2019 Updates to Policies

I realize that I’ve been terrible about updating the page for the past year, and I’m hoping that things will start to turn around shortly.

I wanted to post an update that there will be changes made to the following policies that will take place at 12:01am January 1, 2019. Here is a summarization of the changes that will be taking place:

Custom Work

Custom work will require a non-refundable 50% deposit due before the piece goes into physical production. The remaining 50% deposit will be due at the time that the project is completed.

Layaways

Lay away payment plans will be executed at my discretion. They will require a $100 deposit due immediately to hold the item. The item must be paid in full within 90 days. Any and all payments made will be non-refundable, but will be transferable within TGP.

Pricing

The pricing structure of TGP will be changing in 2019. Any and all projects that are started in 2018 will be grandfathered in to the current pricing structure.

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Gem Blast: Holiday Edition

It has been a crazy week, with a family birthday plus Thanksgiving and then ten completed projects when I was expecting 5, plus a bunch of gems.  I have more on the way, and with the holidays gearing up, things are just bound to get crazier!

So this week, I’m just going to post a handful of my favorite pictures that I’ve been taking in the past couple of weeks! Some of this will be a preview for new items to come – some will probably hit etsy before they get to the website, due to holiday shopping demands

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Be on the lookout for new things to come! For additional pictures of some of these pieces, check out my Repertoire page.  And don’t forget to check out Facebook for all of my etsy promo codes.(Hint: there is one for today! After all, it’s Cyber Monday!)

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Incoming Gemstones

Whoa! Gemstones ahoy!

I got a couple of packages from a couple of collectors looking to consign items, and there are some really awesome gems, and a couple of finished jewelry pieces.

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Some of the stand outs include:

40+ carats of green garnets: tsavorite, demantoid, mint, including melee!
2+ carat blue spinel pear
1.89 carat neon pink spinel
Green zircon
6+ carat blue zircon
Light teal-blue tourmaline
Pink Vietnamese spinel
Ruby studs
Handful of diamonds, rounds and cushions
Precision cut Mahenge garnets
Lavender tourmaline

Plus more!

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Also expected this week, a precision cut gray spinel antique cushion with a certification from AGL.

And I still have more incoming in the next couple weeks!

All of these will be listed to my etsy shop in the coming weeks, while I’m hoping to have everything up by Thanksgiving, but that just depends on how things go, and how much sun I get for photographs! If you are looking for anything in particular or if any of the above sound interesting, please reach out to be added to the interest list!

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If you haven’t found my coupon code on my Facebook page yet, you should go check it out because it expires October 31!

Also I have accounts with some wholesale dealers, so if you’re looking for anything in particular, let me know!

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We are getting very close to the holiday season. I will be releasing deadlines for holiday ordering within the next week – where has this year gone?! I cannot believe the holiday season is upon us!

So many custom projects going into production right now, I am so excited to see them come to fruition!

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Engaged: 3 Stone Spinel

Sometimes the best projects are the most terrifying. Warning – this post is picture heavy!

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A while back I had a new client come to me and she said, “I don’t know what I want, but really like the Accolade band, and a few other settings. Can you design my engagement ring?” To which I said yes.

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Looking back on it, I think it’s kind of funny because being given full creative control is so so scary, but her engagement ring turned out wonderfully and I couldn’t be happier.

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We had a lot of debate over stones, but once the actual setting idea came into fruition, it all seemed to fall into place.

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It was made using three precision cut spinels – the center is a lavender spinel, and the two side stones are gray spinels.

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Platinum ended up being the metal of choice due to it’s lack of maintenance.  The random polish to smooth out scratches, and it looks as good as new again!

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The angled shoulder view is often my favorite on any ring, but on this ring, it’s extra special – I love how the prongs and the curves just flow together!

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Last rays of summer sun…

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Once you see the profile, you can clearly see how it was inspired by the Accolade band!

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E, I am absolutely delighted for you and D, and I hope that this ring follows you through many great adventures on your life together!

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Feature: Dan and Cindi Stair

Daniel and Cynthia Stair are the owners and gem cutters at Custom Gemstones and I have known them for many years, after first striking up a conversation when I was looking for my engagement ring stone. I recently reached out to Dan with a whole bunch of questions and he answered every single one! Something that I really love about their website is that they take before and after pictures and it’s fascinating to see how the rough turns out, and recently started posting video of every single stone that goes up on their website.

How much of the cutting do you each do?
I cut full-time and do one or two per day. Cindi works at the local hospital, so she only has time to cut a few stones each month.

What are your favorite stones to cut?
That’s a tough question.  If I had to pick one, it would probably be natural sapphires.  However, I really like tourmalines, spinels and garnets too.  I tend to favor higher RI or more dispersive gemstones, regardless of the hardness of the stone or the fact that harder stones take a little longer to cut.  They also last longer in jewelry, so that’s something I feel good about.  I don’t like to hear that people have rings made and then the stones get all scuffed up.

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Do you have a favorite shape you like to cut? Or a favorite cut design?
No.  I don’t like cutting pears, but other than that, don’t really have a favorite.  Variety is a good thing when it comes to cutting stones.

Do you typically cut more from diagrams or more by instinct?
Actually, I only use diagrams less than 10% of the time.  I usually cut using a “style” such as step cutting as with emeralds or Asscher cuts, or brilliant cutting as with Portuguese, standard round brilliants, etc.  I also do a lot of radiant or princess type cuts if the stone is shallowish, and scissors cuts if it’s deeper in shape.  While I work, I figure it out as I go and make notes about the angles, index gear (rotational) settings, etc. as needed so I can remember what I did when I go back to prepolish, then polish the stone.

How did you get started cutting gems? What did each of you do before?
I was a photographer, writer and graphic designer for a large fishing lure manufacturer, and also did a lot of work for other area business and print shops when they needed full color printing done.  Back in the early 1990’s, I was probably one of the very first people to successfully use a desktop color computer for production of things like catalogs, magazine ads, etc.  Cindi was a housewife for many years and a gem collector.  She started cutting stones about ten years ago.  I started in 1998 if I remember correctly.

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What’s your favorite type of customer? 
I don’t really have a favorite type of customer other than maybe people working on engagement ring projects because it’s fun to be a part of that, or gemologists because it’s nice to work with someone who knows a lot about gemstones.

What’s the percentage split between commissions vs what you choose?
It’s gotten to be about 50/50.  Right now, we’re backlogged about a month with other peoples stones to cut, but also have to keep the ebay store and regular website interesting.  I try to cut one of my own, one for someone else, one of my own, etc.

I noticed that you added videos of your stones to each listing. What brought that on?
I was getting a lot of request for “more photos”, particularly from pricescope.com members.  What they don’t realize is how much time that takes and often, they were more looking for reasons to not buy a stone than anything else.  So, I decided to try videos because that shows so much more about how a stone looks in person that still photos alone.  Since I started doing that, I have noticed a huge reduction in requests for additional pictures as well as a major decrease in how many people get stones in the mail then decide to return them because they aren’t exactly as expected.  Neither the photos nor the videos are perfect, but between those and the written description, a person should be able to get a pretty thorough idea of what a stone will be like in person.

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You seem to have gained quite the reputation in recent years for recutting less than perfect stones, or damaged stones. How did that come about?
I used to send all those projects to other cutters, but started getting complaints that stones were being held for six months or more and the cutters were not returning emails.  So, I finally decided to do the work myself rather than referring people to others that did not provide a good service.  Since I have cut thousands of stones, and have that experience, I was able to develop some cutting concepts to fix a lot of the commercially cut stones without losing a ton of weight or having to do total recuts.  The tops are usually not too badly cut.  The pavilions are almost always 90% of the problem so learning to fix those has been the real key to improving the stones.  As far as reputation goes, I really can’t say much about that other than I always try to do a good job and keep the overall value of the stone in mind so people don’t lose money on their gemstone investments.

How long does each stone take to cut? Do certain shapes take longer to cut?
Most smaller stones that cut to be 2 carats or less take 2-3 hours to cut.  Bigger stones take longer, but not proportionally so.  For example, a two carat finished garnet might take three hours, and a 10 carat more like 5 hours.  simple shapes like rounds, squares and emerald cuts are fastest.  Shapes with long curved sides take a bit longer.  Examples would be ovals, pears, marquise cuts, etc.

What’s each of your favorite colors? Do you tend to try to cut those more often?
After all the years of graphic arts and now colorful gemstones, I have no favorite color.  I don’t, however, like olive green or brownish pink colors.  Cindi’s favorite colors are pink and green.  She tends to like all colors, even some of the “ugly” ones, except red.

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How often do you cut stones and keep them?
Me, less than one per year.  Cindi, every few months. I very rarely keep a stone.  I have a nearly flawless emerald, some opals and a blue to pink color change garnet that I’ve kept.  After 17 or so years, I only have about 10 stones total…if that.  Cindi, on the other hand has hundreds.

Does Dan have any jewelry made with the stones he has (Or Cindi) cut?
Yes.  I have a silver ring Cindi made for me using a welo opal and a Tripps setting.  I also have a small blue Australian sapphire that I cut in my simple, comfort fit wedding band.

How do you manage working together as a couple? How did Cindi get started and involved?
We both love gemstones in general and met when she start collecting stones I was cutting.  Oddly, we work together very well and almost never fight or argue about anything.  Cindi got started cutting gemstones as a hobby, which is how I got started also.

What is your favorite stone that you ever cut? Did you sell it or keep it?
I’m not sure I have a favorite, but the first one I ever kept for myself was an almost flawless, untreated Colombian emerald that even shows dispersion or spectral color flashes in sunlight.  I am fond of this one because of the clarity.  The somewhat odd step cut pear shape isn’t necessarily what I like about it.  Under magnification, I could only spot three little specks of “jardin”.

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What’s the weirdest stone you’ve ever cut?
Cindi has a really unusual gray tourmaline that is almost a charcoal color and super dispersive that I cut about 13 years ago.  The thing has big spectral flashes coming out of a completely gray colored stone.

Whatever happened to those corpse colored tourmalines you had listed? Weird as it may sound, I’m sorry I missed out on them…
The first of the two “corpse” colored tourmalines was purchased by a nurse (funny huh?).  I can’t remember who bought the second one.

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A huge thank you to Dan for taking so much time to answer all of my questions and being so frank with his answers. Most of the images in this post were taken from the website, of some gemstones that are currently for sale (minus the pear emerald and the “Ugly Tourmaline”!) I have a particular weakness for Dan’s step cuts!

Miscellaneous Announcements & Gems

As per usual, things have been a bit crazy around here. I’ve been able to spend some time working on some custom projects, which has been a nice change of pace from non-stop painting and renovation. Luckily, I think that’s coming to a close (FINALLY!) and things should be wrapping up this week.

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Sidenote: I never realized just how much design work goes into creating beautiful faucets, light fixtures and door knobs, of all things. I tend to find designing larger items very difficult, and even something that small can have so many curves and edges that change the look dramatically.

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Second sidenote: I decided that it’d be a great idea to put a relatively simple mural (paint treatment?) on our bedroom wall. This was far more difficult than anticipated, and will never be the level of perfection that I’d like. Also, Ralph Lauren metallic paints are way cool.

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As a result of things being crazy, I haven’t really had much time to think about blog topics, or at least blog topics I can put together quickly. I have had some really fun ideas for future blog topics this past week, but they will take a fair amount of work to prepare!

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I am still thinking about a spring cleaning sale for my etsy shop – I’m considering posting it here for two weeks, and giving everyone else only one week. I figure my blog readers deserve an extra thank you for visiting my website.

I’m seeing lots of requests for moonstone, red and pink spinels, while garnets seem to have gone a bit out of favor right now, except for the purple Mozambiques. I have a good connection for moonstones, so if you’re interested in them, please reach out!

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Also, I totally missed when I hit 5,000 followers on Instagram because I’ve been so distracted with silly renovations! I randomly checked the other day and I was already at 5,200! Posting a “Yay I hit 5,200!” just seems a bit odd… Anyway, I would like to do a giveaway for hitting 6,000 followers. It seems like a better number for that than 5,500. I haven’t decided what to give away just yet either, but seeing as how I’m (at this writing) at 5,430 I have a little time to think about it.

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I’ve been considering my next stock project, and I’m thinking of pursuing a three stone as the next up, inspired in part by the Vivant necklace and a custom ring project. They also have an earring project to go along with them that I’m really excited about too!

I also have a really amazing custom project that is in production right now and I cannot wait to see it completed and share it here! Soon I will be posting another custom project that was recently completed – a sapphire halo necklace. Exciting stuff!

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One of the many reasons I love spinels so much is that they have so much personality. One minute they may look one color, the next minute, they could look another color. So of course when I had a client reach out and ask if I would set her violet-blue cushion spinel, I jumped at the chance.

Now the ring is currently in transit to the client, but she has already seen most of these pictures.

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She wanted a three stone with diamond half moons, and we had a lot of discussion about the design elements of it, and where to go with inspiration.

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She suggested that she wanted it to be very traditional from top down, and something unexpected from the side. Her thought was “A professional woman in a business suit, but with blue fingernails.”

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The working title for the ring became the “mullet ring”, with business from the top, and party from the side. We went through a variety of diamonds for the surprise stones, and ended up using irradiated yellow diamonds.

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I really wanted it to have a minimalist feel from the top down, but wanted a bit of detail on the shank, adding a ridge – inspired by pinstripes so popular in business suits!

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The profile was inspired in part by Maleficent. Yes, Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The small detail on the center stone’s basket emulates her staff, while the shape of the center stone’s basket echos the curve of her jawline, and the lines of the metal holding the half moons mirror Maleficent’s robes.

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The cool colors are so perfect for winter, and I cannot wait for her to see it in person!

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Lots of things in the works over here.

I’m planning on adding a page with a portfolio for work that may not make it to the website via the blog or some other means. Some of my items are on Pinterest, but not in a consolidated area.

I am considering adding some jewelry items to my etsy shop. I have gradually been letting the listings expire, but will soon be addressing those.

Custom projects are always in the works and I currently have a few exciting ones in the pipeline.

I’m also reconsidering the setting I had planned as a solitaire, the Dignité. I may take it into a different direction than I had been previously, I will have to put some thought into it.

Lastly, everyone keeps asking me if I’m going to be in Tucson this year – I will not be in attendance, but will have a representative there acting as my eyes and ears. Perhaps 2017 will be my year!

Personal Shopping: Lavender Sapphire

Well this week has been crazy. We have had some insane weather here in the Pacific Northwest, including snow, rain (enough for Seattle schools to close, if you can imagine that amount of rain), 70+mph winds, freezing fog, and then record high temperatures.  Yes, it was in the 50s this week, which is downright balmy for this far north at this time of year.

Now, why would I talk about the weather, you might ask? Well, on November 17th, we had the above mentioned nasty wind storm, which knocked power out all over Spokane…and damaged part of the roof at the USPS sorting warehouse. Which, when the second wind storm hit, weakened the roof further to the point that it had to be evacuated. This happened just as a 3.62ct Mahenge spinel arrived in the ill-fated sorting facility in Spokane from Mayer & Watt. (If you don’t know Mayer & Watt, you should.) The gemstone that I was planning on evaluating and writing today’s post about. So that post will have to wait for next week. But a neon “original find” hot pink/red Mahenge should make for a good Christmas week post, so I’ll just have to let it go until next week.

Now, I’ve been working on some custom designs for some of my favorite clients, as well as looking at new stones for new clients, and really trying to get all of the stock collection up and running. One thing I’ve recently started doing is really going out and searching for stones, personal gemstone shopping, if you will. And I’ve been lucky enough to get in contact with the right people, at the right time, and find some extraordinary stones that I really thought we would not be able to find.

For instance, and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen this stone, but I had a client come to me looking for her engagement ring stone. She wanted a lavender, leaning blue, oval sapphire that was at least 9mm wide on the width, precision cut. Which, if you’ve thought about it,  translates to about 5-8 carats, depending on cut. So, as soon as I saw her wish list, I said, “Hey, this is going to be incredibly hard to find. I would start thinking about alternatives or concessions you feel comfortable making.” So she did, and said that she thought a lighter pink or even a white sapphire might be acceptable, adding round to her list of acceptable shapes. And I started keeping an eye out for those. Which is when I found Mayer & Watt.

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Image is property of Mayer & Watt.

Geoffrey Watt participates in a gemstone appreciation group on Facebook, One World Gemstone, and when he posted an image, I went and looked at his company’s FB page. There was a white sapphire that was round, which fit my client’s new criteria list. So I reached out and asked about the round white sapphire, and while Geoffrey and I were talking about it, I mentioned originally looking for a lavender. To which Geoffrey said, “You mean like this one?”

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Image is property of Mayer & Watt.

Insert my heart popping out of my chest.

At 5.97cts, 10.7×9.2×7.5 it was exactly what we had been looking for. I was so excited that not only was this stone in existence (I truly thought that it wouldn’t exist, or at least, that we wouldn’t find it) that it was within reach, and it took me about two hours to compose the email to the client with the details because I was so excited and in shock.

After jumping through a whole bunch of hoops, and Geoffrey making every attempt to accommodate our needs, it was hers.

Since then, she actually sent it to Jerry Newman for a recut, to clean up the symmetry a bit since it would be her engagement ring stone. Jerry did an amazing job, managing to only lose 8.3% loss, from 5.99 ct to 5.49 ct. The depth was originally 7.43 mm and is now 6.9, keeping the original face up dimensions at 10.7 x 9.2mm.

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Images are property of Jerry Newman. 

Not to be overly gushing, but when I originally got this client request, I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to come through for her. And it’s been through a couple of incredible colleagues in the gem trade that I was able to make a client’s engagement ring dreams come true.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

In the event that you see something in Mayer & Watt’s inventory that sparks your interest, feel free to request information through our contact page. Please keep in mind that Mayer & Watt are exclusively wholesalers, so they will not respond to your requests directly.

Gem Blast: Boutique Gems

So, I’ve mentioned before how many photos I take in any given photography session. These were taken in the last photography session I had before the sun went away for a week. I think I ended up taking about 400 photos in this particular session and I wanted to share them because I rarely use so many of the photos that I take.

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Most of these have two of the spinels I recently listed for sale in the boutique, because they are so easy to compare color wise, and because it’s so rare to have two incredibly well cut nicely colored specimens, especially in this color family.

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Sometimes I will take photos of the stones with the goal of just capturing something special, rather than trying to make the stones look their best, or trying to create a good composition.

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One of the best things spinel does well is play in the light.

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Then we get to the hardest and sometimes most tedious part, capturing the body color and cut of the gem. The first one shows a bit more darkness than I prefer, but with the macro lens and how the gems reflect what they “see”, it makes capturing an accurate view of the gem difficult. When they are worn, they typically aren’t 1-2 inches away from something that’s blocking the light.

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Unfortunately precision cut gems tend to reflect more darkness, it’s the nature of the well-cut beast.

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The lighting and camera’s white sensor did some funky stuff here, turning the background pinkish, and as a result, the tsavorite looks abysmal – it’s very rare that the camera captures it accurately, and this is NOT one of those times, but I felt it was important to show it anyway. You can see how much more pink the spinel looks in this photo compared to the ones with the blue-lavender spinel. Very different!

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One of the more staged photos, trying to capture a good variety of colors for a shot for the site. The resolution is horrible, and very blurry, but I love the colors of the gems.

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The oval spinel is one that I refuse to part with – too much history and such a rare color, and cut perfectly by Barry Bridgestock. The color play with the lavender is so interesting and the fact that they are both so well cut makes them a rarity, and fun to compare in photos.

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Hopefully the sun will come out again in the next week or so and I can stop looking at a sea of gray. I am new to this “low-hanging cloud” phenomenon and not exactly sure if I’m a fan yet or not. It’s not even officially winter yet!

Gem Blast: Tanzanite

I love purple-blues, and nothing does purple-blue quite like tanzanite. I’ve seen super saturated vivid purples and blues, but nothing gets to me like the violet/lavender/periwinkle shades between. I don’t think cuts get any better than this, but unfortunately, it makes it incredibly difficult to photograph perfectly cut gemstones. I spent an afternoon struggling with photographing it accurately. Here are some of my attempts to capture it’s beauty.

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This is what it looks like when the camera is 18 inches away:

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This is what it looks like when the camera lens is 1.5 inches away, and you photograph it head on:

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Another macro pic, but at a slight angle to avoid the look from the previous picture.

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Even less of an angle, still a lot of lens reflection:

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Almost head on again, or also known as “how to turn a violet stone black”:

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Oh hey, that looks pretty! Back to about a foot away:

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Still showing some black, but at least it’s not black edge to edge!

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Notice even the slightest angle can make a huge difference with a reduction in lens reflection.

This baby was snapped up quickly off of LoupeTroop, and it’s new owner was beyond thrilled with it (don’t blame her!) I hope that it will be cherished, as it is an exceptionally cut and colored stone! As lovely as some of these pictures make it look, it exceeds all of them in real life!