Gem Blast: Vivant Earrings

If you follow me on social media, you’ve seen these earrings before. They have been all over Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.

Inspired by the Vivant necklace, I got the idea when I found these incredible step cut cushion Mahenge spinels, and had to put them together. I then paired them with a pair of Mahenge round brilliant spinels that I had purchased years ago, tweaked a few details to make the combination of stones work together and elongate the shape to flatter the wearer, and added a post back.

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Showing off a bit of their red fluorescence in the sun.

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Looking a bit blue, reflecting the sky in the stones.

Some of the finer details:

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Mahenge spinel, diamonds and 18kt white gold.
2.40ctw spinels, .30ctw diamonds, 2.70ctw total stone weight.

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Finding a pair of spinels is exceedingly difficult because the stones in general are so rare, but to find some that are the same color, size, shape and cut magnifies to difficulty level thousandfold. Finding two pairs that go together and match on color isn’t exactly easy either, and often is a matter of waiting until the right stone or stones comes around.

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Now, the next time you see them, they will be a bit different. A client took a liking to them, but wanted them changed just a touch, and asked me to make the alterations.  I can’t wait to see them when they are done!
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Custom Red Burmese Spinel Halo Ring

I’ve been incredibly busy, to say the least!

I actually took my first day off in three weeks renovating/decorating/etc the other day to exclusively work on jewelry stuff. I had been sorely missing it and really had a stack of things to get back on – gemstone photography, rough jewelry ideas, blog ideas, sketches (which I’m still behind on!), as well as giving my back a rest, as I had pulled it over a week ago.  So I’m feeling as though I’m in a much better place than I was last weekend, with getting some items that were way overdue taken off my list.

I have a few fancy shaped antique diamonds in queue to design custom rings around, and I’m really excited about those. And of course I have some colored stone custom designs in the works as well!

In the meantime, I wanted to share some images of the most recent design to come out of production, something reaching quite a ways outside of my comfort zone, which I often struggle with, but always comes out better than I could imagine.

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Sketch, slightly underdeveloped.

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Jeweler’s photographs. 

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Client’s photographs.

I always love when clients come up with something that’s out of the ordinary, and this certainly fits the bill in that regard! An unconventional diamond and platinum halo surrounds a 1.69 ct Burmese Red Spinel.

I will be sending a parcel of sapphires and an emerald to AGL for certification this week. I had been intending to send them to AGL and kept putting it off for various reasons. But they are going to go now, and typically they are at about a 2.5 week wait, so hopefully I will have them back relatively soon.

I have been working on some stock items, and as per usual, the CADs came out perfectly the first time for both items. Both share elements with the Vivant and as such, I decided to use Mahenge spinels as them as well. I can’t wait to see them completed!

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Feature: Dan and Cindi Stair

Daniel and Cynthia Stair are the owners and gem cutters at Custom Gemstones and I have known them for many years, after first striking up a conversation when I was looking for my engagement ring stone. I recently reached out to Dan with a whole bunch of questions and he answered every single one! Something that I really love about their website is that they take before and after pictures and it’s fascinating to see how the rough turns out, and recently started posting video of every single stone that goes up on their website.

How much of the cutting do you each do?
I cut full-time and do one or two per day. Cindi works at the local hospital, so she only has time to cut a few stones each month.

What are your favorite stones to cut?
That’s a tough question.  If I had to pick one, it would probably be natural sapphires.  However, I really like tourmalines, spinels and garnets too.  I tend to favor higher RI or more dispersive gemstones, regardless of the hardness of the stone or the fact that harder stones take a little longer to cut.  They also last longer in jewelry, so that’s something I feel good about.  I don’t like to hear that people have rings made and then the stones get all scuffed up.

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Do you have a favorite shape you like to cut? Or a favorite cut design?
No.  I don’t like cutting pears, but other than that, don’t really have a favorite.  Variety is a good thing when it comes to cutting stones.

Do you typically cut more from diagrams or more by instinct?
Actually, I only use diagrams less than 10% of the time.  I usually cut using a “style” such as step cutting as with emeralds or Asscher cuts, or brilliant cutting as with Portuguese, standard round brilliants, etc.  I also do a lot of radiant or princess type cuts if the stone is shallowish, and scissors cuts if it’s deeper in shape.  While I work, I figure it out as I go and make notes about the angles, index gear (rotational) settings, etc. as needed so I can remember what I did when I go back to prepolish, then polish the stone.

How did you get started cutting gems? What did each of you do before?
I was a photographer, writer and graphic designer for a large fishing lure manufacturer, and also did a lot of work for other area business and print shops when they needed full color printing done.  Back in the early 1990’s, I was probably one of the very first people to successfully use a desktop color computer for production of things like catalogs, magazine ads, etc.  Cindi was a housewife for many years and a gem collector.  She started cutting stones about ten years ago.  I started in 1998 if I remember correctly.

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What’s your favorite type of customer? 
I don’t really have a favorite type of customer other than maybe people working on engagement ring projects because it’s fun to be a part of that, or gemologists because it’s nice to work with someone who knows a lot about gemstones.

What’s the percentage split between commissions vs what you choose?
It’s gotten to be about 50/50.  Right now, we’re backlogged about a month with other peoples stones to cut, but also have to keep the ebay store and regular website interesting.  I try to cut one of my own, one for someone else, one of my own, etc.

I noticed that you added videos of your stones to each listing. What brought that on?
I was getting a lot of request for “more photos”, particularly from pricescope.com members.  What they don’t realize is how much time that takes and often, they were more looking for reasons to not buy a stone than anything else.  So, I decided to try videos because that shows so much more about how a stone looks in person that still photos alone.  Since I started doing that, I have noticed a huge reduction in requests for additional pictures as well as a major decrease in how many people get stones in the mail then decide to return them because they aren’t exactly as expected.  Neither the photos nor the videos are perfect, but between those and the written description, a person should be able to get a pretty thorough idea of what a stone will be like in person.

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You seem to have gained quite the reputation in recent years for recutting less than perfect stones, or damaged stones. How did that come about?
I used to send all those projects to other cutters, but started getting complaints that stones were being held for six months or more and the cutters were not returning emails.  So, I finally decided to do the work myself rather than referring people to others that did not provide a good service.  Since I have cut thousands of stones, and have that experience, I was able to develop some cutting concepts to fix a lot of the commercially cut stones without losing a ton of weight or having to do total recuts.  The tops are usually not too badly cut.  The pavilions are almost always 90% of the problem so learning to fix those has been the real key to improving the stones.  As far as reputation goes, I really can’t say much about that other than I always try to do a good job and keep the overall value of the stone in mind so people don’t lose money on their gemstone investments.

How long does each stone take to cut? Do certain shapes take longer to cut?
Most smaller stones that cut to be 2 carats or less take 2-3 hours to cut.  Bigger stones take longer, but not proportionally so.  For example, a two carat finished garnet might take three hours, and a 10 carat more like 5 hours.  simple shapes like rounds, squares and emerald cuts are fastest.  Shapes with long curved sides take a bit longer.  Examples would be ovals, pears, marquise cuts, etc.

What’s each of your favorite colors? Do you tend to try to cut those more often?
After all the years of graphic arts and now colorful gemstones, I have no favorite color.  I don’t, however, like olive green or brownish pink colors.  Cindi’s favorite colors are pink and green.  She tends to like all colors, even some of the “ugly” ones, except red.

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How often do you cut stones and keep them?
Me, less than one per year.  Cindi, every few months. I very rarely keep a stone.  I have a nearly flawless emerald, some opals and a blue to pink color change garnet that I’ve kept.  After 17 or so years, I only have about 10 stones total…if that.  Cindi, on the other hand has hundreds.

Does Dan have any jewelry made with the stones he has (Or Cindi) cut?
Yes.  I have a silver ring Cindi made for me using a welo opal and a Tripps setting.  I also have a small blue Australian sapphire that I cut in my simple, comfort fit wedding band.

How do you manage working together as a couple? How did Cindi get started and involved?
We both love gemstones in general and met when she start collecting stones I was cutting.  Oddly, we work together very well and almost never fight or argue about anything.  Cindi got started cutting gemstones as a hobby, which is how I got started also.

What is your favorite stone that you ever cut? Did you sell it or keep it?
I’m not sure I have a favorite, but the first one I ever kept for myself was an almost flawless, untreated Colombian emerald that even shows dispersion or spectral color flashes in sunlight.  I am fond of this one because of the clarity.  The somewhat odd step cut pear shape isn’t necessarily what I like about it.  Under magnification, I could only spot three little specks of “jardin”.

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What’s the weirdest stone you’ve ever cut?
Cindi has a really unusual gray tourmaline that is almost a charcoal color and super dispersive that I cut about 13 years ago.  The thing has big spectral flashes coming out of a completely gray colored stone.

Whatever happened to those corpse colored tourmalines you had listed? Weird as it may sound, I’m sorry I missed out on them…
The first of the two “corpse” colored tourmalines was purchased by a nurse (funny huh?).  I can’t remember who bought the second one.

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A huge thank you to Dan for taking so much time to answer all of my questions and being so frank with his answers. Most of the images in this post were taken from the website, of some gemstones that are currently for sale (minus the pear emerald and the “Ugly Tourmaline”!) I have a particular weakness for Dan’s step cuts!

Miscellaneous Announcements & Gems

As per usual, things have been a bit crazy around here. I’ve been able to spend some time working on some custom projects, which has been a nice change of pace from non-stop painting and renovation. Luckily, I think that’s coming to a close (FINALLY!) and things should be wrapping up this week.

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Sidenote: I never realized just how much design work goes into creating beautiful faucets, light fixtures and door knobs, of all things. I tend to find designing larger items very difficult, and even something that small can have so many curves and edges that change the look dramatically.

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Second sidenote: I decided that it’d be a great idea to put a relatively simple mural (paint treatment?) on our bedroom wall. This was far more difficult than anticipated, and will never be the level of perfection that I’d like. Also, Ralph Lauren metallic paints are way cool.

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As a result of things being crazy, I haven’t really had much time to think about blog topics, or at least blog topics I can put together quickly. I have had some really fun ideas for future blog topics this past week, but they will take a fair amount of work to prepare!

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I am still thinking about a spring cleaning sale for my etsy shop – I’m considering posting it here for two weeks, and giving everyone else only one week. I figure my blog readers deserve an extra thank you for visiting my website.

I’m seeing lots of requests for moonstone, red and pink spinels, while garnets seem to have gone a bit out of favor right now, except for the purple Mozambiques. I have a good connection for moonstones, so if you’re interested in them, please reach out!

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Also, I totally missed when I hit 5,000 followers on Instagram because I’ve been so distracted with silly renovations! I randomly checked the other day and I was already at 5,200! Posting a “Yay I hit 5,200!” just seems a bit odd… Anyway, I would like to do a giveaway for hitting 6,000 followers. It seems like a better number for that than 5,500. I haven’t decided what to give away just yet either, but seeing as how I’m (at this writing) at 5,430 I have a little time to think about it.

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I’ve been considering my next stock project, and I’m thinking of pursuing a three stone as the next up, inspired in part by the Vivant necklace and a custom ring project. They also have an earring project to go along with them that I’m really excited about too!

I also have a really amazing custom project that is in production right now and I cannot wait to see it completed and share it here! Soon I will be posting another custom project that was recently completed – a sapphire halo necklace. Exciting stuff!

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!

Custom Three Stone

One of the many reasons I love spinels so much is that they have so much personality. One minute they may look one color, the next minute, they could look another color. So of course when I had a client reach out and ask if I would set her violet-blue cushion spinel, I jumped at the chance.

Now the ring is currently in transit to the client, but she has already seen most of these pictures.

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She wanted a three stone with diamond half moons, and we had a lot of discussion about the design elements of it, and where to go with inspiration.

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She suggested that she wanted it to be very traditional from top down, and something unexpected from the side. Her thought was “A professional woman in a business suit, but with blue fingernails.”

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The working title for the ring became the “mullet ring”, with business from the top, and party from the side. We went through a variety of diamonds for the surprise stones, and ended up using irradiated yellow diamonds.

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I really wanted it to have a minimalist feel from the top down, but wanted a bit of detail on the shank, adding a ridge – inspired by pinstripes so popular in business suits!

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The profile was inspired in part by Maleficent. Yes, Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The small detail on the center stone’s basket emulates her staff, while the shape of the center stone’s basket echos the curve of her jawline, and the lines of the metal holding the half moons mirror Maleficent’s robes.

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The cool colors are so perfect for winter, and I cannot wait for her to see it in person!

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Lots of things in the works over here.

I’m planning on adding a page with a portfolio for work that may not make it to the website via the blog or some other means. Some of my items are on Pinterest, but not in a consolidated area.

I am considering adding some jewelry items to my etsy shop. I have gradually been letting the listings expire, but will soon be addressing those.

Custom projects are always in the works and I currently have a few exciting ones in the pipeline.

I’m also reconsidering the setting I had planned as a solitaire, the Dignité. I may take it into a different direction than I had been previously, I will have to put some thought into it.

Lastly, everyone keeps asking me if I’m going to be in Tucson this year – I will not be in attendance, but will have a representative there acting as my eyes and ears. Perhaps 2017 will be my year!

Color

When I was young, I really wanted to be an interior decorator. Every wall in my house was painted white, except for my room, which was a soft buttery yellow. When I was about 7 my mom decided to hire an interior decorator for this one room in our house, and I still don’t know why that room was picked, as it was the least formal communal room, containing our tv and my father’s desk. The decorator ended up wall papering one wall, and took about 6 months to coax my mom into painting the rest of the walls a light peach color. I never understood the color scheme in there, and still don’t, but I loved the idea of giving a room some personality through color, shape, texture and furniture arrangement.

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I have mentioned on social media that I’ve been in the midst of home renovations. My family and I recently purchased a home that was built in the 1970s, and as a result, requires a bit of work to update the place. I’ve been getting a lot of grief about the colors I’ve chosen for the house. I really decided to go all out for this house and I’m not holding back in the color department, with deep emerald, pale periwinkles, vibrant teal, violet and a vivid green, to name some of the more exciting colors.

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But I’ve come to realize that color is one of those things that’s highly subjective, and everyone’s opinion is going to vary based on a lot of factors. The most controversial color is surprising to me – a pale green. The reasons I chose it aren’t important, but the strong reactions to it have been startling – it’s a pale minty bluish green, reminiscent of Baskin Robbins’ Mint Chocolate Chip, but lighter (kind of like the above garnet). In my opinion, a pretty innocuous color.

But that’s the thing, color can have unexpected visceral reactions and people are going to love and hate the same colors, and sometimes won’t even be able to explain why they are having the reactions to the color that they are.

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So here is a little bit about color terminology for gemstones. I’ve gone over some of these terms before, but it’s always good to have a refresher.

Hue: the color of the stone. “Purple” “blue” “red” “teal” are all hues.

Tone: lightness to darkness of the stone. “Deep in tone” connotes that a stone may have a darker color. “Light in tone” connotes a pale or pastel shade.

Saturation: how much color/pigmentation a stone has, the intensity or vividness of a color. “light” “medium” “intense” “vivid” are all terms that can be associated with saturation.

Modifier: if the stone has a strong primary color, the secondary (or even tertiary colors) are called modifiers.

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I would describe the above spinel’s color like this: Blue in hue, with medium-dark tone, medium to strong saturation, with a slight green-gray secondary modifier. This stone also shifts to a purple under fluorescent lighting, the rest of the information stays the same in both colorways.

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The most highly sought after stones in the colored stone universe are going to be pure of hue, medium in tone and with vivid saturation. A little gray goes a long way to making stones be within a more reasonable price range with typically a barely perceptible difference.

So, I’ve been posting less to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc because I’ve been busy painting and painting and painting. Good thing it’s a labor of love but I will be so happy when it’s over! I have some exciting things planned for the coming weeks, including a Q&A feature with someone in the gemstone world, and a couple fantastic custom projects I’ve been working on over the last few months. I have fun stuff coming up for 2016 too, and I can’t wait to share those things with you as the year progresses!