Local Jewelry Designer Says It With Silver

Detroit-born silversmith Michael Opipari’s jewelry is so hot, it’s molten.
Gray Pearl Necklace. // Photograph courtesy of Michael Opipari.

In the five years since Detroit-born silversmith Michael Opipari began experimenting with jewelry design, his products have become sought after around the world.

Opipari has made pieces for celebrities like Canadian dance/electronic artist Grimes — he designed a jade bracelet, emerald arm cuff, and tiara with pearls and Payson diamonds for her — and 2022 Grammy nominee Michelle Zauner of the pop band Japanese Breakfast, who sported his pearl- and citrine-studded rings at this year’s awards.

Since then, he’s heard from stylists from Vogue and Netflix and from others in places as far as France, Taiwan, and China, all requesting his one-of-a-kind adornments.

This is Opipari’s third career. He spent 25 years as an editorial photographer, then several more years designing retail and auto show spaces. But in 2017, he fell in love with a silversmithing technique called water casting.

Opipari started experimenting with the process, which involves heating sterling silver to its molten stage at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit with a torch and small ceramic crucible, then plunging it into a stainless-steel bowl filled with cold water.

He fit these early creations with Petoskey and Leland Blue stones he’d gathered from the Great Lakes.

“I learned from trial and error to get what I want,” the Madison Heights-based artist recalls, adding that “everything is random.”

Opipari uses a micro welder with a microscope to put finishing touches on his necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and other designs. His favorite accents include citrines and pearls, as well as blue stones like tourmaline, tanzanite, kyanite, and Larimar from the Dominican Republic.

“I also like using domestic and ethically sourced opals from Oregon and Montana sapphires, which are a paler blue,” Opipari says.

The artist says his intention is to create jewelry as fine wearable art. To that end, he is working with several local galleries to organize a show exhibiting his works and those of other makers in the near future.

Find Opipari’s designs on Instagram @michaelopipari or his website at opiparisilversmith.com. Flip through the below gallery to see more of his work. 

This story is from the November 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.