Watch This Space

I haven’t blogged in what feels like a year, and I miss it, but things have been so chaotic that I just don’t have the time that I used to be able to devote to it.

As you may have noticed, my postings, on here, Facebook, etsy, and instagram have essentially stopped. The production of new jewelry has essentially stopped. New gemstones have essentially stopped appearing anywhere. My communication has completely dropped off. My inspiration hit rock bottom. I have spent the last six months emotionally, mentally and physically spent.

Roughly a year ago, my life completely fell apart without warning and I’ve been attempting to pick up the pieces since then. There is a whole bunch of drama that I don’t want to go into, but suffice it to say that I am more in control of my life than I have ever been before, and I’m planning on making some big changes as a result. Unfortunately, these things take time, and I’m still at the mercy of circumstance, but I am done with waiting for things to happen, and it’s time to take the bull by the horns and make shit happen.

I would like to give a huge thank you to all of the people who have shown me by example, a compliment, lectures, a kind word, encouragement, downright cheerleading in my corner, allowing me to cry on their shoulder or spit out expletives, and even the people who have kicked me while I was down, giving me the opportunity to see just how strong I am.

Because it turns out that I’m a fucking beast.

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Creating the Ingénue

Ingénue – Innocent young woman

When this idea came to me, I really wanted to create something that was classic, could be worn with anything, and wasn’t overpowering to either the woman or the gems. I wanted simplicity that was more than just a solitaire. The name of this game was subtlety.  Something quiet. Graceful. Sophisticated.

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I started with a two stone idea. A smaller stone “bale” with a larger stone hanging below.

The first version I pulled out for this idea was with an angular stone. I had a small princess lying around, so I thought that would work well and go with the angular shape of the stone I was considering. But the main stone ended up selling out from under me, so I had to change gears.

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I decided that classic rounds would be the way to go – rounds are the most popular shape, they would always be plentiful and I’d have no problems sourcing some when I was ready to make the design.

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So of course, I always jump at any chance to make something with rose cut diamonds, and in this case, anything else would have been too flashy. I love the way the light floats across the facets of a rose cut – it’s reminiscent of the light from the setting sun hitting the soft waves of a lake. For the rose cut, I decided that a simple bezel with milgrain would do nicely.

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The bottom was harder.  I started playing with the idea of another metal halo style, because I didn’t want diamonds. Since I had already decided I wanted a bezel on top, a bezel seemed to make sense for the bottom. But that would be too predictable. Instead I went in another direction: prongs. It became a metal halo with prongs, much like the Aurore. But how do you make a metal halo interesting? Metalwork. Two rows of milgrain combined with some delicate engraving helps add a little extra detail without being too overwhelming.

Note: I never draw engraving. I cannot do justice to a master engraver’s work. Seriously. So I don’t even try.

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Now the question became, what to do with the back? I always try to get something a little unexpected in my jewelry, and the back, or the underside are the perfect playground. For this I went back to where it began – the rose cut. And I used the rose cut facet pattern that I love so much and brought it to life in the metal.

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The hardest part yet was figuring out what stone to be the star of the show. As I mentioned, I originally was planning on making it with a fancy shaped diamond (this design will work for absolutely any shape!) but that fell through. Then I figured I’d make it with a round diamond, but that seemed predictable – there are so many diamond necklaces out there already! And for a person who loves other gemstones I wanted something that was more interesting and rare. Something that fit the classic look and feel but wasn’t a diamond.

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Which is where Geoffrey Watt of Mayer & Watt steps in. I had asked him to find me a white spinel at JCK 2016, since I wasn’t going to make it this year. He obliged, and I found my main stone. Not long after, the sketch was complete.

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It wasn’t until the necklace was out of production that I realized that I wasn’t feeling the high polish. I tend to try to avoid brushed finishes because they can wear away so quickly, but for a necklace that wouldn’t be coming into contact with anything but skin, it made sense.

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I think I accomplished my goal. Classic, versatile, sophisticated with a vintage feel. Something that be dressed up or down. The Ingénue.

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One of a Kind

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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More to come.

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Inside the Industry: Engagement Rings

I originally was thinking of the “Real Housewives of _____” series when I had this idea for the blog. I’ve never actually watched even an episode of any of the shows, but their jewelry seems to have a prominent presence in the show, as I will occasionally hear about various huge diamond engagement rings from news outlets.

Engagement rings are deeply personal items, sometimes they have hidden messages, birthstones, special secrets that just the couple knows about. Every engagement ring is a promise and a symbol of a union, and are often the most important piece of jewelry a couple will share.

So I decided to reach out to some gem cutters and dealers to see what people wear who are surrounded by stunning gems and jewelry all of the time.

All photography within this post is the property of person whose ring it is, and their images and stories are being used with permission.


Dan and Cynthia Stair of Custom Gemstones met when Cynthia started collecting the gemstones that Dan was cutting.

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What is Cindi’s engagement ring?
About a four carat pink sapphire in a platinum and diamond halo. The funny thing is, I bought the ring to take the stone out and recut it, but was told “no”. I figure if it ever gets a little scuffed, I’ll “fix” it.


Roger and Ginger Dery of Spectral Gems

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What is Ginger’s engagement ring?
Blue sapphire, Sri Lankan, a piece I reconditioned with a final weight of 6.33ct. It is heated, and has an AGL report, of course.


Geoffrey and Alexandra Watt of Mayer & Watt

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What is Alexandra’s engagement ring?
3.50cts 8.5mm square cushion peach no heat Padparadscha Ceylon sapphire with white gold shank … Rose gold head … Platinum filigree down the side with 3mm round Alex’s. Her anniversary band is rose gold with diamonds, and the ring was designed so the band would fit inside it.

Why Alexandrites?
Well I love Alexandrites and so my wife by default likes them too, and wanted a big one but we can’t afford it! So I promised she would eventually get one…and I put them secretly in her ring. She designed it but I snuck them in. Plus her name is Alexandra, so it has double meaning behind it being in her ring.

Jaimeen and Nattalie Shah of Prima Gems

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What is Nattalie’s engagement ring?
A 1.5ct round tsavorite and diamond ring. The center measures 6.6mm.

Nattalie and Jaimeen’s engagement ring story is so wonderful, I just had to let her share it in her own words:
Almost six years ago, my husband (who was obviously my boyfriend at the time) called his mother in India and asked her to design and make a ring for me. He asked her to make a ring with a Tsavorite because this stone holds a lot of significance to him. He knew that I had teased him that I would love any engagement ring as long as it wouldn’t turn my finger green (haha). I love my engagement ring and I really feel that it’s so special to know that this ring was made just for me.


If you’re in the business and would like me to share a photo of your/your partner’s engagement ring please reach out to me!

Thank you so much to all of you for sharing such a special piece of your history together!

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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!

A Year in Review

Happy first birthday to The Gemstone Project!

Lets see, the past year has been chock full of wonderful craziness.

August 2014
The first month started out with a lot of posts about various gemstones, including a colorless garnet, and gray spinel. It included an unheated Umba color shifting sapphire in a Harry Winston inspired halo that I helped put together for a friend. I posted a bit about myself and some about my photography. And I topped off the month with my first Gem Blast.

September 2014
September started out with a visit to Lang Antiques in San Francisco that took up three posts. September included three Gem Blasts, including one about considering gemstone recuts. I concluded September with my handy guide “Scale of Gray” for seeking out gray spinels.

October 2014
October gave way to talk about birthstones, including two antique birthstone rings, tourmaline & opal. I touched on gemstone cutting flaws and what to keep an eye out for. I posted a design I used for my first jewelry design contest with David Klass. I included posts about tsavorites, Mahenge spinels, and an evaluation I did for a friend on a red spinel. Two designs were posted, including a breast cancer awareness ring and a red spinel inspired by the Art Deco period. October only had one Gem Blast – sapphires and moonstones.

November 2014
I created a Facebook page in November! I posted my drawing process for my solitaire setting entry for another of David Klass’ contests, this time winning. I also featured willajunejewelry. A Gem Blast about diamonds, some rough ideas for a NYC ring, plus some random thoughts flowed through November.

December 2014
A feature on Jewels by Grace brought December in with bang! Though the rest of the month I stayed a bit quieter due to the holidays, I still had a range of topics to cover. I wrote about design ideas and inspiration for my pad sapphire ring. A Gem Blast on Merelani Mint Garnets, my thoughts on what the New Year would bring, and a post about lapidaries fleshed out the end of the year.

January 2015
I brought in January with my own type of confetti: red spinel melee. A reader had suggested posting about a guide of what to look for in a gem. I announced that I was starting to design my own line of jewelry, posted a Gem Blast on the many gems at my beloved gem store and another Gem Blast celebrating January’s birthstone, several varieties of garnets. Then January closed with my declaration of opening an etsy store.

February 2015
February started with me changing to trade status on Pricescope and picking up a new username, and a post about fantasy cut gemstones. Pantone had announced their color of the year to be Marsala, and I have a few things to say about that. Sticking with the birthstone idea, I posted a Gem Blast about amethysts. I added a simple diamond pendant design, and a post about my most memorable Oscar jewelry.

March 2015
I brought in March with a post about a green beryl/aquamarine, another birthstone post. Some discussion about current jewelry trends took place, as well as a post about red spinel. I finally posted the finished product from winning David Klass’ contest. A more detailed post about my design aesthetic wrapped up March. But that wasn’t all! I also started a TGP Twitter account, and my 3rd ring prototype was completed, and the 4th one put into production.

April 2015
Since diamond is the birthstone for April, and also my birthstone, I decided to dedicate almost the entire month of posts to diamonds. Until recently I wasn’t a diamond lover, so I blogged about diamonds that really captured my imagination, including rose cut diamonds, a yellow diamond trillion, and a pinkish brown diamond. But I didn’t post entirely about diamonds – I added in a post with the end product of my David Klass contest band. My 4th prototype was completed too, and the 5th prototype was put into production! I also got a gem back from AGL as certified unheated. The event that took place that I was most excited about was a sapphire purchased from my shop being used as an engagement ring!

May 2015
Of course I would have to do an emerald Gem Blast for May, since it is the birthstone for the month and that seems to be the trend I picked up on! May was an incredibly busy month for me with JCK at the end, and preceding where to find me on social media, and a post about how I would be posting to instagram and twitter from JCK. I also finally posted a post I had made on sexism and gender issues within jewelry marketing and the jewelry trade. I also included a Gem Blast of the AGL certified violet sapphire. 5th ring prototype was completed!

June 2015
June did not get a birthstone post! Instead, I did a post about my jewelry line updates, a post on blue-green tourmalines, THREE posts on my experiences at JCK, including meeting lots of colored stone celebrities. I also did a post on metal color and how I prefer color flow to contrast, and how I like colors to work together. I also did a post about imitation and inspiration that had been writing itself on my phone for months prior. I finished the month with a Gem Blast on a stunning tanzanite from Precision Gems.

July 2015
July kicked off with a post about sending a sapphire to AGL and getting it tested. I then had a bit of an artistic funk and found myself writing about art of other mediums – Angie Crabtree and some chefs made some brief appearances and helped lift my spirits and inspired me further. I also got to the final stages of a big custom project, and took a fantastic mini vacation down to San Diego at the Vineyard Hacienda, which also helped get the creative juices flowing. I published a “living document” I had been writing about gemstone terms and vocabulary, and hopefully that will still be added to continuously. I finished off July with a couple of Gem Blasts – moving across state lines does not make for a lot of blogging time!

August 2015
August has only just begun again, but already this one holds a special meaning to me – I have never been good at continuing things – I have started so many blogs and stopped writing after a couple months, or lost interest, or whatever, so to reach and celebrate a year of posts, and all of the incredible things and wonderful people I have met – it truly is a remarkable milestone for me. So far into August, I have posted only one blog, but it has been one of the most important and edited (18 times! Two different highly educated editors!) items I have ever written – Gender Inequality and the Jewelry Trade. Oh, and I also moved across the country, a thousand miles to the north counts, right?

Here is to the future and everything it may bring!

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Art of Any Medium

Sometimes you lose your drive and your inspiration. I’ve been so stressed out with everything, moving and selling our house that I’ve just been blah in every aspect of my life, except for sleeping. Yesterday my husband and daughter went to work and gave me some peace and quiet. I told myself that I wouldn’t do any chores and forced myself to try to relax and get with the program. Let me deviate for a bit.

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About a week ago, I won a print of a beautiful asscher cut diamond painting done by Angie Crabtree. Part of winning that particular contest was that she would name it after me. You can check out “Elle” here: Angie Crabtree

 

Now, I’d been following Angie around instagram for a bit, admiring her diamond painting work. She has recently gotten several inquiries asking if she would do a gemstone photograph, and she replied that she would. But she wanted a straight on high resolution photo to paint from. So I decided today was the day to challenge myself to try to get a straight on photo of a gem that was high resolution and good enough to paint from. Short story, I did not achieve my goal, but did get some nice photos anyway.

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Still feeling rather blah, I sat down on my couch and turned on Netflix. I’ve mentioned before that I was a pastry chef, and I was incredibly serious about it. I went to culinary school with the mindset that I would be a savory chef, and leave that sissy pastry stuff to people who couldn’t hack it in a real kitchen. Then I started baking and pastry classes, and it was all over. I was entranced by the artistry of pastry and the fact that I felt as though I was completely unencumbered by the mediums, after all, I could take flour, sugar and butter and transform it into anything, rather than trying to mold a chicken breast into something else that didn’t make sense. Later, I would learn that that wasn’t exactly the case, but I was already too in love with the art and specific science of pastry. So I flicked through several suggested shows, and I see something called “Chef’s Table”, and figure “Why the hell not?”

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I want to thank Massimo Bottura for lifting me out of my funk and reminding me of my passion for the beautiful, for pushing boundaries, and questioning traditions. And making me remember that some of the best creations come from accidents.

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I feel better now.