New York, New York

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

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

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

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Central Terminal Ceiling
Grand Central Terminal Ceiling

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

Grand Central Terminal Taurus Detail
Grand Central Terminal Taurus Detail

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

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

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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!

Miscellaneous Updates

Just a quick update this week, New Years is coming up soon (where did this year go?), and getting my new office/studio together is taking up way more time than I planned on.

  • My wonderful Angie Crabtree “Elle” print was finally framed, and it’s waiting for it’s new spot to be hung in my new office. I went simple on this one, and hopefully, since she is working on some antique diamond cuts, I can give “Elle” a companion sooner rather than later!
  • I haven’t been able to sketch and design as much as I normally do, snow shoveling has taken way too much of my time, as well as driving in the snow. It turns out that driving slow is key for avoiding wrecks! Right now I have three (plus) projects going on – two ring projects that I have very clear ideas on, and another more fluid project that I got a whole parcel of stones for, and have too many ideas on, so that will need to be worked on, hopefully in the coming week or so.
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  • Not much going on with stock settings, I decided against rolling out the Dignité for now, and will probably reconsider in the future. I am working on a three stone idea that has been formulating in my head that lends itself well to pairing with the Vivant necklace.
  • Instead of the Dignité being released, I posted the Intrepide – a wonderful interesting halo that’s just a slight tweak on a simple halo, that really comes with big impact!  This setting is available for any size and shape of stone, please contact us for details.
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  • I have a Voeu ring that just came out of production, and is available to view in person at David Klass Jewelry in Los Angeles. This one was made with a peachy-brown imperial garnet with both yellow gold and rose gold. This setting really lends itself well to smaller stones, giving them a good dose of presence, even for a smaller stone.
  • I got a few new jewelry tools for the holidays, so I’m excited to use those, both for pictures and just in general.
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  • I am considering sending several sapphires to AGL for certification, but the negative side of doing that (for the customer) is that the prices will inevitably go up.
  • Speaking of pricing, I think I might do a sale on my items on etsy for January. I will decide in the next week or so.
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A bit short today, I have been completely overloaded, but will hopefully get back into the groove again soon!

A Year in Review

Happy first birthday to The Gemstone Project!

Lets see, the past year has been chock full of wonderful craziness.

August 2014
The first month started out with a lot of posts about various gemstones, including a colorless garnet, and gray spinel. It included an unheated Umba color shifting sapphire in a Harry Winston inspired halo that I helped put together for a friend. I posted a bit about myself and some about my photography. And I topped off the month with my first Gem Blast.

September 2014
September started out with a visit to Lang Antiques in San Francisco that took up three posts. September included three Gem Blasts, including one about considering gemstone recuts. I concluded September with my handy guide “Scale of Gray” for seeking out gray spinels.

October 2014
October gave way to talk about birthstones, including two antique birthstone rings, tourmaline & opal. I touched on gemstone cutting flaws and what to keep an eye out for. I posted a design I used for my first jewelry design contest with David Klass. I included posts about tsavorites, Mahenge spinels, and an evaluation I did for a friend on a red spinel. Two designs were posted, including a breast cancer awareness ring and a red spinel inspired by the Art Deco period. October only had one Gem Blast – sapphires and moonstones.

November 2014
I created a Facebook page in November! I posted my drawing process for my solitaire setting entry for another of David Klass’ contests, this time winning. I also featured willajunejewelry. A Gem Blast about diamonds, some rough ideas for a NYC ring, plus some random thoughts flowed through November.

December 2014
A feature on Jewels by Grace brought December in with bang! Though the rest of the month I stayed a bit quieter due to the holidays, I still had a range of topics to cover. I wrote about design ideas and inspiration for my pad sapphire ring. A Gem Blast on Merelani Mint Garnets, my thoughts on what the New Year would bring, and a post about lapidaries fleshed out the end of the year.

January 2015
I brought in January with my own type of confetti: red spinel melee. A reader had suggested posting about a guide of what to look for in a gem. I announced that I was starting to design my own line of jewelry, posted a Gem Blast on the many gems at my beloved gem store and another Gem Blast celebrating January’s birthstone, several varieties of garnets. Then January closed with my declaration of opening an etsy store.

February 2015
February started with me changing to trade status on Pricescope and picking up a new username, and a post about fantasy cut gemstones. Pantone had announced their color of the year to be Marsala, and I have a few things to say about that. Sticking with the birthstone idea, I posted a Gem Blast about amethysts. I added a simple diamond pendant design, and a post about my most memorable Oscar jewelry.

March 2015
I brought in March with a post about a green beryl/aquamarine, another birthstone post. Some discussion about current jewelry trends took place, as well as a post about red spinel. I finally posted the finished product from winning David Klass’ contest. A more detailed post about my design aesthetic wrapped up March. But that wasn’t all! I also started a TGP Twitter account, and my 3rd ring prototype was completed, and the 4th one put into production.

April 2015
Since diamond is the birthstone for April, and also my birthstone, I decided to dedicate almost the entire month of posts to diamonds. Until recently I wasn’t a diamond lover, so I blogged about diamonds that really captured my imagination, including rose cut diamonds, a yellow diamond trillion, and a pinkish brown diamond. But I didn’t post entirely about diamonds – I added in a post with the end product of my David Klass contest band. My 4th prototype was completed too, and the 5th prototype was put into production! I also got a gem back from AGL as certified unheated. The event that took place that I was most excited about was a sapphire purchased from my shop being used as an engagement ring!

May 2015
Of course I would have to do an emerald Gem Blast for May, since it is the birthstone for the month and that seems to be the trend I picked up on! May was an incredibly busy month for me with JCK at the end, and preceding where to find me on social media, and a post about how I would be posting to instagram and twitter from JCK. I also finally posted a post I had made on sexism and gender issues within jewelry marketing and the jewelry trade. I also included a Gem Blast of the AGL certified violet sapphire. 5th ring prototype was completed!

June 2015
June did not get a birthstone post! Instead, I did a post about my jewelry line updates, a post on blue-green tourmalines, THREE posts on my experiences at JCK, including meeting lots of colored stone celebrities. I also did a post on metal color and how I prefer color flow to contrast, and how I like colors to work together. I also did a post about imitation and inspiration that had been writing itself on my phone for months prior. I finished the month with a Gem Blast on a stunning tanzanite from Precision Gems.

July 2015
July kicked off with a post about sending a sapphire to AGL and getting it tested. I then had a bit of an artistic funk and found myself writing about art of other mediums – Angie Crabtree and some chefs made some brief appearances and helped lift my spirits and inspired me further. I also got to the final stages of a big custom project, and took a fantastic mini vacation down to San Diego at the Vineyard Hacienda, which also helped get the creative juices flowing. I published a “living document” I had been writing about gemstone terms and vocabulary, and hopefully that will still be added to continuously. I finished off July with a couple of Gem Blasts – moving across state lines does not make for a lot of blogging time!

August 2015
August has only just begun again, but already this one holds a special meaning to me – I have never been good at continuing things – I have started so many blogs and stopped writing after a couple months, or lost interest, or whatever, so to reach and celebrate a year of posts, and all of the incredible things and wonderful people I have met – it truly is a remarkable milestone for me. So far into August, I have posted only one blog, but it has been one of the most important and edited (18 times! Two different highly educated editors!) items I have ever written – Gender Inequality and the Jewelry Trade. Oh, and I also moved across the country, a thousand miles to the north counts, right?

Here is to the future and everything it may bring!

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Imitation vs. Inspiration

Roughly a year ago, when I first started to get the idea that I might actually design for a living, I got the opportunity to speak with a renowned designer/jeweler. One of the first things I asked when I got the opportunity to ask him questions was what his inspiration was. I look back on that and laugh because it really was a fangirl type question to ask. He gave me some sort of benign answer about anything inspiring him, and I went on my merry way.

Now, over a year later, and feeling much wiser, I know that it’s a silly question, because I know that anything can inspire you – in fact, you never know what will inspire you until it hits.

Imitation

: the act of copying or imitating someone or something
: something that is made or produced as a copy

And

Inspiration

: something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone
: a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something
: a good idea

In the jewelry world, there is really very little that is a new idea. Everything has been done before. So it’s hard to come up with new and fresh ideas.

It’s not that I don’t take inspiration from other items of jewelry, but it pains me to see an antique ring, and then later see almost an exact copy of the antique, with slightly changed elements. Why would you want to make a copy of someone else’s idea when you can make something completely different and new?

I like to borrow elements from other jewelry all of the time, and I combine them with other elements to create something that is entirely different and hopefully unique. I don’t want something that someone else has! Typically, the original is always the best anyway, so why make a copy? It’s rare that I see a copy and think it’s more beautiful than the original. Especially with antique pieces.

I have one upcoming setting that will be in my jewelry line, and I can think of 5 rings that either inspired me or  I borrowed an element from, to combine those elements into something new that I’d never really seen before. An antique, an Erika Winters design, a Leon Mege design, a David Klass design, and anyone who has ever made a ring with flower petals (which are a lot of designers, let me tell you). I sort of hope that someone digs up an antique version of what I’ve done because, in a way, it sort of validates that I had a good idea.

Here is a design I’ve been playing with for a while with some spinels for a North/South orientation. I doubt this will come to fruition, but it’s still fun to play with! Thanks to Lorraine Schwartz for the idea to try something that stretches along the finger length!

Ring 1, Ring 2, Ring 3 (there are more, but you get the idea!)

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Viva Las Vegas! JCK 2015 Part 3!

So. It’s the final day. I would have loved to stay in Vegas longer, but my daughter was already having a hard time with me being gone. I’d had a packed schedule for three days and wasn’t able to talk to her as much as I (or she) would have liked.

Saturday

I actually woke up at a decent time, and got ready as soon as possible and made my way over to the convention center. I was alone because my companion from Friday had some other engagements, and I had put this day aside to spend at the show. I was determined to go up to the diamond levels, but had to go spend some quality time back downstairs with my beloved colored stones.

JCK Luxury Salon

So, one thing I wanted to point out is that security is TIGHT, of course. These security cameras were on the escalators up to the Luxury Salons. Security guards are everywhere, police are everywhere, it was kind of amazing. But I will tell you, I’ve never felt so safe.

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Now, one other reason I am showing the video cameras is that I wasn’t able to take a ton of photos. Luxury and the main floor of the show is nothing like AGTA – cameras and photographs are not welcome. Designers and jewelers are determined that their ideas will not be stolen. I may or may not have gotten yelled at at least once by a guy wearing a bow tie that was peddling 20+ carat antique cut stones. How can you copy something like that?!

So, I’m going to lay this out there and be flat out honest. I am a colored stone girl. I am so tired of diamond halos. And that’s what the vast majority of what was in the Luxury Salons. I don’t know that I should be apologetic about that, because it’s obviously what people want, but for the love of Pete, you can only do a diamond halo in so many ways! Having said that, I sometimes like diamond halos, but at least get creative with them!

NOW, one company that did something besides your every day diamond halo was Cicada Jewelry. Don’t get me wrong, they had some diamond halos, but that wasn’t all they had. So I wildly sketched some ideas and noted some color combinations. I wasn’t even tempted to take pictures, because I respected their work enough to not want to copy it, but to use some of the lessons learned while standing in that aisle admiring their work. They have a minimal presence online and on social media because they are so protective over their work and designs. They actually do not even photograph and publish most of their work so that they don’t get copied. And for good reason, their items were exquisite, definitely the best I saw at the show. I got a shot of their business card though! Their booth was what the entire section of Luxury Salons should have been.

Other companies need to step up their game.

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AGTA, Random Cabochon Vendors

I would have to go back through my business card collection to tell you who the vendor was, but they had some of the coolest stuff – adding some mother of pearl to the back of some translucent cabochons of different colors. I was fascinated by the resulting light play and will have to delve further into the idea of making jewelry with it when I have more resources to do so.

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This concave cut belonged to a HUGE vendor who had so many items out on their tables that they must have had a terrible time keeping track of everything. I was a horrible convention goer and didn’t grab one of their business cards.

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AGTA, Bruce Bridges

One of my most entertaining visits from this day was when I went by the tsavorite.com booth and happened to meet Bruce Bridges. So I asked him to pull out the biggest example of tsavorite he had in the cases, and he polished it up with a clean cloth while I pulled out my OlloClip and readied my camera. They asked to see the photos I took and were enthralled with the quality of the photograph I had just taken using just my phone and a relatively inexpensive macro lens. Bruce complimented my photography skills, and I taught him all about the OlloClip. I’m pretty sure he’s now a convert and will be purchasing one, if he hasn’t already. This stone is 12.5cts and I was afraid to touch it, knowing how rare (and expensive!) tsavorites are of this size. The photo does not do it justice, as the stone has less yellow in it than appears on my laptop, or on my phone, for that matter. Silly greens, being difficult to capture correctly.

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Blurrier pic, but I was trying to capture some sparkle.

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A horrible picture of some of what was in their display case. I only asked to see the biggest, but there were some heart wrenchingly beautiful spinels and tanzanites along with all of the greens.

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I hope that Bruce picks up an OlloClip and is introduced to Instagram, as I’d love to see more of those incredible gems all over the interwebs!

AGTA, Random Gemstone Vendors

I stopped by the Paraiba booth again to grab a couple pictures of a few of the tourmalines, the 3ct one in particular, as it is that famed “Windex blue” everyone always goes on and on about. The others weren’t too shabby either, but they really just aren’t my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t turn down designing around one, but I don’t know that I’d ever really want to own one.

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Chinastone is the place with the melee. I actually was planning to pick up some and then realized that I didn’t have the cash on me at the time. So much fun to imagine what to do with all of those tiny stones!

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Then a last stop back by Prima Gems to pick up this little neon red guy and a stone for my day 2 companion. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this thing, but I will do something with it at some point!

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I actually went upstairs and wandered through the tech/tools area for a bit and chatted with some friends/colleagues about tools, the trade and jewelry design, but didn’t take any pictures, so that’s a bit boring.

Pricescope Get Together

2015 marked the fifth year of the Pricescope get together, but only my second time attending. I went straight from JCK and arrived before anyone else did, so I managed to get a couple images of the suite before anyone else arrived. A giant thank to goes out to Andrey Pilipchak, his beautiful wife Linh, and Erika Winters, for putting so much effort into hosting such a great party every year. It’s your playground, we just get to play in it!

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I believe that there is an annual pool game that takes place, but I’ve always stayed away from it while it’s happening!

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Luckily, being one of the first people there has it’s perks, like I didn’t feel guilty about grabbing people’s bling as soon as they walked in the door, since no one else was there to look at it yet. For instance this amazing pear rose cut came through the door, and I didn’t want to give it back. I mean, look at it! I think that Jewels By Grace still has it, but it may have sold already. Unfortunately, not to me.

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This piece is wonderful, first of all because it belongs in a friend’s personal collection, but also because of the history. It’s a 1920s Art Deco brooch that was converted in the 1950s into a bracelet. I didn’t capture the bracelet details, but the brooch part is absolutely immaculate with perfect milgrain.

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Another Jewels by Grace item, this is a precision cut light pink garnet that was set into one of JbyG’s signature bangle bracelets, in brushed rose gold. Sometimes the simplest things are the best ones.

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Now, once I got this on my finger, I absolutely did NOT want to give it back. Another Jewels by Grace item, a to-die-for antique emerald cut diamond. Positively epic. I am such a sucker for the step cuts.

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This may have been the point where I started sending pictures of it to my husband. Who then laughed at me. 3.6cts doesn’t come cheap!

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Another wowza item that is a bit shy and not fond of the bling paparazzi is a stunning antique green chrysophase ring. This thing has presence in any room, and glows like it has a light on inside. From another personal collection.

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Also happening at the party was playing with loose stones. One thing I love about the camaraderie that belongs to Pricescope is that no one judges you for playing with little sparkly items when normal people might think you’re crazy for being so bling obsessed. For us, it’s just the best kind of party! A friend was asking advice for a potential three stone. By the end of the night she had completely changed her tune and was going towards something totally different.

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Now, towards the end of the evening, I happened to check my Instagram, and noticed that I had hit the 1000 followers mark. I had been intending to do a giveaway at 1000 followers, but considering that I was in Vegas, and would be traveling home all day the next day, I decided to postpone the giveaway until 1,500. So, if you’re an instagram follower, start looking for me to do a giveaway on there relatively soon!

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Not long afterwards, my roommates gathered me up, and insisted that we go back to our room, ending my mini-bling vacation. I had seen, experienced and learned so much that I couldn’t even begin to try to remember absolutely everything I had absorbed. I gathered a ton of business cards and made a bunch of new contacts, some very cool mentors and shared a bit of myself. I feel like I created some new opportunities and I hope that some wonderful things come out of it.

I want to send out a HUGE special thanks to Amy Phillips and David Klass of David Klass Jewelry. Without the kindness and generosity of these two phenomenal people, most of this trip would not have been possible. You guys are the best!

I hope you enjoyed a small piece of what JCK and AGTA were like through my eyes!