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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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!

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.

Imitation vs. Inspiration

Roughly a year ago, when I first started to get the idea that I might actually design for a living, I got the opportunity to speak with a renowned designer/jeweler. One of the first things I asked when I got the opportunity to ask him questions was what his inspiration was. I look back on that and laugh because it really was a fangirl type question to ask. He gave me some sort of benign answer about anything inspiring him, and I went on my merry way.

Now, over a year later, and feeling much wiser, I know that it’s a silly question, because I know that anything can inspire you – in fact, you never know what will inspire you until it hits.

Imitation

: the act of copying or imitating someone or something
: something that is made or produced as a copy

And

Inspiration

: something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone
: a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something
: a good idea

In the jewelry world, there is really very little that is a new idea. Everything has been done before. So it’s hard to come up with new and fresh ideas.

It’s not that I don’t take inspiration from other items of jewelry, but it pains me to see an antique ring, and then later see almost an exact copy of the antique, with slightly changed elements. Why would you want to make a copy of someone else’s idea when you can make something completely different and new?

I like to borrow elements from other jewelry all of the time, and I combine them with other elements to create something that is entirely different and hopefully unique. I don’t want something that someone else has! Typically, the original is always the best anyway, so why make a copy? It’s rare that I see a copy and think it’s more beautiful than the original. Especially with antique pieces.

I have one upcoming setting that will be in my jewelry line, and I can think of 5 rings that either inspired me or  I borrowed an element from, to combine those elements into something new that I’d never really seen before. An antique, an Erika Winters design, a Leon Mege design, a David Klass design, and anyone who has ever made a ring with flower petals (which are a lot of designers, let me tell you). I sort of hope that someone digs up an antique version of what I’ve done because, in a way, it sort of validates that I had a good idea.

Here is a design I’ve been playing with for a while with some spinels for a North/South orientation. I doubt this will come to fruition, but it’s still fun to play with! Thanks to Lorraine Schwartz for the idea to try something that stretches along the finger length!

Ring 1, Ring 2, Ring 3 (there are more, but you get the idea!)

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David Klass Contest Band Part 2

There may be some irony that the post on the week of my birthday is not on diamonds, but sapphires.

Back in October 2014 I posted an entry about a band I had entered into a contest that David Klass was having. You can read that blog post here. I had originally designed it based on the pattern of the “Reverse Shell” piping that drove me crazy during nightly practice as a pastry student. I have a love/hate relationship with that particular pattern, as I find it beautiful, but I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to piping that I would go nuts every night trying to get it just right. This picture probably shows it best (this is not my picture or my work) but whoever did it screwed up on the left.

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I had been debating for months (almost 6!) about what color metal, what color stones, and trying to talk myself out of white metal and white diamonds because almost my entire jewelry box is full of white metal (I so badly need to remedy that) because it goes with just about everything. Except not so much yellow gold and peach…and then I realized that not only did I want to diversify, grow outwards and look towards what I want to do instead of what I already have. So, in anticipation of completing the padparadscha sapphire ring, I decided that it needed a band to go with it. Or, two. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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So, diversify I did. I ended up telling David to make it for me in 14kt rose gold and pink sapphires to coordinate with the anticipated pad sapphire ring.

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I had seen an additional band that David had done a while back that was similarly curvy to my design, but had a softer, more floral feel to it. I asked him to make one of those for me in yellow gold in addition to my original design, again, for a bit more variety, and to add some texture too.

Check it out, when they are stacked just right, you can see a heart. It’s the little details that make my heart pitter patter.

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With a Blue Nile pink sapphire and rose gold eternity band. You can find it here.

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If you’re interested in this band in any variety of metals or stone colors, feel free to contact me!

Aesthetic & Philosophy

I’ve had some questions recently about my particular design philosophy, so I figured I’d talk about that a little bit.

I tend to do really rough sketches before I get to a general shape or aspect that I like enough to start working with. Sometimes I will see something, whether it’s a shape in a pattern, or a flower, a color combination, or anything really. I never know what will inspire me, and I always have a sketch book close at hand.

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Often I really like to watch and wait for a stone to tell me how it wants to be set. I realize that that can sound corny, but I want the stone to have a setting completely designed around it and for it. I think that some stock settings can work for a variety of stones, and while I appreciate that, I don’t find it to truly work for things I like to produce. I like to make custom designs that are specifically made for a specific stone or stones.

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I love the unexpected. I am just about impossible to surprise, but I love to surprise others, or just catch them off guard with something awesome. I expect that from my jewelry too. I don’t want to make something that has predictable elements. This is much harder than you might think! I embrace an amount of whimsy, considering it to be key in making a jewelry item intriguing. I think jewelry should be striking and delightful.

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I have been heavily influenced by my past, working in the food service industry. In fact, I credit my art and design professor in pastry school as really pushing me and making me feel potential within myself to take ingredients and make them into art, with height, color, temperature, texture and finally flavor. He pushed me to see the plate as a canvas, not as a something so mundane as a plate. When I originally decided to go to culinary school, I wanted to work in the savory side, but it was after starting with baking and pastry that I came to realize that the sky really is the limit aesthetically when it comes to 5 simple ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar, butter and dairy. I learned that it was only my imagination that was holding me back. My first art project in his class was a collage – black, blue, and white, incorporating gems/jewelry cut from magazines into the night sky. Taking pieces of something, and combining them into something entirely different.

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It was after my culinary stint that I was, uh, pushed into furthering my education into a Bachelor’s degree, and turned an art history major into Psychology, concentrating in romantic relationships and gender. That influence has been more abstract, giving me a better understanding and view of humanity through romantic relationships.

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Ultimately, I take a look at the solid gemstone I have in front of me. I see the lifestyle, the tastes and desires of the person who will be wearing it, and let intuition guide me into combining the structural needs with my unique aesthetic and melding it with unexpected elements to create something that is distinctive, extraordinary and flavored specifically for it’s owner.

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David Klass Solitaire Setting Completed

So, back in September, I posted a Gem Blast with a purple sapphire I had picked up at a gem store on a trip back home. It was sold to me as a 2.40ct Untreated Color Shifting Sapphire. It does tend to look more blue in daylight, and more purple under fluorescent.

In November I posted about how I won David Klass’s Solitaire Setting contest, and posted a step by step guide of my drawing process. I mentioned not being able to vocalize my design process in that post, so I’m attempting to do that a little bit here, in this post.

I had a really hard time deciding if I wanted to use a high quality CZ for the setting or if I wanted to use one of my stones. I originally chose this stone to make the sketch and the setting around because there aren’t a lot of oval solitaire settings out there. This could be easily adapted for just about any symmetrical shape – round, cushion, emerald, radiant, asscher. Hearts, pears and trillions would require more intense modifications, of course.

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Colored stones are typically oval cuts, just because of the shape of the rough. But because most diamond solitaires out there are round, there just aren’t a lot of settings made specifically for ovals. The jewelry business has a love affair with diamond solitaires, and because of that, I find setting selection to be really limited for interesting solitaire settings that weren’t necessarily intended to be an engagement ring.

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The shoulder view was actually the original starting point for me. I was inspired by a detail in another setting, but the look and feel is completely different – the original ring had a similar filigree detail, but it was just a detail, not the actual structure of the ring, the way mine turned into. I’ve shown the inspiration and the finished product to people before and they have been like, “Why are you showing me these two rings?!” and not seeing any resemblance at all.

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The top view sort of just turned into what it was from how the shoulder detail worked out. The entire design started out and turned out to be based on that shoulder detail.

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You can see a little bit of uneven metal here – it’s really only noticeable under magnification, and especially here because of the way the lighting hits it.

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Now, typically I don’t like the leave the gallery blank and sort of boring like this – I feel like it’s one of the most neglected parts of a ring, but I didn’t want to overload an already very detailed setting with details that weren’t necessary. Part of the ring needed to be simple and clean, especially since I added the engraving detail on the bottom of the shank.

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I realize now that when I was taking pictures I didn’t really do a good job of capturing the profile view, so the above is probably the best view I got. About 4 hours before the sketch was due, I was still madly sketching and trying to discern a profile view. It couldn’t be too busy and it couldn’t be too simple, otherwise it wouldn’t flow with the rest of the setting.

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This is probably my favorite view of the setting – seeing both the profile and the shoulder view, and how they interact and curve into each other.

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A couple shots of the actual physical ring and the drawings. You can see just how closely David was able to follow my design and how few tweaks were actually made, and they were typically structural things.

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At the very last minute, I changed the setting to add engraving to the bottom of the shank. I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t visible from the top down view of the ring, and you can see that it is barely visible at all, just like I planned.

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Overall I’m pretty overwhelmed, yet amazed at how easily it came together, and how well David was able to execute my design into CAD from a simple 2D sketch.

Amazingly, David had the ring back to me exactly 1 week from the day I got the sapphire to him. He made a huge effort to get it to me quickly because I was going on a series of trips and wouldn’t be at home to receive it for a consistent period of more than a couple days.

So, now that you’ve seen the solitaire setting, I have actually made strides towards getting the band from this post made, so I should be able to post an update for that band soon too!

Current Trends

I spend entirely too much time on instagram, and I’m ashamed to say that I look at users like the Kardashian’s. I know, I know, they are famous for a sex tape, blah blah blah. But the family is absolutely entrenched in fashion. And they are at the front lines! Kendall and Kylie are models, all of the girls have their individual clothing and shoe lines, makeup, hair, etc. I have used pictures of Khloe’s hair color for my own hair inspiration! But I keep an eye on them, because they are trendsetters and know what’s hot with teens right now!

Also, I also follow Lauren Conrad – she has a really interesting shabby chic thing going on, and certainly helps embody the details I mentioned above. Pastels, tutus, soft, feminine shapes. Totally opposite from the black leather and harsher lines of the Kardashians.

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It’s so weird to me that these reality show “stars” are successful and actually making statements in fashion. Who knew these empires would come from terrible television.

Right now I think that there is a trend towards disposable fashion, and that’s being translated into jewelry. So I’m seeing lots of super thin shanks, small stones, stacks of small rings or necklaces to make a bigger statement. Geometrics. Statement pieces. Thin shanks with tiny stones in bezels. Antique, vintage items are also becoming really popular because those items are one of a kind, and people/fashion seems to be pushing to make statements to be “one of a kind”. So lots of stacks, multiple rings on each hand, statement pieces with gold, silver, and gemstones.

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Big, opulent pieces seem to be shoved to the backburner for now, although they are always hanging around on the edges, and on celebrities.

But I am so happy to see COLOR! Yellow gold, rose gold, all colors of gems!

I’m kind of wondering where we’ll go next!

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And one last picture of this Montana sapphire with an amazing high crown and thick polished girdle.

I don’t drawn inspiration from Kardashians or LC, but I still like to see what they’re doing. Especially Khloe’s hair…hah!

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!