Paul Michael Bierker was stopped in a traffic jam in April on the West End Bridge.
The jeweler, who owns Paul Michael Design in Lawrenceville, took in the breathtaking view of the city and snapped a few photos with his iPhone. He took additional shots of the city from Downtown and other areas.
Those pictures became the inspiration for the Pittsburgh Pin line, a collection of pins, pendants and cufflinks that represents the skyline and bridges of this town’s hard-working people and its rich history.
The timing of the line couldn’t have been better for Bierker, who is known for his handmade jewelry. The launch of the line coincides with the city’s yearlong celebration of its bicentennial. Bierker designed specific pieces celebrating 200 years of its incorporation as a city as well as Pittsburgh-inspired selections. He hopes to add to the choices.
“This is not your grandfather’s Pittsburgh anymore, but we don’t want to lose the memory of your grandfather’s time here, because the history is what makes this city great,” Bierker says. “We are trying to make cool stuff to commemorate and showcase this city, which has a beautiful skyline.”
The pin is an iconic city symbolized in art, Bierker says.
“Pittsburgh is going places,” Bierker says. “I thought we needed an item to celebrate all that’s happening here. Pittsburgh is about hard work, pride and tenacity.”
Bierker presented a pin to Mayor Bill Peduto, who is familiar with Bierker’s work, having purchased jewelry from him.
“Michael is so talented and creates amazing customized-by-design pieces,” Peduto says. “I was happy to help promote his Pittsburgh Pin. He does both high-end and affordable pieces. Every piece is quality craftsmanship — just like Pittsburgh’s high quality of hard-working people, made to last.”
Supporting local businesses such as Paul Michael Design is important, says Peduto, who plans to raffle his Pittsburgh Pin for charity, similar to what he did with an autographed Sidney Crosby Penguins jersey.
Getting support from the mayor is helpful because he represents the city and is in the community on a daily basis, Bierker says.
“It’s a perfect pin for the mayor to wear because he is genuine and hard-working like the people of this city,” Bierker says. “He loves Pittsburgh, and he represents this city well.”
Bierker says the pins are a celebration of the city and its transformation. They’re an offering of something bigger, a symbol of civic pride, a sign of honor.
“Pittsburgh is a city with a past — a phoenix rising from the ashes,” Bierker says. “It’s vibrant, and there is so much innovation here. Pittsburgh is leading the charge for change. Pittsburgh has been an underdog, but it’s a city that keeps on going. It’s running up hill (of course with all the hills) toward its goal,” Bierker says.
The jewelry is made of sterling silver, 14-karat yellow or white gold, 18-karat yellow gold or platinum. There are upscale versions with bling, including diamonds. Prices range from $50 to $1,200.
Bierker attended a bicentennial art project event near his studio where he met Ned Schano, director of communications for Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip District. The museum’s president and CEO, Andy Masich, is chairman of the Pittsburgh Bicentennial Commission. Bierker asked how he could get involved.
He joins more than 300 partners taking part in the bicentennial, including the upcoming celebration of Light Up Night on Nov. 18.
“The bicentennial is about promoting what’s going on in terms of the incorporation of the city,” Schano says. “There are a number of events throughout the year. It’s wonderful to see so many community organizations and companies and people getting behind the bicentennial. They are all about spreading the good news about it.
“Michael’s work is amazing,” he says. “He makes great jewelry. He is one of the many artisans in Pittsburgh doing such great work, and we are happy to have him be a part of this celebration.”