Disegno in Outer Space

International Space Station

Above: The International Space Station (ISS)


Ground control to Major Disegno

How Ottawa’s Pamela Coulston created the first jewellery to go into outer space.

Canadian pride soared in 1962 with the launch of Alouette 1 into the ionosphere. It was Canada's first satellite, and the first constructed by a country other than the Soviet Union or the United States. That made us the fourth country in space, five months following the British Ariel 1, but they needed the US and NASA to build theirs.

Not to be outdone again, Canada recently marked a big FIRST in Outer Space. It is an accomplishment that should be honoured with a ticker-tape parade down Murray Street, right past Disegno Fine Jewellery. Owner/designer Pamela Coulston created pieces carried to the International Space Station by astronaut David Saint-Jacques, making her fine jewellery designs the first to leave the confines of Earth’s atmosphere. Take that, USSR, US, and UK!

Pamela Coulston

Above: Pamela Coulston is an Ottawa gemologist and owner of Disegno Fine Jewellery.


Pamela launched Disegno in 1992, after studying jewellery design in California. She’d been living in Africa and on her return to Canada sought a new creative career. Her designs have been sold in public and private galleries, museums, exclusive cruise ships from the Arctic to the Antarctic and boutiques in Canada, the US, and Europe. Disegno went street retail 13 years ago in the Glebe but soon moved to the Market once the business took off. And, no wonder it did.

While her designs are known for their simplicity (“actually, nothing is harder than ‘simple’ and ‘restrained’ when it comes to any design,” she contends), she’s a stickler for detail and quality. Disegno’s jewellery is handcrafted in platinum and in 18k yellow, white, and rose gold, but even more unusual is that Pamela is one of the very few designers in North America with a penchant for green gold. She’s even experimented with purple gold, which she had cast in Los Angeles. Yes, really.

Pamela is a twice-accredited gemologist – highly regarded certifications in this trade – and her bold designs feature stunning natural and unusual gems. “I rarely use common and calibrated gems,” she says, “instead, I find the oddities and design the jewellery to the gem. While I certainly design diamond jewellery, my love is coloured gems and the green gold makes the deeply saturated colours ‘pop’.”  Again, no wonder she won a national competition to send original Canadian jewellery design into space.

Custom design is Pamela’s specialty, but she never imagined designing for the Governor General or the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). “I was requested to submit an entry. I stayed late at the boutique one Saturday night with a glass of wine and drew until the wee hours. I submitted it and promptly forgot all about it. Getting the call that I won came as quite the surprise.”

The commission required an interpretation of The Order of Canada motif into cufflinks and a convertible 14k gold pendant/broach set with – of course – a Canadian diamond. “Once again, it was about distilling the design down to the simplest, fewest elements needed to express the idea.”

And so, up went Disegno’s very fine jewellery with astronaut David Saint-Jacques in December 2018. Saint-Jacques’ assignment on the ISS lasted 204 days, the longest ever by a Canadian. Between December 3rd and June 24, 2019, he orbited the Earth 3,264 times covering a distance of 139,096,495 kilometers. During his mission, Saint-Jacques conducted Canadian and international science experiments and technology demonstrations, and supported critical operations and maintenance activities. He became the fourth CSA astronaut to conduct a spacewalk and the first CSA astronaut to use Canadarm2 to catch a visiting spacecraft.

On November 5, 2020, the CSA’s Communications and Public Affairs Directorate confirmed that, “Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques took cufflinks and a pendant of the Order of Canada into space. These items were brought back to Earth, the Canadian Space Agency certified and framed the items and gave them back to Rideau Hall.” That officially makes Ottawa's Pamela Coulston the first jewellery designer whose stellar creations have gone into space. Another landmark Canadian achievement!

Earthlings can see Pamela’s out-of-this-world designs in her boutique at 100 Murray Street in the Market, or by visiting https://www.disegnojewellery.ca/



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