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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Updates and an Announcement

I feel like it’s been a while since I blogged. And there are a lot of good reasons for that. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

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I recently nabbed a trio of gray spinel asschers. I’m thinking about making a three stone with them, if they match well enough and look good together. I will see once they arrive! If I don’t love them together, they will probably go into the etsy shop.

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I did several earring design sketches for a client, and I’m considering turning some of the unused ones into designs to go into the etsy shop. Especially since I have a ton of green garnets that really should be used for something fabulous.

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Upcoming projects: a necklace for a friend, a Rubellite ring, a smattering of three stone rings, a five stone ring, a couple of fancy halos, and a handful of solitaire rings. Plus who knows what else will pop up in the next few weeks.  I have several ideas for necklaces that I’d like to make, but those may take a while to bring into fruition.

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The biggest announcement is that I have taken an outside opportunity, and as a result, I won’t be able to devote as much time as I have been to my own jewelry design.  There won’t be a ton of changes that stem from this change, my website will stay the same, my stock designs will remain available, the Etsy shop will remain open, and I will still be available to do custom design.

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The big changes are going to be: I won’t be able to devote as much time to hunting down gemstones and I’m going to have to be stricter about custom projects that I take on. I will still have accounts with Gem2000, Mayer & Watt and Pala International/Gems, and their stones will be available for purchase through me. Shipping will only happen once a week, probably Mondays or Tuesdays. Unfortunately, blogging will have to take more of a backseat, and will likely turn into a once a month occurrence. I will still try to respond to emails within 24 hours, but I may not be as swift as I was before.
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Design Thoughts & Questions

Just a sample of some of the questions I ask myself while working on a project.

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Does it have purpose?

What does it make you feel?

Is it risky?

Is it beautiful?

Does it flow with the other elements?

Is it functional?

Is this element both beautiful and functional?

Does it look like something I’ve seen somewhere else?

Is there a structural entity that could be more attractive?

Does this need to be here?

Does it need more structure to withstand time and wear?

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Is the wearable/comfortable?

Could someone wear this every day? Or is it an occasional wear item?

Where would the wearer wear this?

How does this interact with the wearer?

Does it move?

Could it move?

Should it move?

How should/could it move?

What are the stones? Are they especially fragile?

What kind of hazards would this likely come into contact with? Is there anything to be done design wise that would better protect it?

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What color metal looks best with the stone?

What color metal looks best with the design?

Would this design work for other stones?

Would this design work for other shapes? How?

Does this stone have any special issues I should try to compensate for or enhance?

Is this idea too fantastical?

Is this idea too boring?

Is this idea classic?

Will it stand the test of time? Or is it trendy?

What kind of surprise elements can I add that the average observer wouldn’t notice, but would make the piece special, and still keep with the feeling of the piece as a whole?

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TGP: Year Two

A lot has happened over the last year, and certainly in the last two!

On a more personal note, I have moved from just outside of the Mojave desert where water is scarce to a 1800s farmhouse in the middle of thousands of acres of the incredible rolling hills of the Palouse, and finally to a fixer upper in Pullman with an actual dedicated space for a studio with southern exposure.

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Professionally I have created some incredible new designs, some of my favorite being the most challenging – a double haloed Paraiba Tourmaline, a haloed Burmese red spinel, a scalloped halo for an antique pear diamond, a violet spinel three stone ring, and a stunner of a 6 carat violet sapphire ring and so many more!

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I have created some really amazing engagement rings – a marquise in the Papillon setting, and a three stone spinel ring, not to mention stones found for engagement rings. I am always so excited and feel so blessed to play a small part of someone’s engagement!

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I have added to and built up the retail portion of my website, adding a boutique, and adding multiple designs to the Elle Collection. I have also made new contacts and been able to see some incredible gems!

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As far as gemstones go, I got an untreated Colombian Emerald back from AGL – I always knew this stone was special, and now I know how special and rare it really is. I received a glowy red spinel cut by Jeff White, and while I considered keeping it for a while, I ended up letting it go. Very reluctantly! I have gotten a ton of gray spinels, and continue being on the lookout for more. I am always on the hunt for gray spinels, especially now that their prices have skyrocketed.

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One thing that also happened this year is that AGTA and JA declared spinel to be a birthstone for August. If you’ve followed my blog, etsy, website or Instagram for any period of time, you know how much I love spinels. So while I think this is wonderful that spinel can finally get some recognition it deserves, it’s really terrible because that means that the prices of spinels are going to go crazy for a while, and probably will never come down again.

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So many things are in the works for the next year, especially the next couple of months. I have a bunch of goals, including entering a design or two into competition, and working towards more earrings and necklace designs. At some point I would like to have a trunk show event at a local jewelry store because I think that would be a lot of fun!

Here is to my third year! I only hope that it is as wonderful as the past two years!

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A Diamond Papillon

The Papillon was my first official foray into creating a stock jewelry line. I spent so many hours agonizing over slight details and figuring out the best way to make those details come together in a cohesive manner. The Papillon was the result and I am still quite proud of it.

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So I wasn’t surprised to get a message asking if I would be amenable to adapting it to a marquise shape and turning it into an engagement ring.

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Due to it’s split shank style, it was a simple adaptation from an oval to a marquise, and one that worked out wonderfully.

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Yellow gold was chosen and it was just a matter of getting it set.

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C & J, I hope that this ring is shared through many incredibly happy years, and that you enjoy it for a long time to come. I am so delighted that you asked me to adapt a design to your stone and so lucky to have shared a small piece of your history together!

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Gem Blast: Imperial Garnet Voeu

Oh Voeu…one of my first stock designs, the Voeu is always going to have a special role in my life.

You’ve seen the padparadascha sapphire version already, and if you’re following me on social media, you might have seen a hint of another one that came into my life recently.

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In case you haven’t seen it before, here is a quick refresher course – stunning in white gold with rose gold accents, the center sapphire shines as the centerpiece of a composition.

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While I originally thought that this stone wasn’t terribly different from the padparadscha sapphire in color, boy was I wrong! The color of the stone is almost the same as rose gold, and as a result, I decided I wanted to contrast it just a bit with the metal color while still keeping the warmth of colored gold.

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18kt yellow gold can appear brassy sometimes, and I felt like it had the potential to overwhelm the delicate balance of brown and peach in the garnet, so instead I chose to go with 14kt yellow gold – something a bit more subtle.

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And of course I had to keep up with my unexpected touches – a surprise diamond hidden on either side of the gallery of the setting.

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Look at the warmth of that gold with the light shining through it! Reminds me of sunshine…

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What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?

I get a lot of questions about why I name jewelry what I do, so I thought I should explain a bit more as to how I came to the defining theme in the names of my collection.

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Vivant – Vivacious

I feel like so many designers out there have chosen names that are ladies given names, and I really wanted to express concepts that would mean something to me, that represented something that I felt, or something that inspired me while I was working on a piece, whether that be something descriptive of the actual piece itself (there could not be another name for Feuilles Dorées) or a name that had some quality that I felt the piece represented. I also try to keep each item upbeat, often thinking of qualities I would like my daughter to possess, or traits that inspirational women in my life embody. Every once in a while I even let a client name a piece themselves.

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Résistance – Strength

I actually put a lot of time into picking a name for each piece, taking into account every element of the item and every thought, word and feeling that ended up becoming that item. Unless inspiration hits and I fully flesh out an item within a few minutes, many hours of brainstorming, writing down words, drawing, thinking and sometimes staring at a blank piece of paper goes into each item. Often the name for a piece shows up somewhere from the beginning, as one of the defining concepts or an errant thought I have while trying to put a vision into words.

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Aurore – Dawn

Now, I chose French because of my background in pastry and culinary arts. French is basically the unofficial language of fine dining restaurants (though it could be debated that it should be Spanish) and as a result, I have a decent repertoire of French vocabulary terms floating around in my brain, though they are mostly related to cooking and food! No, I am not French (as far as I know), but I have two close friends that speak it fluently, and when I have questions about correct and accurate language usage, I have people to ask. Besides, French is the language of love, and while it may sound somewhat cliche, I love what I do.

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Papillon – Butterfly

French is not a super popular language within the United States, I realize that people may struggle with pronunciation, which is why I added what the English translation alongside the French on each piece’s page.  Please don’t feel bad about not being able to pronounce the names – I have struggled with languages my entire life (lets not talk about how I have had years and years of formal Spanish education and can barely speak any of it) and still mangle words at times!

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Voeu – Wish

So if you have ever wondered, that’s why I have a bunch of French words as the names of my jewelry!

As is par for the course, renovations are not done yet, though there is light at the end of the tunnel! Painting is getting closer and closer to being done, and I should have a new studio by March 1!

In the meantime, I’m working on some custom projects, including some more pear shapes, one of the most challenging but interesting shapes, in my humble opinion. Also included in that is a large project, or parcel of projects that has so many stones, I have been having a hard time figuring out where to start!

I’ve received requests for a new page to be added to my website, one page that has all of my custom work and designs together. Hopefully soon I can put some time into adding that. I will also put another jewelry item to the site in the next couple weeks – the Espoir ring.

New items were added to the etsy shop this past week – a yellow diamond ring and a red spinel and diamond ring among them!

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!

Guest Post: The Evolution of Collecting

I have a special treat today, a guest post from someone who has become a close friend through gemstones, and whose services I sometimes utilize as a gemstone personal shopper due to her connections within the industry.  So if you have ever asked me for help finding a gem, rest assured I have likely consulted her on your stone.
Please welcome Aimée!
I have been collecting gemstones for my personal collection for almost five years now. It has been quite a journey. My financial situation has fluctuated during that time, and my connections in the industry have strengthened. I never used to consider myself picky, but have discovered that when it comes to gems…I’m a princess. I want it all – colour, cut, and price. So…how does one do that?
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I started by buying everything that caught my fancy. I should specify at this point that my purchases happen almost exclusively online. This means a pretty large learning curve in terms of how to read pictures, specifically around colour, tone, and saturation ( a word I’ve only learned in the last four years). Also, some vendors have what I would call “frenzied drops”, where you have about 3 seconds or less to decide if you want something, regardless of price. I’ve returned many stones, and sold the ones I felt guilty about returning or that I realized ultimately weren’t for me. I’ve sold some beautiful stones, many that I’ve forgotten about, until I came across a picture on my computer. I’ve also developed realistic expectations. “A good price” is very relative. I’ve known people to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a diamond, then want a trade ideal coloured stone that is exponentially rarer than a diamond, with a maximum budget of a few hundred dollars. This type of search will usually lead to frustration and disappointment, and is quite simply a waste of time.
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I try not to develop emotional attachments to my stones. Oddly enough, that can be difficult. I have stones and/or rings that I have a really hard time parting with, even though I will probably never set them, or rarely wear them, but they are pretty, and the memory of how they came to be in my possession is too sweet to extinguish. Selling to a fellow enthusiast helps. If it’s someone I like, who really loves the gem, I have an easier time passing it on. At this point, I only sell to fund new projects.
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So, I’ve built my collection. What was once “the ultimate” moves on, once I find a “holy grail”. (Like stepping stones, except in a few instances, where…I hoard. I have several Mahenge spinels. My excuse is that they are all uniquely beautiful – pinkish red, reddish pink – I’m pretty sure I have every shade in between. Now, I’m aiming for cuprian tourmalines. Unfortunately, I came into the game too late for certain gems. But I digress…) I TRY to no longer buy impulsively (which can burn me in the case of, say…a holy grail that I try to think about for more than 3 seconds, and it’s grabbed by someone else in that time, during a frenzied drop). I try to accept what actually looks good with my skin tone – honestly, I have some stones which just aren’t flattered by my pasty hand…but are too pretty to sell!
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I have scored some wonderful gems, at reasonable prices. This is usually because a fellow enthusiast has either pointed me in the right direction, or sold me something they bought several years ago at a good price, and they’re passing on the deal. Sometimes, it’s because I’ve bugged a vendor somewhat incessantly about a certain colour, and they finally got something in that might shut me up. Sometimes, I’ve really lucked out when a stone has sat around for quite some time for whatever reason, and the price can be negotiated somewhat.
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If I was to have some advice for a “newbie” about collecting, it’s to have patience. “The One” WILL come along, at some point. You are better off socking away the money until it does. In the meantime, educate yourself, look at what’s around and at what price point, see as many gems in real life as you can, and when you see The One, pounce!
-Aimée

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.