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Halstead Design Challenge

The annual Halstead Design Challenge encourages participants to create a jewelry piece inspired by a theme using the same kit of materials

We are no longer running this design competition.
Thank you for your support & creativity over the years.

The Halstead Design Challenge was developed by Brigitte Martin and Hilary Halstead Scott as a fundraiser for the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG), a non-profit professional organization for jewelers and metalsmiths working in all kinds of metals.

The project is intended to unite our community of metalsmiths and jewelers. It is open to anyone who wishes to purchase a kit. Participants range from new students and hobbyists to academics and professional jewelers. All are welcome. Submitted work represents a broad spectrum of the techniques and perspectives in our field. Many participants post process shots and inspiration photos across social media platforms with the hashtag #HalsteadDesignChallenge.

Evoking Emotion - Becky McDonah
"Evoking Emotion" by Becky McDonah

Kits of components for the challenge go on sale in October of each year on the SNAG Website with all of the collected fees going to SNAG. Participants are required to use half of the kit materials to create a jewelry piece that meets the specific parameters of the theme for the year. Kits usually sell out within one day of the sale launch.

A jury selects a curated sample of the submissions for exhibition at the annual SNAG conference the following May. All pieces are available for sale at the conference show and during the digital online exhibition that follows. Proceeds from item sales are split between the artist and SNAG as an additional fundraiser.

Cash prizes are awarded to the top three submissions selected by the jury each year. Three additional runners-up are also recognized for design excellence.

Halstead is proud to sponsor the Design Challenge and other SNAG programs throughout the year. Supporting makers with opportunities for education, professional development and community is one of the pillars of our mission to serve the small jewelry business community. Read more About Us.

Design Challenge Articles


2020 Design Challenge - Connection

The 2020 Halstead Design Challenge: CONNECTION was inspired by the city of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Participants had to create a necklace that explored interpretations of the theme. This included love, friendship, mechanical, physical, mentor/mentee, relationship and family. In addition artists had to submit a letter directly to the person who will own and wear the piece.

Top Prize Winners:

Becky McDonah won 1st place for the second year in a row! Her piece entitled "Evoking Emotion" wowed the judges and her letter to the buyer took the meaning of the theme CONNECTION to another level. She connected the strength and emotion of past experiences through a vintage handkerchief along with tissues full of tear drops that lead to a pendant of shimmering tears that contained an emergency tissue for future use.

Aimee Howard-Clinger received 2nd place for her amulet pendant "Uneasy Adornment". Aimee explored the notion that uncertainty and a need to protect is a core response to illness. Her beautifully executed piece represents the connection between faith, healing and medicine.

Peter Antor took 3rd place with his "Full Circle" necklace. His piece represents all of SNAG conferences he has attended and the connections he forged at each one. While creating his piece Peter thought about all that has happened since his first SNAG conference in Philadelphia in 2009 and focused on the importance of community. His SNAG experience was to come full circle with the 2020 conference in Philly.

The Runners Up:

Jennifer Fairman for "What the Sun Will Bring" a collaboration of art and science.

Kirsten Denbow for "Collective Memories" a mini slide viewer pendant that represents our connections through images.

Yvonne Escalante for "Maize Necklace" showing how pieces can connect together to become a greater whole.

Components included in kit

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2020 1st Place Winner: Becky McDonah - "Evoking Emotion"
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2020 2nd Place Winner: Aimee Howard-Clinger- "Uneasy Adornment"
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2020 3rd Place Winner: Peter Antor - "Design Challenge 2020: Full Circle"
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2020 Runner Up: Jennifer Fairman - "What the Sun Will Bring"
2020 Runner Up: Kirsten Denbow - "Collective Memories"
2020 Runner Up: Yvonne Escalante - "Maize Necklace"


2019 Design Challenge - Cycle

The 2019 Halstead Design Challenge: CYCLE focused on the ideas of continuity, loops and lifecycles. This year the challenge called for the participants to create a pendant or necklace to show their interpretations of repetition or progression, fabrication techniques and creative use of a found object.

Top Prize Winners:

Becky McDonah won 1st place with her piece entitled "Reoccurring Rejuvenation: A Reliquary of the Shower Curtain, Toothbrush, & Dental Floss." Her necklace was inspired by the shower curtain that hung at her family cabin for years. Becky’s piece focuses on the daily cycle of rejuvenation that happens every morning in your bathroom, from taking a shower to brushing and flossing your teeth. A piece of Becky’s childhood shower curtain is located in the central pendant, the necklace also includes de-bristled heads of toothbrushes set as gems and hand dyed dental floss that she braided to incorporate in the chain. Becky McDonah heads up the Fine Art Metals Area at Millersville University in Pennsylvania and currently serves on the Society of North American Goldsmiths Board of Directors. Becky received her MFA from Arizona State University and BA from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. She has participated in numerous national and international exhibitions, and has lectured and presented workshops across the country. Becky was a runner up in the 2018 Halstead Design Challenge with her Nancy Drew inspired brooch.

Krystal Ragan took 2nd place with her necklace representing the final stage in the lifecycle of humans and the beginning of the blow fly lifecycle. Her cast cement pendant depicts the fly laying eggs in the corners of the mouth. These eggs hatch into larvae that form the chain and clasp, which then become the pupae cast in resin on the back of the necklace where the fly emerges. The found objects Krystal incorporated into "Lifecycle of the Blow Fly" are the dirt and discarded artificial flowers collected from a cemetery.

Debbie Shaner snagged 3rd place with her necklace "Reap What You Sow" interpreting the lifecycle of a lemon. She enameled brass for the lemon seeds to make them look like they were taking root. Progressing up the branch are green enameled brass accompanied by tiny lemon blossom buds made from enameled copper balls on wire. Continuing around the branch, is the bee pollinator sitting on top of an enameled copper lemon blossom next to fully mature leaves. A beautiful lemon fruit takes center stage with a bug-eaten leaf and finally a diseased, dying leaf on the far tip of the branch to complete the cycle.

The Runners Up:

Stacy Rodgers for "Cyclic Round" using the growth lines of an ammonite’s shell to convey the never-ending continual spiral of life.

Aimee Howard for "Radial Piston Necklace" inspired by engineering source book materials. Specifically interested in radial piston designs Aimee plays with scale by taking large industrial elements and presenting them in a small intimate jewelry piece.

John & Corliss Rose also known as 2 Roses for "The Cycle of Unintended Consequences" which tells the story of a lost and found item in the woods.

Components included in kit

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2019 1st Place Winner: Becky McDonah - "Reoccurring Rejuvenation: A Reliquary of the Shower Curtain, Toothbrush, & Dental Floss."
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2019 2nd Place Winner: Krystal Ragan - "Lifecycle of the Blow Fly
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2019 3rd Place Winner: Debbie Shaner - "Reap What You Sow"
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2019 Runner Up: Stacy Rodgers - "Cyclic Round"
2019 Runner Up: Aimee Howard - "Radial Piston Necklace"
2019 Runner Up: John & Corliss Rose - 2 Roses for "The Cycle of Unintended Consequences"


2018 Design Challenge - Hidden

This year’s theme is "Hidden" and encouraged participants to play with the ideas of secrecy and mystery. The challenge inspiration was: Show us your best mechanisms, fabrication techniques and creative use of a found object – all brought to life as a brooch or convertible pendant! And to make it more interesting: incorporate a surprising element for the user to discover.

SNAG sold 200 challenge kits donated by Halstead in October. Each kit contained 44 pieces of sterling silver, copper, and brass supplies. Participants needed to use at least half of the kit materials plus a found object. All revenue from the kit sales benefit SNAG with proceeds from the sales of the finished pieces split between the artist and SNAG.

Components included in kit

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2018 1st Place Winner: Jill Towers - "Koi Fish"
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2018 2nd Place Winner: Stacy Rodgers - "Reliquary to the One in Eight"
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2018 3rd Place Winner: Corin Herzog - "Keeping it Hidden"
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2018 Runner Up: Becky McDonah - "The Secret of the Old Clock"
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2018 Runner Up: Blake Terzini - "Obscured Osteology"
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2018 Runner Up: Rachel Stork Stoltz - "Trinacria"


2017 Design Challenge - Memento

This year the theme challenge is Memento. Each finished brooch must incorporate a photograph and use 50% of the kit materials.

Kits for the 2nd Annual Halstead Design challenge in cooperation with the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) went on sale October 11, 2016 at 9am. Within 4 hours the SNAG website had crashed multiple times due to traffic overload and all 200 kits were sold out.

Components included in kit

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2017 1st Place Winner: Jim Bové - "Mnemosyne at the Waters of Lethe"
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2017 2nd Place Winner: Thomas Mann - "Nude with Wings"
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2017 3rd Place Winner: Kelly Jean Conroy - "Elipse"
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2017 Runner Up: Renee Zettle-Sterling - "Laguna Beach Tidepool"
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2017 Runner Up: Xinhao Yang - "Memory of the Hometown"
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2017 Runner Up: Jill Tower - "Laguna Beach Tidepool"


2016 Design Challenge - Kinetic

Make it Shake, Rattle and Spin! This call-for-action was made to 100 lucky recipients of the inaugural Halstead Design Challenge in cooperation with SNAG and the SNAGneXt conference in Asheville, NC. Participants had to use 50% or more of the kit to create a kinetic brooch along with incorporating a found object.

Components included in kit

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2016 1st Place Winner: Gabrielle Gould - "Spring Garden View"
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2016 2nd Place Winner: Stacy Rodgers - "Various Species"
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2016 3rd Place Winner: Kirsten Denbow - "Freedom"
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2016 Runner Up: Matthew Smith - "Atom Smasher"
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2016 Runner Up: Jessica Todd - "Traces"

Meet the Judges:

Each year three jurors curate the Halstead Design Challenge exhibition at the SNAG annual conference and select the prize winners. Thank you to each of these talented individuals for volunteering their time and expertise. Names are listed along with their year or years on the jury.

Brigitte Martin

2016 - 2018

Brigitte Martin is the Founder of Crafthaus, an Editor at Large for American Craft Magazine, and the Executive Director at the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston. She is an expert metalsmith. In the past, she held several different leadership roles with SNAG as President, Board Member and Committee Leader. She is a passionate advocate for craft in its many forms.

Hilary Halstead Scott

2016 - Present

Hilary Halstead Scott is the President of Halstead, a wholesale jewelry supply company Northern Arizona. She is the second generation of Halsteads to own and operate the business. Hilary has a MBA in Marketing and a Masters in International Business.

Jim Bové

2018 - Present

Jim Bové has served on the board of directors for the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG). He has organized and curated several national and international exhibitions in order to promote the field of art jewelry. Jim’s artwork has been featured in Metalsmith and American Craft magazines, as well as in several art jewelry books. His writing has been published in Metalsmith Tech magazine and he has served as the technical editor for SNAG news. His artwork has been exhibited in the Royal Ueno Museum in Tokyo, Schmuck in Munich and the Cheongju International Craft Biennale as well as residing in collections throughout the United States and abroad.

Jen Townsend


Jen Townsend is an author and studio jeweler. She and Renée Zettle-Sterling co-authored CAST: Art and Objects Made Using Humanity’s Most Transformational Process (456 pages, Schiffer Publishing, 2017), winner of nine first place independent book awards including the prestigious Grand Prize for Non-Fiction from The Next Generation Indies. She has taught at The Penland School of Crafts, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Millersville University and The Appalachian Center for Crafts, among others. Jen is a juried member of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen and served on the Board of Directors of the Society of North American Goldsmiths.

Samantha Skelton


Skelton Jewelry offers bridal and everyday fine jewelry handmade by Samantha Skelton in her studio and retail store in Pittsburgh, PA. Samantha has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Edinboro University and a Master of Fine Arts from Miami University. Her designs are sculptural three-dimensional pieces with fine details. Samantha Skelton won the 2015 Halstead Grant.

Special Thanks:

Special thanks to the SNAG volunteers as well as staff at both Halstead and SNAG for all their support in producing this challenge and exhibition each year.