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Inquiring Mind: Garnets for January Babies

rhodolite garnet ring on black backdrop

Garnets: Not Just Dark Red

Garnet, I serenade thee… Very few know your true glory as a gem is revealed in a breathtaking palette of hues. Citrus orange, sherry red, honeyed gold, raspberry, olive, plum, spearmint, lime, basil, blue, and pale, sea green and near-black. Fewer still realize that your sparkling radiance is higher than that of diamond...  In fact, one of the garnet species called "demantoid," means “diamond-like.” Although demantoid garnet is generally bright green, under light, it dances with abandon. One of my favorite things about garnets is that, like other gem species, they are not heat-treated to enhance or clarify them. They are simply Mother Nature’s gift to appreciating eyes.

For the Scientifically Curious

The deep red variety of garnet is most plentiful, occurring all over the world. Jewelry-grade garnets are most often found in the Earth’s crust. They can also be found in streams, in deep-source magma formations, and in weathered soil erosions. In fact, the presence of garnets is used as an indicator of diamonds during the diamond mining process.

Garnets are Diamonds’ Best Friends

Since they occur in the Earth’s mantle as well as its crust, a deep volcanic eruption sends rough garnet and diamond crystals up toward the Earth’s crust in a series of xenoliths, which are large clusters of rock that coalesce into “pipes.” These deep-source garnets are often huge and not the more refined variety found in the crust. Geologists use deep-source garnet clusters, as markers on the search for diamonds.

Industrial Use of Garnets… But I Digress

For the past 150 years or so, low-grade garnets have been used as industrial abrasive material. Garnet granules used with forced water offer an effective sandblasting media, which is used to smooth out brick, stone, and remove oxides from metal. Tiny garnet particles also act as effective filtration material.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are some glorious examples of cut garnet.

Demantoid Earrings

Demantoid Ring

Garnet Cluster Necklace

Current Appraising Techniques

pair of gold earrings
I love my appraisal work. Appraisals expand my exposure to pieces I would never know about and help clients know what they have, either for insurance or estate purposes. I thought I’d offer you a glimpse of a recent appraisal, with identifying information redacted.
This report took many hours because I researched each piece and expanded (or amended) the original jeweler’s appraisal to include background information about the manufacturers, which, in some instances, was important or just plain nice to know.
A professional appraisal requires knowledge and experience in consumer and materials markets, research capability, and manufacturing knowledge. Consideration is given towards rarity, historical value, provenance, and replacement possibilities. We need to maintain objectivity.
One thing that is important is knowing which price to assign to a value. Are you insured for full retail value? Replacement value “Used?” Which type of market is most common for the piece? Most insurance companies will allow you to insure an item for a particular (often too high) value and then, in a loss situation, will not give you the full appraised amount.
Perhaps the seller gave you a good deal or maybe they wanted you to feel like you got a good deal. So, you’ve been overinsuring the piece, paying the premiums, and have no chance of getting that amount of money when you need to replace it. Other insurance companies will force you to use their suppliers, who may or may not be able to be as concerned with quality as you might want them to be because they are price-restricted.
When clients ask me for an appraisal on a piece I just finished, I simply put the receipt into an appraisal report format. That’s because I charge a reasonable market price for my work and I am not going to guess whether the market for metal or stones is expected to go up or down. It is what it is today and that’s what you should pay for.


Appraisal Report

Date: October 6, 2021

Introduction and Purpose

This report is prepared at the Client’s request to update jewelry appraisals for insurance purposes. The price of gold has risen sharply since these were purchased, as has the value of emeralds.

The market prices in this report are not a guarantee of value because desirability, fashion, and other global influences move prices in unanticipated directions. These items show some wear as would be expected in a longstanding personal collection. They are manufactured with skill and contain generous amounts of 18KT gold.

Diana Widman, Graduate Gemologist (GIA), Appraiser: Appraisers International Society license 0051 AISCV, AVS-GJV, AiV: advanced gems and jewelry valuer, designer, metalsmith

312-346-2363    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Item Description

Ladies solid gold link bracelet designed by Sauro, an Italian manufacturing firm. Sauro manufactures both classic and high-tech pieces using unusual materials such as wood, ceramic, and carbon fibre. Client’s bracelet is beautifully engineered and the clasp is unique to Sauro.   Client’s bracelet is no longer shown in their collection. Piece is 18mm wide with an open, rectangular link weave.  

Bracelet weighs 64 grams which is the equivalent of two troy ounces.

Ladies solid gold link bracelet designed by Sauro 


Item Description

Ladies 18KT yellow gold open, oval link, woven bracelet stamped with “18KItaly” on the clasp. Bracelet has five stations made of white gold and shared prong-set set with 55 diamonds weighing 1.87 total carats. Diamonds are full cut, SI1-SI2 clarity with a GH color grade. Bracelet weighs 39 grams which is the equivalent of 1.5 troy ounces.

Client was told that this bracelet was manufactured by an Italian firm named Brassolini however research suggests the firm’s actual name was BRASOLIN Milan. They were a high-end manufacturer of gold and diamond jewelry.  Appraiser cannot find any company stamp on the bracelet and research suggests that the firm may no longer be in business, but this style is consistent with their product.

Ladies yellow gold open oval link woven bracelet


Item Description

Pair of 18KT gold, post earrings signed and stamped by Danish designer and goldsmith Nicolai Appel. Appel apprenticed at Georg Jensen and received his design training at the Institute of Precious Metals in Copenhagen, Denmark. Nicolai Appel is a well-respected artist who also now designs and manufactures silverware for upscale restaurants.

His jewelry work is collectible as fine art jewelry. 

This design is part of a series that Appel executed in silver and gold.

 Pair of 18kt gold post earrings signed and stamped by Danish designer


Item Description

Ladies 16”, 18KT yellow and white gold dome collar necklace with diamond accents.

Solid, half-domes of gold are invisibly hinged and interspersed with diamond-set domes on the lower third of the necklace.  The back of the piece is finished with filigreed closures on diamond- set domes. Fine manufacturing. Piece appears to be Italian-made. Gold weight is 80 grams which is the equivalent of approximately 2.57 troy ounces.  Diamond weight and quality is 1.31 carats of round brilliant, F-G color, VS clarity gems.  

 ladies yellow and white gold dome collar  necklace 5ladies yellow and white gold dome collar  necklace ladies yellow and white gold dome collar  necklace


Item Description

Two-tone diamond band made of 18KT yellow and platinum.  

Diamonds: total carat weight is 2.42 carats. Diamond color is GH and clarity from SI1-SI2. One diamond is chipped on the table as is consistent with wear.

The two, half-round halves of this band are welded together and drilled for stone placement and light passage. Stones are flush set.

two tone diamond band ring with diamonds two tone diamond band ring


Item Description

Emerald Suite: Earrings and Ring

Emerald Ring: One 18KT yellow ladies emerald ring with diamond accents. Center stone measures 6mm x 4mm. Emerald color is a vivid, deep green. According to the GIA scale, this gem color is Dark, Strong, very slightly bluish green. Under magnification, this gem appears to have been treated with oil, as is standard for most emeralds. Abraded facet junctions and two small chips on the table are a sign of wear. Stone weighs approximately .4 carats and would be valued at about $1125. The setting holds .70 total carats of round brilliant diamonds with a GH color and SI1-SI2 clarity. Ring stamp 750 / copyright NS (Nova Styling.)


These hinged, clip-hoop earrings are stamped “18KT Italy.” Emeralds weigh .60 carats and are a strong, slightly bluish green.  They are slightly included with small fractures that are normal for emeralds.  Diamonds are G color, VS clarity, .63 total carat weight, and bead set in yellow gold.

 Ladies emerald ring and clip-hoop earrings


The report is written only for the benefit of both the Client and reasonably foreseeable Third Parties, including but not limited to insurance companies, estate tax bodies, heirs, asset values in case of a divorce trial, etc. Information provided in this report is to be used only for the Intended Purpose and is not valid if used for other purposes.  In this case, this report was written to update jewelry values for the Client and their insurance carrier.

Contingent and Limiting Conditions: Valid Ownership of Property: The creation of this report is done under the assumption that the client owns the item(s) outright and has no liens, loans based on the item, or undisclosed co-owners. Diana Widman Appraisal and Design Services has no ownership interest or plans to purchase the item(s) evaluated in this report.    __________ initials

This value is my professional opinion, not an absolute guarantee of worth. It is based on market conditions found on the date of the report and is not applicable to any other date or any other use. 

A Note about Values: Item(s) described in this report are given a value for the stated Intended and Assigned Use, i.e.   Fair Market Value, Consumer Insurance Replacement-New, Pre- or Post- Sale Appraisal, Estate Tax, Sale into a Particular Market.

My opinion of monetary worth might change under different market conditions and at different times.

The Year of You: 2021

custom designed beehive diamond rings

We are all accustomed to reading reviews of products and businesses, the arts, politics, real estate, and anything else we might be consuming physically or emotionally. As a society, we care so fervently about events and things outside ourselves, but how often do we turn to those we love and just tell them how wonderful they are and why we think so?

Every year, I indulge myself this way with you, my clients and friends, business supporters all. I am honored that you trust me to create things that you will wear on your person. Each of these pieces signifies some benchmark in your life, whether it is birth, marriage, birthday, heirloom, or just plain heart’s desire.

You are attorneys, ballerinas, nurses, artists, organizers, realtors, ceramicists, skin care specialists, and artificial intelligence students. You are smart, funny, ethical, colorful, loving, modest, quiet, sturdy, vigorous, and thoughtful. You are detail-oriented, artistic, and just plain fun. You make the world a better place and you certainly cause me to love what I do.

I tend to operate a bit under the radar but believe me when I say that it is sunny and busy in the studio. So thank you from the bottom to the top of my heart. I wish all of us health, joy, and an easier year ahead.

Warmest regards,

JaianiRing copy MarcusRing DoveRubyRing LizcanoStar ZappalaCurvyBand BonnieShayRingCollage ClusterNeckLevine MalikRing

The Love Behind Heirloom Renewal

a letter from a client telling the story her Grandmother

Clients bringing heirloom pieces for renewal always tell the story behind the piece. We talk about possibilities for design and then we settle in to talk about the former owners…mother, grandmother, aunt, father, best friend… We talk about who they were in the scope of your life and in doing so, we honor that person. That love is folded into the new piece we make.

One of my clients, Cadey, wrote such an articulate essay about her grandmother that I was moved to tears. We very recently redesigned Grandma Caddy’s diamond ring into a pendant for Cadey and we have saved the setting for future work. With her permission, I share the story to celebrate love and its bonds through time and space.


Layering Part 2: Distinctive, Comfortable, Creative

A group of bracelets nicely layered on a wrist

I last wrote to you about layering your jewelry and promised you some concrete advice. Just to remind you, I told you that:

“We want to be distinctive, comfortable, and creative. We want our style to be easy and a la mode without being too crazy. We want it to last till we are sick of it and we mostly prefer quality with some junk thrown in for good measure."

Layered Gemstone Necklaces

What works: Joie de vivre

If you like light necklaces and pendants, then wear three or four at a time. Shown here is a client who owns many of my colored gem pieces.

She’s gotten attached to the peach sapphire pendants and wore them every day during the pandemic. I don’t think she takes them off. When she picked up the Montana sapphire Cascade necklace, she just “had” to wear it. I know this could be confusing for some of us, but I have lots of clients who just wear what resonates as part of their style or their “gear.” The group of pieces around her neck are all gold and fine sapphires. They do coordinate because they either contrast or pick up colors scattered throughout the other necklaces.

This wear-it-all-together idea works really well when we combine pearls and chains, beads with small pendants, or two different ropes of pearls. Shown here is a 50” strand of akoya pearls with an antique, French gold chain.


These two necklaces can be wrapped to different lengths and their contrast lusters complement one another. If you don’t have some very long chains or pearls in your collection, give me a call. It’s a fun, hot look.

What works: Old and New

Here you see like pieces of differing lengths. This works because they are related in weight and scale, yet different enough in texture or color to make a statement.


Wrists, too: Wide, narrow, different, similar… it’s all good!

In the bracelet photo, I’m layering a hammered pure silver cuff, a 22KT curb chain, and a teeny accent chain that I never take off. Clearly, this combo works because of the contrasting metal color, the textural subtleties, and varying widths.

So, to sum up, a few tips: When layering, vary the textures so that each piece stands out but together, they are having a dialogue. This works really well when chains are all one color of metal, or related in feeling, or are the same style but different colors.

Create relationships through color, texture, and style. If one piece is pearl, use a pearl somewhere else in the collection. Or, if one piece is diamond, use one other piece that has something white or shiny in it to relate back to the diamond.

Think about scale and coordinate a variety of scales if you are using a large necklace or bracelet as the starting point.

Or, wear what you want and be happy. There are really no rules.

Hugs from the studio,

Reflections on the New Fabergé Exhibit

Fabergé Peacock Egg on black background

It’s an exciting time for Fabergé fans and scholars. “Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution,” a new exhibit opening in November at the V&A Museum in London, will reunite a number of Fabergé pieces separated since the Russian Revolution of 1917. The exhibit marks the first time many of these eggs will be displayed together in the UK.

From 1885 to 1917, the House of Fabergé made these jeweled eggs for the Russian Tsars, who gave them to their families as Easter gifts. Each exquisite, painstakingly detailed egg opened to reveal a surprise: a functioning watch, perhaps, or a little elephant automaton that walked on its own, or an impossibly detailed miniature model of Alexander Palace. (And here I am, content just to get a piece of chocolate.) After the Russian Revolution overthrew the Tsars’ monarchy, the wealth of the Imperial family was confiscated. The eggs eventually dispersed around the world, sold off in the 1930s to fund an ailing Soviet economy.

The story of how they were scattered around the world and ultimately reunited is an interesting one, but even more fascinating are the techniques and innovations behind their creations.

Everyone knows the name Fabergé, but few people realize that Russian jeweler Carl Fabergé wasn’t the only one doing all the hard work of crafting these little treasures. It’s the same with many paintings by the famous Dutch Masters. Their paintings were not painted by the artists themselves but with the help of a team working in their studio.

Apprentices did the painstaking work of grinding and mixing paint and preparing palettes, and sometimes they assisted in the production of the paintings themselves. Studios even had painters who specialized in painting different types of clothes. The signature of a famous painter was more of a brand name or seal of approval than a signifier of authorship. “Rembrandt,” for instance, can be seen as a label, a style, a guarantee of a certain level of quality.

Experimentation and Collaboration in the Fabergé Workshop

This is also the case with Fabergé eggs, but with a scope befitting the industrialized era in which he worked. Fabergé assembled a dream team of the jewelry world: Russian portrait artists, Swiss watchmakers, and the finest goldsmiths, lapidaries, engravers, and jewelers in Europe.

While Fabergé’s unique works of art may have been the vision of one man, they represented the efforts of dozens of talented artisans, all masters of their crafts, working out of studios all located in the four-story Fabergé headquarters in St. Petersburg, Russia. He put his trust in these craftsmen and allowed them the freedom to express their own artistic visions through the vehicle of the precious eggs. In all, it could take up to two years to complete a single egg.

Fabergé sketched the designs and chose materials with an eye for their visual effect rather than for value alone, working with gold, platinum, jade, quartz, lapis lazuli, diamond, and other materials as each project required. He employed various alloys and developed over a hundred new colors of paint in order to fulfill a particular artistic vision.

If the techniques to realize this vision did not exist, Fabergé would ask his artists to invent them. Some of these techniques still cannot be replicated today. Other techniques that had been in use for centuries, such as the enameling technique cloisonné and the engraving technique guilloché, were furthered and perfected in his studios. Cloisonné, a predecessor of enameling in which plates are held in place by soldered strips of metal, has a long pedigree in Russia, having been used in works created for the Byzantine emperors since the 6th century. But Fabergé’s craftsmen were able to take the technique further. The specific processes of these artisans’ many innovations, however, are lost, possibly forever, as Fabergé buried the documents in an unknown location.

As with the Rembrandt example above, many trades in 19th century Russia (and in neighboring countries) were still governed by guilds, so there was a great deal of specialization and division of labor by necessity. These rules were not limitations for Fabergé, who turned to master goldsmiths or silversmiths when his vision called for gold or silver, to watchmakers when he wanted surprises to feature moving parts, and so on. Many of these master craftsmen left their mark on Fabergé designs—literally—in the form of initials stamped on the bottom of a piece.

These eggs are not only beautiful, irreplicable works of art but also testaments to what a supremely talented team can accomplish when they work together and trust one another’s capabilities.

Mixing and Matching…or just Matching

rainbow compilation of Queen Elizabeth in various colored outfits

We’ve had so many conversations about whether something is “right” to wear with something else of a different color or texture. Are drop earrings too dressy? How many layering necklaces are “too much?” How many bracelets can I/ should I wear at once? Many of you tell me about Coco Chanel saying “get dressed, look in the mirror, and take one thing off.” Hmmm, maybe not.

First, there are no rules anymore about what “goes together.” In fashion, anything goes. People wear all kinds of things, avidly mixing textures and periods, hair colors, and lengths. People do what they want in the interest of self-expression and freedom of expression. Purposely ripped stockings? See-through shoes? Taxidermied alligator handbags? This group may not look so good from a design perspective, but they are really comfortable in their own skin, or feel more secure in following trends or both.

In the opposite corner, there are many people who like to coordinate all the things they wear and are not comfortable straying. Matching shoes and purse, for instance, or all monochrome. I mean, look at Queen Elizabeth! She’s got head-to-toe uniformity. Hat, gloves (sometimes), purse, dress/suit, corsage. All one color. Of course, she has the world’s best jewelry collection, so there’s that.

So, we have the anything-goes group and the matching group, but most of us fall in between. We want to be distinctive, comfortable, and creative. We want our style to be easy and a la mode without being too crazy. We want it to last till we are sick of it and we mostly prefer quality with some junk thrown in for good measure.

You know where I’m going with this… our jewelry should meet the same criteria. However, I think we have way more latitude to mix our jewelry than we do our clothing because jewelry takes up much less area than the clothing we wear. Jewelry is also so personal. Some days, you just “need” to wear these particular hoops because they make you feel confident or look great on a good hair day.

Maybe you want to wear an heirloom brooch one day which you normally wear with something else but you also must wear a particular outfit because your tummy is a little bloated and that outfit feels more comfortable. I’m here to tell you to wear the brooch or the giant bead necklace or the silver choker with the unlikely outfit and the hell with it. Jewelry is meant to be worn all the time, for no reason other than you want to. That’s what confers your patina and it's what your family will remember.

In my next installment, concrete design advice on mixing and layering.

Stay well.

Opal Sees the Light of Day: Renew, Redesign, Revive

Custom design opal gold ring laying on wooden table

Hello to all of you and happy summer. Here is another recent redesign project from a client who had never worn the original opal ring, which was gifted by a loving grandfather many years ago. She didn’t care for the filigree cocktail style that was popular in the ’60s-’70s and just kept it in her drawer. Sound familiar? She showed it to me one day while we were chatting and I urged her to think about resetting the beautiful white opal. It’s a large stone in perfect condition, even after all these years sitting in a bag. (Opals have been known to craze if left too long in a dry environment.)

We sized this ring for her middle finger since it is so large and, being a busy person, she wanted a simple bezel setting. This opal is NOT glued into the setting as many large cabochons are, but it is properly set in a lovely, rounded bezel. That is what fine jewelry work is all about.

This ring is out having new adventures now and enjoying the time to show off its many innate colors. What do you have hanging around?

Best wishes from the jewel box!

Colors of Summer

Collage of sapphire gemstones and jewelry

You can probably tell that I’m in a sapphire kind of mood these days, particularly exploring the subtleties of multicolored single gems. I’m buying gems from Burma, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Montana and combining them as they speak to me. Admittedly, the Burmese stones usually end up surrounded by diamonds, as their provenance is so rare. 

What attracts me overall is the calming palette of blue and green. These colors remind me of ocean, sky, celadon, leaf green, and forest green. The round green sapphire in the lower right corner is called a "Pharoah's Eye," because of its centered golden hue. These are very rare. This sapphire is from Montana, as is the bi-colored oval in the top row.  One stone I particularly love is in the lowest row, center. This stone has a naturally occurring, strong division of color, as do several others in this collection. Some classic blue, round Ceylon sapphires and a pair of icy green, "Coke Bottle" colors are some other standouts. 

Which ones do you want to play with?
Happy summer!

Sapphire Tray

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