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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Custom Three Stone

One of the many reasons I love spinels so much is that they have so much personality. One minute they may look one color, the next minute, they could look another color. So of course when I had a client reach out and ask if I would set her violet-blue cushion spinel, I jumped at the chance.

Now the ring is currently in transit to the client, but she has already seen most of these pictures.

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She wanted a three stone with diamond half moons, and we had a lot of discussion about the design elements of it, and where to go with inspiration.

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She suggested that she wanted it to be very traditional from top down, and something unexpected from the side. Her thought was “A professional woman in a business suit, but with blue fingernails.”

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The working title for the ring became the “mullet ring”, with business from the top, and party from the side. We went through a variety of diamonds for the surprise stones, and ended up using irradiated yellow diamonds.

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I really wanted it to have a minimalist feel from the top down, but wanted a bit of detail on the shank, adding a ridge – inspired by pinstripes so popular in business suits!

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The profile was inspired in part by Maleficent. Yes, Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The small detail on the center stone’s basket emulates her staff, while the shape of the center stone’s basket echos the curve of her jawline, and the lines of the metal holding the half moons mirror Maleficent’s robes.

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The cool colors are so perfect for winter, and I cannot wait for her to see it in person!

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Lots of things in the works over here.

I’m planning on adding a page with a portfolio for work that may not make it to the website via the blog or some other means. Some of my items are on Pinterest, but not in a consolidated area.

I am considering adding some jewelry items to my etsy shop. I have gradually been letting the listings expire, but will soon be addressing those.

Custom projects are always in the works and I currently have a few exciting ones in the pipeline.

I’m also reconsidering the setting I had planned as a solitaire, the Dignité. I may take it into a different direction than I had been previously, I will have to put some thought into it.

Lastly, everyone keeps asking me if I’m going to be in Tucson this year – I will not be in attendance, but will have a representative there acting as my eyes and ears. Perhaps 2017 will be my year!

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

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.

Updates on Jewelry Line

Sometimes I go into Sunday and I realize that I have no idea what kind of blog to post for Monday. And there are sometimes when I’m super organized and have blog ideas or even whole blog entries that are ready to be posted a month into the future. I currently have a bunch of informational blogs that are in the works (at least ten?) but I haven’t had time sit down and write, edit and crop pictures to add to them, so I’m just going to write a bit about what I’ve been up to!

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I don’t know what is going on, but I’ve hinted around at things a bit on social media. My daughter was going down the stairs earlier this week, when she took a tumble and fell 2/3 of the way down the entire flight. Not to be outdone, my husband tried to jump down the stairs to catch her, and in the process fractured his ankle, while she just has a handful of bruises. So, I have been driving them everywhere and taking care of dogs, cats and the house as well as my usual activities and chores, and my work has been suffering as a result. My husband is finally a bit more mobile, and getting better every day, but most things are still a struggle.

I typically try to avoid working much on weekends, since it’s the only time I really get to hang out with my family, but extenuating circumstances happen from time to time, and you gotta roll with the punches. So, if you have sent me a conversation on etsy or email inquiries, and I am slow to respond, that is why. I will get to everything eventually, it will just take a while longer than normal!

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Anyway, I have a necklace design and a ring design that are just about finished and out of production. Not sure if I will put the necklace design up onto the site immediately or wait for a bit, but as soon as that ring prototype is in my hands, and photographed, I will get it up on the site, which should be later this week. It’ll be the Aurore setting if you want to be on the look out for it.  I am waiting for two halo ring prototypes to be completed, and again, as soon as those are complete, they will also go straight up onto the site. I’m super excited to share these with you – they have been in the works for so long! If you want sneak peeks of these upcoming items, the place to go would be Instagram, where I tend to post at least 3 images a day of gems I’m playing with, jewelry items, architecture, my animals or pretty flowers – which will likely soon turn into winter scenes!

I am also working on a custom setting for a gorgeous blue-violet spinel cushion, a setting for a large violet sapphire, and just got word that I will be getting some stones in the not-too-distant future for some more custom projects (sounds like earrings and rings). I also had an idea for two pairs of complementary statement earrings that will be fantastic once I can collect all of the stones for them. Oh, and I received some amazing gray spinel pairs from one of my favorite spinel vendors.

Stay tuned! Fun stuff is on it’s way!

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AGL Lab Testing

I have had a lot of questions about untreated gems in my brief stint on etsy. One thing I would really like to discuss is getting gems tested. I prefer to get gems tested by AGL, and I am going to talk about an experience with getting a gem evaluated by them.

I want to start out by saying that I’m willing to get any gem tested, so long as the customer pays for shipping and testing. I typically do not get stones tested myself, because most stones don’t merit it, whether through the stones resiliency against treatment, or the the lab test cost ratio to the cost of the gem. It doesn’t make sense to get an AGL Gem Brief that costs $60 (plus shipping both ways) for a $100 gem, especially in the event that it’s a stone that isn’t routinely treated or has a characteristic that isn’t likely to be desirable to the general public (for example, a golden brown topaz). If the untreated designation brings a sale value that is higher than the cost of the testing, then it makes financial sense to do it. Or if the stone is a high enough price, and the stone variety is routinely treated.

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I first contacted AGL about the violet sapphire late in 2014. I wanted to know about the procedures for getting a Gem Brief and then how to upgrade to a Prestige report. Maria emailed me back that I had to indicate it on the submission sheet.

Early in April I filled out the submission form and mailed it off to AGL. After roughly two weeks, I emailed Maria because I hadn’t heard anything from them (it’s a bit weird to mail an item to a location and not get any confirmation that it was received!) and wanted to make sure that it arrived at the destination. I have a deep distrust of USPS after an incident years ago involving Registered and a missing spinel that eventually turned up. Maria emailed me back that the stone had not only been received, but that it was done, untreated, and went through my shipping options. Instead of shipping Registered, she decided it would be a shorter wait to send it via armored vehicle overnight.

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So shortly after that conversation, the sapphire was back in my hands. With it’s fancy AGL Prestige Report. I have joked about this since then, but I’m only half joking when I say that I want to get an AGL Prestige Report on all of my gems. There is a cool digital diagram where the stone was mapped out and has all of it’s measurements and facets displayed, descriptions of the treatment, the color, the rarity, etc. It almost made me wish that I had a gem that was important enough to get a JewelFolio, but being that pricing starts at $3,000, I don’t see that happening soon.

AGL Pricelist
AGL Prestige Report
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So let me say again, I have no problems sending a stone off to a lab to have them test it. But sometimes it really just don’t make sense! I suggest that sapphires, rubies, and emeralds have some sort of testing, but honestly, most garnets, spinels, topaz, chrysoberyl, and others probably don’t merit it, just due to the price proportions!

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This sapphire has since sold, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends up getting set by it’s new owner!

Gem Blast: Tanzanite

I love purple-blues, and nothing does purple-blue quite like tanzanite. I’ve seen super saturated vivid purples and blues, but nothing gets to me like the violet/lavender/periwinkle shades between. I don’t think cuts get any better than this, but unfortunately, it makes it incredibly difficult to photograph perfectly cut gemstones. I spent an afternoon struggling with photographing it accurately. Here are some of my attempts to capture it’s beauty.

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This is what it looks like when the camera is 18 inches away:

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This is what it looks like when the camera lens is 1.5 inches away, and you photograph it head on:

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Another macro pic, but at a slight angle to avoid the look from the previous picture.

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Even less of an angle, still a lot of lens reflection:

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Almost head on again, or also known as “how to turn a violet stone black”:

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Oh hey, that looks pretty! Back to about a foot away:

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Still showing some black, but at least it’s not black edge to edge!

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Notice even the slightest angle can make a huge difference with a reduction in lens reflection.

This baby was snapped up quickly off of LoupeTroop, and it’s new owner was beyond thrilled with it (don’t blame her!) I hope that it will be cherished, as it is an exceptionally cut and colored stone! As lovely as some of these pictures make it look, it exceeds all of them in real life!