Updates and an Announcement

I feel like it’s been a while since I blogged. And there are a lot of good reasons for that. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

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I recently nabbed a trio of gray spinel asschers. I’m thinking about making a three stone with them, if they match well enough and look good together. I will see once they arrive! If I don’t love them together, they will probably go into the etsy shop.

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I did several earring design sketches for a client, and I’m considering turning some of the unused ones into designs to go into the etsy shop. Especially since I have a ton of green garnets that really should be used for something fabulous.

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Upcoming projects: a necklace for a friend, a Rubellite ring, a smattering of three stone rings, a five stone ring, a couple of fancy halos, and a handful of solitaire rings. Plus who knows what else will pop up in the next few weeks.  I have several ideas for necklaces that I’d like to make, but those may take a while to bring into fruition.

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The biggest announcement is that I have taken an outside opportunity, and as a result, I won’t be able to devote as much time as I have been to my own jewelry design.  There won’t be a ton of changes that stem from this change, my website will stay the same, my stock designs will remain available, the Etsy shop will remain open, and I will still be available to do custom design.

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The big changes are going to be: I won’t be able to devote as much time to hunting down gemstones and I’m going to have to be stricter about custom projects that I take on. I will still have accounts with Gem2000, Mayer & Watt and Pala International/Gems, and their stones will be available for purchase through me. Shipping will only happen once a week, probably Mondays or Tuesdays. Unfortunately, blogging will have to take more of a backseat, and will likely turn into a once a month occurrence. I will still try to respond to emails within 24 hours, but I may not be as swift as I was before.
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Holiday Gift Guide

I figured I’d do something a little bit different this year since I have several jewelry items in the etsy shop, and they all need good homes!

First, a note about items in my etsy shop. I actually started my etsy shop when a friend who lives overseas asked me if I would sell some of his collection. I didn’t have any other details besides that, and I was shocked when over 200 individual items showed up. I would have a very difficult time selling that much stuff via word of mouth, so I decided that the best way to do it would be to open an etsy shop and sell it there. So almost everything you see in my etsy shop is actually being sold on consignment from private collections (with a few items sprinkled in from me) and have been collected over many years by gem and jewelry collectors.

So, with that said, I’m going to list my top five jewelry items that I think would make fantastic gifts!

  1. Diamond studs 14kt white gold
    Classic diamond studs totaling .58ctw in one of our newest designs, a simple 4 prong stud.img_0275
  2. Diamond circle pendant, 14kt white gold with box chain
    This diamond necklace would be excellent for a lady who loves larger but still classic pieces that bring a lot of sparkle to the decolletage.
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  3. Bezeled Ruby earrings in 14kt yellow gold
    These would make a great gift for July babies, lovers of red or those who just love rubies!ruby-earrings
  4. Pink sapphire and Diamond Mirror Pendant
    This pendant is perfect for September or April babies, lovers of pink, and those who love statement jewelry with a modern feel. And the inside of the mirrored cup could even be plated with rhodium for a pure pink look!
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  5. Yellow diamond bezel ring in 18kt yellow gold
    Who said that diamonds had to be white?! This yellow sparkler is bezeled in yellow gold, making it appear even more yellow than it’s grade from EGL, and it gives the face up appearance close to that of a 1.5ct princess diamond. It would make a fantastic buttery engagement ring for the bride who loves yellow or who wants something unique.
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Here is the best part! If you contact me about buying any of these items, email or message me on etsy first, mention this blog post and receive 15% off! This offer is only good until December 21st so grab them while you can!

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New York, New York

A touch over two years ago I posted a blog entry about a planning a specific project:

https://thegemstoneproject.com/2014/11/28/new-york-city-inspired-ring/

Well, it evolved. I will get to that in a second.

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal

The first time I ever went to New York City was when I was 18 years old with my parents for a business trip for my dad. I remember walking the streets wearing furry Steve Madden shoes and having a doorman compliment them. I fell in love with the city in that trip, between the Empire State Building, the flagship stores, the food, the energy and life of the city. I didn’t know it at the time, but only a few short years later, I would be going to school slightly upstate from the city.

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It wouldn’t be until I went to NYC via train from upstate that I would first experience Grand Central Terminal in all of it’s glory, between the Oyster Bar, the marble floors, the tile ceilings, and the glorious teal ceiling bedecked with celestial gold in the main hall. For me, with the Grand Central ceiling, it was love at first sight. Every time I would take a trip to the city via MTA, I would be delighted to experience it’s beauty once again, and I would look forward to seeing that ceiling every time.

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So, since I don’t get to do that regularly anymore, I had to base a piece of jewelry around it.

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My starting point, as is often the case, was color. I had a copper bearing precision cut teal tourmaline from Barry Bridgestock that was absolutely the color of the ceiling.  I knew from very early on that I had to have yellow gold, as the zodiac symbols all over are painted in a golden color. It was only later that I would decide that the piece would need to have white gold as well, which was a difficult conclusion for me as I’m typically not a fan of mixed metals.

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In planning the rest of the elements of the design, I took into account an incredible number of details from around GCT, from the arches of the hallways, to the color of the walls and the floors, to the incredible iconic pendant chandeliers. I evaluated every single one of the zodiac symbols, the detail of the arches, the Tiffany glass of the clock, the golden clock in the middle of the terminal, the detail of the windows. Essentially, the entire building is one very large piece of functional art, each detail has had painstaking work put into it by artisans of years past. There is some sad irony in the fact that most people who witness it never take the opportunity to enjoy those details.

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I started out thinking that it would be a ring. I soon found out that between the stone size, the ring size and the sheer scope of my vision for it, a ring that size would be essentially unwearable on a regular basis.  So I ended up changing it to a necklace. And of course I took the opportunity to use a stone that I have an infatuation with – a rose cut diamond. This time around, I decided that it should be prong set with a hexagonal surround, to echo the geometry of the iconic graphic feel of the Art Deco era.

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For a while I considered something that had to do with my zodiac sign, my husband’s zodiac sign and my daughter’s zodiac sign, but that became too complicated and didn’t end up making any sense design wise. So I simplified,

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I considered adding a detail from the arches (also seen on SNL’s GCT set) to the eventual outer halo, but nixed that idea as it became too busy. I also considered having no negative space, with just the contrast of diamonds and metal color to guide the design, but again, cited the busy-ness of the design for utilizing negative space rather than adding more to an already complex concept.

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I ended up with just a thin outer diamond halo to provide some structure for the centerpiece of the piece, and I chose a octagonal shape for it inspired by the octagonal frames around the medallion detail on the large arches on either end of the building. (Bottom left corner in the below image.)

Grand Central Terminal Ceiling
Grand Central Terminal Ceiling

I originally designed the star’s diagonal points to stretch all of the way to the halo, but after thinking, and evaluating the actual stars of the GCT ceiling, as well as looking at the Art Deco stars, I realized that while it may be less stable, shortening the diagonal points would be better for the over all aesthetic, and echoed the compass like shape of the actual GCT stars.

Grand Central Terminal Taurus Detail
Grand Central Terminal Taurus Detail

Elevating the star and the stone just a touch was the finishing detail. I used fancy yellow diamonds on the yellow gold and single cut white diamonds on the outside halo, in keeping with the Art Deco era.

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It is not very often that I create jewelry for myself anymore. This isn’t a piece that I will probably wear often, but it is a small, sparkly tribute to a city that I love, and the Art Deco masterpiece that lies within it.

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Hand Forging vs. CAD and Cast

 I feel like the topic of different ways to manufacture jewelry has been coming up more and more lately in email conversations with clients, so I figured I’d write a little bit about it.
*Please note, I’m not going to discuss die struck jewelry in this post!
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I think it’s Mark Morrell that was a touch snarky about answering the question of “are your items handforged?” I believe his answer is along the lines of “I use the best manufacturing method for the job at hand.” Which, to me, says loads – it says that he thinks the question is hogwash, he uses both “methods”, and isn’t going to waste a lot of time molding metal to make a ring that could be manufactured easier and quicker through other means.
In reality, all jewelry is made by jewelers manipulating a variety of tools through a variety of techniques to get the desired result.
It seems to me that there has been a big fuss about what tools and techniques are used to achieve those results.
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Now, there are obvious differences in production, but there is very little that can be produced “better” via “hand forging” vs CAD and cast. CAD and cast is easier, it’s cheaper, and the time savings is tremendous as far as labor goes. CAD and cast are also typically going to be more precise and symmetric. A computer and a machine just aren’t going to make the mistakes that a human would. The differences boil down to how the parts of the jewelry were created. Otherwise, there is a ton of overlap in the methods. Hand forged items, if you’ve watched videos, have been brought into their shapes with tools and a person guiding those tools. No matter what, the pieces are all soldered on the same way, they are all polished the same way, the seats for the stones are all cut the same way. Engraving is done the same way. You get the idea.
Feel free to mute your sound should you choose to watch the video!
I have a Mark Morrell piece in my personal collection, and what I can tell from it is that his finishing is impeccable. You can tell that he goes over every millimeter until it’s to his standards. The ring is CAD and cast, though I have no doubts that he uses hand forging methods when necessary. I have played with a 100% hand forged piece and I can see solder where the band was put together, the prongs on the center stones are all different lengths and widths, and one doesn’t quite touch the stone correctly, causing it to catch on things and have constant chunks of fuzz under it.
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Mark Morrell set with a colorless spinel
For me, it becomes a question of, “Do I want this cheaper, quicker and easy to replicate? Or do I want this to cost 5x as much, imperfect, longer manufacturing times, and not easily replicated?”
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My Pétiller ring is one that’s good to think about because it’s quite simple in execution, and was cast. The cast pieces were assembled by hand, and then the seats were hand carved out of the solid metal for each diamond. The only difference in making that ring via hand forging vs CAD and cast is that the methods would be different to get the solid shank, and the bezels that make up the support structure between them. Otherwise, the methods to put it together are exactly the same.
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My stance is that I prefer CAD and cast over hand forging. Much of the manufacturing methods are the same, it’s just a question of how the metal came to be the finished shape before things like setting stones and other finishing techniques take place. CAD and cast is much easier, especially when it comes to online orders – the client gets to see what it’s going to look like before it’s produced, rather than just hoping it will come out how it’s been envisioned, and seeing it when it’s finished.
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So much of the jewelry world is incredibly secretive. I don’t think that most jewelry people like to take time out to explain the differences to laypeople, especially when it’s hard to gauge the audience – are they really wanting to know the specifics behind the manufacturing methods or is it just a question being asked to make small talk? And sadly, most sales people in the retail world have no idea about manufacturing methods at all.
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Ombré du Soleil

They just wanted to be made. – Elle

I had posted these on instagram the other day, just a small macro shot, and immediately got requests to see more. Well, the thing about that is that these are ridiculously difficult to photograph for one simple fact – they are huge.

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A couple years ago, when we were still in California, I had an overseas collector send me a great number of stones to sell on consignment. That’s the reason my etsy shop was initially opened. There were a handful of stones that I knew immediately that I didn’t want to sell – I wanted to create something with them.

My starting point in this particular project was the largest pair of spessartites. They just glowed, in an almost unearthly way, with this ridiculous neon orange that photos don’t really do justice, as orange is one of the hardest colors to photograph accurately.

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Now, this collector had sent along literally about 40 carats of spessartites, including a handful of smaller round oranges with fantastic color, and a pair of bezeled round spessartite earrings.

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Spessartite, as with most gemstones and colors, goes through bursts here and there of popularity and trendiness. Unfortunately, just as I got this package, spessartite was hitting a slow spot, so most of the loose gems that I had never even hit the market. Instead I started to have big dreams for them, all brought upon by the incredible color of that large pair. I created a sketch of the initial idea, which included using the bezeled studs as is and then later amended it to add a few details, involving a change to the stud.

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About six months ago I went to visit my favorite gem shop and one of the first things on my mind to pick up were gems that would fit the ombré  color scheme I had dreamed up.  I needed to find exactly the right graduation of color and size to match cohesively with the overall concept. Luckily I was able to find that in some sapphires from Madagascar.

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As soon as I had all of the stones collected, I sent the picture to a friend.
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And a couple months later, she asked me when I was going to make the earrings? Why hadn’t I made them already? I had all of these beautiful stones, why not make use of them already? So I turned around that week, and sent them off to the jeweler, along with a picture of the sketch.
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As I mentioned before, the sketch went through a couple of revisions. The final version ended up being so large that the entire thing wouldn’t fit on one page of my sketch book, so I had to improvise a little bit, and drew the stud separately from the rest of the earring. A quick note: I draw everything at 5x scale.
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 So, lets talk specifics of the finished product.
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The bottom 5 stones are spessartites, the top three in the bottom section are sapphires. The top stone (the stud) is a spessartite and then the rest (second stone in the stud and then the little connecting section) are all fancy yellow diamonds.
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These are definitely more hefty than I usually make, but the one thing I wanted out of these is that I wanted to have that heft, and I didn’t want them to feel cheap. I feel like they easily could have gone the costume jewelry route, but the setter managed to avoid it, keeping the walls between the stones quite thin, and the edges from stone to outside rim thin in most areas . The largest stones are 7mm and very deep so we really had to have a lot of metal to hold them all in place.
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The settings are open in the back to let in a ton of light, even though they are bezeled. The emphasis for this project was really on the stones, the ombré effect and the concept of light. Seeing as how it took about two years to find the right stones in the right sizes, tones and saturation to I really wanted to not detract from the concept as a whole and keep the ombré effect in the metal that’s holding the stones together. As you will see in the images below, the color of the stones change from one image to another – the most accurate devices for color viewing are Apple products, iphone, ipad, Mac computers, and images with the brightest colors and least amount of brown are the closest to real life.
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14 grams of 18kt yellow gold

.16 carats of yellow diamonds
.41 carats of yellow sapphires
14.13 carats of orange garnets

14.7 total carats

They measure just over 2.5 inches long.

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Everyone keeps asking me, “why did you make these? Are they for yourself, or to sell?” and my answer has been, “They just wanted to be made.”

At the moment, I don’t know what the future holds for them. But absolutely something bright.

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2016 Holiday Deadlines

I posted the holiday deadlines to my Facebook page but I figured they should be posted here as well to make sure that no one misses them!

Custom jewelry: November 1st
Stock design: November 23rd
In store item: December 19th
In store item with expedited shipping: December 21th

I live in a small town, and unfortunately USPS cannot guarantee overnight delivery from where I’m located! I do have access to a UPS office, but no FedEx.

There may be some slight flexibility in these, but that would be on a case by case basis! Please contact us directly for details!

Also, this is the last week for our fall sale (15% off!) in the etsy shop! Don’t miss out! The coupon code can be found on the Facebook page!

And because I can’t stop posting photos of this everywhere, here is the newest version of the Intrepide! My client’s 4.42ct Mahenge Spinel that she has been holding into for 5 years (!) looks fantastic in it’s new home!

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Creating the Ingénue

Ingénue – Innocent young woman

When this idea came to me, I really wanted to create something that was classic, could be worn with anything, and wasn’t overpowering to either the woman or the gems. I wanted simplicity that was more than just a solitaire. The name of this game was subtlety.  Something quiet. Graceful. Sophisticated.

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I started with a two stone idea. A smaller stone “bale” with a larger stone hanging below.

The first version I pulled out for this idea was with an angular stone. I had a small princess lying around, so I thought that would work well and go with the angular shape of the stone I was considering. But the main stone ended up selling out from under me, so I had to change gears.

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I decided that classic rounds would be the way to go – rounds are the most popular shape, they would always be plentiful and I’d have no problems sourcing some when I was ready to make the design.

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So of course, I always jump at any chance to make something with rose cut diamonds, and in this case, anything else would have been too flashy. I love the way the light floats across the facets of a rose cut – it’s reminiscent of the light from the setting sun hitting the soft waves of a lake. For the rose cut, I decided that a simple bezel with milgrain would do nicely.

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The bottom was harder.  I started playing with the idea of another metal halo style, because I didn’t want diamonds. Since I had already decided I wanted a bezel on top, a bezel seemed to make sense for the bottom. But that would be too predictable. Instead I went in another direction: prongs. It became a metal halo with prongs, much like the Aurore. But how do you make a metal halo interesting? Metalwork. Two rows of milgrain combined with some delicate engraving helps add a little extra detail without being too overwhelming.

Note: I never draw engraving. I cannot do justice to a master engraver’s work. Seriously. So I don’t even try.

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Now the question became, what to do with the back? I always try to get something a little unexpected in my jewelry, and the back, or the underside are the perfect playground. For this I went back to where it began – the rose cut. And I used the rose cut facet pattern that I love so much and brought it to life in the metal.

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The hardest part yet was figuring out what stone to be the star of the show. As I mentioned, I originally was planning on making it with a fancy shaped diamond (this design will work for absolutely any shape!) but that fell through. Then I figured I’d make it with a round diamond, but that seemed predictable – there are so many diamond necklaces out there already! And for a person who loves other gemstones I wanted something that was more interesting and rare. Something that fit the classic look and feel but wasn’t a diamond.

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Which is where Geoffrey Watt of Mayer & Watt steps in. I had asked him to find me a white spinel at JCK 2016, since I wasn’t going to make it this year. He obliged, and I found my main stone. Not long after, the sketch was complete.

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It wasn’t until the necklace was out of production that I realized that I wasn’t feeling the high polish. I tend to try to avoid brushed finishes because they can wear away so quickly, but for a necklace that wouldn’t be coming into contact with anything but skin, it made sense.

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I think I accomplished my goal. Classic, versatile, sophisticated with a vintage feel. Something that be dressed up or down. The Ingénue.

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Market Watch: Spinel

Today’s blog will be short. I have a huge queue of projects lined up that need my attention, and never enough time to do everything I want to do (hint hint: GIA GG).

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Over the years I have gained a reputation for being someone who loves spinel. It’s true, I do. Which is evidenced by my spinel engagement ring, and maintaining a pretty decent personal collection of spinels. And not only that, but somehow people who discover gray spinel typically find me as well.

Side note: It’s funny, but when you start google image searching “gray spinel” several of the pictures I have taken over the years are top results.

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Now, it was just last month that AGTA and JA declared spinel an alternative birthstone for August, but already the price for spinel has absolutely sky rocketed. Two months ago I could buy spinel on the retail market for cheaper than the new wholesale prices for spinel. This is especially evident with pinks and reds (as they are always the ones to jump in price first!) but it has even trickled down to the gray spinels.

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Once upon a time, you could buy gray spinel for $5/ct, if that. Dealers and miners were just thrilled to sell them for something – they were once considered a step above gravel. But now, I am seeing prices that are more than triple of the prices seen just a few months ago. Retail pricing on darker spinels over 2cts is currently clocking in at around $900/ct. And that’s when you can find them!

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So, the point of this post is that if you are in the market for a spinel, of any color, you should buy sooner rather than later. These prices are going to go way up, and I doubt that we will ever see them go back down now that spinel has been introduced to the public eye.
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My Office

If you have been following me for a while, you will have noted that I dropped the ball for a while and didn’t blog or have many jewelry updates. Well, that was due to the fact that I was moving offices. For some time we were about 30 minutes outside of town, and this spring, we finally finished renovations. I don’t know that my office will ever be actually finished, per se, but I feel like it’s a good start and definitely functional! I consider my office to be a very personal space and I’ve been a bit reluctant to share a space that I’ve spent so much time creating and creating in. But people ask, so I thought I’d share a bit about it, with pictures of some of the details.

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Catching rainbow inclusions in my amethyst paperweight, macro.

Furniture

I have no fewer than 5 parts to my desk. There is no way that I could manage with a traditional desk, because I really like to have everything in plain sight when I work. I also have multiple jobs that I have to fulfill, and my desk set up has to reflect that. Each desk has a primary function, and other secondary and tertiary functions. I have an antique desk for photography and storage, a drafting table, a shelving unit, an antique table for miscellaneous items (typically items being shipped out or notebooks and paperwork), and a desk for my laptop and photography. This doesn’t include another shelf that stores books and items that aren’t necessarily used every day or a small silver table that is home to a cobalt blue lamp.

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Color

Of course I had to choose the color of my walls carefully. Since most of the surfaces of my office area are dark wood, I had to keep it light and airy. The walls are two different shades of a light cornflower blue, one color is so light that it almost appears white depending on the sun’s position, while the other is a couple shades darker. The curtains are a medium silvery gray – reminiscent of brushed white metal. Silver accents abound! Two silver tables, a chrome and black leather chair, silver frames for almost every picture, and a eclectic mix of modernity and antiquity.

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Lighting

My office has one large window that looks out to roses, flowers and fruit trees. It is also, most importantly, south facing. So no matter what, unless it’s rainy and cloudy, my office is completely flooded with natural light. When picking the space, this was absolutely crucial considering how many photos I can take on an average day. However, I also have several lamps – a couple decorative lamps with incandescent lightbulbs, an Anker Lumos LED lamp (which is awesome because it has several different colors of lights that it displays), as well as a magnifying fluorescent lamp, and thats not even counting the actual ceiling lights!

Anker light

Details

Of course I wanted to surround myself with items that are not only beautiful but also calming, inspiring, functional and of things I love – family, friends, and deeply sentimental items.  I have a Pricescope “diamond” paperweight that I got from a JCK event, an amethyst crystal paperweight that was a gift from my husband, and a paperweight that was a gift from my dad when I got my first job out of college. I have a “Diamond Terrarium” in copper from Lonesome Hobo, that sits on my antique desk that is beautiful and functional – I use it to store rings for short periods, as a photography backdrop, and as a object to stare at sometimes.

Terrarium

Picture frames with loved ones are all over, as well as two Angie Crabtree prints – the “Dominique” and “Elle” and the centerpiece of the decor is an antique mirror that my mother once designed an entire luxe bathroom around (it had this incredible beeswax Venetian plaster on the walls, among other things.) I have a “wall of women” – it holds both of my diplomas, a stunning photograph of my grandmother with her hair grazing her derriere sitting at a dressing table and a picture of my mother’s family – she was the youngest of ten. I also store pens, pencils and markers in a piñon wood bowl that has inlaid turquoise – a gift from an old boss, that represents so much and is a good reminder of home, New Mexico.

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I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the details that I look at every day!

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A Day in the Life

Have you ever wondered what a day looks like in my life? Today is the day to find out!

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7:00-7:15am Do a preliminary check of my email and social media to see what might be coming my way for the day.

7:15am Get my daughter dressed, fed and ready for the day.  I’ve recently weaned myself off coffee, and it’s been absolutely brutal.

8:00am See my husband and daughter off to work and school/camp.

8:15am A thorough check of emails, start planning the day.  If it’s a Monday, I write a bit on Facebook for the blog post, mentioning any big things that have been going on, designs I’m working on, sales etc.

9:00am Take photographs of gems and jewelry, depending on what the sun is doing. During the winter months, it’s almost always overcast, so sun is a precious commodity!

10:00am Respond to email.  Post to social media, usually instagram.

10:30am Post new items to etsy, edit photography, write descriptions for items while eating lunch – often yogurt, unless I’m feeding my daughter too, which means I will eat something more substantial.

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12:00pm Shipments usually arrive around this time. If I’m not expecting anything, I will probably ship items.

1:00pm Work on new designs, or incomplete designs that need to be revised and finished.

4:45pm Stop working on designs, start thinking about family time and dinner.

6:00pm Dinner time! I often recruit my daughter to help me cook, which for a 4 year old means stirring. She is an excellent stirrer!

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7:00pm Play time. Sometimes I will try to post to social media here and there, but I usually reserve this time to spend with my family.  Often we will go for a walk if it’s light out, or watch something on the Food Network (my daughter’s favorite shows are Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen because she likes eliminating people), or just play with toys.

8:00pm Get my daughter’s bath time and bedtime routine started.

9:00pm Do a final email check for the day, post to instagram. Tuesday is usually my blog writing night.

9:30pm Watch tv shows or a movie with my husband, I tend to continue checking social media throughout (while he is checking his email!), and might post to SnapChat. Some favorite shows range from Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul (and Breaking Bad!), Homeland, UnREAL,  Arrow, Once Upon A Time, among others.

11:30pm Hit the sack. I’m usually lucky to make it to 11:30 without falling asleep. Every once in a while I manage to stay up past midnight, but it has become more rare lately.

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I mentioned that I will post to FB about my sales – I am running a sale for the month of August, and you have to check my Facebook posts for the coupon code!

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