Engagement: Alli & Doug

I’m still not really sure how Alli and Doug found me, but they did and I’m absolutely delighted that they did. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had a part in this gorgeous ring, which would have been terrible.

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Back in the Fall of 2016, Alli and Doug reached out and asked if I would be interested in making their engagement ring. They had bought a gray spinel, and had several items of family jewelry that they wanted to use the stones from. If you’ve followed me at all, you already know how into an idea I am if it has a gray spinel attached to it. But I was intrigued both by the couple and their design ideas, as well as the center stone!

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They expressed later to me how difficult it had been to find a jeweler to execute their vision for their ring, and I can sort of understand why because it’s not conventional, and there really aren’t that many jewelers who are willing or want to take on an unusual request. Especially for a gemstone. I am honored to be asked to create this beauty for such a special sentimental ring!

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So they sent along some guides as to what they wanted their ring to look like, with some examples of each one, and we went back and forth on lots of the details for a long time, trying to iron out each element.

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They wanted the gray spinel to take main stage from top down, and not have any of the accent stones visible from the top down. They wanted double prongs (which is always a stability concern for me with cushion cut gems! Double prongs are always best for cushions!) and an antique feel.

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They wanted engraving, pretty much all over. They wanted Alexandrite accent stones in various places on the profile. They wanted diamond accents in other places. They wanted to use diamonds from an antique family ring. They wanted it to have the feel of an antique.

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Luckily their requests came with a stone that was large enough that we could add a lot of detail and still manage to hide everything under the stone.

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I had to play with proportions of everything, but at one point, everything just flowed together with all of the inspiration photos they had given me, every element that they had asked for, and my own little flourishes.

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They had me add their birthstones, an amethyst and a garnet plus an alexandrite into the shank, against her skin.

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A view of the tucked under family diamond, detailed with accents inspired by a 1950s birthstone ring that belonged to my mother. This shows it alongside a gray gold Accolade band.

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A bit of an idea of what it looks like on the hand with a quick handshot from yours truly!

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One of my flourishes, and Alli and Doug still don’t know this, is that when I was thinking about the project, I was strongly inspired by Alli and felt that she had a certain kinship with Wonder Woman. As a result, I mimicked Wonder Woman’s tiara shape in the profile of Alli’s ring, which you can see best when it’s upside down.  Alli is an athlete and a dentist (technically a prosthedontist) and those are just the tips of the iceberg when it comes to describing how gifted this woman is!

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I love how this ring looks slightly different from every angle.

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A closer look at the family diamond we bezel set on the shoulders of the ring.

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You know I cannot resist a gray spinel, especially a giant one like this! Once Alli saw that I had started to offer gray gold as an alternative to the traditional white, she jumped on the bandwagon immediately, and I think it came out incredibly well, and suits the stone perfectly.

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And to finish off, a couple macro photos on an antique beaded purse. When Doug surprised Alli with the ring, he turned off all of the lights because I had sent it in a ring box with a light in it, and she was really confused why he was turning the lights off, until he opened the box!

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When the ring was completed, I emailed Doug, and I told him that if he trusted me, he should just let me send the ring, and forgo seeing pictures of it beforehand. He did, and this blog entry would be the first time he would see the photos I had taken!

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Doug & Alli, it was my utmost pleasure to work with you and I hope that we can work together again in the future! Enjoy that stunner of a ring and congratulations again on sharing your life with each other!
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The Rose Cut

I have a serious crush on rose cuts. But if you’ve been following any of my media for any period of time, you’ll have noticed this. There are rose cuts in two of my necklace designs, with the Ingenue being primarily based around the rose cut, they feature prominently in my Pétiller profile, and have even made an appearance in some of my custom designs. If they were easy to find, and I had unlimited funds, ALL OF THE ROSE CUTS WOULD BE MINE. Ok, so that’s not necessarily true, but I do love them, and I wish I could buy a lot more than I do.

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So the reason I’m writing about this today is because I’m a bit neurotic. Recently a client of mine bought some “hexagon rose cuts”, and she asked me why when I said they weren’t rose cuts. So this is a bit of an analysis of what a rose cut is, using the hexagon diamonds as an example of how to discern what isn’t a rose cut, and what is just a fancy marketing gimmick.

A lot of what designates a rose cut is the intent of the cutter.

Did the cutter intend for it to be traditionally cut, and the stone wasn’t shaped well? Or did the cutter actually intend to cut a rose cut?

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Facet Diagrams & Facet Structure

Rose cuts were often used as accent stones in antique jewelry. They have a simplistic cut that is a flattish dome, with triangular facets arranged in a hexagonal pattern, with a point on top. There is not a flat table facet on top of the stone, and there is no pavilion, the way Old European Cut or Modern Round Brilliants are cut. Rose cuts are typically round, but can be found in other shapes, such as pear, cushion, oval, etc.

Equiangular Hexagon

I am particularly strict in my evaluation of rose cut diamonds, and I insist that they have the equiangular triangled hexagon on top. Sometimes, especially with modern cut specialty shaped rose cuts, the hexagon will be elongated to mimic the outline of the stone.  Like this modern cut pear:

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It’s still a rose cut, but the facet structure is a clue that it’s not antique!

Lack of a Pavilion

It’s easy to get confused with terminology for rose cuts, since they don’t follow the same cutting guidelines as traditionally cut stones. I tend to think of them as a traditionally cut stone that has had the pavilion cut off at the girdle, but with a point on the table instead of the table being flat.

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One of my very first gemstones was a peach spinel that had a rose cut table and crown, but with a traditional pavilion. Sometimes I miss that stone!

Faux Rose Cuts

Now, one of my biggest pet peeves has been popping up more and more lately and that’s taking a poorly, but traditionally cut stone (with a table, pavilion, culet, etc), flipping it over so it’s culet and pavilion face up with the table facing down, and calling that a rose cut. It is not a rose cut. You can determine these stones by looking at the facet structure, and seeing whether or not it is totally flat on the flat side, if it has a crown, and if the facets are almost equiangular AND triangular. Here is a helpful diagram to help illustrate the anatomy of a traditionally cut stone can look like.

You can see a comparison between the hexagonal traditional cut on the left, and the classic rose cut on the right. I can tell a few things from the hexagonal stone about the rough  – the stone wasn’t deep enough to cut it to ideal specifications and have optimal light return when it’s table up. So in a clever marketing move, they flipped it over and marketed it as a “hexagonal rose cut”.

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With these hexagonal stones, they were not originally intended to be rose cuts, and that is obvious once you take a closer look at the pavilion facets:

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They have the equiangular center facets, but if you look closer, the facets that aren’t in the center are trapezoidal in shape, rather than triangular.

Interestingly, when I flip the stones over, and have the table/flat side up, you can see the huge difference, and clearly discern what the original intent of the cutter was. The hexagons show light return bouncing off the pavilions, minus the windowing in the middle, while the rose cut is essentially transparent:

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Double Sided Rose Cut

Double sided rose cuts are very rare, and are often given different names, depending on the knowledge of the seller or owner. As you can see from the diagrams above, they are structured as if two rose cuts were put flat side against flat side.

Rose cuts come in all different flavors, and they’ve been enjoying a sort of resurgence into popularity with celebrity interest in them as well as antique jewelry coming back into fashion. You can expect to see more from me as well, but that is mostly due to my everlasting love for them, rather than following the trends!

Side note: Thanks to Jennifer Aniston for giving the rest of us some giant rose cut goodness to ogle when she’s out and about.  (Yes, her engagement ring is a giant rose cut diamond!)

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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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Tabloids and Jewelry

Unless you live under a rock, you have heard that The Bachelorette (Kaitlyn Bristowe) was proposed to and accepted her proposal last night (from Shawn Booth). Congratulations to the happy couple – I hope that you beat the odds!
I’m going to go on a mini rant for a minute:
One of the problems with tabloid magazines talking about jewelry is that they never report how many carats the setting is vs. how many carats the center stone is. All of the tabloids are reporting that Kaitlyn’s ring is 3.5cts. Now, knowing what I know, her particular setting probably has about a carat or so of diamonds on the setting itself, not counting the center stone.
So it could be 2.5ct center stone with a carat of little diamonds (often called melee or pave) for a total of 3.5 carats, or it could be a 3.5ct center with a carat of little diamonds for a total of 4.5 carats. I’m guessing, that it’s actually a 3.5 total carat weight, with a 2.5ct or so center.
Any tabloid reporting on jewelry is essentially worthless when no one actually defines where the carat weight is coming from! And it makes me crazy. I guarantee you that someone at Neil Lane knows exactly what the carat weight of the center and the setting is.

My issue is that this is giving the public unrealistic ideas of anything about jewelry! Unfortunately with this kind of misinformation that’s out there, it further confuses the public and no one benefits from unrealistic expectations when it comes to jewelry.

And this is only applicable when the tabloids get the information about the jewelry right. Don’t get me started on that topic. At least People had a Neil Lane press release to rely on, is all I’m going to say on that particular topic.
Sidenote: Why does Neil Lane insist on using those over photoshopped images of his jewelry? They end up looking more like a lifeless drawing than something that is full of sparkle and fire!
Photo courtesy of People magazine, Neil Lane stock photo.
Bachelorette ring Kaitlyn

Gender Inequality and Jewelry Marketing

I’ve been writing this post over a long period of time. If you’ve read through my about me post you know that I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but what I haven’t mentioned is that my minor was sociology. In both my major and minor, I concentrated in classes related to relationships, which included several on gender. In my studies I also took elective classes on both Social Control and Consumer Psychology, both of which have served me well and opened my eyes to thinking critically about the world around me, and specifically the world of jewelry.

This blog post is adapted from part of a research paper I wrote on diamonds for my Social Control class, and includes some anecdotal personal experience. I did not take any of the images in this particular blog entry. 

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Or so the song says. (Sorry Marilyn, I prefer Nicole’s version.)

Jewelry, as we know it today, is primarily marketed at women. “Women of the World, Raise your Right Hand!” became a popular slogan of DeBeers, in 2003, in an attempt to sell more “right hand rings” and broaden their marketing target to include not only the important diamond-clad left hand belonging to married and engaged women, but also single women and other women who would be disinclined to buy a diamond solitaire for their left hand. Tiffany, other large luxury companies, and fashion houses have all created and successfully marketed signature engagement ring lines, but until DeBeers started the “Raise your Right Hand!” campaign, most women’s jewelry boxes contained few if any rings besides the engagement, wedding and perhaps birthstone or heirloom rings.  The right hand ring campaign ended only a couple years after it started, but the idea remained ingrained into society, although certainly not as widespread as it could have been.

DeBeer’s “Women of the World: Raise Your Right Hand” marketing campaign, print ads.
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Diamond seller’s marketing campaigns have influenced the American public through their popular culture by glamorizing diamonds and glorifying them as the hallmark for engagement, marriage, milestones, and various types of celebrations. So many specific examples come to mind. “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” come to mind as a piece of pop culture that exemplifies the huge glamorous engagement ring, which clearly resonates with the American public, as the concept is in it’s 13th year. Every season of The Bachelor has shown a segment where The Bachelor meets with celebrity jewelry mogul Neil Lane for a private engagement ring buying session, with zoomed in images of the various styles being picked over. Then, when The Bachelor proposes to his bride, we get another detailed shot of the ring in the box, with Neil Lane’s logo prominently displayed. This, and other targeted marketing has created control over traditional gender roles and it links supply and demand to style and culture. Under this sun shiny image perpetuated by the wedding industry is a darker, more sinister message: marriage with the requisite material possessions is the American Dream. The item that propagates marriage – an innocuous looking diamond engagement ring.

Chris Soules (ABC’s The Bachelor 2015) engagement ring to Whitney Bischoff, at the proposal.
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Both effective and non-effective marketing ploys from De Beers include: Failed attempts by diamond industry to create the “male engagement ring” in the early 20th century, “Diamonds are Forever”, the three stone ring-representing your “past, present and future”, “promise rings”, the creation of “journey jewelry”, the aforementioned “diamond right hand ring”. Go back and read that again, and carefully consider which gender each concept is aimed at. The introduction of salary suggestions as a marketing ploy for engagement rings began in the 1930s with DeBeers: two months salary for the United States, three months salary in Asian markets and one month salary in the United Kingdom, where colored gemstones or very small diamonds are typical for traditional engagement rings given to a man by a woman. According to statista.com, in 2013, 50% of jewelry sales was made by married women of non-bridal diamond jewelry, 35% was made of single women in non-bridal jewelry, while only 12% included sales of diamond engagement rings with only 3% was made up of diamond wedding bands.

DeBeer’s USA engagement ring print ad: how to make two months’ salary last forever.
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Some movies that glamorize diamonds include: Titanic, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sweet Home Alabama, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Moulin Rouge and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, among many others.  It is interesting to note in most diamond focused movies women are always the ones wearing, wanting or being impressed by diamonds. A man is rarely depicted desiring or wearing a diamond and this may be tied to the “diamonds are for women” stigma, which seems to be the popular stance for most men rejecting diamond jewelry as a whole.

One of the most iconic jewelry related movie scenes, Julia Roberts and Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman”
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The Tiffany & Co engagement scene from “Sweet Home Alabama”.
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Kate Hudson, glowing with a massive yellow diamond, during the jewelry party scene in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”
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Madonna, Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian, Elizabeth Taylor, royalty from other countries, Superbowl rings and athletes, socialites, hip-hop, rap, movie, music and television stars have helped maximize the exposure of diamonds to the American public, signifying their desirability. Diamonds are frequently seen on women at the red carpet of movie premieres, award shows and other celebrity studded events. It is rare for a man to wear statement jewelry on their tuxedos, although lapel pins seem to be making a comeback. Do you remember the hoopla when Johnny Depp was “caught” wearing an antique diamond ring? He said it was supposed to be for his betrothed but he liked it and kept it. People were aghast at a male wearing a “female” style ring, and news stories were in abundance at his audacity to go against the norm.

Johnny Depp, rocking a diamond engagement ring.
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Kim Kardashian, showing off her engagement ring.
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The concept of gender is prevalent throughout the diamond and jewelry industry, with pictures of delicate engagement rings being concentrated and aimed at the female population. The male engagement ring does not exist in the United States, although there was a failed past attempt by De Beers to create one. “Ladies jewelry” styles are more delicate, with fine filigree work and more intricate detail, as well as small pave stones. “Men’s jewelry” tends to be very substantial, with fewer stones or larger bulkier stones. There are fewer diamond wedding bands for males because of the concept that diamonds are for women, not for men. The potential of the man’s non diamond ring could have correlation with men traditionally having more manual-labor or dangerous jobs, where rings in general may become a safety liability, while the lack of diamonds on said rings may have something to do with the concept of masculinity and the diamonds undermine this masculine ideal.

The diamond engagement ring should be, according to popular culture, the most flawless and largest diamond a man can afford because it represents his love for a woman. Diamonds have become representative of marriage because marketing campaigns have entrenched our society in the idea of the symbol of the engagement ring and diamond wedding rings are sometimes the only diamonds a woman will receive in her lifetime. There few advertisements of diamonds in homosexual relationships because the diamond industry is focused on traditional heterosexual couples as their primary market. It is only with Tiffany’s newest campaign that gay couples have been entered into the target market, and it is maddening that it has taken this long for the jewelry industry to embrace gay marriage, as it seems that it had been missing a great target market before. When you consider how entrenched the jewelry industry is in traditional gender roles, and has been for almost a hundred years, suddenly marketing to same sex couples is quite the mountain to overcome.

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Traditional gender roles and gender inequality have saturated jewelry marketing to the extent that we no longer see it.