry: Jewelry Collection Couture/Fine and Jewelry Collection Fashion/Bridge. Judges are master jewelers and leaders in the industry. Winners receive a showcase for their pieces at the gala held during the annual Santa Fe Symposium. The benefits offered by entering the competition are the way Saul Bell’s family and the company he founded continue their commitment to the craft of jewelry making and to the artists who create beauty in their pieces. 

Registration for the 2020 award will open in the summer of 2019 ( For additional information on the Saul Bell Design Award, please visit