Principles of Design

I doubt that one of the people with the biggest influences on me would even remember my name.

Study the basic concepts of figure, ground, line, contrast, pattern, proportion, color, symmetry, movement, unity, and balance. Students learn the principles of two- and three-dimensional design and develop language to analyze product design, plate presentations, decoration, and packaging on visual, tactile, and conceptual levels.

In 2004, I was quite young, yet already three years into my culinary career, and already terribly jaded. I had an associates degree in culinary arts, and had worked in several restaurants of varying quality, back of the house, front of the house, a little bit of everything. And I was accepted to what is probably still considered “the Harvard of culinary schools” into the baking and pastry program.

I had started out my culinary career as wanting to pursue the savory side, and that the sweet side was all wedding cakes, bread, and bakeries – nothing I was interested in. It was midway through my associates degree that I fell in love with pastry. With pastry, you could make anything you wanted utilizing several fundamental ingredients – namely sugar, butter, eggs, flour. And suddenly it was like my world opened. With savory food, you were tied to ingredients and keeping those ingredients recognizable. Who would want to eat a chicken thigh that looks like a flower? Baking did not have aesthetic limits.

Boom.

Which is how I found my way to The Culinary Institute of America, and specifically to Bruce Ostwald’s Principles of Design class, the first college level art class I ever took. Sure, the curriculum was based around food, creating plates that would have interesting textures and colors, as well as incorporating different complementary flavors and temperatures. But at the heart of this class was design – art. Visuals. Contrast. Texture. Negative space. Color. Movement. So while I was trying my hardest to continue cramming knowledge about food into my brain, my heart was learning something else – creativity. Expressing myself through a variety of mediums.

 

The problem was, sugar and chocolate couldn’t hold my interest. I was too interested in people, and when you make food, you have essentially no contact with the people you’re making it for.

Less than two years later that I returned to school, and this time I was aiming for art history. I had picked up some culinary French, and I had always had an interest in architecture, so art history made sense.

Until it didn’t.

At 22, I had just spent five years working towards a career that I really enjoyed, but that felt somewhat lacking in the practicality department – the restaurant world is very difficult to have a family in, and making a living wage seemed downright impossible – I had the best culinary school in the country on my resume and was only able to command $9/hour with no benefits. What sort of career could a bachelor’s degree in art history give me? On top of that, I felt like an anomaly – my peers were just graduating with their four year degrees, and I was already well on my way to being career changer.

So while the practical side of me chose something that was somewhat more useful – a bachelor’s in psychology is applicable in a variety in positions, though not exactly a career jump starter – I used everything in the rest of my background’s arsenal, including my interest in my father’s long time career, to gain enough momentum to create another career for myself. Which, over the years, I have turned into my day job.

And then there is the creative side, which you see here, where the spark that was discovered through Mr. Ostwald’s design class has been a glowing ember and has turned into a bonfire. Only, it’s in jewelry, rather than food. Because I can work one on one with my clients, and hopefully create something that they hold dear for years, or even generations, to come.

My most memorable piece in my principles of design class was mixed media on blue background, with diamonds cut from magazine ads exploding outwards. I should have known.

 

The Résilient in Photographs

I’m doing a photo heavy and commentary light post because I have too much on my to do list, but I still wanted to share the beauty of this ring with you, and I haven’t been able to put a blog out about it yet.

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The center stone is a Amora Moissanite cut into the OEC pattern, and all of the other stones are diamonds. The Amora Moissanite has been discontinued, which, after seeing it in person, is a real shame. They have replaced it with the Forever One Moissanite, and the OEC cutting is also nowhere to be found.

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Sometimes, through great times of turmoil, comes great beauty.

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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.

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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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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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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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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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One of a Kind

I spent the last week in Albuquerque, New Mexico – the place where I was born and raised. Taking almost an entire week completely off from jewelry and getting back to my roots, spending time with family and friends was one of the most refreshing things I could have done at this point and it gave me some new perspective on things that I’d been dwelling on and feeling stagnant on for too long. I guess that standing in the middle of a thunderstorm in the mountains will help do that to you.

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One of the things that I enjoy the most about gemstones is that they are all unique and one of a kind. Sure, you can get some that look similar to others, but they will always have unique characteristics, whether it’s in the form of color, inclusions, cut, whatever. No two are identical.

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Working with various colored stone vendors has shown me that I’m not alone in loving gems for this very reason – colored stones are always so different, and sometimes they can totally surprise you with what you fall in love with.

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So this, my most recent blog, and the first blog in a long time is an ode of sorts to the one of a kind, and an indication on where I am heading creatively. I’m going to take a step back from feeling like I’m treading water coming up with stock designs, and taking a flying leap into the water and swim like my life depends on it – making pieces as unique as the stones they hold.

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More to come.

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TGP Updates

It has been far too long since I managed to get a post up! In the last few weeks, I’ve had a family emergency, found myself terribly sick and even had a birthday.

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Bright Yellow Sapphire

In more jewelry related news, I managed to get some new gems up on etsy, got a few custom projects underway, and am anxiously waiting for a few items in production.

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Pastel Green Aquamarine

I’m really sad that I haven’t been able to get more jewelry into production so far this year, but things have been distracting me, and I am hoping that as soon as I get moved into the new studio, things will take a turn for the better. I have a bunch of custom projects in the works, including a step cut halo, some cluster type rings, another halo, and some others including a fancy colored diamond ring.

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Medium Gray Spinel Pair

Speaking of the studio, I have a new drafting table, and I’m so excited to be able to draw without getting instant neck strain! I also have a big south facing window with incredible natural light (except during those pesky storms that make it over the Cascades from Seattle) that has been working quite well for photographing stones and jewelry. I didn’t realize when I started planning this new space just how many functions I need it for – drawing, photography, computer, writing, storage, shipping, etc. And all of those tasks need different lighting (say, for instance, color shifting stones!) and suddenly office planning is incredibly complicated.

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Lavender Spinel

Now, as for decorating the studio, I already have one print up from Angie Crabtree – the Elle modern asscher, and my wonderful husband surprised me with a new print for my birthday – the Dominique antique pear! This complicates things though – I had just figured out my wall configuration with the decor, so I will have to redo it once it is framed.

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Barry Bridgestock Tourmaline

I hope that you have taken the opportunity to take a minute to check out my Repertoire page – I have many of the items I have designed up there, both stock items as well as custom items. I am going to be writing another Inside The Industry blog coming up soon – I just need to be able to spend some time writing, instead of spending it on random non-jewelry related items. And I will be sharing a couple new items to go with the Vivant necklace as well – they should be coming out of production very shortly!

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Peter Torraca Tourmaline

In other updates, I have stones at AGL for certification/testing, and I will have a new small padparadscha sapphire as well as a gorgeous blue sapphire here soon as well!

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Designing Accolade

I have had a rough week, first I burned my hand while using a heat gun (remodeling) and then when I went to go to bed on Friday night, I thought it felt a bit cold…it was 60 in our house instead of the usual downright tropical 70. Turns out that the heater went out on us, and the heating company isn’t open until Monday. So I’m writing this blog from one of two reasonably not-freezing cold rooms, draped in blankets with a space heater humming away. Thank goodness we still have electricity!

As a result of all of the remodeling (and painting!) I’ve been doing lately, I have barely been wearing any of my jewelry, so I wanted to write about one of my favorite and most popular pieces: the Accolade band.

I often get asked what my biggest seller is, and I would have to say that it’s my Accolade band. I feel like there are a lot of women out there right now who are stacking so many fantastic rings and accenting their engagement rings or any rings with really fun bands, and the texture and versatility of the Accolade certainly lends itself to adding interest to any stack.

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The CAD of the flat version.

It originally started out as just a doodle. I had been thinking about all of the writers and word smiths in my extended family, and thought about how pretty the curves of the braces are (curly bracket, curly braces, squiggly bracket, etc) and I really wanted to make something inspired by them. I initially was interested in making it into a halo shape. If you hadn’t noticed, I’m particularly into making halos with unconventional shapes, evidence here, here, here and here.

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But then as I doodled one day, after the Glacé was made, I realized that if you flip the brace on it’s side, and then alternate it facing upwards and downwards, it created a beautiful series of waves with alternating curves and points. Later, as I studied architectural arches for another project, I would discover the Ogee arch – very similar in shape to the brace, further solidifying my instincts that found the shape beautiful.

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The flat version was made first, but I had it high polished and plain for the first prototype. While lovely, I thought that it really needed something to add a little bit of dimension and depth to the piece, while not distracting from the lines of the band. So I added milgrain because I thought that the band would go exceptionally well with the outline of the Exalteé halo. But as soon as I had laid eyes on the high polished flat version, I knew that a curved version needed to be made as well, this time with a brushed finish.

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They are so perfect to add just a little bit of texture with some negative space, and make wonderful wedding bands as well.

My fingers are crossed that I can get back to wearing jewelry soon enough (maybe once I’m done painting?) and one of these bands will be something I reach for first. The Accolade band is available through David Klass Jewelry in many styles and textures, even with diamonds or gemstones!

Are there any questions you’ve ever wanted to ask a gemstone cutter but were afraid to ask? Feel free to submit any questions you may have through me, and they may get answered in an upcoming feature by a wonderful lapidary!

Also, a note: I just renewed a bunch of listings in my shop on etsy! I’m planning on adding a few items there, hopefully this week, including a fancy colored diamond ring, and a red spinel and diamond ring. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to be added to the interest list for either item!

Color

When I was young, I really wanted to be an interior decorator. Every wall in my house was painted white, except for my room, which was a soft buttery yellow. When I was about 7 my mom decided to hire an interior decorator for this one room in our house, and I still don’t know why that room was picked, as it was the least formal communal room, containing our tv and my father’s desk. The decorator ended up wall papering one wall, and took about 6 months to coax my mom into painting the rest of the walls a light peach color. I never understood the color scheme in there, and still don’t, but I loved the idea of giving a room some personality through color, shape, texture and furniture arrangement.

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I have mentioned on social media that I’ve been in the midst of home renovations. My family and I recently purchased a home that was built in the 1970s, and as a result, requires a bit of work to update the place. I’ve been getting a lot of grief about the colors I’ve chosen for the house. I really decided to go all out for this house and I’m not holding back in the color department, with deep emerald, pale periwinkles, vibrant teal, violet and a vivid green, to name some of the more exciting colors.

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But I’ve come to realize that color is one of those things that’s highly subjective, and everyone’s opinion is going to vary based on a lot of factors. The most controversial color is surprising to me – a pale green. The reasons I chose it aren’t important, but the strong reactions to it have been startling – it’s a pale minty bluish green, reminiscent of Baskin Robbins’ Mint Chocolate Chip, but lighter (kind of like the above garnet). In my opinion, a pretty innocuous color.

But that’s the thing, color can have unexpected visceral reactions and people are going to love and hate the same colors, and sometimes won’t even be able to explain why they are having the reactions to the color that they are.

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So here is a little bit about color terminology for gemstones. I’ve gone over some of these terms before, but it’s always good to have a refresher.

Hue: the color of the stone. “Purple” “blue” “red” “teal” are all hues.

Tone: lightness to darkness of the stone. “Deep in tone” connotes that a stone may have a darker color. “Light in tone” connotes a pale or pastel shade.

Saturation: how much color/pigmentation a stone has, the intensity or vividness of a color. “light” “medium” “intense” “vivid” are all terms that can be associated with saturation.

Modifier: if the stone has a strong primary color, the secondary (or even tertiary colors) are called modifiers.

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I would describe the above spinel’s color like this: Blue in hue, with medium-dark tone, medium to strong saturation, with a slight green-gray secondary modifier. This stone also shifts to a purple under fluorescent lighting, the rest of the information stays the same in both colorways.

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The most highly sought after stones in the colored stone universe are going to be pure of hue, medium in tone and with vivid saturation. A little gray goes a long way to making stones be within a more reasonable price range with typically a barely perceptible difference.

So, I’ve been posting less to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc because I’ve been busy painting and painting and painting. Good thing it’s a labor of love but I will be so happy when it’s over! I have some exciting things planned for the coming weeks, including a Q&A feature with someone in the gemstone world, and a couple fantastic custom projects I’ve been working on over the last few months. I have fun stuff coming up for 2016 too, and I can’t wait to share those things with you as the year progresses!