The North Way Studio

I just want to give a huge shout out to my friend and colleague, Maria Bray of The North Way Studio! Her work was featured in a Buzzfeed article and I’m incredibly proud of her and always stunned by her amazing work!

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Congratulations my dear! I’m so delighted that you are getting the recognition you deserve!

Maria from The North Way Studio

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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The Hermit from the Pacific Northwest

When we moved from California, we really had no idea what we were getting into. The first months after moving to Washington included massive wildfires, a broken limb, hitting two deer in quick succession, and plenty of other trials and tribulations.

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Don’t worry, I was stopped. 

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Roses at the Post Office. 

But it also included incredible sunsets the colors of padparascha sapphires and Vietnamese spinels, fields of yellow gold wheat as far as the eye could see in the fall, fields of brilliant green springtime wheat, and then the sparkly white of a frozen snow-covered tundra.

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I don’t miss the call of California. I don’t miss the palm trees (they are so much work!), the swimming pools.  I don’t miss the heat. I don’t miss the traffic. I don’t miss the helicopters hovering overhead nightly. And shockingly I don’t miss the high heels or the fashion or the shopping.

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I love digging my hands in the dirt and growing my own produce. I love that when I drive five minutes in one direction and I’m surrounded by empty space. I love going to the Post Office where everyone knows my name. I love the stillness of the air right after it snows. I love the wide blue skies. I love the rolling hills. I love the pine trees. And again, I love those sunsets.

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I realize that the major jewelry centers are in New York and Los Angeles. Maybe some day I will move back to a big city, and be happy to be among the bustle and the glamour, but for now I’m delighted to spend my time alone with my dogs and my family, breathing in the clean air and enjoying all four seasons, and living more simply than I did before.

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Besides, living here means more opportunity to travel to big cities!

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The Rose Cut

I have a serious crush on rose cuts. But if you’ve been following any of my media for any period of time, you’ll have noticed this. There are rose cuts in two of my necklace designs, with the Ingenue being primarily based around the rose cut, they feature prominently in my Pétiller profile, and have even made an appearance in some of my custom designs. If they were easy to find, and I had unlimited funds, ALL OF THE ROSE CUTS WOULD BE MINE. Ok, so that’s not necessarily true, but I do love them, and I wish I could buy a lot more than I do.

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So the reason I’m writing about this today is because I’m a bit neurotic. Recently a client of mine bought some “hexagon rose cuts”, and she asked me why when I said they weren’t rose cuts. So this is a bit of an analysis of what a rose cut is, using the hexagon diamonds as an example of how to discern what isn’t a rose cut, and what is just a fancy marketing gimmick.

A lot of what designates a rose cut is the intent of the cutter.

Did the cutter intend for it to be traditionally cut, and the stone wasn’t shaped well? Or did the cutter actually intend to cut a rose cut?

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Facet Diagrams & Facet Structure

Rose cuts were often used as accent stones in antique jewelry. They have a simplistic cut that is a flattish dome, with triangular facets arranged in a hexagonal pattern, with a point on top. There is not a flat table facet on top of the stone, and there is no pavilion, the way Old European Cut or Modern Round Brilliants are cut. Rose cuts are typically round, but can be found in other shapes, such as pear, cushion, oval, etc.

Equiangular Hexagon

I am particularly strict in my evaluation of rose cut diamonds, and I insist that they have the equiangular triangled hexagon on top. Sometimes, especially with modern cut specialty shaped rose cuts, the hexagon will be elongated to mimic the outline of the stone.  Like this modern cut pear:

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It’s still a rose cut, but the facet structure is a clue that it’s not antique!

Lack of a Pavilion

It’s easy to get confused with terminology for rose cuts, since they don’t follow the same cutting guidelines as traditionally cut stones. I tend to think of them as a traditionally cut stone that has had the pavilion cut off at the girdle, but with a point on the table instead of the table being flat.

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One of my very first gemstones was a peach spinel that had a rose cut table and crown, but with a traditional pavilion. Sometimes I miss that stone!

Faux Rose Cuts

Now, one of my biggest pet peeves has been popping up more and more lately and that’s taking a poorly, but traditionally cut stone (with a table, pavilion, culet, etc), flipping it over so it’s culet and pavilion face up with the table facing down, and calling that a rose cut. It is not a rose cut. You can determine these stones by looking at the facet structure, and seeing whether or not it is totally flat on the flat side, if it has a crown, and if the facets are almost equiangular AND triangular. Here is a helpful diagram to help illustrate the anatomy of a traditionally cut stone can look like.

You can see a comparison between the hexagonal traditional cut on the left, and the classic rose cut on the right. I can tell a few things from the hexagonal stone about the rough  – the stone wasn’t deep enough to cut it to ideal specifications and have optimal light return when it’s table up. So in a clever marketing move, they flipped it over and marketed it as a “hexagonal rose cut”.

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With these hexagonal stones, they were not originally intended to be rose cuts, and that is obvious once you take a closer look at the pavilion facets:

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They have the equiangular center facets, but if you look closer, the facets that aren’t in the center are trapezoidal in shape, rather than triangular.

Interestingly, when I flip the stones over, and have the table/flat side up, you can see the huge difference, and clearly discern what the original intent of the cutter was. The hexagons show light return bouncing off the pavilions, minus the windowing in the middle, while the rose cut is essentially transparent:

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Double Sided Rose Cut

Double sided rose cuts are very rare, and are often given different names, depending on the knowledge of the seller or owner. As you can see from the diagrams above, they are structured as if two rose cuts were put flat side against flat side.

Rose cuts come in all different flavors, and they’ve been enjoying a sort of resurgence into popularity with celebrity interest in them as well as antique jewelry coming back into fashion. You can expect to see more from me as well, but that is mostly due to my everlasting love for them, rather than following the trends!

Side note: Thanks to Jennifer Aniston for giving the rest of us some giant rose cut goodness to ogle when she’s out and about.  (Yes, her engagement ring is a giant rose cut diamond!)

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Hand Forging vs. CAD and Cast

 I feel like the topic of different ways to manufacture jewelry has been coming up more and more lately in email conversations with clients, so I figured I’d write a little bit about it.
*Please note, I’m not going to discuss die struck jewelry in this post!
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I think it’s Mark Morrell that was a touch snarky about answering the question of “are your items handforged?” I believe his answer is along the lines of “I use the best manufacturing method for the job at hand.” Which, to me, says loads – it says that he thinks the question is hogwash, he uses both “methods”, and isn’t going to waste a lot of time molding metal to make a ring that could be manufactured easier and quicker through other means.
In reality, all jewelry is made by jewelers manipulating a variety of tools through a variety of techniques to get the desired result.
It seems to me that there has been a big fuss about what tools and techniques are used to achieve those results.
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Now, there are obvious differences in production, but there is very little that can be produced “better” via “hand forging” vs CAD and cast. CAD and cast is easier, it’s cheaper, and the time savings is tremendous as far as labor goes. CAD and cast are also typically going to be more precise and symmetric. A computer and a machine just aren’t going to make the mistakes that a human would. The differences boil down to how the parts of the jewelry were created. Otherwise, there is a ton of overlap in the methods. Hand forged items, if you’ve watched videos, have been brought into their shapes with tools and a person guiding those tools. No matter what, the pieces are all soldered on the same way, they are all polished the same way, the seats for the stones are all cut the same way. Engraving is done the same way. You get the idea.
Feel free to mute your sound should you choose to watch the video!
I have a Mark Morrell piece in my personal collection, and what I can tell from it is that his finishing is impeccable. You can tell that he goes over every millimeter until it’s to his standards. The ring is CAD and cast, though I have no doubts that he uses hand forging methods when necessary. I have played with a 100% hand forged piece and I can see solder where the band was put together, the prongs on the center stones are all different lengths and widths, and one doesn’t quite touch the stone correctly, causing it to catch on things and have constant chunks of fuzz under it.
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Mark Morrell set with a colorless spinel
For me, it becomes a question of, “Do I want this cheaper, quicker and easy to replicate? Or do I want this to cost 5x as much, imperfect, longer manufacturing times, and not easily replicated?”
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My Pétiller ring is one that’s good to think about because it’s quite simple in execution, and was cast. The cast pieces were assembled by hand, and then the seats were hand carved out of the solid metal for each diamond. The only difference in making that ring via hand forging vs CAD and cast is that the methods would be different to get the solid shank, and the bezels that make up the support structure between them. Otherwise, the methods to put it together are exactly the same.
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My stance is that I prefer CAD and cast over hand forging. Much of the manufacturing methods are the same, it’s just a question of how the metal came to be the finished shape before things like setting stones and other finishing techniques take place. CAD and cast is much easier, especially when it comes to online orders – the client gets to see what it’s going to look like before it’s produced, rather than just hoping it will come out how it’s been envisioned, and seeing it when it’s finished.
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So much of the jewelry world is incredibly secretive. I don’t think that most jewelry people like to take time out to explain the differences to laypeople, especially when it’s hard to gauge the audience – are they really wanting to know the specifics behind the manufacturing methods or is it just a question being asked to make small talk? And sadly, most sales people in the retail world have no idea about manufacturing methods at all.
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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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2016 Holiday Deadlines

I posted the holiday deadlines to my Facebook page but I figured they should be posted here as well to make sure that no one misses them!

Custom jewelry: November 1st
Stock design: November 23rd
In store item: December 19th
In store item with expedited shipping: December 21th

I live in a small town, and unfortunately USPS cannot guarantee overnight delivery from where I’m located! I do have access to a UPS office, but no FedEx.

There may be some slight flexibility in these, but that would be on a case by case basis! Please contact us directly for details!

Also, this is the last week for our fall sale (15% off!) in the etsy shop! Don’t miss out! The coupon code can be found on the Facebook page!

And because I can’t stop posting photos of this everywhere, here is the newest version of the Intrepide! My client’s 4.42ct Mahenge Spinel that she has been holding into for 5 years (!) looks fantastic in it’s new home!

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