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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Evolution

Roughly ten years ago I started to take my obsession with jewelry and gemstones a bit more seriously by starting to actively research and reading everything I could find online.  It turns out that over ten years, things can evolve and change quite a bit.

I had a guest blogger who wrote about her collection and how it evolved over time, but I have not really addressed those kinds of questions myself, even though they keep coming up. So here are some answers to questions I get regularly!

What do you keep?
I keep almost exclusively sentimental pieces. At this point in my life, a stone has to be really outstanding to catch my eye, much less make me want to keep it in my personal collection. I have cultivated almost a rainbow of rings with pinks, peach, green, blue, violet and purple playing the major roles.

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A padparadscha sapphire in the Aurore, an anniversary gift from my husband. 

What you sell and why?
I usually do not sell anything from my personal collection. The only time I might sell something from my personal collection is if something else is replacing it. Also, if I’m selling something from my personal collection, you can bet that it doesn’t have any sentimental value attached to it. If my husband or daughter had any input in it, it’s going to stay in my personal collection. The pink spinel Vivant ring is the perfect example – the diamond sides were originally purchased as my first pair of diamond studs by my husband. They were used in another ring before being set into this ring. I cannot count how many times I’ve been asked to sell that ring, but I won’t!

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These diamonds were an anniversary gift from my husband. 

Do you buy less expensive things as time goes on?
No. If anything, I’ve bought more expensive things. I will pick up things here and there if I find them to be a good deal, but if I’m adding it to my personal collection, at this point, it’s got to be larger or “better” in some way than what I have already. Since many of those items were bought quite some time ago, odds are very good that the market has gone up since then, almost universally.

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This flawless Mint Merelani Garnet was given to me as a 30th birthday present. 

Or fewer, more expensive pieces?
What is kind of interesting is that I’ve been able to make more items that could potentially stay in my personal collection as prototypes than I was previously able to. At some point, I have to make a decision as to whether I am ok with selling them or keeping them in my collection. So I’ve been making more pieces, and they end up being more expensive. I think though, if I wasn’t designing jewelry and therefore unable to justify them as prototypes, I’d be putting together fewer, more expensive pieces.

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The blue spinel in the Petiller was a wedding gift from my father, and every diamond in the Privé band was from a different occasion – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthday, etc. 

Or some other philosophy?
I guess I kind of collect everything now! 

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A collection picture from 2013, before I started designing everything.

How your settings have changed?
I started out being totally adverse to diamonds. As you’ll see in the settings that are coming up, diamonds play a pretty big part in it. So I’ve totally reversed my position on that end of things! But while there has been the addition of diamond accents, I’ve make an effort to simplify some of the blingier settings. That has not held true in every situation, as you’ll soon see when my next settings come out!

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This Colombian emerald was the last gem that really caught my attention. I couldn’t resist that color!

Have you gotten more subtle with age or more blingy?
Both. I think that both have a place in any collection. I have plain solitaires, and plain bands with no accents, and then I have settings that are crusted with diamonds.  Different moods call for different types of jewelry and I like that my jewelry box can accommodate just about any occasion.

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This Accolade band was made with spinels that my husband helped me pick out when he was just my boyfriend. 

What has changed the most in your collection?
I’ve actually tasted a little bit of antique jewelry. My most recent addition to my personal collection was an onyx, diamond, platinum and gold French ring from 1910, and I’m totally enamored with the craftsmanship and the detail work. Before, I never would have given most antique jewelry a second glance!

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An anniversary gift from my husband.
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Gem Blast: Imperial Garnet Voeu

Oh Voeu…one of my first stock designs, the Voeu is always going to have a special role in my life.

You’ve seen the padparadascha sapphire version already, and if you’re following me on social media, you might have seen a hint of another one that came into my life recently.

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In case you haven’t seen it before, here is a quick refresher course – stunning in white gold with rose gold accents, the center sapphire shines as the centerpiece of a composition.

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While I originally thought that this stone wasn’t terribly different from the padparadscha sapphire in color, boy was I wrong! The color of the stone is almost the same as rose gold, and as a result, I decided I wanted to contrast it just a bit with the metal color while still keeping the warmth of colored gold.

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18kt yellow gold can appear brassy sometimes, and I felt like it had the potential to overwhelm the delicate balance of brown and peach in the garnet, so instead I chose to go with 14kt yellow gold – something a bit more subtle.

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And of course I had to keep up with my unexpected touches – a surprise diamond hidden on either side of the gallery of the setting.

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Look at the warmth of that gold with the light shining through it! Reminds me of sunshine…

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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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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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The Aurore Setting Design Process

The Aurore is special to me in a lot of ways, but especially because it was designed specifically for a stone that I had loved for a long time, but it’s many issues prevented me from setting it.

By now, I think that if you have taken a look at my designs, you’ve noticed that diamonds are almost always accent stones. That’s not to say that I won’t set a diamond, but I put a lot of special consideration into making jewelry with colored stones.

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Colored stones have their own potential problems when it comes to producing a setting for them. For instance, colored stones are typically cut with two things in mind: color and size/weight retention, which come with their own host of issues, typically windows (an area that doesn’t reflect light), which is what the Aurore was specifically designed around.

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Naked sapphire.

I designed the Aurore setting around a padparadscha sapphire I have had for a while, but could never figure out how to set. The stone has a big window in the middle of it due to insufficient depth. Diamonds don’t typically have that problem, it’s a uniquely colored stone issue. The stone has an amazing color, though, and obviously the best was made of the material by the cutter. It also has some inclusions in it, which give it more of a glow and less of a sparkly bomb.

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My solutions to the various problems presented in this particular stone was to start from the bottom and work my way up. The Aurore has a lotus design on the bottom, inspired by the very color of the sapphire, giving the basket some decent coverage, which would help close up that window and let the stone shine.

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Early sketch ideas.

But I didn’t want to just stop there – I had a parcel of marquis diamonds, what if I set those inside the lotus petals on the basket. Then, light hitting the pavilions of the diamonds would potentially reflect light up through the stone!

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Taken a very long time ago!

I would want the lotus petal design to be seen, and the diamonds would of course need lots of light to have that function properly. So a traditional fully round shank was out. Which meant it was time to think outside the box, and the partly open shank, that isn’t a complete circle. And now, we can see the full view of the lotus and diamonds.

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So I then turned my attention to the top of the ring. The stone only measures 5×7, so, I decided that it needed a little bit of help in the size area. Well, since the stone is windowed and not super sparkly, a traditional diamond halo ran the very real risk of outshining the center stone, instead of fully enhancing it. I saw Erika Winters’ Thea halo, and thought, “Hey, why can’t it be all metal? No reason to include diamonds.” And again, taking inspiration from Erika’s Thea halo, and due to the smaller amount of sparkle from the center, decided against high polish, and went with a matte finish.

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But a plain metal halo would be boring – so since I had become vehemently against putting the sapphire against diamonds, that meant metal detail. I got the inspiration for the shapes from an antique diamond and emerald ring. The shapes are different, but the idea for the layout is similar.

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All in all, I was so satisfied with the first version of the ring, I decided to go to the opposite side of the color spectrum and do a white metal version.

In doing a second prototype, the gray spinel’s window was much smaller, so I decided to forgo the diamonds on the gallery. But instead of keeping the entire thing with a matte finish, I decided to have my bench put a high polish on the metal halo’s details. Which really lends a beautiful effect and mimics the sparkle of the silvery spinel even more wonderfully than I could have imagined.

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Keeping the white gold with a matte finish was a bit of a gamble, because I wasn’t sure what kind of effect it would have due to it’s gray color, but looking back, it wasn’t something I should have worried about – as a whole, the silvery gray spinel appears even more sparkly surrounded by the contrast of the matte and high polished metal.

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All in all, the Aurore is a setting I’m proud of. There is something very fulfilling about creating something to solve problems, no matter how small, and further enhancing the beauty of what is already there.

The Aurore is available for order directly through me, or through David Klass in Los Angeles.