The North Way Studio

I just want to give a huge shout out to my friend and colleague, Maria Bray of The North Way Studio! Her work was featured in a Buzzfeed article and I’m incredibly proud of her and always stunned by her amazing work!

The North Way Studio on Buzzfeed

Congratulations my dear! I’m so delighted that you are getting the recognition you deserve!

Maria from The North Way Studio
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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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Custom Red Burmese Spinel Halo Ring

I’ve been incredibly busy, to say the least!

I actually took my first day off in three weeks renovating/decorating/etc the other day to exclusively work on jewelry stuff. I had been sorely missing it and really had a stack of things to get back on – gemstone photography, rough jewelry ideas, blog ideas, sketches (which I’m still behind on!), as well as giving my back a rest, as I had pulled it over a week ago.  So I’m feeling as though I’m in a much better place than I was last weekend, with getting some items that were way overdue taken off my list.

I have a few fancy shaped antique diamonds in queue to design custom rings around, and I’m really excited about those. And of course I have some colored stone custom designs in the works as well!

In the meantime, I wanted to share some images of the most recent design to come out of production, something reaching quite a ways outside of my comfort zone, which I often struggle with, but always comes out better than I could imagine.

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Sketch, slightly underdeveloped.

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Jeweler’s photographs. 

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Client’s photographs.

I always love when clients come up with something that’s out of the ordinary, and this certainly fits the bill in that regard! An unconventional diamond and platinum halo surrounds a 1.69 ct Burmese Red Spinel.

I will be sending a parcel of sapphires and an emerald to AGL for certification this week. I had been intending to send them to AGL and kept putting it off for various reasons. But they are going to go now, and typically they are at about a 2.5 week wait, so hopefully I will have them back relatively soon.

I have been working on some stock items, and as per usual, the CADs came out perfectly the first time for both items. Both share elements with the Vivant and as such, I decided to use Mahenge spinels as them as well. I can’t wait to see them completed!

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What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?

I get a lot of questions about why I name jewelry what I do, so I thought I should explain a bit more as to how I came to the defining theme in the names of my collection.

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Vivant – Vivacious

I feel like so many designers out there have chosen names that are ladies given names, and I really wanted to express concepts that would mean something to me, that represented something that I felt, or something that inspired me while I was working on a piece, whether that be something descriptive of the actual piece itself (there could not be another name for Feuilles Dorées) or a name that had some quality that I felt the piece represented. I also try to keep each item upbeat, often thinking of qualities I would like my daughter to possess, or traits that inspirational women in my life embody. Every once in a while I even let a client name a piece themselves.

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Résistance – Strength

I actually put a lot of time into picking a name for each piece, taking into account every element of the item and every thought, word and feeling that ended up becoming that item. Unless inspiration hits and I fully flesh out an item within a few minutes, many hours of brainstorming, writing down words, drawing, thinking and sometimes staring at a blank piece of paper goes into each item. Often the name for a piece shows up somewhere from the beginning, as one of the defining concepts or an errant thought I have while trying to put a vision into words.

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Aurore – Dawn

Now, I chose French because of my background in pastry and culinary arts. French is basically the unofficial language of fine dining restaurants (though it could be debated that it should be Spanish) and as a result, I have a decent repertoire of French vocabulary terms floating around in my brain, though they are mostly related to cooking and food! No, I am not French (as far as I know), but I have two close friends that speak it fluently, and when I have questions about correct and accurate language usage, I have people to ask. Besides, French is the language of love, and while it may sound somewhat cliche, I love what I do.

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Papillon – Butterfly

French is not a super popular language within the United States, I realize that people may struggle with pronunciation, which is why I added what the English translation alongside the French on each piece’s page.  Please don’t feel bad about not being able to pronounce the names – I have struggled with languages my entire life (lets not talk about how I have had years and years of formal Spanish education and can barely speak any of it) and still mangle words at times!

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Voeu – Wish

So if you have ever wondered, that’s why I have a bunch of French words as the names of my jewelry!

As is par for the course, renovations are not done yet, though there is light at the end of the tunnel! Painting is getting closer and closer to being done, and I should have a new studio by March 1!

In the meantime, I’m working on some custom projects, including some more pear shapes, one of the most challenging but interesting shapes, in my humble opinion. Also included in that is a large project, or parcel of projects that has so many stones, I have been having a hard time figuring out where to start!

I’ve received requests for a new page to be added to my website, one page that has all of my custom work and designs together. Hopefully soon I can put some time into adding that. I will also put another jewelry item to the site in the next couple weeks – the Espoir ring.

New items were added to the etsy shop this past week – a yellow diamond ring and a red spinel and diamond ring among them!

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!