10 Facts About Me

Here is a collection of 10 fast facts you probably don’t know, and couldn’t guess about me:

  1. I typically do not wear any jewelry. Yeah, I know.
  2. My engagement ring is a Stuller setting. I have never posted it to Instagram, and I don’t know that I ever will.
  3. I’m originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico but have lived in Hyde Park, NY, Bakersfield, CA and Eastern Washington.
  4. I have a pretty extensive background in law, but minimal formal education in it.
  5. I got married in Las Vegas because it’d be easier and smaller than a wedding in Albuquerque. It was not what the kind of wedding you think of when you hear “a Vegas wedding”.IMG_8794
  6. I love cold and wet weather, but I have horrible blood circulation, so my body does not. One of my very favorite memories is having a snowball fight with my husband, very early in our relationship. I anticipate making some snowflake jewelry in the future.
  7. I am a bit of an introvert and do not like talking on the phone. I prefer email and text message 100%, and if I spend a lot of time talking, my voice pays for it later.
  8. If you saw my house, you’d think my favorite color was teal. It’s not. I tend to stay away from decorating with my favorite colors because I don’t want to get sick of them.
  9. I have pieces from D’Vatche and Mark Morrell in my personal collection. Many of the items in my personal jewelry collection are antique or used. I tend to like unique one of a kind items, and antiques accomplish that perfectly.
  10. I have very eclectic tastes when it comes to home furnishings. I have some modern items with clean lines, and some very traditional antique items – some of which have been passed on through generations of my family.

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Bonus: I am a total city girl, but since moving to Eastern Washington, I have adapted incredibly easily to small town life. Thank goodness for the internet! While I love the convenience of city life, nothing is more beautiful than an incredible sunset, followed closely behind by a clear night sky. Color and sparkle. That’s where it’s at.

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Diamond Rose Cuts

Since diamond is the birthstone for April, I’ll stick with writing about them for the most part this month. It really helps that I’ve been playing with them a lot lately in a variety of forms. So today I want to talk about a rarer form that diamonds take on: Rose Cut.

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I have to laugh because I asked a local jeweler once, maybe a year ago, if he could make me a rose cut band. He replied, wait for it, that he didn’t know what a rose cut was. I hope that now that they seem to be gaining more mainstream appeal that he figures out what they are. Tiffany is completely littered with rose cuts right now, in fact, they designed a whole collection around them. I haven’t been back to that jeweler since then, but that’s due to a combination of factors, not just rose cut ignorance.

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One thing to note about rose cuts in that the higher a crown is,  the better looking it’ll be. Rose cuts are basically shaped like a bubble, with a flat facet on the bottom, and facets going up to create a bit of a dome, typically a pretty flat dome.

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A key to rose cuts it to be realistic in what to expect from it’s performance. Rose cuts tend to flash light off of it’s surface facets, instead of refracting through the table and from the pavilion, because they don’t have a pavilion. So rose cuts tend to have little sparkle, and more of a mirror like appearance. You’ll often see rose cuts interspersed with brilliant cuts so you have a combination of the sparkle from the brilliant cuts and the light (and color!) moving across the surface of the rose cuts.

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Rose cuts are one of those things that you either love or hate. They are typically used as accents, rather than a center piece of a project, so finding large rose cut diamonds that are the main stone in a piece is pretty rare, although it’s becoming more and more common!

Here are a couple of rose cut pears, illustrating that they don’t just come in rounds, but also other fancy shapes such as pears, ovals, cushions, marquises, etc:

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One thing I’ve noticed about rose cuts lately is that people are just flipping over badly cut stones (typically very shallow stones) and calling it a rose cut when it’s really not, it’s just a badly cut stone. Classic rose cuts have a particular facet pattern, with a hexagon pattern on the top. There are currently several rose cut style patterns for gemstones being developed, most notably by Jeffrey Hunt and Doug Menadue of Bespoke Gems.

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Thanks to Jewels by Grace for letting me play with these beautiful little rose cut diamonds! They are spectacular and I want to keep them all!

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A Month of Diamonds

I am an April baby. And…I don’t like diamonds.

But, because it’s my birthstone and because of the social importance imparted on us and the significance of diamonds, they have still managed to play a influential part in my life.

When I was thirteen, my mom gifted me with the tiniest diamond ring imaginable. If you’ve been following me on instagram, you might have seen it. I know nothing about the diamond besides the fact that it’s so small I have to check with magnification to see it and make sure it hasn’t popped out, and from what I can tell, it’s likely a single cut melee. I think it’s about 1mm in diameter, so when I say it’s small, I mean it! I wore that ring all of the time, in fact, I don’t remember when I stopped wearing it, but it was probably sometime when I was in high school when boys started giving me rings.

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Diamond birthstone ring from my mother for my 13th birthday.birthstone bling2

My second diamond ring was a gift from an old boyfriend. That ring also had tiny diamonds in it and was terribly 1980s-1990s and yellow gold. My third taste of diamonds came from another ex, another tiny diamond that had a huge carbon chunk in it from a mall jewelry store. They are both long gone now, but it’s probably a good thing – what do you even do with jewelry from exes?

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An antique diamond band from the 1930s. 

My mother had always had a couple diamond rings that belonged in her family, and I expected to inherit them someday. It wasn’t long after she was rediagnosed with breast cancer that she came to me and explained that she was sending them to who she felt was the rightful heir, since they couldn’t be evenly split among her many siblings (youngest of ten). So I found out that I wouldn’t be receiving those heirlooms a bit abruptly.

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Carre and single cut band inspired by Tiffany & Co.

And then, for my parent’s 27th wedding anniversary, I finally talked my dad into buying my mom a diamond, her first real diamond that would be hers, as my parents didn’t have the traditional engagement with a ring involved and my dad is not the jewelry buying type. We spent a series of a few days at a few different jewelers, looking at diamonds and really getting an idea of what she would like and what my dad wanted to get her. Marketing terminology won him over with a “princess”. He said as soon as he heard that it was called a “princess”, he had to have one for her. Unfortunately I totally failed when it came to the setting department, and put it in a boring stock solitaire.

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My mother’s princess cut diamond.

Now, if there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I like to sleep. I’m a night owl, and the later I can sleep in, the better. I pestered my dad to tell me how he was going to give the ring to my mom, and he, while brilliant, is not terribly creative. He got up before her, and put the store bag next to her coffee pot. My parents got up at incredibly, stupidly early hours, so the sun wasn’t even close to coming up. I, a person who loves sleep, set my alarm to wake up BEFORE my parents so I could witness my mom receiving this gift we had put so much time into. And around 5am, I was greatly rewarded, skulking in the dark living room while my mom stumbled into the kitchen to start her coffee without even putting her glasses on. I remember the conversation as clear as if it were yesterday:

“David, what is this?”
“Why don’t you open it up and find out?”
…opens the bag, finds the box, opens it and…
“Holy shit…is that real?!”

Yes, it was. And I can probably count on one hand the times I heard my mom use a curse word.

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My mother’s anniversary present, reset into platinum. 

These few instances signify some of the more emotional ties I have had to diamonds specifically, even though I’ve never really had the love affair that most women seem to have with diamonds. I’ve always admired diamonds because they are sparkly, and goodness knows I love sparkly things, but diamonds never really felt like something I had to have.

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Antique Old Mine Cut diamond with a badly chipped girdle.

Until I found antique diamonds. And then I found fancy colored diamonds. Suddenly I found myself overwhelmed with the fact that I did like diamonds – I just had to find the right flavor! I’m planning on spending most of April talking about diamonds, but as per usual with me, just not your every day Modern Round Brilliants!

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Old European Cut diamonds set in my platinum Prive band.

Current Trends

I spend entirely too much time on instagram, and I’m ashamed to say that I look at users like the Kardashian’s. I know, I know, they are famous for a sex tape, blah blah blah. But the family is absolutely entrenched in fashion. And they are at the front lines! Kendall and Kylie are models, all of the girls have their individual clothing and shoe lines, makeup, hair, etc. I have used pictures of Khloe’s hair color for my own hair inspiration! But I keep an eye on them, because they are trendsetters and know what’s hot with teens right now!

Also, I also follow Lauren Conrad – she has a really interesting shabby chic thing going on, and certainly helps embody the details I mentioned above. Pastels, tutus, soft, feminine shapes. Totally opposite from the black leather and harsher lines of the Kardashians.

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It’s so weird to me that these reality show “stars” are successful and actually making statements in fashion. Who knew these empires would come from terrible television.

Right now I think that there is a trend towards disposable fashion, and that’s being translated into jewelry. So I’m seeing lots of super thin shanks, small stones, stacks of small rings or necklaces to make a bigger statement. Geometrics. Statement pieces. Thin shanks with tiny stones in bezels. Antique, vintage items are also becoming really popular because those items are one of a kind, and people/fashion seems to be pushing to make statements to be “one of a kind”. So lots of stacks, multiple rings on each hand, statement pieces with gold, silver, and gemstones.

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Big, opulent pieces seem to be shoved to the backburner for now, although they are always hanging around on the edges, and on celebrities.

But I am so happy to see COLOR! Yellow gold, rose gold, all colors of gems!

I’m kind of wondering where we’ll go next!

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And one last picture of this Montana sapphire with an amazing high crown and thick polished girdle.

I don’t drawn inspiration from Kardashians or LC, but I still like to see what they’re doing. Especially Khloe’s hair…hah!

Exciting News!

I am adding an extra post this week to announce that I have opened up an etsy store! Now, I’m still working towards getting my own site with my own designs, but in the meantime, I really wanted to get some of the loose gemstones that have been collected over the years out of my possession and into someone else’s.

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I don’t plan on replenishing the supply of gemstones because I can’t set or keep everything and I need to make space for new stuff! So if I don’t already have it in my possession, odds are good that I won’t be getting it, but I can always point you in a direction that might be fruitful.

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There are also some items of jewelry and settings on the etsy store as well, mostly because I don’t have room in my jewelry box for them anymore. Hah!

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This post is to announce the grand opening of my etsy shop!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheGemstoneProject

Because I wanted to thank my readers for checking it out, if you see something you like, I’m offering a 10% off coupon code (no quotes) on any purchase over $100 for the month of February: “GRANDOPENING”

My inventory consists of mostly precision cut stones, with a heavy emphasis on oranges, reds, purples and blues, plus a healthy dose of green, and some random earthy shades as well. There is always the risk that I’ll randomly get inspired by a gem in the shop, and it may be pulled to make into a piece of jewelry, so if you see something you like, please grab it while you can!

So please, check out the store, and if you’re looking for something in particular, I might have it, and it just hasn’t been listed yet. So please feel free to reach out and ask if I have an item and you don’t see it in the shop. Should you end up picking up something, I’m always available to help design a setting!

Feature: Jewels by Grace

I promised you a feature with Grace Lavarro of Jewels by Grace, and today is the day! So if you’ve ever wanted to know what her real engagement ring looks like, or what her favorite item of jewelry is, read on!

So, to start off easy, what is your favorite cocktail?
​My current poison of choice is Ginger Gimlets.

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When did you first fall in love with jewelry?
​I’ve always been very curious about jewelry but my “real” interest started when I started the hunt for the my 1st (hah!) engagement ring. We were young, with limited funds, so we scrimped and saved for this ring – a 1ct princess cut diamond ring 🙂 I loved everything about it then, and I designed the setting as well.​

What do you think every woman should have in her jewelry box? I’m going to limit it to 5 things, because I know you!
​I always advocate that women should have a versatile jewelry suite – several pieces that would easily take them from day to night, from casual to glam. I will pretend that I did not read the “limit to 5” restriction 🙂 But in all seriousness, if we had to limit this to 5, then the last 2 items listed may be left off.

Beautiful earrings. Not many people know this about me, but earrings are MY favorite piece of jewelry. With my earrings on, I feel complete. These can be studs, or dangles. I am partial to dangles because I do like seeing the sparkle and glimmer of gems when one’s head moves. Earrings frame a beautiful face beautifully – everyone SHOULD have a killer pair of earrings!

A nice solitaire – and by nice, I don’t necessarily mean huge! I am talking about a ring that is classically styled and elegant. A half carat diamond in a beautiful setting is more beautiful in my eyes than a poorly-cut diamond in an unattractive, “look-at-me” setting.

​A blingy right hand ring,​ ​preferably vintage, for that certain je ne sais quoi​​. Because right hand rings REALLY need to be bold, and big, and be present on the finger!

A long chain necklace is a must as well. It can be a diamonds-by-the-yard style, or a chain with some intricate design details. I like them long enough to wear doubled and I am very partial to French chains – they have the prettiest patterns and styles and work very well for layering. Even if only in a t-shirt, an elegant long necklace finishes any ensemble very, very nicely.

Wrist bling! Wrists are the last frontier for me (no, I don’t think I will ever advocate for belly button jewelry)! I like seeing pieces on wrists with some depth – different colored metal perhaps, or a mix of the old and the new. I like wearing all my bracelets and cuffs on the right wrist, stacked with my watch. I call it “organized chaos.”

And, if budget allows, these two other pieces:
A band that can be worn stacked, yet be bold enough to be worn on its own. This could be a 5 or 7 stone band, or an eternity band.

A nice watch. Again, it does not need to a designer watch, but a watch that is styled nicely (diamonds optional) and could work with one’s jewelry (and lifestyle). A fave of mine is a yellow gold boyfriend watch by Coach (all of $265!).

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What do you look for in jewelry when you’re buying for your shop?
​I like pieces which are different, interesting, and unique. I like pieces with beautiful craftsmanship and those which clearly evoke the different eras – Deco, Victorian, Edwardian.

I love Art Deco, but there are just so many great antique looks that came out at different time periods that I know I can’t ever pick just one! Do you have a favorite era?
​See above! Art Deco has always been a big fave but Victorian pieces are creeping up to be a close second as I am wearing almost only yellow gold jewels lately.​

I have noticed a ton of rose cuts coming out of Jewels by Grace lately, and I know that they are pretty rare, as most people have never seen them in real life. Are they becoming more plentiful or are you just buying all of them?
​They have always been around but the recent surge in popularity, I would say, is due to jewelry designers using more and more of them in their designs. I have always loved rose cuts and buy them for my shop every chance I get!​

What was your original engagement ring?
A 1ct princess cut diamond in a half-bezel ring (hey, this was the early 90’s, ok?)​

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You are a female small business owner in a male-dominated industry, has that been difficult?
​Yes, in so many ways, this is still very much a male-dominated field! It has not always been easy to navigate the industry.

How did you get into the business? And what did you do before you opened JbG?
​I was in the professional services industry, a pencil pusher 🙂

The decision to get into the industry was not a conscious one. Many years ago, I decided to pare down my collection and started selling off pieces here and there. I met my previous business partner Erica when she bought her first diamond from me. We became fast friends via email, and after seeing an episode of Oprah one afternoon where she declared that we must all follow our bliss, I felt it was time! My friendship with Erica started at the perfect time, and after pooling our resources, Jewels by Erica Grace was born.

Was there a pivotal moment of transitioning into the industry full time?
​After we hit a certain sales milestone, we knew the business needed our full time attention. I would say that this really depends on the business owner – that sales target could vary wildly from one person to the next.​

How have your tastes have changed over the course of your job?
​I do not think that my tastes have changed much over the years, to be honest. More than anything, I rely on my aesthetics and instinct in picking and selecting jewels. A very prominent antique jeweler once told me that I had the eye for this job and I have never let myself forget that. In moments where I need clarity, I let my eyes guide me! It sounds pretty simple and that’s because it really, really is.

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What is your favorite piece that you currently have in your shop?
​I am very partial to twin stone rings so its only natural that I am totally in love with the 4.10tcw Victorian bypass ring! I love it so!​

Do you have any pieces that you wouldn’t ever sell?
I get very attached to personal pieces so once I declare them mine, its highly unlikely that I would ever want to part with them. Most of the pieces that you see on the Jewels by Grace home page (the slider pics) are personal pieces of mine – those would remain in my jewelry box, thank you very much!

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(Can I just take a minute to gawk over the beauty in the above photograph?! The ring and the photography are stellar!)

So, when are we going to go sing karaoke?
​Girl. These pipes were born ready. 🙂

I suggest you click on the following links, enjoy the amazing photos, and see if anything in particular catches your interest! And keep a watch on this woman – she is a force to be reckoned with, and has an eye for spectacular detail!

Jewels by Grace
Jewels by Grace SmugMug
Jewels by Grace Instagram
Jewels by Grace Facebook

Oh yeah, and go look at her brand spanking new Holiday Look Book!

Grace is in the middle of holding some giveaways over the holiday season. If you are her follower on Instagram, like her on Facebook or subscribe to her newsletters, you are entered to win one of her fantastic bracelets! They are similar to the ones below, but have colorless rose cut sapphires in them. If you haven’t already, please take a minute and go find her on social media for a chance to win a gorgeous piece of jewelry!

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Please note: All of the pictures used in this post have been used with permission of their owner, Grace Lavarro of Jewels by Grace, and are her property.

Design: New York City Inspired Ring

I figured that it’s the day after Thanksgiving, I might as well post a project that has been in the works for years, because after all of this time, it’s gotten to be pretty special and has some sentimental meaning for me. And my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, so why not?

I went to school up in New York State for almost a year, and spent all of my spending money on traveling to New York City. My favorite place in the entire city is Grand Central Terminal, but I find myself inspired by the city as a whole, especially by the Art Deco designs that are so prevalent throughout. The Empire State building’s interiors, the Chrysler Building’s tower and spire, and of course Grand Central Terminal make me fall in love with the city all over again, every time I am there.

So I’ve been wanting to do a NYC inspired design for some time, and I’ve been tossing around a few ideas using the architecture and interior designs from NYC landmarks as the inspiration for this one, very special piece. Here are some of the sketches of the ideas I’ve played with.

Chrysler Building exterior:

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Playing with the star layout of some constellations and looking at the arches from the windows in GCT:

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Again, Chrysler Building, GCT, rough sketches of ideas.

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Starting to grasp an idea of what I think I like the most, elements from GCT:

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Developing the idea in a more comprehensive way, using actual proportions for real stones. You can see the changes to this initial idea I want to make over to the side.

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Getting there. Still seeing if this idea is where I really want to go, and seeing if it’s something I can actually make work. I see it in my head, but so far I can’t make it work on paper.

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As you can see, I have come up with a pretty complex idea, and it’ll take a long time to put together something that works the right way. There are a lot of elements to fit together and it’s a bit like a puzzle. I think I know where I want to go with the next sketch, but when the sketches are this large (this is 10x the real size of the gems) it tends to take longer to do even a minor revision.

Color is going to come into play in a big way on this piece, but that probably won’t be seen on paper, because I do not feel comfortable at all adding color to my sketches at the moment! Colored gems seem to have a unique and irritating way of making their “look” impossible (or at least pretty difficult) to capture on paper. Must go practice!