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.

 

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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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.

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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?

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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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Designing Accolade

I have had a rough week, first I burned my hand while using a heat gun (remodeling) and then when I went to go to bed on Friday night, I thought it felt a bit cold…it was 60 in our house instead of the usual downright tropical 70. Turns out that the heater went out on us, and the heating company isn’t open until Monday. So I’m writing this blog from one of two reasonably not-freezing cold rooms, draped in blankets with a space heater humming away. Thank goodness we still have electricity!

As a result of all of the remodeling (and painting!) I’ve been doing lately, I have barely been wearing any of my jewelry, so I wanted to write about one of my favorite and most popular pieces: the Accolade band.

I often get asked what my biggest seller is, and I would have to say that it’s my Accolade band. I feel like there are a lot of women out there right now who are stacking so many fantastic rings and accenting their engagement rings or any rings with really fun bands, and the texture and versatility of the Accolade certainly lends itself to adding interest to any stack.

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The CAD of the flat version.

It originally started out as just a doodle. I had been thinking about all of the writers and word smiths in my extended family, and thought about how pretty the curves of the braces are (curly bracket, curly braces, squiggly bracket, etc) and I really wanted to make something inspired by them. I initially was interested in making it into a halo shape. If you hadn’t noticed, I’m particularly into making halos with unconventional shapes, evidence here, here, here and here.

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But then as I doodled one day, after the Glacé was made, I realized that if you flip the brace on it’s side, and then alternate it facing upwards and downwards, it created a beautiful series of waves with alternating curves and points. Later, as I studied architectural arches for another project, I would discover the Ogee arch – very similar in shape to the brace, further solidifying my instincts that found the shape beautiful.

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The flat version was made first, but I had it high polished and plain for the first prototype. While lovely, I thought that it really needed something to add a little bit of dimension and depth to the piece, while not distracting from the lines of the band. So I added milgrain because I thought that the band would go exceptionally well with the outline of the Exalteé halo. But as soon as I had laid eyes on the high polished flat version, I knew that a curved version needed to be made as well, this time with a brushed finish.

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They are so perfect to add just a little bit of texture with some negative space, and make wonderful wedding bands as well.

My fingers are crossed that I can get back to wearing jewelry soon enough (maybe once I’m done painting?) and one of these bands will be something I reach for first. The Accolade band is available through David Klass Jewelry in many styles and textures, even with diamonds or gemstones!

Are there any questions you’ve ever wanted to ask a gemstone cutter but were afraid to ask? Feel free to submit any questions you may have through me, and they may get answered in an upcoming feature by a wonderful lapidary!

Also, a note: I just renewed a bunch of listings in my shop on etsy! I’m planning on adding a few items there, hopefully this week, including a fancy colored diamond ring, and a red spinel and diamond ring. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to be added to the interest list for either item!

Miscellaneous Updates

Just a quick update this week, New Years is coming up soon (where did this year go?), and getting my new office/studio together is taking up way more time than I planned on.

  • My wonderful Angie Crabtree “Elle” print was finally framed, and it’s waiting for it’s new spot to be hung in my new office. I went simple on this one, and hopefully, since she is working on some antique diamond cuts, I can give “Elle” a companion sooner rather than later!
  • I haven’t been able to sketch and design as much as I normally do, snow shoveling has taken way too much of my time, as well as driving in the snow. It turns out that driving slow is key for avoiding wrecks! Right now I have three (plus) projects going on – two ring projects that I have very clear ideas on, and another more fluid project that I got a whole parcel of stones for, and have too many ideas on, so that will need to be worked on, hopefully in the coming week or so.
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  • Not much going on with stock settings, I decided against rolling out the Dignité for now, and will probably reconsider in the future. I am working on a three stone idea that has been formulating in my head that lends itself well to pairing with the Vivant necklace.
  • Instead of the Dignité being released, I posted the Intrepide – a wonderful interesting halo that’s just a slight tweak on a simple halo, that really comes with big impact!  This setting is available for any size and shape of stone, please contact us for details.
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  • I have a Voeu ring that just came out of production, and is available to view in person at David Klass Jewelry in Los Angeles. This one was made with a peachy-brown imperial garnet with both yellow gold and rose gold. This setting really lends itself well to smaller stones, giving them a good dose of presence, even for a smaller stone.
  • I got a few new jewelry tools for the holidays, so I’m excited to use those, both for pictures and just in general.
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  • I am considering sending several sapphires to AGL for certification, but the negative side of doing that (for the customer) is that the prices will inevitably go up.
  • Speaking of pricing, I think I might do a sale on my items on etsy for January. I will decide in the next week or so.
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A bit short today, I have been completely overloaded, but will hopefully get back into the groove again soon!

Engagement Season

It’s getting to be that time of year where everyone spends a lot of time with family and friends, going from party to party and opening lots of wonderful presents. It’s also that fateful time of year when people want to get engaged. I’m not sure what it is, but something about the holidays brings out the bling.

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Not that I’m complaining, of course! My very best friends got engaged on Thanksgiving, and my husband proposed to me a week before Christmas.

So lets talk about colored stone engagement rings, shall we?

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  1. Pick something hardy to try to withstand a lifetime. I usually recommend only spinel and sapphire if you’re going to deviate from hardness of a diamond. Spinel is about an 8 on the Mohs Scale, and sapphires are about a 9. Chrysoberyl (and Alexandrite) is also pretty hard at 8.5, but tends to be a less popular choice.
  2. Stick with something classic or something that you know you will love in twenty years as much as you love it now.
  3. Think about what kind of wedding band you want! So many people walk into stores and think about the engagement ring, but never think about what the pair it with. Easier to plan a whole set sometimes, especially if you’re going with something besides a relatively simple solitaire.
  4. Take good care of your engagement ring. Truly, no engagement ring should be worn 24/7, even diamonds. Hardness does not equal being indestructible.  Don’t wear it while doing anything that could cause any harm to the stone – gardening, washing dishes, lifting heavy items. I like to buy a fancy box and put it in there, safe from potential harm while I’m doing those kinds of things.
  5. Color. What color do you want? What is her/your favorite color? What colors do you wear a lot? What stone does the color the best? Is that type of stone at least a 7 on the Mohs Scale? Does that type of stone have other qualities you like (dispersion) or dislike (facet abrasion)? 1
  6. Does the stone need a protective setting to try to prevent nicks and chips? Typically people will bezel or halo a stone that’s on the softer side that may need help in the protection department, but this still leaves the table and crown facets open to getting hit. No setting is going to completely protect your center stone, which is why you have to be careful with it!
  7. Is it in the budget? Rubies, sapphires and emeralds are all going to be very classic choices and typically have the best colors, but spinel does red very well (and has a much cleaner crystal!), spinel also does blue very well, and tsavorites can have eye popping green color as well (plus they often have cleaner crystal as well. Spinels and garnets have the bonus to rarely being treated, as well as often being less expensive than their classic counterparts. Fine rubies, emeralds and sapphires can cost more than diamonds. Colored stones are not always going to be less expensive than diamonds!
  8. Treatment levels. Often, when someone is looking for an engagement ring colored stone, they would like the stone to have as little treatment as possible. As with most colored stone purchases, so long as all treatments are disclosed, and you’re paying a fair price for what you’re getting, you’re good to go.
  9. Size. Is the size practical for her lifestyle? Is she very active and play lots of sports? Does she like big jewelry? Or does she like small? Has she ever admired a relative’s jewelry item? What does the rest of her jewelry look like?
  10. Style. This is probably the topic that I’m most invested in (obviously!) but there are so many different styles out there that the choices are absolutely limitless. Classic, trendy, Art Deco, Mid Century, modern, quirky, just to name a few.

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Hoping that everyone has a wonderful holiday/engagement season!