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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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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Engaged: 3 Stone Spinel

Sometimes the best projects are the most terrifying. Warning – this post is picture heavy!

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A while back I had a new client come to me and she said, “I don’t know what I want, but really like the Accolade band, and a few other settings. Can you design my engagement ring?” To which I said yes.

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Looking back on it, I think it’s kind of funny because being given full creative control is so so scary, but her engagement ring turned out wonderfully and I couldn’t be happier.

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We had a lot of debate over stones, but once the actual setting idea came into fruition, it all seemed to fall into place.

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It was made using three precision cut spinels – the center is a lavender spinel, and the two side stones are gray spinels.

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Platinum ended up being the metal of choice due to it’s lack of maintenance.  The random polish to smooth out scratches, and it looks as good as new again!

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The angled shoulder view is often my favorite on any ring, but on this ring, it’s extra special – I love how the prongs and the curves just flow together!

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Last rays of summer sun…

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Once you see the profile, you can clearly see how it was inspired by the Accolade band!

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E, I am absolutely delighted for you and D, and I hope that this ring follows you through many great adventures on your life together!

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TGP: Year Two

A lot has happened over the last year, and certainly in the last two!

On a more personal note, I have moved from just outside of the Mojave desert where water is scarce to a 1800s farmhouse in the middle of thousands of acres of the incredible rolling hills of the Palouse, and finally to a fixer upper in Pullman with an actual dedicated space for a studio with southern exposure.

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Professionally I have created some incredible new designs, some of my favorite being the most challenging – a double haloed Paraiba Tourmaline, a haloed Burmese red spinel, a scalloped halo for an antique pear diamond, a violet spinel three stone ring, and a stunner of a 6 carat violet sapphire ring and so many more!

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I have created some really amazing engagement rings – a marquise in the Papillon setting, and a three stone spinel ring, not to mention stones found for engagement rings. I am always so excited and feel so blessed to play a small part of someone’s engagement!

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I have added to and built up the retail portion of my website, adding a boutique, and adding multiple designs to the Elle Collection. I have also made new contacts and been able to see some incredible gems!

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As far as gemstones go, I got an untreated Colombian Emerald back from AGL – I always knew this stone was special, and now I know how special and rare it really is. I received a glowy red spinel cut by Jeff White, and while I considered keeping it for a while, I ended up letting it go. Very reluctantly! I have gotten a ton of gray spinels, and continue being on the lookout for more. I am always on the hunt for gray spinels, especially now that their prices have skyrocketed.

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One thing that also happened this year is that AGTA and JA declared spinel to be a birthstone for August. If you’ve followed my blog, etsy, website or Instagram for any period of time, you know how much I love spinels. So while I think this is wonderful that spinel can finally get some recognition it deserves, it’s really terrible because that means that the prices of spinels are going to go crazy for a while, and probably will never come down again.

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So many things are in the works for the next year, especially the next couple of months. I have a bunch of goals, including entering a design or two into competition, and working towards more earrings and necklace designs. At some point I would like to have a trunk show event at a local jewelry store because I think that would be a lot of fun!

Here is to my third year! I only hope that it is as wonderful as the past two years!

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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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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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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!

Guest Post: The Evolution of Collecting

I have a special treat today, a guest post from someone who has become a close friend through gemstones, and whose services I sometimes utilize as a gemstone personal shopper due to her connections within the industry.  So if you have ever asked me for help finding a gem, rest assured I have likely consulted her on your stone.
Please welcome Aimée!
I have been collecting gemstones for my personal collection for almost five years now. It has been quite a journey. My financial situation has fluctuated during that time, and my connections in the industry have strengthened. I never used to consider myself picky, but have discovered that when it comes to gems…I’m a princess. I want it all – colour, cut, and price. So…how does one do that?
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I started by buying everything that caught my fancy. I should specify at this point that my purchases happen almost exclusively online. This means a pretty large learning curve in terms of how to read pictures, specifically around colour, tone, and saturation ( a word I’ve only learned in the last four years). Also, some vendors have what I would call “frenzied drops”, where you have about 3 seconds or less to decide if you want something, regardless of price. I’ve returned many stones, and sold the ones I felt guilty about returning or that I realized ultimately weren’t for me. I’ve sold some beautiful stones, many that I’ve forgotten about, until I came across a picture on my computer. I’ve also developed realistic expectations. “A good price” is very relative. I’ve known people to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a diamond, then want a trade ideal coloured stone that is exponentially rarer than a diamond, with a maximum budget of a few hundred dollars. This type of search will usually lead to frustration and disappointment, and is quite simply a waste of time.
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I try not to develop emotional attachments to my stones. Oddly enough, that can be difficult. I have stones and/or rings that I have a really hard time parting with, even though I will probably never set them, or rarely wear them, but they are pretty, and the memory of how they came to be in my possession is too sweet to extinguish. Selling to a fellow enthusiast helps. If it’s someone I like, who really loves the gem, I have an easier time passing it on. At this point, I only sell to fund new projects.
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So, I’ve built my collection. What was once “the ultimate” moves on, once I find a “holy grail”. (Like stepping stones, except in a few instances, where…I hoard. I have several Mahenge spinels. My excuse is that they are all uniquely beautiful – pinkish red, reddish pink – I’m pretty sure I have every shade in between. Now, I’m aiming for cuprian tourmalines. Unfortunately, I came into the game too late for certain gems. But I digress…) I TRY to no longer buy impulsively (which can burn me in the case of, say…a holy grail that I try to think about for more than 3 seconds, and it’s grabbed by someone else in that time, during a frenzied drop). I try to accept what actually looks good with my skin tone – honestly, I have some stones which just aren’t flattered by my pasty hand…but are too pretty to sell!
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I have scored some wonderful gems, at reasonable prices. This is usually because a fellow enthusiast has either pointed me in the right direction, or sold me something they bought several years ago at a good price, and they’re passing on the deal. Sometimes, it’s because I’ve bugged a vendor somewhat incessantly about a certain colour, and they finally got something in that might shut me up. Sometimes, I’ve really lucked out when a stone has sat around for quite some time for whatever reason, and the price can be negotiated somewhat.
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If I was to have some advice for a “newbie” about collecting, it’s to have patience. “The One” WILL come along, at some point. You are better off socking away the money until it does. In the meantime, educate yourself, look at what’s around and at what price point, see as many gems in real life as you can, and when you see The One, pounce!
-Aimée

Building a Gemstone Collection

Over the past several years I have built a wonderful collection of jewels with a client of mine. She started out pretty slowly, but about 5 years later, through a lot of time, trial and error and wading through a pool of contacts, she has managed to build one of the most beautiful and thorough collections I’ve ever seen (in a collection that’s not in a museum, at least!).

One of the most important factors we learned in building her collection is that sometimes stones will pop out at you at the most unexpected times. You may have been searching for a fantastic blue sapphire, and stumbled on the perfect ruby instead. I would absolutely jump on the ruby rather than keep pursuing the sapphire. Bump the sapphire down a notch on the priority list, but keep an eye out for it. In other words, when opportunity knocks, answer the door.

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Beyond making opportunistic buys, it’s important to have a plan moving forward as you build your collection.

Strategies for building a stunning gemstone and/or jewelry collection:

  1. Make a list of the gems/jewelry you absolutely want. Try your best to order this list according to your personal priorities (see 2-9).
  2. Keep in mind this list is going to grow and change as your expectations and desires change.
  3. Color. What colors do you want? What colors would you wear? Is there any special significance to colors/types of stones?
  4. Hardness. Are you hard on your rings? Do you need to be limited to the very hardest stones? How does that limit you color-wise? Are you willing to wear something sparingly in order to have that color in your collection?
  5. Some of the best overall collections I’ve seen have a full variety, a rainbow of color. But some collections have a concentrated color group – a friend who is a huge fan of blue green for instance, may build a small army of blue-green stones in a variety of shades, while other colors in their collection may appear sorely neglected.
  6. Know yourself. What makes you get butterflies in your stomach? What makes you gasp in delight? Is it a certain variety of stone? Or a certain color?
  7. Keep budget in mind and know where you want to make concessions. Things like cut and clarity can help stretch the budget.
  8. Keep your setting budget and wants in mind. Sometimes people balk at spending more on a setting than on a stone. Know what your priorities are! For some people (myself included!) the setting costs and the stone cost ratio doesn’t matter, it’s the end piece that has to make your heart sing.
  9. Do you want fewer more expensive items or a larger number of cheaper items?
  10. Try to finish some of your pieces. You can go down a rabbit-hole of buying gems or settings and never complete anything (unless, of course, your goal is to collect gemstones and settings!).

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Just keep in mind that beautiful collections don’t necessarily grow overnight. Gemstones are often very hard to track down, especially as you reach for more high end or rare stones. Building a collection takes time and requires patience, but is well worth it in the end.

In the event that building your collection hits a wall, feel free to reach out to me for help with new rocks to overturn or who knows – one of my contacts may have just what you are looking for!

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Personal Shopping: Lavender Sapphire

Well this week has been crazy. We have had some insane weather here in the Pacific Northwest, including snow, rain (enough for Seattle schools to close, if you can imagine that amount of rain), 70+mph winds, freezing fog, and then record high temperatures.  Yes, it was in the 50s this week, which is downright balmy for this far north at this time of year.

Now, why would I talk about the weather, you might ask? Well, on November 17th, we had the above mentioned nasty wind storm, which knocked power out all over Spokane…and damaged part of the roof at the USPS sorting warehouse. Which, when the second wind storm hit, weakened the roof further to the point that it had to be evacuated. This happened just as a 3.62ct Mahenge spinel arrived in the ill-fated sorting facility in Spokane from Mayer & Watt. (If you don’t know Mayer & Watt, you should.) The gemstone that I was planning on evaluating and writing today’s post about. So that post will have to wait for next week. But a neon “original find” hot pink/red Mahenge should make for a good Christmas week post, so I’ll just have to let it go until next week.

Now, I’ve been working on some custom designs for some of my favorite clients, as well as looking at new stones for new clients, and really trying to get all of the stock collection up and running. One thing I’ve recently started doing is really going out and searching for stones, personal gemstone shopping, if you will. And I’ve been lucky enough to get in contact with the right people, at the right time, and find some extraordinary stones that I really thought we would not be able to find.

For instance, and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen this stone, but I had a client come to me looking for her engagement ring stone. She wanted a lavender, leaning blue, oval sapphire that was at least 9mm wide on the width, precision cut. Which, if you’ve thought about it,  translates to about 5-8 carats, depending on cut. So, as soon as I saw her wish list, I said, “Hey, this is going to be incredibly hard to find. I would start thinking about alternatives or concessions you feel comfortable making.” So she did, and said that she thought a lighter pink or even a white sapphire might be acceptable, adding round to her list of acceptable shapes. And I started keeping an eye out for those. Which is when I found Mayer & Watt.

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Image is property of Mayer & Watt.

Geoffrey Watt participates in a gemstone appreciation group on Facebook, One World Gemstone, and when he posted an image, I went and looked at his company’s FB page. There was a white sapphire that was round, which fit my client’s new criteria list. So I reached out and asked about the round white sapphire, and while Geoffrey and I were talking about it, I mentioned originally looking for a lavender. To which Geoffrey said, “You mean like this one?”

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Image is property of Mayer & Watt.

Insert my heart popping out of my chest.

At 5.97cts, 10.7×9.2×7.5 it was exactly what we had been looking for. I was so excited that not only was this stone in existence (I truly thought that it wouldn’t exist, or at least, that we wouldn’t find it) that it was within reach, and it took me about two hours to compose the email to the client with the details because I was so excited and in shock.

After jumping through a whole bunch of hoops, and Geoffrey making every attempt to accommodate our needs, it was hers.

Since then, she actually sent it to Jerry Newman for a recut, to clean up the symmetry a bit since it would be her engagement ring stone. Jerry did an amazing job, managing to only lose 8.3% loss, from 5.99 ct to 5.49 ct. The depth was originally 7.43 mm and is now 6.9, keeping the original face up dimensions at 10.7 x 9.2mm.

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Images are property of Jerry Newman. 

Not to be overly gushing, but when I originally got this client request, I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to come through for her. And it’s been through a couple of incredible colleagues in the gem trade that I was able to make a client’s engagement ring dreams come true.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

In the event that you see something in Mayer & Watt’s inventory that sparks your interest, feel free to request information through our contact page. Please keep in mind that Mayer & Watt are exclusively wholesalers, so they will not respond to your requests directly.