I spent the last week in Albuquerque, New Mexico – the place where I was born and raised. Taking almost an entire week completely off from jewelry and getting back to my roots, spending time with family and friends was one of the most refreshing things I could have done at this point and it gave me some new perspective on things that I’d been dwelling on and feeling stagnant on for too long. I guess that standing in the middle of a thunderstorm in the mountains will help do that to you.
One of the things that I enjoy the most about gemstones is that they are all unique and one of a kind. Sure, you can get some that look similar to others, but they will always have unique characteristics, whether it’s in the form of color, inclusions, cut, whatever. No two are identical.
Working with various colored stone vendors has shown me that I’m not alone in loving gems for this very reason – colored stones are always so different, and sometimes they can totally surprise you with what you fall in love with.
So this, my most recent blog, and the first blog in a long time is an ode of sorts to the one of a kind, and an indication on where I am heading creatively. I’m going to take a step back from feeling like I’m treading water coming up with stock designs, and taking a flying leap into the water and swim like my life depends on it – making pieces as unique as the stones they hold.
More to come.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Gas bubbles, feathers, crystals, veils, carbon spots, lily pads, silk, jardin, etc. There are maybe more types of inclusions than there are gemstone varieties!
I seem to have spent the last week talking about inclusions with various people. I figured that since I’ve been talking about it so much, I might as well turn all of that discussion into a blog entry. This post is pretty generalized. It is more of a take on my view of inclusions, how they affect the beauty/appearance, and a little bit about their effect on value.
Inclusions don’t bother me in colored stones, but they do (most of the time) in diamonds. But that’s because I’m all about color. When I design, typically diamonds are accents, unless, of course, they are colored diamonds.
If the color is right, and the price is right, inclusions are great. They show the stone is natural and they usually lower the price. Some inclusions are prized, like silk in rubies and sapphires, horsetails in demantoids, jardin in emeralds, and they make the stones more valuable.
Now, why would they make the stone more valuable? Well, they can show provenance, they show evidence of treatment and can make for some stunning effects on the gem. Without silk, there would be no gorgeous velvet vivid blue sapphires and no huge markup for a Kashmir blue sapphire.
All of these gems are more rare than diamonds, so inclusions in colored gems are acceptable, so long as they don’t interfere too much with the overall appearance of the gem. Diamonds really aren’t that rare, despite what the diamond industry might want you to believe, so insisting on a stone being at least eyeclean doesn’t really narrow the diamond field that much. But if you’re looking for an internally flawless sapphire, ruby or spinel for instance, you might be waiting for quite a while.
So, clarity between diamonds and most colored gemstones just a completely different ballgame. It is inclusions and differences in chemical composition that can give gems their coloration. There wouldn’t be the electric neon glow of Paraiba tourmaline without copper.
In my opinion, the inclusions don’t necessarily detract from the beauty of the stone, and I think they are super cool to look at under magnification, not to mention, as I said before, they can create awesome visual effects within the stone. For instance, I love the gas bubbles seen in this Mahenge – they remind me of carbonation bubbles in soft drinks.
Lets get a little bit more specific, with spessartite. Typically I actually prefer sugar inclusions in Loliondo, because they give it a glow that they don’t have otherwise, but I like clean stones too – though they tend to look brown in certain lighting because there aren’t any inclusions to break up the light reaching the facets. So then the facets reflect everything and typically it looks brown because of the orange color. Spess is very complicated.
If colored gemstones weren’t rare, and there was a plethora of these gems out there, the way they are with diamonds, then yeah, I’d insist on eyeclean, the same way I do for diamonds. But they aren’t. All of these beautiful little colored stones are actually pretty rare, even more so in the stone’s ideal colors, which explains the mark up!
So. I give a big thumbs up to inclusions. Inclusions and I are friends.
Emeralds are considered one of the four “precious gemstones” along with ruby, diamond and sapphire (blue, specifically, since, you know, red and pinkish sapphire is typically considered ruby. But whatever.) So that means that they are highly prized, highly synthesized and highly treated.
But it’s the birthstone for May so I’ll do a post on it, especially because I am lucky enough to have had two fantastic specimens in my hot little hands for the moment and of course have photographed the heck out of both.
I have a special place in my heart for green. It was my favorite color from roughly age fourteen until about seventeen. And no other gem does green quite the way emerald does. Here is an gorgeous Afghan tourmaline to illustrate this point:
And a green beryl/Aquamarine:
One of the things that makes emerald so special is the glow that seems to light it up from the inside, almost like a green light on a stop light. Fittingly part of what gives it this look is “jardin” the name for the inclusions within emerald, French for “garden”. The only time emerald really seems to “sparkle” is when it’s incredibly clean and without jardin, but this variety of emerald has an entirely different look and feel to it, more like a bright green aquamarine than the soft, but intense glow of a stone with jardin.
Close up with the smaller of the two. Both are Colombian in origin.
This particular emerald doesn’t have a ton of inclusions, making it pretty rare for an emerald. Just enough jardin to give it that glow factor, which is so highly sought after in these green beauties.
The larger of these two beauties is for sale, and I keep restraining myself from thinking about setting ideas for it.
But I still have the little one to play with. I was thinking something Art Deco would be awesome…and emeralds always look amazing with diamonds!
Maybe I need to hit up the sketchbook…
So recently I was asked to consult on a stone for an international friend of mine. Typically what happens is that they will ask me to look at a stone that’s in the USA and then send it to them if it passes my inspection/and they like what they see in photos. To this point, it has all been with known vendors, but this newest one was a previously unknown vendor, so he wanted me to go through it with a fine-tooth comb.
The stone was described as being a top red, 2ct spinel that is eyeclean and the cut was “not precision cut, but good”. So I really wanted to go through this stone thoroughly because I know my friend has been looking for a good red stone forever.
First up was looking at color. This stone is a very good red, making my red spinel’s purple modifier and less than ideal saturation look, for a lack of better term, funky.
So, as you can see, the stone is not precision cut, and the meets between facets are all over the place. No symmetry, no problem. This was not an issue for my friend.
So, in evaluating it, I took out my loupe and macro lens and went at it. I noticed a couple problems right away. First one was the fact that the stone is not eyeclean. Second, and these images show it best, but there is also a small window in the middle of the stone, which means that it appears as a dead spot instead of being sparkly. Two different lighting situations and angles of the stone.
You can see the window manifesting as a black spot in the middle of the stone in the following image:
The more I looked at the stone though, the more obvious the inclusion problem became. This is the largest and most noticeable inclusion from the pavilion view. I thought that it would probably be covered up by a prong or an enclosed setting. Unfortunately it is also surface reaching, unevenness I could feel with my fingernail.
Spinel is considered a Type II stone, which means that it is usually included. After going through the stone, I would consider this to be an I1, because the inclusions have a moderate effect on appearance or durability. This is just based on my experience and what I can see with a loupe and feel with my fingernails – I do not have a formal education…yet.
The following image was taken trying to get a clearer image of the inclusion in the center of the stone. The resolution on this image took a dive when uploaded.
There was a point where I just started taking pictures of the stone from different angles so I could see what caught my eye in the stone. For this one, it was the feathers around 4 o’clock in this picture. I had thought there was only one feather before.
This image captures the off center culet. You can see it leaning to the left a bit. This isn’t as bad as it could be, or as bad as I’ve seen before.
This image shows how shallow the table is. It actually looks taller in this image than it feels in the hand.
In my first go around, I missed some things, for instance, what appears to be a small chip on the girdle, but could potentially be a small crack. I would need higher magnification to be able to tell for sure. Inclusions that are surface reaching are problematic because they can serve as weak spots for potential damage when worn. This is especially true for the girdle, which is one of the weakest spots in a stone. Off to the right of the illuminated facet is an indented natural – a piece of what was originally the outside of the rough stone.
You can see how the middle inclusion is close to the table of the stone, and impossible to avoid.
A closer view of the pavilion of the stone shows the largest, closest to the surface and most noticeable inclusion to the left, the crack/chip slightly to the right, the greenish bit is the indented natural and then another cluster of inclusions all the way to the right. That’s not getting into the chunk of crystal inclusions closer to the middle of the stone, which does not include the inclusion I talked about being in the middle of the stone, close to the table of the stone – which is out of focus at the very bottom of this image:
A side view of the most obvious inclusion, from the girdle perspective.
Ultimately, my friend decided that this stone had too many problems for him to deal with and decided to return it, even though it was a nice color and a good size. There were other chips along the girdle that I haven’t included images of, so between the placement of the inclusions and the undisclosed issues, my friend was not interested in keeping such a risky stone, even if the color and size were exactly what he was looking for.
I am super excited to announce that I will be doing a feature on Erin and willajunejewelry in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for that!