Custom Red Burmese Spinel Halo Ring

I’ve been incredibly busy, to say the least!

I actually took my first day off in three weeks renovating/decorating/etc the other day to exclusively work on jewelry stuff. I had been sorely missing it and really had a stack of things to get back on – gemstone photography, rough jewelry ideas, blog ideas, sketches (which I’m still behind on!), as well as giving my back a rest, as I had pulled it over a week ago.  So I’m feeling as though I’m in a much better place than I was last weekend, with getting some items that were way overdue taken off my list.

I have a few fancy shaped antique diamonds in queue to design custom rings around, and I’m really excited about those. And of course I have some colored stone custom designs in the works as well!

In the meantime, I wanted to share some images of the most recent design to come out of production, something reaching quite a ways outside of my comfort zone, which I often struggle with, but always comes out better than I could imagine.

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Sketch, slightly underdeveloped.

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Jeweler’s photographs. 

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Client’s photographs.

I always love when clients come up with something that’s out of the ordinary, and this certainly fits the bill in that regard! An unconventional diamond and platinum halo surrounds a 1.69 ct Burmese Red Spinel.

I will be sending a parcel of sapphires and an emerald to AGL for certification this week. I had been intending to send them to AGL and kept putting it off for various reasons. But they are going to go now, and typically they are at about a 2.5 week wait, so hopefully I will have them back relatively soon.

I have been working on some stock items, and as per usual, the CADs came out perfectly the first time for both items. Both share elements with the Vivant and as such, I decided to use Mahenge spinels as them as well. I can’t wait to see them completed!

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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.

Overthinking

I have one particular client-friend who will tell you just how much I overthink pieces. She has listened to me, more than once, go on and on and on about how much time I put into designs, and how ridiculous all of the thought I put in before I even start sketching out what is going through my mind. Of course, once I start sketching is when the pieces all fall into place and I can see, granted in a 2D representation, how everything fits and flows together, what works and what doesn’t. I feel like a lot of jewelry out there doesn’t take every angle and every single element into consideration, which is so sad to me.

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For instance, why is the basket so enclosed?

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Two reasons, it’s highly polished to reflect the stone’s color back at the wearer and in a stone that isn’t cut perfectly, it helps camouflage any windowing.

I have just spent the morning and early afternoon rough sketching a design that has been plaguing me for weeks. Part of the reason it’s been plaguing me for so long is the fact that I was writing descriptions, taking photos and actually doing the legwork myself to get my collection onto the site, but also, I’ve been seriously stuck with where I wanted to go with the design. Today I finally had a bit of a breakthrough, and I finally put the pieces together. The structure of what needs to be there to hold the stones down has been holding me down, but I finally feel like I got it today. The pieces started to finally come together.

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Basket detail? Not just pretty, it also provides structure and support for the halo.

So much of jewelry design is holding stones. Lately I’ve been taking note of designers who don’t use prongs. Polly Wales, for instance, just casts the stones directly into her items. It is a really cool look. Bezeling is popular too. But I feel like most people work around prongs, and don’t incorporate them into the design. I think it was in my beloved architecture book, a quote about how a design element should have at least two uses, otherwise it shouldn’t be there. I will have to go look it up. My point there is that I think and think and think about those design elements.

It’s not just a prong. It should never be considered just a prong. What ELSE can the prong be? What else does the prong WANT to be?

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It wants to be a mermaid, but will settle for being part of the split shank.

And with that, I’m starting to sound like a slightly deranged philosopher. But these are the things I think of when I design a piece of jewelry. It’s not just something to be worn – it’s wearable sculpture. Each element should be practical AND beautiful. Otherwise, what is it doing there?

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Ok, well, sometimes I add things that are just pretty…like that design element on the end of the stone.

Viva Las Vegas! JCK 2015 Part 2!

Part 2. Or day 2. This is by far the most photo intensive post in this trilogy.

Friday

Naturally, after not getting to sleep until 3am, we slept in a bit, though that was not the plan. The plan was to get to JCK ASAP and start trawling through gemstones as early as we could. Instead we woke up and started looking at gemstones again, this time in daylight, before deciding it was time to eat. Of course I went for the color shifting 6ct violet sapphire first.

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None of the other photos came out well, so I’ll skip them in an already picture heavy post.

Meeting with Amy Phillips of David Klass Jewelry

First thing we did after gathering our badges to go into the show was meet with Amy with David Klass Jewelry. She was showing us a wax for a ring David is making with the emerald from the first post. A client had been working with them on a diamond halo design, but had kind of hit a brick wall after a few CADs. I made a couple of tweaks to make the design a little bit more delicate and feminine. Since it’s not complete yet, I’ll keep it to a more boring view. I will say that I am so excited to see this project completed!

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AGTA Show: Prima Gems

From seeing the wax, we went downstairs to the AGTA show, otherwise known as colored stones! So you already know I was so excited!

Of course I studied the map and made a beeline for Prima Gems. I browsed for a while, bumping into a few people that I recognized, including Yvonne Raley.

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I just want to say that Nattalie Shah is an angel. My companion was seeking out red spinels and green garnets, but in the meantime, I had every single spinel pulled out of the case and had them spread out all over the counter. Not joking:

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Here is a 12ct Mahenge Spinel, moderately included.

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Same stone, being a show off.

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While my companion was digging through red spinels, I was amusing myself going through a massive parcel of smaller red and pink spinels, pulling out stones that talked to me and putting them on a gem sorting tray. Most of these were the largest in there, but there was one that had color that just popped out at me.

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The entirety of the parcel I was going through:

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Playing with the UV flashlight.

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Some of the red spinels that were being scrutinized.

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No, really, scrutinized!

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At one point, I got tired of red spinels, (though not tired enough to ask them to put them away!) and asked to see this really awesome blue-green tourmaline. This stone needs to be made into a necklace.

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From the red spinels, we went to green garnets. Check out these mints!

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In the meantime, I had put this little guy to the side for myself. Tiny, but you can see the neon color from across the room.

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I’d forgive the shape for this color, the perfect blue-green for a mint.

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Then Nattalie pulled out the UV light to play with a 4ct tsavorite. It was like Christmas in one stone!

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Doing a mean impression of an emerald. Inclusions didn’t hinder the performance of this stone at all, though magnification makes the inclusions look worse than they are. This is one of those stones that doesn’t show it’s true beauty in photographs.

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AGTA Show: Random vendors

At this point, we had spent so much time pouring over Prima stones after our late start, that we had run out of time, so we raced around just a bit looking at a few other booths. I took some photos of items that caught my eye.

A couple little rose cuts.

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Colored stone melee, starting at .8mm to 3mm.

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Untreated emerald rings.

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Brazilian Paraiba. I should have inquired about pricing, but didn’t have time to stop.

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Managed to have Gem 2000 pull some larger light pink sapphires to view for a client.

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Ogled Gem 2000’s emeralds. The emeralds were everywhere!

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And their spinels. Spinels were also everywhere.

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I was also on the look out for blue sapphires for another client, so we checked these out with Gem 2000 as well,

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The Other Roommate’s Arrival

After hopping on the shuttle and rushing to meet our other bling sister, we found her, and of course helped ourselves to her jewels. I know you’re surprised, but I took a bunch of photos:
Blue zircon.
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Green sphene earring drops from Prima Gems. 
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Tanzanite double halo ring. 
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Vintage ruby and diamond ring, Love Affair Diamonds. 
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Ideal cut diamond earrings with ideal cut diamond halo jackets, ID Jewelry.
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Mint garnet from Prima Gems
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Spessartite garnet from Prima Gems
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Ideal cut diamond
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Dinner time: Texas de Brazil

So, by this point, it was time to grab dinner. We were picked up in a limo, and taken to Texas de Brazil. I hadn’t had Brazilian in several years, and this Brazilian put THAT Brazilian to shame. If you have the opportunity to go to one of these restaurants, do it. And hit up the salad bar in a major way, because it’s so so so good. Just as good as the meat, which is, of course, the main attraction.

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The table in our private room was made of one giant piece of wood, and I loved the contrast with the lucite chairs. 
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My favorite dinner companion. Diamonds. 
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And to finish up the night, some random colored stone rings, including a couple of mine. 
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Yet again, we didn’t end up falling asleep until 2am, and there was no partying involved! The last day was fast approaching and I was determined to get to the show earlier than I had today.

Day 3! Blog post fast approaching! Tomorrow!

Gem Blast: Merelani Mint

Since things are starting to get a bit crazy around these parts, I’m going to take it easy for a post! This little stone is a Merelani Mint Garnet, so named for the Merelani Hills area of Tanzania, where some of the most awesome green garnets come from.

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The trade ideal dictates that the more saturated, the better, and the more blue in the green, the better. This one is not deep enough in tone, or saturated enough to be considered the trade ideal, but it a beautiful little gem that’s internally flawless.

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You can see in this picture how much more blue the center stone has in it next to it’s two companions, also green garnets. The center stone was a birthday present from my husband, the sides were an anniversary gift.

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A lot of people like the set these garnets in rose gold, because of where they sit on the colorwheel, but it just reads as busy to me for most of the pale greens out there.

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I plan to eventually set this stone with white diamonds, I just haven’t figured out how I want to do it – especially because I have the two other green garnets to set as well.

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This stone was cut by Barry Bridgestock at Artistic Colored Stones. Should you ever see something you like on his website, I highly recommend snapping it up right then and there, his stones tend to fly off the shelves as soon as they are put on them!

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!

Jewelry Design

While I have taken many art classes, some centered around edible mediums, I would never consider myself to be a trained artist. I have a dear friend who is an artist, and she makes amazing pieces, typically paintings, that I only wish I could do. I am not a natural 2D artist, and I am constantly working on improving on that aspect of my work. Now, having said that, I have other strengths that play in my favor.

Once upon a time I took an IQ test, and when given the results, I was informed that I had a very high proficiency in spatial reasoning. Typically this manifests in how to best arrange the freezer to manage to fit all of the frozen food from the grocery store into it, but sometimes I use my powers for more fun stuff.

Which is where jewelry design comes in. I tend to thrive on fitting pieces together, arranging different sizes/shapes of stones together to creating something visually interesting, something that flows and catches the eye. When I design for someone else, I try to keep that same aesthetic theory, while incorporating what the person wants and needs in a design. I often exercise a fair amount of restraint; I don’t want to produce an item that is covered in detail to the extent that the design obscures the beauty of the materials used.

Some “in progress” sketch ideas for a dear friend of mine, who obviously has a fondness for halos, playing with proportions and seeing if anything moves me. Mostly playing with proportions and stone layouts. Interesting ideas, but nothing has come to fruition yet.

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A more in depth sketch I was considering, this one is actually to scale. This is for a red cushion cut spinel with baguettes, rounds and a knife edge shank.

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Messing around with a sketch for a larger blue spinel, based on an antique setting from a zircon ring I saw – very difficult to try to get on paper, as the shapes are not easily replicated from one side of the stone to another. These are pretty typical for a sketch I’ll throw together on a whim just to get a visual on how it looks and proportions. The antique version was beautiful, while this sketch looks vaguely like a Sesame Street character.

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This sketch was an idea I was working on with a mint garnet for the center. The stone is small, and the owner wanted plenty of impact from the piece as a whole, even though it is a smaller center. The layout of the larger halo stones is inspired by antique cluster rings.

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The sketch below was a jumping point for the red spinel above. The side stones would be baguette cut diamonds, inspired by the Art Deco period, an era I’m particularly influenced by.

 

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All of the above sketches are pretty old, and are far from being my best work, but I like some of these projects and ideas that stemmed from them quite a bit. It always helps when I like a stone that I’m designing for!

I am currently in the process of honing my drawing skills, and getting to a point where an item has the appearance of 3D on the paper. Unfortunately that takes a lot of time when you are learning, especially wen you are teaching yourself, and I don’t ever seem to have enough time at the moment. I am hoping that soon things will calm down enough so that I can actually sit down with a sketch book instead of a laptop!