Principles of Design

I doubt that one of the people with the biggest influences on me would even remember my name.

Study the basic concepts of figure, ground, line, contrast, pattern, proportion, color, symmetry, movement, unity, and balance. Students learn the principles of two- and three-dimensional design and develop language to analyze product design, plate presentations, decoration, and packaging on visual, tactile, and conceptual levels.

In 2004, I was quite young, yet already three years into my culinary career, and already terribly jaded. I had an associates degree in culinary arts, and had worked in several restaurants of varying quality, back of the house, front of the house, a little bit of everything. And I was accepted to what is probably still considered “the Harvard of culinary schools” into the baking and pastry program.

I had started out my culinary career as wanting to pursue the savory side, and that the sweet side was all wedding cakes, bread, and bakeries – nothing I was interested in. It was midway through my associates degree that I fell in love with pastry. With pastry, you could make anything you wanted utilizing several fundamental ingredients – namely sugar, butter, eggs, flour. And suddenly it was like my world opened. With savory food, you were tied to ingredients and keeping those ingredients recognizable. Who would want to eat a chicken thigh that looks like a flower? Baking did not have aesthetic limits.

Boom.

Which is how I found my way to The Culinary Institute of America, and specifically to Bruce Ostwald’s Principles of Design class, the first college level art class I ever took. Sure, the curriculum was based around food, creating plates that would have interesting textures and colors, as well as incorporating different complementary flavors and temperatures. But at the heart of this class was design – art. Visuals. Contrast. Texture. Negative space. Color. Movement. So while I was trying my hardest to continue cramming knowledge about food into my brain, my heart was learning something else – creativity. Expressing myself through a variety of mediums.

 

The problem was, sugar and chocolate couldn’t hold my interest. I was too interested in people, and when you make food, you have essentially no contact with the people you’re making it for.

Less than two years later that I returned to school, and this time I was aiming for art history. I had picked up some culinary French, and I had always had an interest in architecture, so art history made sense.

Until it didn’t.

At 22, I had just spent five years working towards a career that I really enjoyed, but that felt somewhat lacking in the practicality department – the restaurant world is very difficult to have a family in, and making a living wage seemed downright impossible – I had the best culinary school in the country on my resume and was only able to command $9/hour with no benefits. What sort of career could a bachelor’s degree in art history give me? On top of that, I felt like an anomaly – my peers were just graduating with their four year degrees, and I was already well on my way to being career changer.

So while the practical side of me chose something that was somewhat more useful – a bachelor’s in psychology is applicable in a variety in positions, though not exactly a career jump starter – I used everything in the rest of my background’s arsenal, including my interest in my father’s long time career, to gain enough momentum to create another career for myself. Which, over the years, I have turned into my day job.

And then there is the creative side, which you see here, where the spark that was discovered through Mr. Ostwald’s design class has been a glowing ember and has turned into a bonfire. Only, it’s in jewelry, rather than food. Because I can work one on one with my clients, and hopefully create something that they hold dear for years, or even generations, to come.

My most memorable piece in my principles of design class was mixed media on blue background, with diamonds cut from magazine ads exploding outwards. I should have known.

 

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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.

sketch

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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2016 Holiday Deadlines

I posted the holiday deadlines to my Facebook page but I figured they should be posted here as well to make sure that no one misses them!

Custom jewelry: November 1st
Stock design: November 23rd
In store item: December 19th
In store item with expedited shipping: December 21th

I live in a small town, and unfortunately USPS cannot guarantee overnight delivery from where I’m located! I do have access to a UPS office, but no FedEx.

There may be some slight flexibility in these, but that would be on a case by case basis! Please contact us directly for details!

Also, this is the last week for our fall sale (15% off!) in the etsy shop! Don’t miss out! The coupon code can be found on the Facebook page!

And because I can’t stop posting photos of this everywhere, here is the newest version of the Intrepide! My client’s 4.42ct Mahenge Spinel that she has been holding into for 5 years (!) looks fantastic in it’s new home!

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Design Thoughts & Questions

Just a sample of some of the questions I ask myself while working on a project.

up close

Does it have purpose?

What does it make you feel?

Is it risky?

Is it beautiful?

Does it flow with the other elements?

Is it functional?

Is this element both beautiful and functional?

Does it look like something I’ve seen somewhere else?

Is there a structural entity that could be more attractive?

Does this need to be here?

Does it need more structure to withstand time and wear?

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Is the wearable/comfortable?

Could someone wear this every day? Or is it an occasional wear item?

Where would the wearer wear this?

How does this interact with the wearer?

Does it move?

Could it move?

Should it move?

How should/could it move?

What are the stones? Are they especially fragile?

What kind of hazards would this likely come into contact with? Is there anything to be done design wise that would better protect it?

featured image

What color metal looks best with the stone?

What color metal looks best with the design?

Would this design work for other stones?

Would this design work for other shapes? How?

Does this stone have any special issues I should try to compensate for or enhance?

Is this idea too fantastical?

Is this idea too boring?

Is this idea classic?

Will it stand the test of time? Or is it trendy?

What kind of surprise elements can I add that the average observer wouldn’t notice, but would make the piece special, and still keep with the feeling of the piece as a whole?

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Gem Blast: Vivant Earrings

If you follow me on social media, you’ve seen these earrings before. They have been all over Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.

Inspired by the Vivant necklace, I got the idea when I found these incredible step cut cushion Mahenge spinels, and had to put them together. I then paired them with a pair of Mahenge round brilliant spinels that I had purchased years ago, tweaked a few details to make the combination of stones work together and elongate the shape to flatter the wearer, and added a post back.

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Showing off a bit of their red fluorescence in the sun.

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Looking a bit blue, reflecting the sky in the stones.

Some of the finer details:

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Mahenge spinel, diamonds and 18kt white gold.
2.40ctw spinels, .30ctw diamonds, 2.70ctw total stone weight.

close up
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Finding a pair of spinels is exceedingly difficult because the stones in general are so rare, but to find some that are the same color, size, shape and cut magnifies to difficulty level thousandfold. Finding two pairs that go together and match on color isn’t exactly easy either, and often is a matter of waiting until the right stone or stones comes around.

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Now, the next time you see them, they will be a bit different. A client took a liking to them, but wanted them changed just a touch, and asked me to make the alterations.  I can’t wait to see them when they are done!
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Social Media Updates

Ok, I’ve been trying to be more active on social media as of late, so I figured I should update everyone here!

Instagram
username: @thegemstoneproject
I have tried to cultivate a fun Instagram feed and carefully decide what to post every day. I typically try to post 3-5 times every day. I will often alternate between bright colors and more subdued black and white images (or black and white items) because I feel like the colors stand out more if they have black and white to temper the bright color of the images. I post a LOT of macro images. Instagram is probably my social media platform of choice. I love taking photos.

Facebook
Want to know when I update my blog? Or when I want to give a quick update, but don’t have time to do a full blog post? Facebook is that place. I also respond to messages, and I try to keep people up to date on all of my goings on. I usually post every one or two weeks.

Pinterest
I don’t think I’ve shared my Pinterest boards before. Well, if you want to take a look, I am here to share them! I have a multitude of different boards for jewelry, and it should surprise no one (seriously, no one!) that they are organized by the color of the jewelry on the board. Blue, pink, teal, red, black & white, gray, etc! My favorite board is the “Multi Colored Bling” board – Some really amazing use of color in fantastic items of jewelry! Note: the “Delicacies” board is a bit tongue in cheek!

Twitter
username: @gemstoneproject
Typically I tweet whatever I’m thinking when I’m thinking it. I’ve also taken to tweeting out my instagram posts as of late. This is going to give you a more candid look at what I do, and I often rant about cooking related things on Twitter (almost always related to Food Network shows!)

Snapchat:
username: gemstoneproject
Want to know what I’m cooking? Or fun stuff I’m doing? I’ve been enjoying snapchat lately, posting snapshots of life, often a bit more candid than what you might see here, on etsy or on instagram. Random bling shots, cooking, food, a bit more life rather than bling.

Etsy
The bulk of what I offer for sale is available here. I try to be more methodical in my sale listings because etsy takes so long to make a listing, it takes away the fun of adding a flair for the dramatic in my writing.  I seem to do more seasonal updates here, and often post items that people have consigned with me.

And just because I always post a picture….

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A Diamond Papillon

The Papillon was my first official foray into creating a stock jewelry line. I spent so many hours agonizing over slight details and figuring out the best way to make those details come together in a cohesive manner. The Papillon was the result and I am still quite proud of it.

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So I wasn’t surprised to get a message asking if I would be amenable to adapting it to a marquise shape and turning it into an engagement ring.

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Due to it’s split shank style, it was a simple adaptation from an oval to a marquise, and one that worked out wonderfully.

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Yellow gold was chosen and it was just a matter of getting it set.

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C & J, I hope that this ring is shared through many incredibly happy years, and that you enjoy it for a long time to come. I am so delighted that you asked me to adapt a design to your stone and so lucky to have shared a small piece of your history together!

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