Hi everyone! Sometimes, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. You all know I love sapphires and, apparently, so do you. Here, a new pair of earrings comprised of sapphires from Burma and Sri Lanka. They are locally mined and cut, so the community makes its fair share. This is crucial to me. As individual stones, they spoke to one another and here they are living happily ever after.
These earrings are set in 18KT yellow gold and weigh 6.5 carats total. They are approximately 1.75 inches long and are priced at $5000. Easily wearable every day, these surprisingly neutral earrings will slip quietly into your collection of diamonds, pearls, and sapphires.
I hope this finds you well. My recent trip to the Tucson gem shows after three years away was exhilarating for many reasons. Of course, the gems…. Rows and rows of sparkling colors from all over the globe calling my name. Fanta orange, hot pink, grassy green, plum, turquoise… so many gems and so many possibilities. At one point, I was standing in the middle of a tent looking at all the countries represented at the show… Sri Lanka, Italy, France, Africa, (Kenya, Tanzania,) India, Australia, Germany, China, Brazil, Colombia, Mozambique, New Zealand, Madagascar, United States) The tent was humming with commerce, and I just wished the world at large could run this smoothly.
Then there were the seminars: in-depth presentations by industry experts from mining to color trends, gem treatments, metals markets, and gem cutters… It’s a field day for gem geeks like me. And the dinners and the laughter… The jewelry industry is a big, generally warm-hearted place full of people doing each other all kinds of favors based on trust.
This industry still runs on handshakes. One chooses some stones, gets a memo (a record of what you took with prices), takes the stones, and is trusted to send the payment upon return home. The first thing I do after I unpack is write checks.
My diamond dealer and his partner routinely take diamonds out of their shared vault without writing anything down. A text is sent but that’s it.
If I need to show a client a range of stones, the dealer will send me a big box full to show. I return what isn’t chosen along with a check for what was selected.
It’s a code of honor and, of course, one’s conduct and professionalism go a long way towards making this happen but, after thousands of years, a handshake is still the norm. I marvel at this phenomenon, especially since there is such a high dollar value attached to gemstones. To be sure, there are bad payers and dishonorable people who pay late without explanation or disappear altogether. They lose their reputation (if they ever had a good one) and are unwelcome. Dealers share that information so no one else gets stiffed.
You know I love ancient finds, whether buildings, mosaic floors, pottery or jewelry. In this photo we see an ancient Roman “torq” necklace found in Newark, Britain. The neck collar, which is a combination of gold and silver dates to 250 BC and is now on display in the British Museum.
An amateur sleuth found it with his metal detector in 2006 and the local District Council purchased it in 2006 for 350,000 British pounds.
Certain well-known designers use the cable as a signature element, the most famous being David Yurman. I’ve written before about timeless design vocabulary and how certain shapes, fabricating techniques, and symmetrical forms are still common because they are so inherently satisfying. Twisted cable is one of those designs. I’ve used it myself in small stacking rings and bracelets and pendants.
The Harpole Treasure
And, in case you missed it…. Another ancient treasure excavated in Northamptonshire, Britain. The Romans occupied Britain from 43 AD to 410 AD, giving them time to bury their dead along with elaborate treasure troves. This explains the find at Sutton Hoo, which I’ve written about before. This coin and bead necklace was found in the grave of an important Roman woman.
The BBC tells us “The grave site is thought to be the most significant burial from a unique sliver of English history when pagan and Christian beliefs intermingled, and women held powerful positions in the early church.
The discovery's importance, the archaeologists said, was of a similar magnitude to that of other monumental Anglo-Saxon treasures unearthed in England, such as Basil Brown's famed find in 1939 at Sutton Hoo, where a warrior king was buried in a ship, and the Staffordshire Hoard of gold and silver artifacts, discovered in 2009 by an amateur metal detectorist in a field in Staffordshire, England.
About a dozen other high-status female burials, known as bed burials, have been discovered elsewhere in England. In some cases, the grave sites included similar necklaces.”
This necklace is another example of a classic design that still appears today. It mixes various gold textures and techniques with pictorial coins and gemstones. The long beads were likely made individually as there are no repeat patterns, however, they may have had several models cast and used individually. The gemstones are encrusted in what appears to be a rough bezel setting which is a technique still used today by some designers. The center element uses enamel and the coil design, which is one of the earliest designs in gold.
I love the “now” and being part of an ancient continuum.
I know I’ve published jewelry cleaning tips before, but here are specifics on cleaning diamonds. I publish this with the reminder that clients can bring your diamonds to me for a steam cleaning and prong check every year for no charge. See #5.
1) Dishwashing Soap: This household staple mixed with lukewarm water is perhaps the quickest way to clean your ring. Away from the sink drain, swish the ring in the warm soapy water for a minute. While the ring is wet, use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub underneath the diamond and in the grooves of the setting. Rinse with warm water and dry carefully.
2) Vodka: Yes! Drop your ring into a shot glass filled with a clear hard alcohol like vodka or gin. Allow the ring to soak for several hours. Do not add olives. The ethanol content is a natural solvent that dissolves dirt molecules attached to the diamond. Rinse and dry carefully.
3) Baking Soda: One of the most versatile natural minerals, its chemical properties work wonders to clean hard substances like diamonds. Combine baking soda with water to create a paste. Use a toothbrush to gently scrub the diamond and setting. Rinse thoroughly with warm water. We don’t want any vestiges of baking soda to remain on the metal. This is also a great way to clean silver jewelry.
4) Windex (no bleach-based products!): Restore your diamond's sparkle by soaking it in Windex overnight. Rinse and wear.
5) Every Year: Bring me your important sparklies and let me do a prong check and steam cleaning.
The year-end is a time for reflection and perspective-taking for my personal life and my jewelry business. I’ve just finished my 23rd year in this amazing industry. I’m planning a retrospective of sorts but meanwhile, I wanted to share a few custom projects from 2022.
These projects range from brand new creations using new stones to inherited diamond treasures. There are two photographs in this collage showing large, round, Old European cut diamonds. One of these diamonds was found in a crumpled tissue on her grandmother’s dresser top after she died. Can you imagine? These diamonds are very rare because, although they are old, they are very white and very clean inside, which was uncommon when they were mined and cut in the late 1800’s- early 1900’s. Anyway, rescued from the crumbled tissue, they now reside on a very happy person.
The oval blue pendant framed by diamonds is a Burmese sapphire that is highly brilliant and an amazing combination of royal and peacock blue. This was a delayed birthday gift to self.
The deep green tourmaline cabochon wrapped in 18KT yellow gold and set onto one of my Pure silver bands is a surprise from a loving husband after he saw his wife’s delight over a ring I was wearing.
The multi-stone, rose gold pendant with the luminous pinkish pearl is the result of two years’ worth of design work and collecting stones. This client shares my love of colored gems and over the course of time, had bought all these stones when they appeared as lots I saw along the way. This necklace is made in sections that are flexible, so the whole thing will gently move with her.
The ruby necklace was made for a client who lost the one she bought from me many years ago. We had a lot of fun discussing the new design and I know it is living its best life on an appreciative person.
There are many more that I haven’t shown here. Thank you all so much for allowing me to create enduring pieces on your behalf. I appreciate it more than you know. It is a privilege.
Wishing you all health and serenity, now and in the year to come.
The passing of Britain’s esteemed Queen again raises the issue of who should own the 105-carat Koh-I-Noor diamond that graces the center of the Queen Mother’s Crown. I am quite sure that the diamond will never be removed from the Imperial Crown and handed back to India, but it started me thinking about the spoils of war and seizing prized objects. Is there a statute of limitations after which objects should remain where they are? Is possession really nine-tenths of the law?
Nearly every major country has helped themselves to historical heritage objects from countries we have explored, invaded, or colonized. In current times, provenance is a key topic in museums as they reevaluate collections of significant cultural objects. For instance, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a full-time provenance researcher named Christel Force. She tells us that “provenance is the lives of objects and their owners wrapped into one." She talks about the Nazis looting art and continuing efforts to reunite owners with their works.
But back to the Koh-I-Noor. I’ve attached an article here from the Smithsonian about the Crown Jewel because there is more to this than I can write in a newsletter. You will see that the original “ownership” of this gem is murky, and it was nabbed back and forth in power struggles for many years. I don’t want to spoil the ending, so read on.
You all know I love sapphires. Any color, any shape, as long as they are well cut and refractive.
For quite a while now, I’ve been buying from a Swedish gem group which carefully sources its sapphire material from a small mining village in Sri Lanka. The Swedes have recruited and trained local miners and cutters so they can work together and benefit more directly from selling local material. Each stone is traceable to a particular mine. This amount of transparency may seem a bit quirky, but I love knowing that the stones in my work translate to gain for the hardworking and under-recognized locals. At the wholesale level, I pay a bit more, but I don’t mind. We are getting unheated sapphires in beautiful colors and unusual geometric cuts.
Following are some excerpts from an interview done by the Swedes when asked about their fair trade operation.
“For 14 years, I’ve searched for the most skilled cutters in Sri Lanka and India. Early on, I vetoed India since they are more industrialized, whereas Sri Lankan cutters are usually smaller-scale artisans with family-run operations.
I noticed there was incredible skill hiding among Sri Lankan cutters. My breakthrough came where I offered to pay double the price to a promising Sri Lankan lapidary, but only if they always used ”ideal angles” when cutting. Previously, cutters were making the bottom of the stones bigger to retain more weight. They did this to maximize income, because the cutters were paid per carat. Our new agreement solved this issue and guaranteed us only premium cuts.
When I found an independent stone cutter in the town of Nivithigala name Sampath, I was astonished (as was my extremely picky Cutting Manager here in Sweden). He was using a home-built machine which probably cost about $200 to make (compared to our $5,000+ machine here in Sweden) and his cutting was magnificent.”
How do you Ensure Traceability?
When we started this project, we didn’t know that our cutter in Nivitihigala was such an impressing cutting artist. We originally collaborated with him because he knew numerous miners in the area and could ensure traceability. He would source the rough sapphires from mines in the area, and later transfer the rough sapphires to our regular lapidary closer to the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.
Upon discovering this man’s unparalleled cutting skill, our project turned out even better than we dreamt. Now, both the mining and cutting happen locally in Nivithigala. Even the heat treatments (in the cases where they’re applied) are done by traditional “burners” locally in Nivitihigala. They use old blow-pipe and fire techniques, rather than the electrical furnaces used in the larger processing centers in nearby Rathnapura and Thailand.
How Do Miners Protect the Environment?
Sri Lanka is the world’s oldest and most fabled source of sapphires. In 2000 years of mining, they have developed a system to work with the environment and not against it:
They have learned exactly which plants and wood can be used for building fully water-resistant support for the mine pits. They've perfected this niche of engineering.
Sri Lankan mining has never ruined large areas of rainforest or other valuable biotopes. Instead they dig small pits, oftentimes in rice paddy fields. The idea of massive open-pit mines that scar the land is madness to most Sri Lankans, including the miners themselves.
The land owners are usually deeply involved in the mining operations occurring on their paddy field (traditionally, they’re entitled to a share of the profits). Many of the miners have two jobs. They're farmers during the rainy season and join a mining team during the dry season. Some land owners are even miners themselves. This means they are invested in keeping the land in good condition for their farming operations.
Several of the miners in our project are farmers that dig for sapphires using shallow pits on their own property.
There is so much more to this story, but I’ve already gone too long. I’ve made and sold some recent stone acquisitions but there are more for you. Just give me a call or come visit.
Two weeks ago, we did our annual show at Port Clinton in Highland Park, IL. It was such fun to see so many of you and reunite after three years away. It was also very gratifying to see the citizens of Highland Park come to the town center and support the artists who have traveled long distances to show their beautiful creations. It means everything and allows us to continue doing what we love.
To my existing clients: thank you so much for being collectors. We share so many special occasions and stories and it is an honor to be your jeweler. We’ve renovated and redesigned your heirloom pieces, put old stones into completely new settings, and shared memories of your beloved family members. I hope you continue to share your journey with me.
To my new clients: I thank you for your new purchases and hope you will remember me when you need something special or just because… I do get phone calls asking if you can come over to get some earrings because you just feel like it. As a spontaneous person myself, I love it. Let’s build on our initial contact and create heirloom jewelry for you to wear with everything. “Elegance for Every Day.”
Whether old clients or new, you are why I love my work.
In the icy white North of Greenland lays a cache of red ruby and pink sapphire rough. Formerly covered with ice and now revealed by global warming, this rich red ruby and sapphire deposit is “believed by geologists to be the oldest rock formation on earth,” according to Company exploration reports. The mine in Aaplauttoq, Greenland opened five years ago.
The mining rights are owned by a Norwegian company which is the only group allowed to mine in this delicate area. The local Greenlanders do the mining (35% are women) and reap the benefits of this small and very high-tech operation. Mining standards in Aapaluttoq adhere to the highest health, safety, and environmental requirements and each stone is traceable from mine to market. I can see this because all of the rubies I’ve purchased have code numbers, color grades, and sourcing information. I am thrilled to support this venture because of its environmental standards, traceability, and support of those who work in the field. Plus it’s just fun to have something so relatively rare to put into my work.
Each stone has inclusions characteristic of corundum (ruby and sapphire) and also particular to Greenland. They are heat treated using standard methods.
The prices of these rubies and sapphires are relatively reasonable now and I can offer them to you with that in mind. I’m enthusiastically planning designs now. I have small and larger stones here in various shades of deep red, bright red, magenta, and pink.
Call 312-346-2363 or email me if you want dibs or are just curious. There are quite a few ruby and pink sapphire lovers amongst you.