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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Inside the Industry: Engagement Rings

I originally was thinking of the “Real Housewives of _____” series when I had this idea for the blog. I’ve never actually watched even an episode of any of the shows, but their jewelry seems to have a prominent presence in the show, as I will occasionally hear about various huge diamond engagement rings from news outlets.

Engagement rings are deeply personal items, sometimes they have hidden messages, birthstones, special secrets that just the couple knows about. Every engagement ring is a promise and a symbol of a union, and are often the most important piece of jewelry a couple will share.

So I decided to reach out to some gem cutters and dealers to see what people wear who are surrounded by stunning gems and jewelry all of the time.

All photography within this post is the property of person whose ring it is, and their images and stories are being used with permission.


Dan and Cynthia Stair of Custom Gemstones met when Cynthia started collecting the gemstones that Dan was cutting.

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What is Cindi’s engagement ring?
About a four carat pink sapphire in a platinum and diamond halo. The funny thing is, I bought the ring to take the stone out and recut it, but was told “no”. I figure if it ever gets a little scuffed, I’ll “fix” it.


Roger and Ginger Dery of Spectral Gems

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What is Ginger’s engagement ring?
Blue sapphire, Sri Lankan, a piece I reconditioned with a final weight of 6.33ct. It is heated, and has an AGL report, of course.


Geoffrey and Alexandra Watt of Mayer & Watt

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What is Alexandra’s engagement ring?
3.50cts 8.5mm square cushion peach no heat Padparadscha Ceylon sapphire with white gold shank … Rose gold head … Platinum filigree down the side with 3mm round Alex’s. Her anniversary band is rose gold with diamonds, and the ring was designed so the band would fit inside it.

Why Alexandrites?
Well I love Alexandrites and so my wife by default likes them too, and wanted a big one but we can’t afford it! So I promised she would eventually get one…and I put them secretly in her ring. She designed it but I snuck them in. Plus her name is Alexandra, so it has double meaning behind it being in her ring.

Jaimeen and Nattalie Shah of Prima Gems

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What is Nattalie’s engagement ring?
A 1.5ct round tsavorite and diamond ring. The center measures 6.6mm.

Nattalie and Jaimeen’s engagement ring story is so wonderful, I just had to let her share it in her own words:
Almost six years ago, my husband (who was obviously my boyfriend at the time) called his mother in India and asked her to design and make a ring for me. He asked her to make a ring with a Tsavorite because this stone holds a lot of significance to him. He knew that I had teased him that I would love any engagement ring as long as it wouldn’t turn my finger green (haha). I love my engagement ring and I really feel that it’s so special to know that this ring was made just for me.


If you’re in the business and would like me to share a photo of your/your partner’s engagement ring please reach out to me!

Thank you so much to all of you for sharing such a special piece of your history together!

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Musings, Mise En Place, Pastry

Back when I used to be a pastry chef, I struggled with cake decorating quite a bit. I felt like there was often too much empty space to fill up. I think that it’s one of the reasons I loved creating composed dessert plates so much, I could create the dessert items and they turned into the decoration for the plate, rather than covering the dessert in decorations. I have always struggled with creating something completely from scratch – having a huge blank canvas to fill, rather than having at least a starting point to grow from. You can’t grow a plant without a seed.

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I remember with finding inspiration for a composed dessert, considering flavor profiles, and utilizing the colors that naturally came with those flavors as my starting points, and building from there. The dish that comes to mind is one made with cherry mousse and white peach mousse with a pistachio cake – using a barely there peach, a bright pink-red and the muted pistachio green to bring interest and brightness to the dessert, while also standing out among all of the chocolate/vanilla colors. The dessert in it’s entirety was beautiful, with wonderful colors that are organic to the item itself. Those flavors came from items that had interesting colors to begin with. Perhaps this is why I have such a hard time with filling space just to fill space – if the design element doesn’t make sense, if it doesn’t come from an organic place, why add it? And that is likely why I had (and have) such a hard time with decorating cakes. My own wedding cake had no decorations but chocolate covered strawberries and fresh berries on it.

Much like the beaten to death line from every traditionally trained chef I’ve ever met, “If it’s not edible, it doesn’t belong on the plate.” Period.

And in bringing up my pastry background, I think I’ve finally come to the realization that this is the place where I get my overthinking from. Mise en place is the French phrase that means “everything in it’s place” and it’s the very first thing that every cook is taught – before service, every item you will need for service must be ready. Preparation is absolutely everything in cooking, without preparation, you’d immediately be thrown in the weeds when service starts and you need something you don’t have at the ready.

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So I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m much happier starting out with a smaller canvas to fill, the item of jewelry, typically with a built in starting point, rather than with the huge blank canvas of something such as a wedding cake, or even a birthday cake. It’s much easier to fill the space, to add just a little, and have that small element mean a lot more.

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So along those lines, I have two more ring designs coming up that will be added to The Elle Collection, a true solitaire (no accent stones) named for one of my mentors, as well as a ring that will have some small diamond accented elements, but will be mostly a solitaire as well. I think that these will be added before the end of the year and I’m so excited about them!

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I’ve been a bit all over the place this week, with some family stuff going on, and preparing for Halloween with a little kid and her activities to contend with, so I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with things outside, but also I will be debuting two new bands in November (rather than the end of October, as I had originally planned) because I’d been getting so much interest in one, and I’m just in love with the lines of the other.

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There are less than 8 weeks left until Christmas, and while I will still be selling ready-made items until the week before, custom items are already going to be difficult to complete and have delivered by Christmas, if they aren’t already in the planning stages. I would recommend requesting any stock items from the Elle Collection to be ordered before Thanksgiving to arrive by Christmas, to allow for production time with the holiday rush.

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I also wanted to mention that I do have a coupon on etsy running right now for 20% off orders over $100 running through November 7th (this coming Saturday!) so take advantage of it before it’s gone! The coupon code for that is “BURMESERUBY” (no quotes) and you can visit my Facebook page for the story behind the coupon.

Inclusions

Gas bubbles, feathers, crystals, veils, carbon spots, lily pads, silk, jardin, etc. There are maybe more types of inclusions than there are gemstone varieties!

I seem to have spent the last week talking about inclusions with various people. I figured that since I’ve been talking about it so much, I might as well turn all of that discussion into a blog entry. This post is pretty generalized. It is more of a take on my view of inclusions, how they affect the beauty/appearance, and a little bit about their effect on value.

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Inclusions don’t bother me in colored stones, but they do (most of the time) in diamonds. But that’s because I’m all about color. When I design, typically diamonds are accents, unless, of course, they are colored diamonds.

If the color is right, and the price is right, inclusions are great. They show the stone is natural and they usually lower the price. Some inclusions are prized, like silk in rubies and sapphires, horsetails in demantoids, jardin in emeralds, and they make the stones more valuable.

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Now, why would they make the stone more valuable? Well, they can show provenance, they show evidence of treatment and can make for some stunning effects on the gem. Without silk, there would be no gorgeous velvet vivid blue sapphires and no huge markup for a Kashmir blue sapphire.

All of these gems are more rare than diamonds, so inclusions in colored gems are acceptable, so long as they don’t interfere too much with the overall appearance of the gem. Diamonds really aren’t that rare, despite what the diamond industry might want you to believe, so insisting on a stone being at least eyeclean doesn’t really narrow the diamond field that much. But if you’re looking for an internally flawless sapphire, ruby or spinel for instance, you might be waiting for quite a while.

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So, clarity between diamonds and most colored gemstones just a completely different ballgame. It is inclusions and differences in chemical composition that can give gems their coloration. There wouldn’t be the electric neon glow of Paraiba tourmaline without copper.

In my opinion, the inclusions don’t necessarily detract from the beauty of the stone, and I think they are super cool to look at under magnification, not to mention, as I said before, they can create awesome visual effects within the stone. For instance, I love the gas bubbles seen in this Mahenge – they remind me of carbonation bubbles in soft drinks.

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Lets get a little bit more specific, with spessartite. Typically I actually prefer sugar inclusions in Loliondo, because they give it a glow that they don’t have otherwise, but I like clean stones too – though they tend to look brown in certain lighting because there aren’t any inclusions to break up the light reaching the facets. So then the facets reflect everything and typically it looks brown because of the orange color. Spess is very complicated.

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If colored gemstones weren’t rare, and there was a plethora of these gems out there, the way they are with diamonds, then yeah, I’d insist on eyeclean, the same way I do for diamonds. But they aren’t. All of these beautiful little colored stones are actually pretty rare, even more so in the stone’s ideal colors, which explains the mark up!

So. I give a big thumbs up to inclusions. Inclusions and I are friends.

Gem Blast: Blue Sapphire

A Gem Blast for one of the most popular gemstones!

One thing I have to say is please, don’t ever settle for one of those dark navy blue sapphires! There are so many beautiful blues out there that are waiting to be loved. Most of these are medium toned, but none of them are dark and dead like most brick & mortar stones.

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A precision cut Montana sapphire with a slight green secondary and a few inclusions is above. A heated blue cushion below.

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Two blue sapphires from my favorite gem store, a wide pear and a velvety cushion.

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Two heated blue sapphire cushions, below being precision cut, but both are fantastic examples.

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The same heated precision cut sapphire is above, and a heated blue heart below.

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A vivid silky blue sapphire alone, above, and below with a friend.

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Not a lot of content today! I have been really busy getting things ready to go to do a gem special every day for the month of September. Loose stones, gemstone jewelry items, a whole variety of things will be sold at highly discounted prices, up to 50% discount! Keep an eye on my Instagram for details.

I also just got my biggie bright green garnet back from an expert in the business, so that will be hitting the market soon!

A custom setting just came out of production, with a padparadascha sapphire. It’s pretty fantastic, if I say so myself. Perhaps I will post about it in a couple weeks…

Gem Blast: Gem Store

I have a favorite gem store, and I have spent dozens of hours perusing it’s aisles and harassing it’s employees. I’m going to take the opportunity to show you some pictures of it, and some of the treasures I’ve come across. It is sort of stuck in the 1970s, so it hasn’t exactly been updated a whole bunch since then!

I typically go back to the gem store twice a year, for buying trips, typically with Erin from willajunejewelry. Sometimes I don’t buy anything and just go to admire the eye candy.

This is the opal case. Each one of the shelves you see rotates around in the case, dangling somewhat precariously, in a rotating case. In the event that one flips over, the whole case has to be disassembled to get the items that fall to the bottom. Which is why children are not allowed to play with the buttons, and you have to be super careful with them. From this angle, you can see about 1/2 of what’s in this case.

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Some super amazing and HUGE pink tourmalines I drool over every time I go in there.

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One of the sapphire cases. this one is for blue sapphires. There is also a “fancy colored sapphire” case that has the purples, pinks, yellows, oranges, greens and Montanas, as well as a ruby case.

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Some Tanzanites I love to admire when I go in.

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Here is what a case looks like from the top. This is the pink-orange-red-brown-gold garnet case. Another case holds greens.

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Some faceted apatite I love, especially that one on the right. I know that apatite is more known for it’s neon blue colors, but I love that deep teal color. The next time I go back, I have got to get some better pictures of it.

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A gorgeous blue sapphire pear. I’d almost call this a cleft-less heart, but not quite there. The colors of these stones are not quite accurate until you pull them out of the case. Looking at them through a layer of glass and a layer of plastic plus the glare of the light on both really affects the colors.

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A view of part of the shop – the case closest to the the camera is full of tourmalines, farther away is a case of topaz, two cases of garnets, a case of emeralds and diamonds, citrine and a few more that I can’t remember. All of these cases are full of faceted gems. The cases you can see in the top right corner are actually mineral specimens. These two rows of cases house most of their faceted gems. So you can see that there are thousands and thousands of gems in this tiny store. To the left is actually the biggest part of the store, which houses more minerals, jewelry findings, jewelry settings, cabochoned material, carvings, gemstone and mineral display boxes, etc.

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The next time I go, I will have to take more/better pictures of everything!