Herreid graduated from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1991 with a BFA in Jewelry & Light Metals. Two years later she founded Individual Icons. The name goes right to the point of Herreid's art: jewelry that gives the wearer an expression of personal meaning through functionality.
For several decades, LeeAnn has been making custom work and one-of-a-kind pieces out of sterling silver, stainless steel, 18 karat gold, and platinum. This technically complex work inspired her to achieve a Graduate degree in gemology at the highly esteemed Gemological Institute of America.
LeeAnn's work is available in galleries and museum shops throughout the United States and abroad. Her pieces have been praised internationally and featured in numerous magazines & multimedia. She is an Accredited Jewelry Professional with 30 years at the bench.
Her productive and established studio overlooks the water in the picturesque town of Warren, RI.
First bench, 1986
Waiting for a kiln to get up to temperature- Concord Mass workshop, mid eighties
Evaluating display with Mom, Apple Blossom Festival, Bolton Mass 1987
Bench view, Warren, 2014
Gemology Tools: Microscope, Polariscope, refractometer, monochromatic Light source, Spectroscope, Dichroscope.
Individual Icons, established in 1984, has been producing well designed and constructed pieces of jewelry for over thirty years. The Individual Icons story is that of an independent goldsmith, LeeAnn Herreid.
LeeAnn is fortunate in that she discovered her calling very early in life. When LeeAnn was just six, her teacher wrote: “LeeAnn can use any tool with complete control.” The youngest of five children, LeeAnn grew up in a Concord, Massachusetts home in which there was an enthusiasm for home projects. Intrigued by the tools and materials in her midst, LeeAnn discovered metalworking at the age of 14. She set up a bench in the basement and began experimenting making bent, beaded and forged wire jewelry. LeeAnn learned to solder with a plumbing torch, and she went on to purchase a real torch and some tools. In her many experiments, she learned the basics and continued to challenge herself.
LeeAnn would make one-of-a-kind silver pieces and sell them to shops, friends, and her friends’ mothers. Also, she would set up a small portable display in Harvard Square, Cambridge, selling just enough jewelry to go and buy more supplies. She would spend lots of time in the jeweler’s building in Boston, as this was the closest place to purchase any metals, tools, supplies, or gemstones.
Sophomore year in high school, LeeAnn lucked out and got an apprenticeship. She worked with a master jeweler who saw that LeeAnn had patience, a steady hand, a strong work ethic, humility, humor, and a good sense of design. She worked for him for the next three years and learned a tremendous amount about production, fabrication, antique repair and restoration, and the ethics of the jewelry industry, which does million-dollar-deals on a handshake and your word of honor.
By this time, her portfolio was extensive enough that LeeAnn was accepted to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she majored in Jewelry/ Light Metals. She learned fabrication, raising, finishing, and studied the history of art jewelry as well as the concept behind a piece. During this very intensive four year program LeeAnn’s first compass jewelry was created. She also made a series of rings that told time (a sundial), found your center, (a level), and other functional/ directional pieces.
LeeAnn graduated in 1991 and worked for two years at a high-end jewelry business on the coast of Maine. There she was hired to fabricate platinum and high karat gold jewelry set with fancy colored diamonds. The job also involved going to trade shows and keeping strict security measures in all aspects of the business. While streamlining the work flow, she set up a hydraulic press work station, sourced all of the dies and worked with machinists to make custom shapes to form high karat gold. After two years there, she had gained a lot of experience and knew that she wanted to work for herself. That is when she left her job and really got to work.
In 1993, LeeAnn began Individual Icons and started producing jewelry with a purpose: compasses, levels, thermometers, and dice all set into rings, pendants or earrings. LeeAnn spent years making all of the models, learning about shrinkage, casting, mold making, selling to stores, and expediting. Individual Icons was started before the Internet, so much time was spent sourcing through the yellow pages, the Thomas Register, and the Library.
By the time LeeAnn was 25 years old, she was enjoying some recognition. Her work had been plugged on MTV, exhibited in several galleries and Museums, and had been shown with Awards in Christie’s Auction House in NYC.
In 1994, LeeAnn met Ellie the wonderful sales rep who still represents Individual Icons. That’s when things really started to happen. Ellie exhibited Individual Icons at the New York International Gift Fair. LeeAnn got a secured loan from the bank (no credit, no credit cards!) to make the first big stack of orders.
By the time LeeAnn was 30 years old, her work had been exhibited by The Brooklyn Museum, the NY Public Library, the Nature Company, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, International Center of Photography, the Museum of American Folk Art, and had been featured in New York Magazine.
LeeAnn hired and trained employees to help, as there was an amazing amount of work going out the door, and in 2000, she started the Individual Icons web site, and eventually developed it into a secure shopping web destination.
After living and working in various studios in New England and in New Mexico, she finally built her dream studio in 2002, on the waterfront of the picturesque village of Warren, RI.
By the time LeeAnn was 40 years old, her work had been sold by the MASS MOCA, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Museum of Natural History, the Royal Ontario museum (the ROM), the Boston ICP, and Museum of Science. The work of Individual Icons had been featured in the Boston Globe, the NY times, ID magazine, Travel and Leisure, and had won several “Best of” Awards for the State of Rhode Island.
She was by then fairly versatile in running a business, model making, and a very strong and progressive designer.
At age 40, in 2009, LeeAnn started on the rigorous masters degree program of Graduate Gemologist. She graduated in early 2014 with the hard-earned degree of GRADUATE GEMOLOGIST (a.k.a. G.G.). To become a G.G., one must first become an Accredited Jewelry Professional, as well as be a Certified Diamond Grader and a Graduate in Colored Stone Identification.
This is a very concentrated, specialized curriculum. One does not graduate with a G.G. with anything short of 100% correct answers on the grueling final exam. It takes years of study.
Throughout these thirty years LeeAnn has been making marvelous one-of-a-kind custom jewelry (in addition to the levels and compasses and rulers). She has made approximately 500 sets of wedding bands and perhaps over 1,000 custom engagement rings over the past three decades.
Currently she is sending off work to galleries in Tokyo, Australia, and is custom designing pieces for the Metropolitan Opera. Gemstones are playing an important role in the newest pieces: LeeAnn is designing a whole new collection of jewelry that Individual Icons will introduce in 2017. Stay tuned.
- Building custom settings
- Ring sizing, restoration, and building pieces that will last for generations
- Lost wax casting, moldmaking, the do’s and do not’s of this ancient technique- shrinkage, undercuts, etc.
- Works with: platinum, 18K gold, sterling silver, stainless steel, palladium, brass/ bronze/ nickel silver/ copper,
- Hydraulic presses
- Woodworking (cabinetry and basic furniture)
- Lampworking (bending pyrex tubing with a torch)
- Polishing: by hand, by machine, or by magnetic finishing
- Gemstone evaluation and identification
- All things diamond related (both industrial and fine cut stones)
- ADHESIVES: LeeAnn won “the adhesive expert of Aquidneck Island” award. She has a keen interest in how to attach one thing to another using either mechanical means or the correct adhesive.