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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Updates and an Announcement

I feel like it’s been a while since I blogged. And there are a lot of good reasons for that. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

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I recently nabbed a trio of gray spinel asschers. I’m thinking about making a three stone with them, if they match well enough and look good together. I will see once they arrive! If I don’t love them together, they will probably go into the etsy shop.

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I did several earring design sketches for a client, and I’m considering turning some of the unused ones into designs to go into the etsy shop. Especially since I have a ton of green garnets that really should be used for something fabulous.

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Upcoming projects: a necklace for a friend, a Rubellite ring, a smattering of three stone rings, a five stone ring, a couple of fancy halos, and a handful of solitaire rings. Plus who knows what else will pop up in the next few weeks.  I have several ideas for necklaces that I’d like to make, but those may take a while to bring into fruition.

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The biggest announcement is that I have taken an outside opportunity, and as a result, I won’t be able to devote as much time as I have been to my own jewelry design.  There won’t be a ton of changes that stem from this change, my website will stay the same, my stock designs will remain available, the Etsy shop will remain open, and I will still be available to do custom design.

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The big changes are going to be: I won’t be able to devote as much time to hunting down gemstones and I’m going to have to be stricter about custom projects that I take on. I will still have accounts with Gem2000, Mayer & Watt and Pala International/Gems, and their stones will be available for purchase through me. Shipping will only happen once a week, probably Mondays or Tuesdays. Unfortunately, blogging will have to take more of a backseat, and will likely turn into a once a month occurrence. I will still try to respond to emails within 24 hours, but I may not be as swift as I was before.
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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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Hand Forging vs. CAD and Cast

 I feel like the topic of different ways to manufacture jewelry has been coming up more and more lately in email conversations with clients, so I figured I’d write a little bit about it.
*Please note, I’m not going to discuss die struck jewelry in this post!
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I think it’s Mark Morrell that was a touch snarky about answering the question of “are your items handforged?” I believe his answer is along the lines of “I use the best manufacturing method for the job at hand.” Which, to me, says loads – it says that he thinks the question is hogwash, he uses both “methods”, and isn’t going to waste a lot of time molding metal to make a ring that could be manufactured easier and quicker through other means.
In reality, all jewelry is made by jewelers manipulating a variety of tools through a variety of techniques to get the desired result.
It seems to me that there has been a big fuss about what tools and techniques are used to achieve those results.
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Now, there are obvious differences in production, but there is very little that can be produced “better” via “hand forging” vs CAD and cast. CAD and cast is easier, it’s cheaper, and the time savings is tremendous as far as labor goes. CAD and cast are also typically going to be more precise and symmetric. A computer and a machine just aren’t going to make the mistakes that a human would. The differences boil down to how the parts of the jewelry were created. Otherwise, there is a ton of overlap in the methods. Hand forged items, if you’ve watched videos, have been brought into their shapes with tools and a person guiding those tools. No matter what, the pieces are all soldered on the same way, they are all polished the same way, the seats for the stones are all cut the same way. Engraving is done the same way. You get the idea.
Feel free to mute your sound should you choose to watch the video!
I have a Mark Morrell piece in my personal collection, and what I can tell from it is that his finishing is impeccable. You can tell that he goes over every millimeter until it’s to his standards. The ring is CAD and cast, though I have no doubts that he uses hand forging methods when necessary. I have played with a 100% hand forged piece and I can see solder where the band was put together, the prongs on the center stones are all different lengths and widths, and one doesn’t quite touch the stone correctly, causing it to catch on things and have constant chunks of fuzz under it.
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Mark Morrell set with a colorless spinel
For me, it becomes a question of, “Do I want this cheaper, quicker and easy to replicate? Or do I want this to cost 5x as much, imperfect, longer manufacturing times, and not easily replicated?”
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My Pétiller ring is one that’s good to think about because it’s quite simple in execution, and was cast. The cast pieces were assembled by hand, and then the seats were hand carved out of the solid metal for each diamond. The only difference in making that ring via hand forging vs CAD and cast is that the methods would be different to get the solid shank, and the bezels that make up the support structure between them. Otherwise, the methods to put it together are exactly the same.
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My stance is that I prefer CAD and cast over hand forging. Much of the manufacturing methods are the same, it’s just a question of how the metal came to be the finished shape before things like setting stones and other finishing techniques take place. CAD and cast is much easier, especially when it comes to online orders – the client gets to see what it’s going to look like before it’s produced, rather than just hoping it will come out how it’s been envisioned, and seeing it when it’s finished.
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So much of the jewelry world is incredibly secretive. I don’t think that most jewelry people like to take time out to explain the differences to laypeople, especially when it’s hard to gauge the audience – are they really wanting to know the specifics behind the manufacturing methods or is it just a question being asked to make small talk? And sadly, most sales people in the retail world have no idea about manufacturing methods at all.
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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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Incoming Gemstones

Whoa! Gemstones ahoy!

I got a couple of packages from a couple of collectors looking to consign items, and there are some really awesome gems, and a couple of finished jewelry pieces.

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Some of the stand outs include:

40+ carats of green garnets: tsavorite, demantoid, mint, including melee!
2+ carat blue spinel pear
1.89 carat neon pink spinel
Green zircon
6+ carat blue zircon
Light teal-blue tourmaline
Pink Vietnamese spinel
Ruby studs
Handful of diamonds, rounds and cushions
Precision cut Mahenge garnets
Lavender tourmaline

Plus more!

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Also expected this week, a precision cut gray spinel antique cushion with a certification from AGL.

And I still have more incoming in the next couple weeks!

All of these will be listed to my etsy shop in the coming weeks, while I’m hoping to have everything up by Thanksgiving, but that just depends on how things go, and how much sun I get for photographs! If you are looking for anything in particular or if any of the above sound interesting, please reach out to be added to the interest list!

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If you haven’t found my coupon code on my Facebook page yet, you should go check it out because it expires October 31!

Also I have accounts with some wholesale dealers, so if you’re looking for anything in particular, let me know!

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We are getting very close to the holiday season. I will be releasing deadlines for holiday ordering within the next week – where has this year gone?! I cannot believe the holiday season is upon us!

So many custom projects going into production right now, I am so excited to see them come to fruition!

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A Day in the Life

Have you ever wondered what a day looks like in my life? Today is the day to find out!

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7:00-7:15am Do a preliminary check of my email and social media to see what might be coming my way for the day.

7:15am Get my daughter dressed, fed and ready for the day.  I’ve recently weaned myself off coffee, and it’s been absolutely brutal.

8:00am See my husband and daughter off to work and school/camp.

8:15am A thorough check of emails, start planning the day.  If it’s a Monday, I write a bit on Facebook for the blog post, mentioning any big things that have been going on, designs I’m working on, sales etc.

9:00am Take photographs of gems and jewelry, depending on what the sun is doing. During the winter months, it’s almost always overcast, so sun is a precious commodity!

10:00am Respond to email.  Post to social media, usually instagram.

10:30am Post new items to etsy, edit photography, write descriptions for items while eating lunch – often yogurt, unless I’m feeding my daughter too, which means I will eat something more substantial.

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12:00pm Shipments usually arrive around this time. If I’m not expecting anything, I will probably ship items.

1:00pm Work on new designs, or incomplete designs that need to be revised and finished.

4:45pm Stop working on designs, start thinking about family time and dinner.

6:00pm Dinner time! I often recruit my daughter to help me cook, which for a 4 year old means stirring. She is an excellent stirrer!

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7:00pm Play time. Sometimes I will try to post to social media here and there, but I usually reserve this time to spend with my family.  Often we will go for a walk if it’s light out, or watch something on the Food Network (my daughter’s favorite shows are Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen because she likes eliminating people), or just play with toys.

8:00pm Get my daughter’s bath time and bedtime routine started.

9:00pm Do a final email check for the day, post to instagram. Tuesday is usually my blog writing night.

9:30pm Watch tv shows or a movie with my husband, I tend to continue checking social media throughout (while he is checking his email!), and might post to SnapChat. Some favorite shows range from Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul (and Breaking Bad!), Homeland, UnREAL,  Arrow, Once Upon A Time, among others.

11:30pm Hit the sack. I’m usually lucky to make it to 11:30 without falling asleep. Every once in a while I manage to stay up past midnight, but it has become more rare lately.

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I mentioned that I will post to FB about my sales – I am running a sale for the month of August, and you have to check my Facebook posts for the coupon code!

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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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