Proportions & Balance

I started writing this blog a year ago.  The reason I haven’t completed the entry until now is because it’s incredibly difficult to put something that comes as instinct into words.  I cannot talk about exclusively proportions while leaving out the rest of the elements that could create conflict even within the correct proportions. So here is my attempt at it!

Typically I will design a piece of jewelry by being inspired by one or more of four things:

  1. A specific gemstone.
  2. A design concept, or inspiration piece.
  3. A shape.
  4. A color combination.

Note that size is not one of them!

I feel as though most designs are made as a frame for the center stone, which is why we see so many plain diamond halos for a variety of colored stones and diamonds.  They are popular, but not particularly interesting or unusual, and designed to basically be background noise for the center stone.

Proportion is the word for the relationship between sizes of one element to another element.

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A vintage ring that had wonderful proportions, with the size and shape of the side stones impeccably enhancing the center stone.

So I think about the piece of jewelry as a piece of art. That means choosing a focal point, and building everything else around that.  The background shouldn’t overpower the focal point, and the entire piece needs to have balance and cohesion. This is most obvious with 3, 5, and 7 stone jewelry, but can be applied to haloed items as well.

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Now, the key with the proportion is to ensure as to not overpower the main stone or the main focal point with the details. With a multi stone ring (3,5,7 stones traditionally) the idea is to make the stones uniform, or to create a flow or pattern to enhance the center stone or to create it’s own unit. The ideal is to create harmony between elements, and stick to having one main focal point. I have attempted pieces before that failed at this for one reason or another, and luckily I was able to learn from them. The Art Deco period of jewelry was particularly adept at creating jewelry with many small background elements enhancing a strong central element.

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The Resistance ring with diamond side stones becoming the background and a vivid emerald center stone taking center stage.

A problem that I see pretty often is that an item of jewelry will have multiple focal points, or multiple elements that prevent a cohesive unit, either with sizes, shape or color.

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As far as size goes, I always look towards math. Typically if you pair side stones with a center stone, they should follow a mathematical pattern. For instance, I have a drawing of a 5 stone with three rounds and two pears as my current Facebook default picture (seen above). The center stone is 8mm, the side rounds are 4mm, and the pears are 2mm wide.  Often, working from a center stone down to sides, is best to figure out what kind of proportion you want. Half is a typically safe size, with a third being pretty standard as well.

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This version of the Ingénue holds a 3.5mm rose cut and a 7mm spinel. 

A deft hand must be used to have a sense of how color, proportion and size work together and create unity with all elements, or balanced design. Creating a ring that has multiple colors is always going to be a bit tricky, which is often why using a lot of restraint is key. Sometimes things that seem like an obvious pairing look horrible together if any element doesn’t harmonize with the rest of the elements.

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So, I would advise that when you are considering putting jewelry together, ask yourself a series of questions:

  1. What is my focal point?
  2. Does this enhance or detract from my focal point?
  3. Are these the right proportions? Should they be larger or smaller?
  4. What does the negative space look like?
  5. Is this balanced?

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Gem Blast: Emeralds

Emeralds are considered one of the four “precious gemstones” along with ruby, diamond and sapphire (blue, specifically, since, you know, red and pinkish sapphire is typically considered ruby. But whatever.) So that means that they are highly prized, highly synthesized and highly treated.

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But it’s the birthstone for May so I’ll do a post on it, especially because I am lucky enough to have had two fantastic specimens in my hot little hands for the moment and of course have photographed the heck out of both.

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I have a special place in my heart for green. It was my favorite color from roughly age fourteen until about seventeen. And no other gem does green quite the way emerald does. Here is an gorgeous Afghan tourmaline to illustrate this point:

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And a green beryl/Aquamarine:

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One of the things that makes emerald so special is the glow that seems to light it up from the inside, almost like a green light on a stop light. Fittingly part of what gives it this look is “jardin” the name for the inclusions within emerald, French for “garden”. The only time emerald really seems to “sparkle” is when it’s incredibly clean and without jardin, but this variety of emerald has an entirely different look and feel to it, more like a bright green aquamarine than the soft, but intense glow of a stone with jardin.

Close up with the smaller of the two. Both are Colombian in origin.

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This particular emerald doesn’t have a ton of inclusions, making it pretty rare for an emerald. Just enough jardin to give it that glow factor, which is so highly sought after in these green beauties.

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The larger of these two beauties is for sale, and I keep restraining myself from thinking about setting ideas for it.

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But I still have the little one to play with. I was thinking something Art Deco would be awesome…and emeralds always look amazing with diamonds!

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Maybe I need to hit up the sketchbook…

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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Oscar Jewelry

It’s that time! Oscar fever!

I don’t really pay much attention to Hollywood award ceremonies. Except for the red carpet. I swear, it’s the only reason these ceremonies exist in the public eye. Evening gown designers, shoe designers, makeup artists, stylists, hair stylists, I get tired just thinking about how much work goes into creating one person’s “look” for a few hours. Regardless, I still enjoy seeing it all put together, and it’s a good way to stay on top of the trends.

I wanted to do a bit of a post about some of the jewelry and fashion that has stuck out the most to me from over the years, since we’re in the middle of awards season and approaching the Oscars. It turns out that I pay more attention to the Oscars than I do the other red carpets, but that might have to do with it being the creme de la creme, or at least that’s what Hollywood wants us to think.

Without further ado, here are some of the jewelry pieces (and complete looks!) that have stood out to me over the past several years.

In 2013, at the Oscars, Robin Roberts was recovering from cancer treatment, but you would never guess it, seeing her in a stunning Marc Bouwer blue velvet gown and gorgeous blue sapphire (I think?) and diamond earrings, bracelet and a ring. Does anyone know who made them? I searched and sadly couldn’t find a name attached to them or details! So if you’re the designer of these pieces, or know who made them, I’d love to be able to associate a name to them! I love that she really embraced blue, covering herself in it, and instead of looking dated (hello 1980s!) her blue eyeshadow just made her look positively radiant and pulled the whole look together.

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Now, Jennifer Lawrence sort of debuted as America’s newest Sweetheart when she tripped going up the stairs at the 2013 Oscars. But what was really catching people’s attention was the long Chopard necklace with 73cts of diamond beads, that she wore down her back. Her other jewels, while receiving a lot less notice were still just as fabulous, Chopard earrings totaling 23 cts of diamonds, made with round brilliant and rose cut diamonds, Chopard floral diamond ring that’s 8cts and a Chopard diamond band weighing 5cts.

Grand total: 109cts

Not bad Jen!

I’ve been thinking about diamond beads since Carrie’s necklace in the Sex and the City finale, but that trend never seemed to get off the ground. This one makes a much bigger statement than Carrie’s did, and I don’t know that Jennifer will ever be able to top the perfection of this look. The hair, the dress, the makeup, the jewelry, everything was positively spot on.

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In 2004, Angelina Jolie wasn’t yet the object of Brad Pitt’s affections and tabloid fodder. But I still remember admiring her stunning white gown by Marc Bouwer and almost falling over at her necklace – the $10 million, 85-carat Athena necklace, a piece on loan from H. Stern, featuring flawless D colored diamonds. The combination of the dress and the necklace was stunning, and combined with Angelina’s lighter hair, understated makeup and subtle diamond earrings, had Hollywood glamour with a hint of the raciness that put Angelina on the map.

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This is probably the first time I’ve thought that Lady Gaga actually looked demure and lady-like, but I guess the Oscars kind of requires that. She was bedecked in Lorraine Schwartz rose gold and 20ct diamond studs, rose gold and diamond bracelet, and a rose gold and fancy grey diamond ring surrounded by pink diamonds. My favorite part about her jewelry, although I couldn’t find a good picture, was the ring. I love gray gemstones so much! And to be paired with a pale pink and silver beaded Art Deco inspired Versace gown, she looked positively luminous. Why on earth did she make so many worst dressed lists? Sure, it’s not as scandalous as a meat dress, but I think she looks appropriate for the occasion, and shockingly normal.

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Lady Gaga at Oscars (close up)

So I have to confess, I have no idea who Samantha Barks is. But her dress and necklace at the 2013 Oscars are perfect together, really stood out to the jewelry obsessed, and the dress framed it perfectly. The official description of the necklace reads: “House of Waris for Forevermark Light Emanating from the Heart pendant in 18k yellow gold with Oval Forevermark diamond.” This 14.67-carat oval diamond really stood out in the crowd – that’s one thing about ovals – they have a lot of presence!

Samantha Barks diamond necklace

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Last, but certainly not least, is this elegant look from Angelina from almost 6 years ago, Oscars 2009. These earrings have spawned a ton of cheap imitations, but let me tell you, nothing can replicate the glowy green of Colombian Emerald! These are Lorraine Schwartz (of course!) and they are Colombian Emerald 115ctw earrings with a matching 65ct ring. They really stole the show from both Angelina (wearing impeccable subtle makeup yet again! It suits her.) and the black Elie Saab dress.

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So these are some of the jewelry looks that have stood out to me over the past decade, even before I was really paying attention to jewelry as closely as I do now. I really wish that there was more color out on the red carpet, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the award ceremonies that will be on our TV screens soon!

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
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Jewels by Grace Instagram
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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!