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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Engagement Season

It’s getting to be that time of year where everyone spends a lot of time with family and friends, going from party to party and opening lots of wonderful presents. It’s also that fateful time of year when people want to get engaged. I’m not sure what it is, but something about the holidays brings out the bling.

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Not that I’m complaining, of course! My very best friends got engaged on Thanksgiving, and my husband proposed to me a week before Christmas.

So lets talk about colored stone engagement rings, shall we?

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  1. Pick something hardy to try to withstand a lifetime. I usually recommend only spinel and sapphire if you’re going to deviate from hardness of a diamond. Spinel is about an 8 on the Mohs Scale, and sapphires are about a 9. Chrysoberyl (and Alexandrite) is also pretty hard at 8.5, but tends to be a less popular choice.
  2. Stick with something classic or something that you know you will love in twenty years as much as you love it now.
  3. Think about what kind of wedding band you want! So many people walk into stores and think about the engagement ring, but never think about what the pair it with. Easier to plan a whole set sometimes, especially if you’re going with something besides a relatively simple solitaire.
  4. Take good care of your engagement ring. Truly, no engagement ring should be worn 24/7, even diamonds. Hardness does not equal being indestructible.  Don’t wear it while doing anything that could cause any harm to the stone – gardening, washing dishes, lifting heavy items. I like to buy a fancy box and put it in there, safe from potential harm while I’m doing those kinds of things.
  5. Color. What color do you want? What is her/your favorite color? What colors do you wear a lot? What stone does the color the best? Is that type of stone at least a 7 on the Mohs Scale? Does that type of stone have other qualities you like (dispersion) or dislike (facet abrasion)? 1
  6. Does the stone need a protective setting to try to prevent nicks and chips? Typically people will bezel or halo a stone that’s on the softer side that may need help in the protection department, but this still leaves the table and crown facets open to getting hit. No setting is going to completely protect your center stone, which is why you have to be careful with it!
  7. Is it in the budget? Rubies, sapphires and emeralds are all going to be very classic choices and typically have the best colors, but spinel does red very well (and has a much cleaner crystal!), spinel also does blue very well, and tsavorites can have eye popping green color as well (plus they often have cleaner crystal as well. Spinels and garnets have the bonus to rarely being treated, as well as often being less expensive than their classic counterparts. Fine rubies, emeralds and sapphires can cost more than diamonds. Colored stones are not always going to be less expensive than diamonds!
  8. Treatment levels. Often, when someone is looking for an engagement ring colored stone, they would like the stone to have as little treatment as possible. As with most colored stone purchases, so long as all treatments are disclosed, and you’re paying a fair price for what you’re getting, you’re good to go.
  9. Size. Is the size practical for her lifestyle? Is she very active and play lots of sports? Does she like big jewelry? Or does she like small? Has she ever admired a relative’s jewelry item? What does the rest of her jewelry look like?
  10. Style. This is probably the topic that I’m most invested in (obviously!) but there are so many different styles out there that the choices are absolutely limitless. Classic, trendy, Art Deco, Mid Century, modern, quirky, just to name a few.

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Hoping that everyone has a wonderful holiday/engagement season!

Overthinking

I have one particular client-friend who will tell you just how much I overthink pieces. She has listened to me, more than once, go on and on and on about how much time I put into designs, and how ridiculous all of the thought I put in before I even start sketching out what is going through my mind. Of course, once I start sketching is when the pieces all fall into place and I can see, granted in a 2D representation, how everything fits and flows together, what works and what doesn’t. I feel like a lot of jewelry out there doesn’t take every angle and every single element into consideration, which is so sad to me.

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For instance, why is the basket so enclosed?

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Two reasons, it’s highly polished to reflect the stone’s color back at the wearer and in a stone that isn’t cut perfectly, it helps camouflage any windowing.

I have just spent the morning and early afternoon rough sketching a design that has been plaguing me for weeks. Part of the reason it’s been plaguing me for so long is the fact that I was writing descriptions, taking photos and actually doing the legwork myself to get my collection onto the site, but also, I’ve been seriously stuck with where I wanted to go with the design. Today I finally had a bit of a breakthrough, and I finally put the pieces together. The structure of what needs to be there to hold the stones down has been holding me down, but I finally feel like I got it today. The pieces started to finally come together.

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Basket detail? Not just pretty, it also provides structure and support for the halo.

So much of jewelry design is holding stones. Lately I’ve been taking note of designers who don’t use prongs. Polly Wales, for instance, just casts the stones directly into her items. It is a really cool look. Bezeling is popular too. But I feel like most people work around prongs, and don’t incorporate them into the design. I think it was in my beloved architecture book, a quote about how a design element should have at least two uses, otherwise it shouldn’t be there. I will have to go look it up. My point there is that I think and think and think about those design elements.

It’s not just a prong. It should never be considered just a prong. What ELSE can the prong be? What else does the prong WANT to be?

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It wants to be a mermaid, but will settle for being part of the split shank.

And with that, I’m starting to sound like a slightly deranged philosopher. But these are the things I think of when I design a piece of jewelry. It’s not just something to be worn – it’s wearable sculpture. Each element should be practical AND beautiful. Otherwise, what is it doing there?

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Ok, well, sometimes I add things that are just pretty…like that design element on the end of the stone.

Lessons in Gemstone Buying

Back in January, I had posted about what to look for in looking to buy a gemstone.  This is kind of an addendum to that.

– Don’t be afraid to ask too many good questions. One of the problems I often come across is that people are asking questions, but don’t understand the answers they are getting. If you don’t understand something, you should ask the vendor. I often will take massive amounts of time explaining things, so that even if a person walks away without buying something from me, they are more educated. A lot of vendors aren’t willing to do that, so you should take advantage of a person who is willing to share their knowledge. I’m a firm believer in “Leaving a place better than how I found it” which means if you ask me a question, I’ll do my best to educate you even further than just answering the question you’ve asked. Get educated about your purchases! You’ll make better, more informed purchases and likely save yourself time and money!

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Treatment. Size. Clarity. Origin. Modifiers. Things like that.

– A better understanding of general colored stone terms (as opposed to diamond terms) and terms when describing rings and pendants. Again, and I can’t reiterate this enough, ask questions. If you don’t know what something means, ask! If they don’t know the answers to your questions, walk away until you find someone who does.

– Not verifying the return policy because sometimes what’s online isn’t current or detailed enough. You should always verify the return policy before you make a purchase.

– Not seeing the gem in various lighting conditions. Different light temperatures are going to make the stone look different. You need to make sure that you are happy with all of the stone’s different looks. Or, if not all of the looks, at least most of them. A stone isn’t going to look nice in a pitch black room if you can even see it at all!

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Incandescent.

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Diffused daylight.

– Always put something on hold before discussing it publicly. There are people out there who might see what you are looking at, and buy it out from under you. Most vendors work on a “first come, first served” basis. If you don’t put something on hold, and then post about it publicly it might just sell out from under you.

– Expecting flawless or loupe clean clarity, especially in gems such as spinel, emerald, ruby and sapphire. If you want one of those to be flawless, buy synthetic.

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Not flawless, but it is eyeclean. Green Garnet.

– Don’t go to multiple sources looking for the same stone. This industry is very small. It is nothing but frustrating if you ask multiple people for the same thing, and they happen to start talking, and discover that they are looking for the same stone for the same client. Often, they will both give up on the search.

– Depending on the type of gem box that your vendor uses, you will probably want to open them upside down, above a soft surface, such as a low pile carpet, or best, on top of a made bed.

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I know of too many people who have opened a box outside, and the gem falls into the grass or through slats in a deck, never to be seen again. Also, use something thin and flat to open the gem box.

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I typically grab whatever is available, in this case, a ruler.

They put little slots on the sides to slide something in, and twist it to open.

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Little twist of the ruler and it pops right off!

The end of the gem tweezers are best, but you can use thing like paper clips just as easily.

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These spinels are safe and sound, in the lid of their box.

– You should look at a gemstone on your hand. I don’t have any gemholders, and I don’t suggest that people use them either. The spring type (the ones that look sort of like a ring) can very easily and very badly damage a stone.

I know that there are more tips and tricks for gemstone buying, but these are a good start. The absolute best tip I can give though is to buy what you like, and don’t be swayed by the “trade ideal”. If you don’t like what the trade finds to be ideal, you’re more likely to get a better deal on what you do buy.

Random note! Since I’ve been getting a ton of inquiries about the coupon code for my etsy store I decided to post it again, so here it is: “AUTUMN2015” (no quotes). It is good for 15% off purchases of $100 or more until November 1.

Next week is going to be all about the new line! By next Monday, all of the pages should be up for six of the rings, so make sure and keep your eyes peeled this week – Aurore, Exaltée and Feuilles Dorées will make their online debut!

Gem Blast: Green Garnet

I want to take a post to talk a little bit about this garnet. I had been eyeing it for years from my favorite gemstone supplier, and at a certain point, could no longer resist the temptation and brought it home with me.

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Tsavorite/Green Grossular Garnet
Medium Tone
Green
3.28ct
7.2×9.8mm
Elongated Octagon/emerald outline w/ step cut crown
eyeclean
untreated

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There was a point where I thought about setting it and selling it as a piece, but I’ve been working so hard at trying to build up my list of prototypes for my jewelry line, that I can no longer justify holding onto it. So, it went up into my etsy store last week, and hopefully it will go to a good home.

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However, in the time between going from considering selling it, to listing it to etsy, I sent it to an expert on all things green garnet to get his opinion on it and give me a quote on how much he thought I should list it for. I’ll be mysterious as to that person’s identity for now, but I plan on writing a blog with information from him at a later point in time.

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This image and the following 2 images show it with natural light hitting the left side and artificial lighting hitting the right side. 

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The crystal is actually quite clean, but has some veil inclusions that are pretty evenly distributed throughout the stone.

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As you can see, it’s a pretty remarkable gem, a gorgeous bright open medium green that really catches the eye, especially with it’s size.

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And a terrible picture of some really gorgeous little tsavorites that I adore and picked up at the same time. I have no idea what I’m going to do with them but I will figure it out sooner or later! They were far too beautiful to leave there.

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I just realized that it’s possible to take advantage of my fall sale coupon code with this garnet, making it a really great deal! Of course, I’m always open to offers as well.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on tsavorite…

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.
Bachelor 2015 ring

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.
Johnny Depp
Kim Kardashian, showing off her engagement ring.
Kim Kardashian engagement ring

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.

Tiffany Co Gay engagement

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