The Aurore Setting Design Process

The Aurore is special to me in a lot of ways, but especially because it was designed specifically for a stone that I had loved for a long time, but it’s many issues prevented me from setting it.

By now, I think that if you have taken a look at my designs, you’ve noticed that diamonds are almost always accent stones. That’s not to say that I won’t set a diamond, but I put a lot of special consideration into making jewelry with colored stones.

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Colored stones have their own potential problems when it comes to producing a setting for them. For instance, colored stones are typically cut with two things in mind: color and size/weight retention, which come with their own host of issues, typically windows (an area that doesn’t reflect light), which is what the Aurore was specifically designed around.

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Naked sapphire.

I designed the Aurore setting around a padparadscha sapphire I have had for a while, but could never figure out how to set. The stone has a big window in the middle of it due to insufficient depth. Diamonds don’t typically have that problem, it’s a uniquely colored stone issue. The stone has an amazing color, though, and obviously the best was made of the material by the cutter. It also has some inclusions in it, which give it more of a glow and less of a sparkly bomb.

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My solutions to the various problems presented in this particular stone was to start from the bottom and work my way up. The Aurore has a lotus design on the bottom, inspired by the very color of the sapphire, giving the basket some decent coverage, which would help close up that window and let the stone shine.

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Early sketch ideas.

But I didn’t want to just stop there – I had a parcel of marquis diamonds, what if I set those inside the lotus petals on the basket. Then, light hitting the pavilions of the diamonds would potentially reflect light up through the stone!

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Taken a very long time ago!

I would want the lotus petal design to be seen, and the diamonds would of course need lots of light to have that function properly. So a traditional fully round shank was out. Which meant it was time to think outside the box, and the partly open shank, that isn’t a complete circle. And now, we can see the full view of the lotus and diamonds.

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So I then turned my attention to the top of the ring. The stone only measures 5×7, so, I decided that it needed a little bit of help in the size area. Well, since the stone is windowed and not super sparkly, a traditional diamond halo ran the very real risk of outshining the center stone, instead of fully enhancing it. I saw Erika Winters’ Thea halo, and thought, “Hey, why can’t it be all metal? No reason to include diamonds.” And again, taking inspiration from Erika’s Thea halo, and due to the smaller amount of sparkle from the center, decided against high polish, and went with a matte finish.

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But a plain metal halo would be boring – so since I had become vehemently against putting the sapphire against diamonds, that meant metal detail. I got the inspiration for the shapes from an antique diamond and emerald ring. The shapes are different, but the idea for the layout is similar.

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All in all, I was so satisfied with the first version of the ring, I decided to go to the opposite side of the color spectrum and do a white metal version.

In doing a second prototype, the gray spinel’s window was much smaller, so I decided to forgo the diamonds on the gallery. But instead of keeping the entire thing with a matte finish, I decided to have my bench put a high polish on the metal halo’s details. Which really lends a beautiful effect and mimics the sparkle of the silvery spinel even more wonderfully than I could have imagined.

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Keeping the white gold with a matte finish was a bit of a gamble, because I wasn’t sure what kind of effect it would have due to it’s gray color, but looking back, it wasn’t something I should have worried about – as a whole, the silvery gray spinel appears even more sparkly surrounded by the contrast of the matte and high polished metal.

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All in all, the Aurore is a setting I’m proud of. There is something very fulfilling about creating something to solve problems, no matter how small, and further enhancing the beauty of what is already there.

The Aurore is available for order directly through me, or through David Klass in Los Angeles.

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!

Spinels: Scale of Gray

I started this blog talking about gray gemstones. When I started my search, I kept coming up empty with what I wanted, until a gemstone that was pretty under appreciated came to my attention – gray spinel. But there wasn’t really any out there.

It turns out that people are reluctant to cut a gray gemstone, because everyone wants bright highly saturated gemstones.

These are some of the stones that were bought (and some since sold) in my quest for exactly what I wanted. One note about gray spinels is that they are incredibly difficult to photograph. They are very temperamental and reflect everything in their environment, and as a result, they are exceptionally problematic to photograph.

The Scale of Gray (SOG) is a scale of 1-10, with one being colorless and 10 being black. The idea for this was based on the art and graphic design principle of grayscale: Wiki article on Grayscale

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Image taken from google image search)

These two spinels are almost colorless. Spinel is typically not colorless and almost always has a modifier of some other color. To be colorless, spinel cannot have impurities. These spinels are so close to colorless that I cannot discern a modifier in them. I consider these stones a 1 on my Scale of Gray. The round stone looks darker here than it is in real life. I will attempt to get a better picture of it and replace it at some point in time.

Round stone: Artistic Colored Stones
Pear Recut: Gemart Services
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This spinel is a very slightly silvery gray, so much so that it’s almost imperceptible unless the stone is on a white background. It can appear colorless at times, especially when in a bright lighting situation. I consider it a 2 on the SOG.
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This stone is deep enough in tone so that the gray color is apparent even when the stone is on a colored background, such as skin, as seen in this picture. This stone can appear to look colorless in certain lighting conditions. I consider this stone a 3 on the SOG. Round: Jeffery Davies Gems & Jewelry
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This stone is what I consider a 4 on the SOG. It is definitely gray in most lighting situations and never appears colorless. Sometimes it can look lighter gray and sometimes it can appear a darker gray, but only blacks out under bright direct sunlight. Round: Julia B Jewelry
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I consider the following stone a 5 on the SOG. Sometimes it appears to be a lighter gray, and sometimes it appears to be darker, but the body color is a clear medium gray. Round stone: Artistic Colored Stones
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This asscher cut from Ryan Quantz is finally being added to the the line up as a 6.  This stone always appears gray, sometimes can appear silvery when the pavilion facets reflect light, and sometimes can appear black in very low lighting situations.
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This stone is what I would consider a 7 on the SOG. It often appears darker gray and never appears colorless. Sometimes the facets reflect light, making it appear medium gray, but overall, this gray color is always going to appear to be darker.
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This spinel is an 8. It’s body color is decidedly dark, and unless it is in very bright lighting situations, it will appear to be very dark or black.
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I consider this stone to be an 8.5 on the SOG. It is a darker gray, often appearing to be black, and when it does not appear black, looks very dark gray, and may have a lighter flash move across the pavilion facets. Cushion: Gemcal
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I consider this stone a 9 on the SOG. The majority of the time, it appears to be black, and only sometimes appears to be gray, typically with sparks of color. Black is considered the absence of light, so I cannot in good faith call this “black” because light travels through it to some extent. Cushion: Custom Gemstones
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I feel as though there has been an increase in popularity in gray spinels, which is great and terrible, all at the same time. I think it’s wonderful that people are giving attention to a neglected color, but at the same time, they are driving up demand, and as a result, prices.

I am constantly on the lookout for these underappreciated gemstones. Nothing really makes me quite as happy as an amazing gray spinel!

Gem Blast: Considering Gemstone Recuts

I typically like to do Gem Blast posts as mostly pictures with little commentary, as it gives me a little break from writing, and I get to post pictures, which I love taking, but this one is a little bit different because it deals with a specific issue: Gemstone Recuts

This stone started out coming to me from ebay, and is a hot pink spinel from the Mahenge area of the Morogoro region of Tanzania. It was 1.8cts, and 7x6mm. It wasn’t until owning this stone for well over a year that I realized that it had a horrible crack in the pavilion, along the keel. I enlisted the help of  Jerry Newman of Gemart Services to see if it could be cut out and let me tell you, that man is a miracle worker.

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Amazing color! But if you look carefully at the above left image, you can see something funky going on on the keel from the face down view. But when you flip it over and look at the keel through a macro lens, it makes sense.

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So I sent my stone to Jerry. He had said that he thought he could get rid of that nastiness without it affecting the face up size. Once he was done, and he is very very fast – I got the “It’s done!” email less than a week after he got it – he said that he thought he could recut it again and make it more brilliant, but he wanted to know my opinion. After the recut:

 

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Obviously I liked the stone just as it is, and didn’t want to lose more material or risk the loss of more saturation. It is difficult to tell because the environmental situations are different from the “before” pictures, but the stone lost a little bit of saturation. However, Jerry managed to only recut the pavilion with no loss to the face up size. It went from 1.8cts to 1.55cts, and actually became more stable since the liability of the crack on the bottom was eliminated. The clarity was improved as well since the fuzziness that the crack created went away.

Hot pink1 Cushion

Because of the overwhelming success of the above pink spinel, I have started considering recutting a few other stones of mine…

Silvery spinel, 5×7, considering a recut on it to improve performance. It currently has a small window, and a bowtie. Sometimes it even shows a bit of half and half shadowing. I think it’d be gorgeous if it had some improved cutting. It has a bulgy pavilion, so recutting it should be relatively simple and improve it significantly. I actually think the stone is nice to begin with, with a really cool light gray, but I think the risk is small enough and the payoff good enough that I think it should probably be done.

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Possible Emerald Tourmaline recut. This is a different case because this stone started out as a precision cut stone from Master Cut Gems. It has a gorgeous color, but it was very badly chipped (mangled?) when it was set in a setting. Unfortunately I didn’t realize this until long after purchasing the original ring. Luckily I had a stone that would fit into the setting, so it wasn’t a total loss, but the stone is pretty much unable to be reset because it’s so badly damaged. Here is a picture of the stone from Dana at Master Cut Gems before it was set:

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Beautiful color, eh? It’s a great teal, not too dark. And here is the stone after being unset, under my macro lens, which makes everything look dark and shadowy, since it is black:

 

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You can see in this image how smoothed out the chipping is, with no sharp edges, showing that it was done quite some time ago, and is not new damage:

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I have a macro picture of the stone in the setting, and you can just barely make out the mess under the one set of double prongs. This is the mess on the opposite end:

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Another view, giving an idea of the slight bicolor (green on one end, blue-green on the other) action going on with this stone, as well as showing the wear on the facet junction on the meet between the crown and the table facets.

 

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So, I’m kind of playing with the idea of seeing if it would be possible to cut all of the bad stuff away, and leave something that could be used. I have talked a little bit before about my love of all things step cut, so it really pains me to chop this up, but I think there might be potential to cut another step cut out of it, perhaps a shorter emerald, a carre or an asscher. Unfortunately, this stone is a smaller 1.07ct (the chip is probably big enough to decrease that!) so it’d probably end up being about 5×5 and maybe .60ct, so I don’t know that it’d make a lot of sense to do it, but I might do it anyway because it’s such a great color.

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Gemstone recutting, or cutting of rough is not a job to be taken lightly. It takes an immense amount of talent, intestinal fortitude, luck and knowledge to produce these small sparkly items. I have nothing but the utmost respect for lapidaries because it is not an easy job, and clients can be hypercritical of the results. I greatly admire those that do it, especially recutting damaged stones and cutting from customer’s rough because of all of the risk involved. Every time I have gone into a jewelry project with something I’m unsure about, I have a pit in my stomach until it is completed, and when the risk is the total ruining of a gemstone, the risk is really quite high, and not something to be attempted on a whim.

The Perfect Neutral

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with gemstones, looking for sparkly quartz in my neighbor’s rock driveway and begging my parents for one of those toy rock tumbler things. And as long as I can remember, I’ve leaned towards the cool end of the color spectrum, eschewing orange, yellow and brown for black, blue and green.

When I really discovered the world of gemstones, in 2006, I was obsessed with finding a beautiful gray gem, and was presented with a problem:

Gray is the very epitome of desaturated, and therefore there is no demand for them.

The general public thinks of the blue of sapphires, the red of rubies and the green of emeralds when they think about gemstones.

Gray just doesn’t come up as a desirable gemstone color, and you would never see it at your local jewelry store in a display case, except for maybe in the pearl section.

I didn’t want any of that super saturated material that was the trade ideal. I didn’t want any of the sort of saturated material that was in the mall stores either! But I didn’t want white diamonds or black diamonds either. I wanted sparkly wonderful gray – the perfect neutral.

And thus, The Gemstone Project was born.

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