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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Proportions & Balance

I started writing this blog a year ago.  The reason I haven’t completed the entry until now is because it’s incredibly difficult to put something that comes as instinct into words.  I cannot talk about exclusively proportions while leaving out the rest of the elements that could create conflict even within the correct proportions. So here is my attempt at it!

Typically I will design a piece of jewelry by being inspired by one or more of four things:

  1. A specific gemstone.
  2. A design concept, or inspiration piece.
  3. A shape.
  4. A color combination.

Note that size is not one of them!

I feel as though most designs are made as a frame for the center stone, which is why we see so many plain diamond halos for a variety of colored stones and diamonds.  They are popular, but not particularly interesting or unusual, and designed to basically be background noise for the center stone.

Proportion is the word for the relationship between sizes of one element to another element.

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A vintage ring that had wonderful proportions, with the size and shape of the side stones impeccably enhancing the center stone.

So I think about the piece of jewelry as a piece of art. That means choosing a focal point, and building everything else around that.  The background shouldn’t overpower the focal point, and the entire piece needs to have balance and cohesion. This is most obvious with 3, 5, and 7 stone jewelry, but can be applied to haloed items as well.

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Now, the key with the proportion is to ensure as to not overpower the main stone or the main focal point with the details. With a multi stone ring (3,5,7 stones traditionally) the idea is to make the stones uniform, or to create a flow or pattern to enhance the center stone or to create it’s own unit. The ideal is to create harmony between elements, and stick to having one main focal point. I have attempted pieces before that failed at this for one reason or another, and luckily I was able to learn from them. The Art Deco period of jewelry was particularly adept at creating jewelry with many small background elements enhancing a strong central element.

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The Resistance ring with diamond side stones becoming the background and a vivid emerald center stone taking center stage.

A problem that I see pretty often is that an item of jewelry will have multiple focal points, or multiple elements that prevent a cohesive unit, either with sizes, shape or color.

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As far as size goes, I always look towards math. Typically if you pair side stones with a center stone, they should follow a mathematical pattern. For instance, I have a drawing of a 5 stone with three rounds and two pears as my current Facebook default picture (seen above). The center stone is 8mm, the side rounds are 4mm, and the pears are 2mm wide.  Often, working from a center stone down to sides, is best to figure out what kind of proportion you want. Half is a typically safe size, with a third being pretty standard as well.

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This version of the Ingénue holds a 3.5mm rose cut and a 7mm spinel. 

A deft hand must be used to have a sense of how color, proportion and size work together and create unity with all elements, or balanced design. Creating a ring that has multiple colors is always going to be a bit tricky, which is often why using a lot of restraint is key. Sometimes things that seem like an obvious pairing look horrible together if any element doesn’t harmonize with the rest of the elements.

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So, I would advise that when you are considering putting jewelry together, ask yourself a series of questions:

  1. What is my focal point?
  2. Does this enhance or detract from my focal point?
  3. Are these the right proportions? Should they be larger or smaller?
  4. What does the negative space look like?
  5. Is this balanced?

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TGP Updates

It has been far too long since I managed to get a post up! In the last few weeks, I’ve had a family emergency, found myself terribly sick and even had a birthday.

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Bright Yellow Sapphire

In more jewelry related news, I managed to get some new gems up on etsy, got a few custom projects underway, and am anxiously waiting for a few items in production.

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Pastel Green Aquamarine

I’m really sad that I haven’t been able to get more jewelry into production so far this year, but things have been distracting me, and I am hoping that as soon as I get moved into the new studio, things will take a turn for the better. I have a bunch of custom projects in the works, including a step cut halo, some cluster type rings, another halo, and some others including a fancy colored diamond ring.

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Medium Gray Spinel Pair

Speaking of the studio, I have a new drafting table, and I’m so excited to be able to draw without getting instant neck strain! I also have a big south facing window with incredible natural light (except during those pesky storms that make it over the Cascades from Seattle) that has been working quite well for photographing stones and jewelry. I didn’t realize when I started planning this new space just how many functions I need it for – drawing, photography, computer, writing, storage, shipping, etc. And all of those tasks need different lighting (say, for instance, color shifting stones!) and suddenly office planning is incredibly complicated.

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Lavender Spinel

Now, as for decorating the studio, I already have one print up from Angie Crabtree – the Elle modern asscher, and my wonderful husband surprised me with a new print for my birthday – the Dominique antique pear! This complicates things though – I had just figured out my wall configuration with the decor, so I will have to redo it once it is framed.

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Barry Bridgestock Tourmaline

I hope that you have taken the opportunity to take a minute to check out my Repertoire page – I have many of the items I have designed up there, both stock items as well as custom items. I am going to be writing another Inside The Industry blog coming up soon – I just need to be able to spend some time writing, instead of spending it on random non-jewelry related items. And I will be sharing a couple new items to go with the Vivant necklace as well – they should be coming out of production very shortly!

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Peter Torraca Tourmaline

In other updates, I have stones at AGL for certification/testing, and I will have a new small padparadscha sapphire as well as a gorgeous blue sapphire here soon as well!

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Choosing a Jewelry Designer

Well I’ve talked a lot about my own design philosophy as well as my style and over here on my Atelier page, I talk a bit about my design process.

But what I haven’t really talked about is how important it is to really make sure that the designer you’ve chosen, or are considering working with can really accomplish your wants and desires. The first question you ask yourself should be, “Do I like what this designer does with the pieces I’ve seen?” And the second question is, “How much control do I want over the process?”

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I will be the first person to tell you that if you want something ornate, covered in engraving and milgrain, diamond crusted, or antique style, I am not the person you want as your designer, and there are many other designers out there that will be better suited to your desired style. I’m not going to be the best to give clean lines and modern edge either!

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Now, one key thing here, is that the designer you have approached with your project could potentially say something like “I just don’t think that I can accomplish what you’re seeking” or something similar to that, which isn’t an insult, I promise. We really want you to be happy with the end product, and feel as though someone else can better create it! Typically a designer can tell within an email or two that it’s a project and a client that they can work with, and feel as though their aesthetic meshes well with what you want.

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There are some designers who like to have free rein, and don’t like to have people hovering over them to tell them precisely which angle they want for this or that part of the item. There are also designers who like to have a broad inspiration idea when walking into a project, and they can help finesse and fill in the blanks. There are other designers that are given one element and told to build the rest of the ring around that element. Some designers can do all of those things, they just prefer to have one type of project over another.

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I do not recommend going to a designer and asking them to work outside their element. They might agree to it, and they might consider it a challenge, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the best result for your money.  If you find a designer whose work you love, and you work well together with both personality and aesthetics, stick with them, by all means! Everyone appreciates a return client!

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I have some deadlines I want to get out there and publish before it gets too late!
November 15: If I don’t have a custom design already in the works by this date, it will not be ready in time for the holidays.
December 1: Last day to place an order for stock Elle Collection items
December 18th: Last day to order ready made items for guaranteed by Christmas delivery. I am not going to take any chances here! I’ve had so many items that were “guaranteed by Christmas” and have them arrive the day after, and I do not want to participate in any of that kind of disappointment!

I should have some new items cropping up very shortly, a couple ring settings and a band. I’m incredibly excited about them and cannot wait to share them!

Jewelry Design

While I have taken many art classes, some centered around edible mediums, I would never consider myself to be a trained artist. I have a dear friend who is an artist, and she makes amazing pieces, typically paintings, that I only wish I could do. I am not a natural 2D artist, and I am constantly working on improving on that aspect of my work. Now, having said that, I have other strengths that play in my favor.

Once upon a time I took an IQ test, and when given the results, I was informed that I had a very high proficiency in spatial reasoning. Typically this manifests in how to best arrange the freezer to manage to fit all of the frozen food from the grocery store into it, but sometimes I use my powers for more fun stuff.

Which is where jewelry design comes in. I tend to thrive on fitting pieces together, arranging different sizes/shapes of stones together to creating something visually interesting, something that flows and catches the eye. When I design for someone else, I try to keep that same aesthetic theory, while incorporating what the person wants and needs in a design. I often exercise a fair amount of restraint; I don’t want to produce an item that is covered in detail to the extent that the design obscures the beauty of the materials used.

Some “in progress” sketch ideas for a dear friend of mine, who obviously has a fondness for halos, playing with proportions and seeing if anything moves me. Mostly playing with proportions and stone layouts. Interesting ideas, but nothing has come to fruition yet.

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A more in depth sketch I was considering, this one is actually to scale. This is for a red cushion cut spinel with baguettes, rounds and a knife edge shank.

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Messing around with a sketch for a larger blue spinel, based on an antique setting from a zircon ring I saw – very difficult to try to get on paper, as the shapes are not easily replicated from one side of the stone to another. These are pretty typical for a sketch I’ll throw together on a whim just to get a visual on how it looks and proportions. The antique version was beautiful, while this sketch looks vaguely like a Sesame Street character.

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This sketch was an idea I was working on with a mint garnet for the center. The stone is small, and the owner wanted plenty of impact from the piece as a whole, even though it is a smaller center. The layout of the larger halo stones is inspired by antique cluster rings.

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The sketch below was a jumping point for the red spinel above. The side stones would be baguette cut diamonds, inspired by the Art Deco period, an era I’m particularly influenced by.

 

Red

 

All of the above sketches are pretty old, and are far from being my best work, but I like some of these projects and ideas that stemmed from them quite a bit. It always helps when I like a stone that I’m designing for!

I am currently in the process of honing my drawing skills, and getting to a point where an item has the appearance of 3D on the paper. Unfortunately that takes a lot of time when you are learning, especially wen you are teaching yourself, and I don’t ever seem to have enough time at the moment. I am hoping that soon things will calm down enough so that I can actually sit down with a sketch book instead of a laptop!