Gem Blast: Holiday Edition

It has been a crazy week, with a family birthday plus Thanksgiving and then ten completed projects when I was expecting 5, plus a bunch of gems.  I have more on the way, and with the holidays gearing up, things are just bound to get crazier!

So this week, I’m just going to post a handful of my favorite pictures that I’ve been taking in the past couple of weeks! Some of this will be a preview for new items to come – some will probably hit etsy before they get to the website, due to holiday shopping demands

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Be on the lookout for new things to come! For additional pictures of some of these pieces, check out my Repertoire page.  And don’t forget to check out Facebook for all of my etsy promo codes.(Hint: there is one for today! After all, it’s Cyber Monday!)

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Ombré du Soleil

They just wanted to be made. – Elle

I had posted these on instagram the other day, just a small macro shot, and immediately got requests to see more. Well, the thing about that is that these are ridiculously difficult to photograph for one simple fact – they are huge.

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A couple years ago, when we were still in California, I had an overseas collector send me a great number of stones to sell on consignment. That’s the reason my etsy shop was initially opened. There were a handful of stones that I knew immediately that I didn’t want to sell – I wanted to create something with them.

My starting point in this particular project was the largest pair of spessartites. They just glowed, in an almost unearthly way, with this ridiculous neon orange that photos don’t really do justice, as orange is one of the hardest colors to photograph accurately.

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Now, this collector had sent along literally about 40 carats of spessartites, including a handful of smaller round oranges with fantastic color, and a pair of bezeled round spessartite earrings.

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Spessartite, as with most gemstones and colors, goes through bursts here and there of popularity and trendiness. Unfortunately, just as I got this package, spessartite was hitting a slow spot, so most of the loose gems that I had never even hit the market. Instead I started to have big dreams for them, all brought upon by the incredible color of that large pair. I created a sketch of the initial idea, which included using the bezeled studs as is and then later amended it to add a few details, involving a change to the stud.

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About six months ago I went to visit my favorite gem shop and one of the first things on my mind to pick up were gems that would fit the ombré  color scheme I had dreamed up.  I needed to find exactly the right graduation of color and size to match cohesively with the overall concept. Luckily I was able to find that in some sapphires from Madagascar.

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As soon as I had all of the stones collected, I sent the picture to a friend.
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And a couple months later, she asked me when I was going to make the earrings? Why hadn’t I made them already? I had all of these beautiful stones, why not make use of them already? So I turned around that week, and sent them off to the jeweler, along with a picture of the sketch.
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As I mentioned before, the sketch went through a couple of revisions. The final version ended up being so large that the entire thing wouldn’t fit on one page of my sketch book, so I had to improvise a little bit, and drew the stud separately from the rest of the earring. A quick note: I draw everything at 5x scale.
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 So, lets talk specifics of the finished product.
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The bottom 5 stones are spessartites, the top three in the bottom section are sapphires. The top stone (the stud) is a spessartite and then the rest (second stone in the stud and then the little connecting section) are all fancy yellow diamonds.
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These are definitely more hefty than I usually make, but the one thing I wanted out of these is that I wanted to have that heft, and I didn’t want them to feel cheap. I feel like they easily could have gone the costume jewelry route, but the setter managed to avoid it, keeping the walls between the stones quite thin, and the edges from stone to outside rim thin in most areas . The largest stones are 7mm and very deep so we really had to have a lot of metal to hold them all in place.
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The settings are open in the back to let in a ton of light, even though they are bezeled. The emphasis for this project was really on the stones, the ombré effect and the concept of light. Seeing as how it took about two years to find the right stones in the right sizes, tones and saturation to I really wanted to not detract from the concept as a whole and keep the ombré effect in the metal that’s holding the stones together. As you will see in the images below, the color of the stones change from one image to another – the most accurate devices for color viewing are Apple products, iphone, ipad, Mac computers, and images with the brightest colors and least amount of brown are the closest to real life.
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14 grams of 18kt yellow gold

.16 carats of yellow diamonds
.41 carats of yellow sapphires
14.13 carats of orange garnets

14.7 total carats

They measure just over 2.5 inches long.

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Everyone keeps asking me, “why did you make these? Are they for yourself, or to sell?” and my answer has been, “They just wanted to be made.”

At the moment, I don’t know what the future holds for them. But absolutely something bright.

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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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Gem Blast: Boutique Gems

So, I’ve mentioned before how many photos I take in any given photography session. These were taken in the last photography session I had before the sun went away for a week. I think I ended up taking about 400 photos in this particular session and I wanted to share them because I rarely use so many of the photos that I take.

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Most of these have two of the spinels I recently listed for sale in the boutique, because they are so easy to compare color wise, and because it’s so rare to have two incredibly well cut nicely colored specimens, especially in this color family.

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Sometimes I will take photos of the stones with the goal of just capturing something special, rather than trying to make the stones look their best, or trying to create a good composition.

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One of the best things spinel does well is play in the light.

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Then we get to the hardest and sometimes most tedious part, capturing the body color and cut of the gem. The first one shows a bit more darkness than I prefer, but with the macro lens and how the gems reflect what they “see”, it makes capturing an accurate view of the gem difficult. When they are worn, they typically aren’t 1-2 inches away from something that’s blocking the light.

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Unfortunately precision cut gems tend to reflect more darkness, it’s the nature of the well-cut beast.

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The lighting and camera’s white sensor did some funky stuff here, turning the background pinkish, and as a result, the tsavorite looks abysmal – it’s very rare that the camera captures it accurately, and this is NOT one of those times, but I felt it was important to show it anyway. You can see how much more pink the spinel looks in this photo compared to the ones with the blue-lavender spinel. Very different!

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One of the more staged photos, trying to capture a good variety of colors for a shot for the site. The resolution is horrible, and very blurry, but I love the colors of the gems.

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The oval spinel is one that I refuse to part with – too much history and such a rare color, and cut perfectly by Barry Bridgestock. The color play with the lavender is so interesting and the fact that they are both so well cut makes them a rarity, and fun to compare in photos.

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Hopefully the sun will come out again in the next week or so and I can stop looking at a sea of gray. I am new to this “low-hanging cloud” phenomenon and not exactly sure if I’m a fan yet or not. It’s not even officially winter yet!

Musings, Mise En Place, Pastry

Back when I used to be a pastry chef, I struggled with cake decorating quite a bit. I felt like there was often too much empty space to fill up. I think that it’s one of the reasons I loved creating composed dessert plates so much, I could create the dessert items and they turned into the decoration for the plate, rather than covering the dessert in decorations. I have always struggled with creating something completely from scratch – having a huge blank canvas to fill, rather than having at least a starting point to grow from. You can’t grow a plant without a seed.

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I remember with finding inspiration for a composed dessert, considering flavor profiles, and utilizing the colors that naturally came with those flavors as my starting points, and building from there. The dish that comes to mind is one made with cherry mousse and white peach mousse with a pistachio cake – using a barely there peach, a bright pink-red and the muted pistachio green to bring interest and brightness to the dessert, while also standing out among all of the chocolate/vanilla colors. The dessert in it’s entirety was beautiful, with wonderful colors that are organic to the item itself. Those flavors came from items that had interesting colors to begin with. Perhaps this is why I have such a hard time with filling space just to fill space – if the design element doesn’t make sense, if it doesn’t come from an organic place, why add it? And that is likely why I had (and have) such a hard time with decorating cakes. My own wedding cake had no decorations but chocolate covered strawberries and fresh berries on it.

Much like the beaten to death line from every traditionally trained chef I’ve ever met, “If it’s not edible, it doesn’t belong on the plate.” Period.

And in bringing up my pastry background, I think I’ve finally come to the realization that this is the place where I get my overthinking from. Mise en place is the French phrase that means “everything in it’s place” and it’s the very first thing that every cook is taught – before service, every item you will need for service must be ready. Preparation is absolutely everything in cooking, without preparation, you’d immediately be thrown in the weeds when service starts and you need something you don’t have at the ready.

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So I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m much happier starting out with a smaller canvas to fill, the item of jewelry, typically with a built in starting point, rather than with the huge blank canvas of something such as a wedding cake, or even a birthday cake. It’s much easier to fill the space, to add just a little, and have that small element mean a lot more.

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So along those lines, I have two more ring designs coming up that will be added to The Elle Collection, a true solitaire (no accent stones) named for one of my mentors, as well as a ring that will have some small diamond accented elements, but will be mostly a solitaire as well. I think that these will be added before the end of the year and I’m so excited about them!

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I’ve been a bit all over the place this week, with some family stuff going on, and preparing for Halloween with a little kid and her activities to contend with, so I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with things outside, but also I will be debuting two new bands in November (rather than the end of October, as I had originally planned) because I’d been getting so much interest in one, and I’m just in love with the lines of the other.

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There are less than 8 weeks left until Christmas, and while I will still be selling ready-made items until the week before, custom items are already going to be difficult to complete and have delivered by Christmas, if they aren’t already in the planning stages. I would recommend requesting any stock items from the Elle Collection to be ordered before Thanksgiving to arrive by Christmas, to allow for production time with the holiday rush.

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I also wanted to mention that I do have a coupon on etsy running right now for 20% off orders over $100 running through November 7th (this coming Saturday!) so take advantage of it before it’s gone! The coupon code for that is “BURMESERUBY” (no quotes) and you can visit my Facebook page for the story behind the coupon.

Inclusions

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Gem Blast: A Variety

So, I’ve been super busy. I currently have two ring setting prototypes heading towards production, and a necklace prototype I’m looking towards production on (trying to get the ring setting collection out first!), and about a dozen and a half other designs in my head/in the sketchbook that want to be made sooner rather than later.

Plus I’m attempting to try to come up with some stock product ideas for a jeweler I work with, several other custom projects for various clients, and that’s not touching on my interstate move.

I don’t really have a ton of time for a lot of blogging right now, but I’ve still been taking a lot of gem and jewelry photos. I figured I could post some of my recent favorites as a blog entry.

A vintage blue sapphire and diamond ring.

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A couple of citrines against a blue rhinestone background.

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Some spessartite garnet earrings. I keep considering repurposing these, but I haven’t quite decided yet.

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An ideal cut diamond showing off a little bit of arrow action.

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Some rose and yellow gold rings in my personal collection. I need to flesh this collection out some more!

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Playing with light and a green garnet.

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This Star 80 cut in a lavender spinel never fails to be interesting.

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A Jeff White asscher spinel. A bevy of step cuts.

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A trio of colorful haloed rings.

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Some spinel rough. Not really facetable, but I like to keep it around because the colors are nice and I love the natural texture. It’s fun to play with.

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A couple of spinels. The top is from Mahenge Tanzania, and the bottom is from Burma. The top is more reddish pink, the bottom is more pinkish red. Both have the neon glow that is considered ideal in the industry.

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And last, but certainly not least, though uploading lost a lot of it’s beauty, the cut of this unheated aquamarine reminded me of the way water ripples.

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Many of these will be available back in my etsy shop as soon as I’m back up and running.

You can likely look forward to another photo-heavy post next week, as I will be completely entrenched in my move (probably driving somewhere in Northern California) when the next blog posts, as I do typically try to plan most blog posts in advance.

Also, I’m hoping to post on August 9th – it’ll be my blog’s first birthday! Kind of amazing to me that I’ve kept it up for almost a year already.