All About Geodes

Geodes. Aren’t they just the coolest rocks! A hard exterior hiding a surprising center. So, how do they get all pretty like that?

Mini Geode Beads 82


Geodes form in hollow spaces in sedimentary and volcanic rocks. These hollow spaces come from air bubbles that exploded or organic matters that have dissolved over time leaving cavities behind. Over time, a slow feed of mineral rich ground water and hydrothermal solutions allows crystals to form inside the hollow chamber.

Most often you’ll see geodes dissected in half. This shows off the varied stages of precipitation and changes in chemistry which causes the different colorations.

Mini Geodes 316


For example, solutions containing iron oxides will impart a rust hue. But there’s really no way to tell what the inside of a geode will hold until it’s cut open. The geographical location at which they’re found can be a good indication of the coloring inside though.

Left: Janna Conner | Right: Kimberly McDonald

Geodes used for jewelry often come from Mexico because they are the smallest in size. Tabasco Geodes from Mexico come in the most vibrant and varied colors usually with a small rind of agate.

Left: Siam Gem Palace Geode Slices | Right: One King’s Lane

Sometimes you’ll see geodes sliced. But any way you cut it, they’re simply wonders to behold. They really lend a raw beauty to any piece.

Left: Siam Gem Palace Tabasco Geodes | Right: Plukka Jewelry

And the great thing about them is, you can certainly dress ’em up or dress ’em down for any occasion!

All our geodes are natural – no dyes or treatments – as sometimes geodes can be dyed. x

[Image via Siam Gem Palace, Janna Conner, Kimberly McDonald, One King’s Lane, Plukka Jewelry]

Holiday Gift Guide – Vintage French Velvet Ring Box

imageHoliday Gift Guide 2014: 

#2  Vintage French Velvet Ring Box

These ring boxes from The Mrs. Box is just about the prettiest jewelry boxes I’ve ever seen! Made from vintage French velvet, the colors are limited edition.

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Aren’t they just the most precious things? If you’ve been looking for something extra special to store your engagement ring in (or any ring, really), these little darlings with their scrumptious colors should do the trick. And at $75 a pop, you can pick out a few different colors without guilt!

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They can also customize your box with a gold foil monogram for an extra $25. I’m so giddy over these. x

[images via The Mrs. Box]
p.s. This post along with all other posts on my blog are NOT sponsored. I simply pick things I like and things I think you would like without receiving any monetary (or other types) of compensation. If in the future this changes, it will be clearly indicated as such.

OPAL – October Birthstone

You can tell we love opals around here judging from the amount of opals we carry in our store. So, it goes without saying that we’re excited about October; Not only is it the month of Halloween but it’s the month of opals too! Without further ado, let me introduce you to some of the best opal jewelry around today.


Combining high karat gold and eclectic gemstones, Margery Hirschey hits the perfect shabby chic note.



One of the finest art jewelers working in America today, Marianne Hunter accentuates the myriad of colors found in opals alongside her master enamel work.



An Australian native, Katherine Jetter focuses on using opals from her homeland setting them in fanciful mountings dripped in diamonds and gemstones. Her most special pieces are the carved opal petal rings.



Any true jewelry enthusiast has marveled at the beauty and workmanship of the works of 19th century Art Nouveau master René Lalique. Well, Tom Herman is the modern Lalique. Herman’s work evokes the romanticism of that period like no other jeweler working today including his liberal use of opals.



Try your hand at working with one of the most colorful gemstones on Earth. Our opals hail from Australia (Lightning Ridge and Coober Pedy.) Australia is home to the world’s most beautiful opals!


(images via Margery Hirschey, Marianne Hunter, Katherine Jetter, Seven Fingers)

Holiday Gift Guide – No More Tangles!

imageHoliday Gift Guide 2014: 

#1  Lacquer Jewelry Box

I know September hasn’t even ended. Yes, I’m already starting to round up ideas for holiday gifts. Can a girl ever be over prepared? I think not. So here goes the first item in my 2014 Holiday Gift Guide:

This donut shaped lacquer box from UK based Orchid Furniture is pure genius – no more tangled mess when storing necklaces! Based on a traditional Chinese design and hand painted with mythical dragons, it comes in red, gold, green, and black … aaaaaand you can cross four girls off your list. x

[images via Orchid Furniture]
p.s. This post along with all other posts on my blog are NOT sponsored. I simply pick things I like and things I think you would like without receiving any monetary (or other types) of compensation. If in the future this changes, it will be clearly indicated as such.

Keith Richard’s Ring Started It All

stock-vector-human-skull-vintage-illustration-from-meyers-konversations-lexikon-98221466The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

- Ecclesiastes 1:9

In 1978, Courts and Hackett created the iconic skull ring that Keith Richards made infamous. To this day, Keith Richards is never seen without it. It was and is the only one of its kind ever made; Courts and Hackett has said that they will never duplicate it. Recently, they have finally created another version of the ring that is for sale.


Courts and Hackett Skull Ring

Today, skulls are ubiquitous. What was once a symbol of rebellion has become a household motif. The skull as adornment was not new even back in 1978. Before Keith Richards started to wear a skull ring, momento mori had already been “a thing” in Europe for several centuries.image

Victorian Era Momento Mori Death Head Rings

Keith Richard’s ring, however, catapulted the skull ring and other skull jewelry into popular (secular) culture. Today, skull jewelry has gone from being associated mainly with Rock ‘n’ Roll and rebellion, to mainstream, and even the well-heeled. Cases in point:

A few years ago, Victoire de Castellane of Dior Fine Jewelry created a jaw dropping collection of carved gemstone skulls set in elaborate diamond mountings resembling opulent Moghul rulers.


Victoire de Castellane for Dior Fine Jewelry

Then there is Toronto based interior designer turned jeweler Holly Dyment whose enameled and jeweled creations are whimsical and yet resembles the Renaissance Revival master Giuliano with her use of opaque black and white enamel.image

Holly Dyment Jeweled Enamel Rings

The hottest designer au courant is Lynn Ban whose jewels are seen on the likes of Rihanna and Beyoncé. Her skulls are sleek and modern – Darth Vader like.image

Lynn Ban Diamond Skull Rings

Today, the skull has become just another popular design motif like the fleur de lis, or the cross, or the heart . . . but it sure is interesting to think how these symbols came to be. In the case of the skull, I think Keith Richards had a lot to do with popularizing it and incorporating it into popular culture.

Like Rock ‘n’ Roll itself, what once was edgy and synonymous with youth culture, is now fully integrated and being refined. Gone are the days of metal skull t-shirts. It’s a new era of diamond encrusted couture designer skull fine jewelry and objet d’art. x

Louis Vuitton Fluorite Bottle Opener Ring

By the time a trend hits the big designers, especially a global sensation like Louis Vuitton, you can guarantee the trend has been around for a few years.

Take this fluorite crystal ring for example – incorporating raw gemstones / crystals in artisan jewelry has been hugely popular for a while now with the explosion of the DIY / artisan movement. Finally seeing this trend adopted by a name like Louis Vuitton is no surprise.



What intrigues me is always the ability of the global brands to interpret a ‘street’ trend and turn it into something ‘fashion’ with mass appeal like this gold finished bottle opener ring. The double-terminated natural banded fluorite crystal is breath taking in its own right but LV has turned New Age on its head with the opener shape and the logo stamped cuff. And this ring commands its price – $600.00 USD (sold out on LV’s website) which is on the lowest end of their jewelry offerings.

p.s. fluorite is a very soft mineral and is prone to breakage. Setting it horizontally in a ring with the points exposed is usually not a good idea, so if you do get your hands on this ring, be gentle with it!

(image via Harper’s Bazaar)

Gemstone Curtain Finial

Check out this simple DIY from the team at A Beautiful Mess. What a fun and colorful way to add a pop of color to any room!


If that inspires you to deck out your home with more gemstone DIY projects, then how about revisiting these gemstone cluster drawer pulls? x


5 Best Etsy Shops for Engagement Rings (not just diamonds!)

These 5 Etsy sellers make wonderful engagement rings and wedding sets with individual flare that is classic and unique . . . And if you’re iffy about diamonds, all of these sellers offer great alternatives like Moissanite, white topaz, or white sapphire.

1. Kate Szabone

Kate Szabone designs are romantic with a nod to antique stylings but updated with a modern sensibility. If you’re looking for an alternative to diamonds, Kate makes many of her designs with Moissanite in lieu of diamonds.


2. One Stone New York

One Stone New York has a clean and simple aesthetic with just enough of a twist to still make the rings interesting. Again, if you’re looking for an alternative to diamonds, this shop offers designs in white sapphires.


3. Kyle Anne Metals

Kyle Anne Metals has clean and classic designs and settings. What sets these rings apart is the selection of colored diamonds available i.e. black, gray, rust colored diamonds. Kyle Anne Metals also offers Moissanite rings.


4. One Garnet Girl

With a modern and austere aesthetic, One Garnet Girl is for the bold girl looking for a slightly edgy ring. One Garnet Girl offers engagement ring styles in white topaz, a much more affordable (but still very sparkly!) alternative to Moissanite. Or go with something totally different altogether, like amethyst or rutilated quartz. Tip: Do ask about the hardness of a stone and how it will wear as an engagement ring before purchase. Some stones are too fragile to be worn daily.


5. Artëmer

Recently featured on Etsy’s homepage, this couple from Israel is making some gorgeous wedding sets that are on trend yet classic and well made. I love how they have thought about how the wedding band will sit against the engagement ring and have created playful and whimsical sets that look great together.


Fun with JAR

56714e1c640f3d0a3d0abcf9d413d293Joel Arthur Rosenthal, or JAR as he is known to the world, is probably the most illustrious jeweler of our time. Shrouded in an aura of mystery and elusiveness, his pieces are sought after by the most discerning (and monied) collectors worldwide.


Although they are very serious pieces of jewelry owned and worn by the most serious of individuals from royalty, to stateswomen, to international jet-set philanthropists, I can’t help but to see their potential for whimsy.image

The eye-popping colors of the delicious sapphires, garnets, diamonds, and some semi-precious stones make for great visual impact. I used A Beautiful Mess‘ amazing app to create these fun images.image

I like the idea of taking something so precious and mixing it up with a bit of pop art.


I had a lot of fun putting these pictures together. I will probably never own a JAR in my life time but this way, I can still play with all his beautiful jewels.  x

(JAR photos courtesy of Christie’s & FD Gallery, JAR portrait courtesy of

Nak Armstrong – Kaleidoscope Jewels

Looking at Nak Armstrong‘s jewelry is a bit like looking into a kaleidoscope. His use of geometric shapes and colors create a fantasy world of sparkle that is somehow other-worldly yet familiar.


His use of rectangular, triangular, square, and tapered gems allow him to create gorgeous and intricate patterns. This Texas designer doesn’t shy away from colors, patterns or shapes! I love that he uses mostly colored gemstones with small diamonds only as accents.


He also rarely uses any calibrated stones which lend his creations a one-of-a-kind feeling.



Nak definitely has his own unique aesthetic – such an important quality to possess as a designer. The ability to communicate a consistent feeling or idea yet churning out new designs all the time.




Hats off to Nak and all designers who continue to wow us with their creativity and fresh approach to gems! x


Want to try your hand at using some geometric gems to arrange an interesting pattern? Check out these beauties in our store.

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Photomicrography: Capturing the Unseen

You can discover an entire cosmos within a piece of quartz, for example, by observing their inclusions. The formations and geological histories of each stone can sometimes be seen under a microscope.


Danny J Sanchez, a native Los Angelino, has mastered the art of photomicrography. Using focus stacking, the wonders inside minerals are captured brilliantly and artfully. negative-crystal-in-spinel_905

What can be seen are minerals within other minerals, or more hauntingly, the negative spaces left by ‘ghost’ crystals long departed but which have left their indelible impressions.muscovite-in-qtz_905

One might even see petroleum captured inside a piece of quartz as both materials formed simultaneously under the Earth. How fascinating it is to look at things under magnification.

Artists like Danny J Sanchez and Rose-Lynn Fisher whose latest series called Topography of Tears in which she photographs dried human tears in different states of emotions (Above: Tears of Timeless Reunion. Below: Tears of Change) reminds us that there is a whole other world which exists that we can’t see.fisher_tearsofchange

Examining images like these seem to slow down time – fascinating to think that one took millions of years to form while the other took but a few seconds in a fleeting state of human emotion – yet both share similarities in motifs.

For me, it’s yet another reminder that we (and everything we know) are all made up of the same stuff.

(images via Danny J Sanchez and Rose-Lynn Fisher)

3D Printing Pen: Draw in the Air

Imagine the possibility of this for jewelry making!


Made with LIX


If you read my post on the lost-wax / casting process often used in jewelry making, you too will be pretty excited about these little 3D pens . . . that’s because virtually anyone can now make their own model for casting.


Made with 3doodler


Model-making can be as easy as doodling in the air. I can’t wait for more varieties of pen tips and better control of thicknesses to come out. Guess what I’m getting myself for Christmas?

Made with LIX

Made with LIX

See how they work:

(images via LIX and 3doodler)






Diamond Lights


c70ef3e58cfc7859a8e87b33182f1dd3In need of a pick-me-up for your apartment? Try a diamond light bulb by Swedish designer Eric Therner. This household item was way overdue for a makeover and I couldn’t have thought of a better idea myself . . . and love the packaging too!

Try screwing them into different metals for various effects. I like the copper fitting the best. What about you?

diamond_light_1(images via,

DIY Gem Pop-Up Card

imageWhat is better than getting Snail Mail . . . getting Snail Mail with a homemade card inside, of course. Kate over at has done it again! Check out her DIY gem pop-up card tutorial here (with gemstone templates included!) Her projects are  simple and brilliant with always amazing results. Most importantly, they won’t take you all day. Yay!! for little projects with a big impact! Ok, now, where’s my X-Acto knife?

How To Save Cash When Engagement Ring Shopping

Over the years, I’ve helped a lot of people with buying their engagement ring – from complete strangers, to family to friends and friends of friends. Everyone has a different budget and style and I love working with each couple (or sometimes just the nervous groom-to-be) to figure out what would work best for them.


Cathy Waterman Diamond Engagement Rings

Here’s some important information you should know and tips on how to save your hard-earned cash when you’re in-the-know of some diamond trade secrets! Continue reading

How We Made This Diamond Serpent Ring

Have you ever wondered how a piece of jewelry is made? The most widely used method of jewelry production is the lost-wax casting method. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how we made this diamond serpent ring.


First, we begin with sketches and/or photos. Sketches and photos depicting many  different angles and perspectives of the design are essential to capture the design accurately. Continue reading

Irish Crochet Jewelry

Irish crochet is one of the most beautiful forms of needlework and lace-making. It has a three-dimensionality to it that other laces just don’t have. For this reason, it also lends itself really well to jewelry-making.



One of the biggest challenges in incorporating crochet in jewelry is not to let it get too ‘precious’ or ‘granny’. Balancing the delicate floral motifs with a modern sensibility is key. Continue reading

Metallic Butterfly Chrysalis

Nature is endlessly fascinating . . . If you’re stuck in a creative rut, simply go outside and look around you! Take, for example, the Metallic Mechanitis Butterfly Chrysalis from Costa Rica:

(Mechanitis is a genus of tigerwing (ithomiine) butterflies, named by Fabricius in 1807. They are in the brush-footed butterfly family, Nymphalidae) Continue reading


300209_10150329498683756_2015288114_nThe beetle been a source of inspiration for jewelers since early civilization and they continue to fascinate today with modern masters like Wallace Chan reinterpreting this art form with jaw-droppingly gorgeous results.

Continue reading


Jemma Wynne

Jemma Wynne

Tourmaline is one of October’s birthstones. This gemstone is so versatile and comes in so many amazing colors and combinations of colors. Here are some eye-popping tourmalines to feast on for this last week of October! Continue reading

All About Opal

“And lo! the beautiful opal – That rare and wondrous gem – Where the Moon and Sun blend into one is the child that was born to them.” – poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox


Marianne Hunter Kabuki Kachina brooch utilizing several different types of opals with gold and enamel

Continue reading

OPAL QUEEN – Irene Neuwirth

Opal has always been one of my personal favorite gemstones. Truly, no other gem rivals the magnificent play-of-color displayed on a fine opal.

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When it comes to current designers, there is only one, Irene Neuwirth, that utilizes this gem to its full potential. Continue reading

Tony Duquette – Papa Peridot

tony duquetteWhenever I think about this month’s birthstone, peridot, I always think of Tony Duquette. He really was the first to have used this unique stone so frequently often pairing it with other unlikely stars like coral, fluorite, black pearls, sphene and amethyst; bringing semi-precious stones into the limelight. Using these materials may seem common place today, but during his time, and for a high society tastemaker like Duquette, it was bold. Continue reading

Game of Thrones: Jewels Imagined

Who doesn’t like diamond daggers, golden dragons, and thorny tiaras? Long before Game of Thrones, jewelers were already making such fantastical baubles. Here are just a few pieces I think would look amazing on Daenerys Targaryen.


Joanna Szkiela Twig and Runes Rings, Stephen Webster Zultanite and Diamond Earrings & Diamond Thorn Tiara, Loree Rodkin Diamond Knuckle Rings. 

And for pieces actually inspired by Game of Thrones, check out these babies from


The Sparkling Sea

With heat waves descending all across the U.K. and the U.S., the thought of idling by the sea is a most welcome thought . . . Imagine how exciting it would be to discover any of these sparkly creatures at the beach! I get dibs on the rock crystal Cartier nautilus!

1st row – Tiffany & Co. crab brooch, crab earrings, octopus brooch

2nd row – Jacob & Co., Stephen Webster, Sorab & Roshi

3rd row – unknown, 1960s Seaman Scheppsunknown

4th row – 1950s Cartier France, contemporary Fabergé, 1980s Bulgari

5th row – Wartski, unknown, Cartier New York 1930s

6th row – unknown, 1980s Italian, unknown

Master de la Mer – Jean Schlumberger

The sea has always been a subject of fascination for jewelers.

From the strange sinuous creatures that bob along the sea floor; to the countless varieties of bug-eyed, cartoon-lipped fishes; to the beautiful forms and colors swaying gently, dancing, to an inaudible beat; the mystery of the sea has inspired generations of jewelers to capture its ephemeral beauty.

The most successful at this daunting endeavor, in my opinion, is Jean Schlumberger designing for Tiffany & Co. in the 1950s and 1960s.


The challenge for jewelers and sculptors was always, and will always be, how to convey movement, light, and life using rigid materials like marble, metal, or gemstone.

In the jellyfish brooch, Schlumberger solves this problem beautifully. The use of blue moonstones on the ‘head’ give off a luminous transparency allowing the viewer to feel as if they were underwater swimming along side this magnificent creature. The articulated ‘tentacles’ made of gold tubes provide movement to an otherwise rigid object.

What makes Jean Schlumberger’s designs unforgettable and different from his contemporaries is that he manages to freeze creatures in mid-stride; capturing all their glory, light and life.

To read a short biography and learn more about Jean Schlumberger, go here and here.

(images via Sotheby’s, Primavera Gallery, Voguepedia)


The Black Prince’s Ruby

The Black Prince’s Ruby sits in the main regalia of the Imperial State Crown atop the 317-carat Cullinan II Diamond. This strange looking red gem is actually a 107-carat spinel and not a ruby at all. It is one of the largest spinels to have ever been found. To find out why it’s called a ruby and not a spinel, see yesterday’s post.


The Imperial State Crown in its current form mounted with The Black Prince’s Ruby in the main regalia.

Since the 14th century, this red gem has passed through the hands of many a European royalty. Its recorded history tells countless tales of battle, betrayal, and intrigue between the rulers and monarchies of Spain, England, France and Scotland over a period of more than seven hundred years beginning in the middle ages all the way up to today. Currently, when not in use, the Imperial State Crown mounted with The Black Prince’s Ruby can be viewed at the Jewel House in the Tower of London.

Text Excerpted from

Murder and Betrayal

The stone was almost certainly mined in the Indian subcontinent, the only part of the world that produced rubies (and spinels) in ancient times. It made its first appearance in the historical record in the 14th century when it was recorded in the possession of the Sultan of Granada, the last Muslim outpost in Spain. At the time Granada was being gradually re-conquered by the Christian Kingdom of Castile, led by King Pedro the Cruel. The Sultan, Abu Said, also known as Mohammed V, organized a meeting with Pedro in 1362 to discuss peace at which he was accompanied by a large retinue of servants. On arrival to the meeting on Castillan lands, Pedro had all of Abu Said’s servants killed, and then had Abu Said stabbed to death. Legend says that Pedro performed the dark deed himself and that on searching the dead body afterwards he found the precious ruby that the sultan always carried with him. From here on, the ruby embarked on a dark journey through the Medieval period when it brought misfortune or death to most of its owners.


Cursed by the ruby for his black deed, Pedro soon found himself under attack by his half brother, Henry of Trastamara, who declared war upon him for the throne of Castile. Desperate for help, Pedro appealed for support to the greatest knight in Christendom, Edward the Black Prince (1330-1376), who just happened to be stationed in nearby France governing the English lands won during the Hundred Years’ War. Since medieval knights were just as passionate about profit as they were about chivarly, Edward agreed to help Pedro in return for appropriate financial rewards.

The Black Prince and Pedro’s forces defeated Henry of Trastamara’s army at the Battle of Najera in 1367, and Edward’s immediate reward upon the victory was Pedro’s precious ruby. Much more remuneration should have followed, but King Pedro claimed bankruptcy and the ruby ended up being the only precious thing Edward brought back from his mercenary campaign in Spain. True to the ruby’s medieval curse, he also brought back the mysterious slow disease that killed him 9 years later. Also, after his victory Pedro was conquered by his brother, and was killed by him three years later.

Battles and Depositions

The Black Prince, firstborn of King Edward III, became the first English owner of the stone which is why the ruby is known by his name today. Once back in England he deposited it with the rest of the English Crown Jewels. Edward died of his disease before he could inherit the throne, and the ruby passed to his son, King Richard II (r.1377-1399). He was later deposed and murdered by Henry IV Bolinbroke, the first of the Lancastrian kings, who was himself also to suffer an agonizing death by a mysterious disease. The ruby then passed to his son, King Henry V, who alone seemed to have reaped good luck from it, though only just.

Left – Portrait of Henry V. Right – Battle of Agincourt

Henry V (r.1413-1422) is said to have worn the ruby on his crowned helmet during the Battle of Agincourt, in October 1415, during which he almost lost his life. In the heat of battle, the French knights surged towards the English front line and wounded Henry’s brother, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Henry came to his brother’s aid and straddled his wounded body while fending off attacks, and at this point a French knight tried to strike Henry down with a battle axe. The blow managed to hack off part of Henry’s crowned helmet with the ruby on it, and only a quick response from other English knights saved Henry’s life. It is said that the ruby fell and was lost in the mud of the field and was only brought back to Henry some time later by a French knight, who was rewarded for his deed with imprisonment by a still resentful Henry. Henry himself died later of dysentery at the height of his conquest of France in 1422.

The ruby’s history for the rest of the medieval period is more shady but still enmeshed in battle. A legend says that during the Wars of the Roses King Henry VI (r.1422-1461) took it with him to the battle of Hexham, where Henry barely escaped with his life, and that after the battle the ruby was taken from Henry’s abandoned encampment and brought to Edward IV who first wore it at York—however nothing of this is certain. A similar legend gives that Richard III (r.1483-1485) wore it on his crowned helmet during the Wars of the Roses’ last battle at Bosworth Field in 1485, and that it was this crowned helmet that was picked up from a bush after the battle and offered to Henry VII, the first of the Tudors. This however seems unlikely since there is no contemporary evidence that the ruby was present at this battle.

The End Of Curses?

Elizabeth I (the Hardwick House portrait) 1592 or c. 1599-01

Portrait of Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) by Nicholas Hilliard. 

By the end of the Medieval period the ruby seemed to have spent its destructive power, and it was inherited by the Tudors who made a more peaceful, ceremonial use of it. It was perhaps worn by Henry VIII (r.1509-1547) at his coronation when he wore a ‘great bauderike about his neck of great balasses’, that is ‘a great collar filled with great rubies around his neck’ (perhaps the ruby was hung from the existing hole in the stone). The ruby then seems to have been set apart again during the late Tudor period. In 1564 Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603) received the Scottish ambassador, Sir James Melville, to discuss a possible marriage between Mary Queen of Scots and the Earl of Leicester. The ambassador wrote that the Queen took him to her privy chamber and showed him ‘a fair ruby, great like a racket ball.’ The ambassador asked her to send the ruby to Mary as a token of friendship, as well as the Earl of Leicester’s miniature. Elizabeth replied that if Queen Mary would follow her counsels ‘she would get them both in time, and all she had’. The Black Prince’s Ruby did not acquire its nickname until the Victorian era and it is well possible, given its size, that it was it that was mentioned by Melville.


Mary, Queen of Scots (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587) by an unknown artist.

Mary Queen of Scots never got the ruby or Leicester, but the stone did pass to her son King James I when the Stuarts inherited the English throne in 1603. The ruby’s capacity to bring misfortune seems to have been reawakened by the haughty Stuarts. James’ son Charles I (r.1625-1649) was executed during the Civil War, after which the old Crown Jewels were destroyed or sold. There is a record from the sale of the jewels in 1649 of a great ‘Rock Ruby’ that was sold for £15. It was apparently bought by a jeweller who resold it to Charles II (r. 1660-1685) when the monarchy was restored in 1660. Charles’ brother, James II (r.1685-1688), was the last monarch to be cursed by the stone when he placed it at the front of the refashioned Imperial State Crown at his coronation in 1685 (there is no evidence that the ruby was ever mounted on the previous Tudor Imperial State Crown). Three years after his coronation, James lost his kingdom and flew into exile. 

Queen Elizabeth II wearing the Imperial State Crown in her coronation portrait and at a recent royal ceremony.

The Hanoverians suffered no curse from the ruby, and perhaps it has to do with the way they placed it in their Imperial State Crown, which was refashioned after George I (r.1714-1727) inherited the throne. Curiously, the ruby seems to have been placed upside down at the front, with the bulbous part on the bottom, the only time it was ever placed this way on the Imperial State Crown. About 130 years later, the stone was reversed to its normal position when the crown was rebuilt for Queen Victoria in 1837, and the ruby has remained at the front of the crown is this manner ever since. By Victoria’s time, the hole in the stone had also been filled with the tiny ruby.


The last three Imperial State Crowns: George I’s on the left, Victoria’s in the middle, and the present Crown on the right. You will notice that the mould for the Black Prince’s Ruby is reversed on George I’s crown.


Ruby vs. Spinel

The Black Prince’s Ruby now mounted in the British Imperial State Crown above the large Cullinan Diamond is, in fact, not a ruby at all. It is a spinel.

Up until the 19th century, ruby and red spinel were thought to be the same mineral and with good cause. The chemical composition, color, hardness, and general appearance of a red spinel can be deceptively similar to ruby. Without special equipment, it is difficult to tell them apart. However, one major difference between the two is that ruby is doubly refractive while spinel is singly refractive.

Left – Very fine ‘pigeon blood’ Mozambique Ruby displaying violet fluorescence and silk. Right – Average quality spinel from Vietnam

What does that mean?

When light enters a doubly refractive gem, the light is split in two with each beam traveling at a different speed. The difference in speed in the two beams is known as “birefringence.” The bigger the birefringence, the easier it is to detect that a stone is doubly refractive. In some highly doubly refractive stones, like zircon, you will feel like you’re seeing double when looking into the stone – you will see two sets of facet junctions and internal characteristics.


Zircon showing ‘doubling’ effect caused by high birefringence

All corundum (sapphires and rubies) are doubly refractive but with a relatively low birefringence. Herein lies the reason why the ancients always considered spinel and ruby to be the same – they did not have the technology needed to detect this small difference in light speed.

Today, it is relatively easy to detect double refraction. Using a polarizing filter, double refraction is clearly seen by turning the filter 90 degrees.

In my opinion, spinels have long been the ‘underdog’ of gems because of its constant comparison to ruby (this post included!)

Bearing the reputation of having been the culprit in a case of mistaken identity involving a large and famous crown jewel passed through the hands of many a royalty, spinel has never recovered.

Some spinels are truly spectacular in their own right. Like a special shade of neon-like red called ‘open red’ (the most desirable of the red shades) and a shade of neon pink with a tinge of orange.

Left – ‘open red’ spinel. Right – neon pink with orange spinel

Compare the above spinels (here we go again, with the comparisons!) with a finer color ruby on the market below and you’ll see why spinels shouldn’t be overlooked! Pound for pound, in terms of color, a spinel can rival that of a much more costly ruby.









The Biggest Pearl in the World

Legend has it, in 1934, a young Muslim boy pearl-diving off the coast of Palawan Island of the Philippines made an amazing discovery. The boy, on his maiden diving trip, saw a humongous pearl inside a giant clam; when he went to retrieve it, the shell closed on him, drowning him.

The other members of his boat tried to save him but it was too late by the time they managed to pull him aboard. When they opened the hand on his lifeless body, they discovered he held the biggest pearl to have ever been found.

Today, almost a century later, no other pearl has yet to beat the record of this giant weighing in at a little more than 14 pounds (6.4 kg) and measuring 9.45 inches (24 cm).


Interestingly, this pearl is not considered a ‘pearl’ at all by many due to its non-nacreous quality which means it does not exhibit the iridescence pearls are known for.

The interior of a giant clam has no nacre (mother of pearl.) Instead, it is porcellaneous, like a china plate hence the appearance of this strange looking ‘pearl.’

In 1939, the pearl was bought by an American named Wilburn Cobb who told several versions of the pearl’s origins. Cobb, at first, told a story of saving a tribal chief’s son from malaria in the Philippines and was given it as a token of gratitude. The pearl was known as the Pearl of Allah at this time because of its resemblance to the turbaned head of the Prophet Muhammad.

Later in 1969, Cobb began recounting an amended version of the story by saying he met a Chinese man named Li at a Ripley’s Museum exhibition in 1939 (where the pearl was on display) who claimed to be a direct descendent of the Chinese sage Lao Tzu. The man told him the pearl was at first grown in a much smaller clam around a jade amulet carved with the faces of Buddha, Confucious and Lao Tzu. The amulet was inserted by a disciple of Lao Tzu over 2,500 years ago following his master’s instructions. The pearl was supposed to symbolize the three different philosophies living in harmony. The pearl was then moved to larger and larger clams over the centuries due to its size. It is alleged that wars have been fought over the artifact and Li’s family sent it (still inside the clam) to the Philippines for safe-keeping in 1750 where it was lost in a storm off the coast of Palawan Island.

Phew! Sounds like the plot of a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road to …”  movie. Well, whatever the truth is to this pearl, it sure is fascinating stuff! And technically, it is the largest pearl ever found still, to this day.

Lalique’s Favorites: Moonstones

The Romans believed moonstones were crystalized moon-rays; one look at them and you’ll know why.

This ethereal mineral has a glow akin to the subtle light emitted by the moon. Known as adularescence, this phenomenon is unique to moonstones.

Not considered a ‘precious stone’, moonstones were almost ideal for René Lalique. Known for his use of non-precious materials like horn, glass, and enamel, Lalique used them frequently in his work  . . . enhancing their romantic quality with his sinuous Art Nouveau lines.

Perhaps the most well-known example of Lalique’s incorporation of moonstones is a corsage ornament known as the Dragonfly Woman. This iconic piece illustrates everything that is Lalique . . . the insect-themed female figure, the exquisite carving, the organic lines, the delicate enameling and the use of opals and moonstones – two of Lalique’s favorite gemstones – it seems he had a penchant for ‘blue’ stones.


Dragonfly woman corsage ornament. Rene Lalique (1860-1945). Gold, enamel, chrysoprase, moonstones, and diamonds, 23 x 26.5cm (9 x 10 3/8”)1897 – 1898. 

Dragonfly woman has been housed at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon since 1908.


Bats and butterflies pocket watch. Rene Lalique (1860-1945) Ca. 1899-1900. Gold, enamel, moonstone.

“Of gilt-finished jewelled lever movement, the openface pocketwatch of circular outline with blued-steel moon-style hands and applied black enamelled Arabic numerals, against the gold ground accented by blue and white enamelled fluttering butterflies, within a polished gold case, the reverse depicting numerous flying purplish blue enamelled bats, with scattered moonstone accents, further embellished by a sculpted gold serpent bow.”

thistle_Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

Thistle pendant. Rene Lalique (1860-1945) Ca. 1898-1900. Gold, glass, enamel, moonstone, sapphires, diamonds. Housed at Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon 

lalique moonstone tortoiseshell tiara comb rene art crown diadem

Horn and Moonstone tiara.


Enamel Peacock and Moonstone Brooch. Below: Seahorse and Moonstone Brooch. Lalique.


MOONSTONE. Green. RARe. Natural Stunners. Quality Smooth Oval Cabochon. 1 pc. 5.85 cts. 10.5x12.5mm (MS205) $24.99

MOONSTONE. Green. RARe. Natural Stunners. Quality Smooth Oval Cabochon. 1 pc. 5.85 cts. 10.5×12.5mm (MS205) $24.99


BLUE MOONSToNE. SuPERB INcREDiBLE Quality. RARe. Natural Stunners. Smooth Oval Cabochon. 1 pc. 3.75 cts. 8×10 x6mm (MS216) $89.99


BLUE and RAiNBOW MOONSToNE. SuPERB INcREDiBLE Quality. RARe. Natural Stunners. Smooth ROUnD Cabochon. 3 pc. 5.65 cts. 7×9 and 6mm (MS218) $89.99

RAiNBOW MOONSTONE. SuPERB INcREDiBLE Quality. RARe. Natural Stunners. Smooth Oval Cabochon. 1 pc. 4.55 cts. 8.5x12x6mm (MS190) $126.99

RAiNBOW MOONSTONE. SuPERB INcREDiBLE Quality. RARe. Natural Stunners. Smooth Oval Cabochon. 1 pc. 4.55 cts. 8.5x12x6mm (MS190) $126.99

Sapphire Engagement Rings

Are you a bride-to-be who feel a diamond just isn’t your style? Rather than going ringless, have you considered sapphires?

– 4 reasons why sapphires make great engagement rings – 

{1} Sapphires belong to the mineral species corundum. Corundum is the second hardest mineral on Earth next to diamond.

{2} Sapphires come in all colors of the rainbow so there’s bound to be a shade that will set your heart a flutter.

{3} You’ll be the girl that went her own way . . . having a ring that is different than 99% of what’s out there . . . well now, that’s unique!

{4} The methods of mining sapphires (in most cases) are less intrusive and damaging to the environment.

McTeigue & McClelland ‘Blossom’ ring, Cathy Waterman purple sapphire ring, The Natural Sapphire Company pink sapphire ring

– Considerations when shopping for a sapphire –


Color is the single most important factor when choosing a sapphire. You could go with a traditional blue sapphire or choose something pretty like a light pink or bold like a golden yellow because the color choices are virtually endless. Or how about a ruby? Belonging to the corundum family, a ruby is basically a red sapphire.

The most desirable shade of blue in sapphire is given the moniker cornflower blue because of its resemblance to the brightly hued flower. Or, for something exotic, there is a rare shade of orange-pink known as the padparadscha sapphire (Sanskrit word for the lotus flower); this warm glowing color is extremely unique and totally unmistakable. If red is your thing, then, the best shade for ruby is known in the trade as pigeon blood (yuck! who came up with that name?) but it refers to a special shade of deeply saturated red that has a slight tint of a violet/blue fluorescence.

Padparadscha sapphire and diamond ring courtesy of Bonham’s, Kamofie yellow sapphire solitaire, at, NIXIN ruby and gold ring on Etsy.


Unlike diamonds, sapphires do not have a standardized clarity grading system. Although a totally clean, superb color rare sapphire or ruby can command as much as a diamond or more in terms of price per carat, the clarity of most sapphires and rubies are seen as a distant second in comparison to color when evaluating them. In fact, some inclusions are seen as a ‘good’ thing – some inclusions indicate that the stone is natural (not man-made or treated to improve its appearance.)

Case in point, very fine silk-like rutile inclusions give sapphires and rubies a velvety appearance. This, combined with a saturated/bright color, is very desirable and can command high prices. The presence of ‘silk’ indicates that the sapphire or ruby in question is completely natural – without even heat treatment – because when heated, the ‘silk’ will disappear.


Bulgari 19.27 carat sugarloaf sapphire ring.


When cutting sapphires from rough material, the first consideration is how to release the beauty of its color. Because sapphires are doubly refractive (different colors are displayed from different viewing angles), the cutter’s first decision is from which angle the stone should be viewed and then he/she will cut accordingly so that the stone can put its proverbial ‘best foot forward.’

The thought process is totally different from that of cutting diamonds. In diamond cutting, often, the first priority is to save weight. The bigger the resulting diamond, the more money the cutter can command. Next, a diamond cutter will consider the inclusions – trying to strike a perfect balance between quality, size and proportion. Often, he/she has to do this within the confines of producing a round brilliant cut stone, as this is the most popular shape and hence the most sellable.


Native cut no heat / no treatment 100% natural bi-color sapphires.

Because inclusions are not viewed as necessarily bad in sapphires, sapphire cutters are more free to experiment with shapes and faceting styles. When it comes to transparent sapphires, the most common cut is referred to as ‘native cut.’ This is a loose term – many stones with slight variations in faceting can all be called ‘native cut.’ Native cut can be round, oval, cushion, or even freeform shaped. Often, these stones have a shallow crown and 4-sided rectangular facets on the pavilion.

While having a deep pavilion is seen as a bad thing in diamonds (due to the entrapment of light), it is often necessary in sapphires. Having the depth at the bottom of the stone helps give the sapphire a more even and saturated color.

Cabochons with a high dome will often have a much more saturated color as in the sugarloaf sapphire above.


The specific color and types of inclusions present in a sapphire or ruby can be a really good indicator of its origin. Historically, certain locales are known to produce the best quality sapphires and rubies (i.e. Kashmir sapphires and Burmese rubies) and having the provenance can raise the price of a stone tremendously. Today, there are many high quality sapphires that come out of Africa and Madagascar. Thailand was a large source a few decades ago but is now mainly a trading hub.

Unlike the diamond industry, the sapphire trade isn’t tightly controlled and dominated by large corporations, meaning there are lots of small businesses, mom-and-pops and even individuals all over the world that participate in the process of bringing the stones to market from gathering rough material (often from alluvial deposits) to cutting and polishing to trading. The entire industry has more of a ‘cottage’ feel to it compared to that of diamonds and semi-precious stones which are often cut and manufactured in large factories all over the world.


Flux-healed rose cut ruby.


If treatments are disclosed and the sapphires or rubies properly priced, treated stones can be a wonderful option for buyers.


Less waste. Materials that would have been discarded can now be used. Think of treatments as upcycling . . . the processes take previously unusable material and make them usable. From a waste and environment point of view, this is great news.

Great value. With treated sapphires and rubies, you get good color and clarity for a fraction of the price.

Creativity. Because they’re not as highly priced as natural sapphires, designers and fabricators can be more creative with their uses and feel more free with designs and settings.

In reality, only a tiny fraction of sapphires on the market today are completely 100% natural without any treatment. 99% have at least been heated.

Heat  The most basic and common treatment is by heat. The color of a sapphire can be improved greatly by simple heating. This treatment is done to almost all sapphires on the market and the results are harmless and permanent. Unless otherwise specifically stated, you should assume your sapphire has been heated.

Flux Flux healing is a treatment that improves the clarity of sapphires and rubies. Fractures and surface reaching inclusions can be ‘healed’ by applying a slurry (known as ‘flux’) along with heat that lowers the natural melting point of corundum whereby the fractures self-heal and re-crystalize after cooling. Sometimes filling agents with a similar refractive index to corundum is added to the slurry to aid the process and provide material.

Glass Filled – This is a treatment that is usually only done to rubies. Fractures and surface reaching inclusions are ‘filled’ with a material that has a similar refractive index to corundum, most commonly, lead glass. Glass in powder form is heated with the stone; the glass powder becomes molten and flows into the fractures thus filling them in and improving clarity.

Diffusion – This is a process in which sapphires are heated to near its melting point while introducing color-inducing elements (titanium or beryllium) which penetrate or diffuse some distance into the stones. Previously, this treatment only affected a thin layer on the surface of the stone. So, if the stone is chipped or re-polished, the original color is seen.


Native cut beryllium diffusion sapphires.

With the use of beryllium, color can now go deep into the stone. Beryllium atoms can squeeze in between the aluminum and oxygen atoms (chemical composition of corundum: Al2O3) and penetrate quite deeply. This is different than other treatments because it has more to do with actually changing the chemical composition of the stone rather than simply ‘filling’ or ‘healing’. Sapphires that were too dark or too pale, after undergoing diffusion, can be a bright orange, yellow, red, green and blue.

Diffusion is a safe and permanent treatment. The color does not fade over time and is not affected when working with the stone (e.g. heat from the torch or ultrasonic cleaning.)


Some sapphires exhibit unusual phenomenons such as asterism and color-change.


100% natural no heat / no treatment black star sapphire.

Asterism (i.e. star sapphire) occurs when extremely fine internal rutile needles line up perpendicularly inside the stone. If the stone is cut properly (only cabochons can show asterism), a star on the surface is displayed. Asterism can only be seen when the sapphire has had no heat. Although there are synthetics (most well-known are Linde Stars) and also diffusion treated star sapphires.


100% natural color-change sapphires.

Sapphires can also ‘color-change’, meaning, they can go from one color to another when viewed under different lighting conditions.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest in the wonderful world of sapphires . . . truly, they are a fascinating gemstone and their beauty and variety is unmatched. If you’re looking for an alternative to a diamond, a sapphire should be top on your list!


Favrile Glass: Louis Comfort Tiffany

Louis Comfort Tiffany

Louis Comfort Tiffany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Favrile glass is a type of iridescent art glass invented and patented by Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany & Co.

First patented in 1894 and produced in 1896, Favrile glass was unique because the color was ingrained in the glass itself, as well as having distinctive coloring.

The trade name Favrile is derived from an Old English word, fabrile, meaning hand-wrought or handcrafted.

A highly difficult and sometimes dangerous process, Favrile glass is made by treating molten glass with metallic oxides that absorbed into the glass and created a luxurious iridescent effect.

In addition to art glass, Louis Comfort Tiffany produced other items like inkstands, humidors and even jewelry.

Of course, the focus of Tiffany’s pieces were usually the beautiful glass work, but I really enjoy looking at the gilt-bronze metal work in some of his larger pieces like the desk lamps and chandeliers.

For more details on Tiffany’s life, Corona NY studio, and old photos of his home, studio and workers, visit Michaans auction house, that recently had a major Louis Comfort Tiffany sale.

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(images via Michaans)

Emeralds through the Ages

Emeralds were beloved by many ancient rulers . . . from Cleopatra to Nero to Shah Jahan . . . they each shared a love for this incomparable gem.

The color of a fine emerald is mesmerizing with its varying shades of rich green (colored by chromium and vanadium). In fact, Nero is said to have watched the gladiators through a piece of transparent emerald because he found the color calming.

To this day, emeralds are still considered one of the most precious of gems. Here are some pieces ranging from ancient to modern, showcasing each of the major periods in jewelry history below.

From left to right:

1) Ancient Roman jewelry set with emeralds

2) The Mogul Emerald (1695-1696 AD)

3) Marcus & Co. 19th century necklace c. 1880

4) Victorian garland brooch c. 1850-1870

5) Victorian diamond and emerald brooch c. 1880

6) Egyptian revival scarab brooch c. 1890

7) Egyptian revival carved emerald brooch c. 1890

8) Russian emerald and diamond earrings c. 1890

9) Art Nouveau emerald and diamond dress ring c. 1900

10) Art Deco emerald and diamond ring c. 1920

11) Art Deco emerald sugarloaf cabochon ring c. 1920

12) Art Deco emerald and diamond bracelet c. 1915

13) Retro emerald and gold bracelet c. 1940

14) Mid-Century Mauboussin emerald and diamond brooch c. 1960

16) 1960’s Buccellati bangle c. 1960

17) 1970’s Trudel Modernist emerald and diamond ring c. 1970

18) 1980’s Boucheron emerald and diamond ring c. 1980

19) Contemporary Alexandra Mor emerald and diamond ring c. 2010

(images via here, herehere, and here)

Weekend Project: S-Hook Clasp

The S-Hook clasp has been around since antiquity and is one of the easiest clasps to make. With a minimal of tools, you can create custom S-Hooks and give your pieces a unique, handmade appeal . . .

You’ll need:

  • Wire (gauge depends on the desired size and effect of the clasp but you should practice by making bigger ones first, so 18 gauge is a good starting point)
  • Raw hide mallet
  • Chasing hammer
  • Steel hammering block

Now watch this excellent video from Art Jewelry Magazine.

Ok. So you’ve made the S-Hook. But it’s not a clasp until you make the jump ring that will go on the other side. Making jump rings is a simple procedure requiring, really, only three tools. Remember that the jump ring has to fit through the S-Hook you’ve just made, so choose wire gauge and dowel size accordingly.

You’ll Need:

  • Wire
  • Round dowels (pens, sharpies, etc. will do the trick)
  • Wire clippers

Now, watch this video by

It’s that simple, folks! Make your own S-Hook Clasps this weekend!

Acrostic Jewelry: Spelling with Gems

Victorian jewelry is filled with sentimentality. Think of all the trinkets worn to remember a loved one like lockets, portrait rings, hair jewelry, mourning jewelry, lover’s eye jewelry, and memento mori.

Well, here is another, acrostic jewelry.

I especially like acrostic jewelry because it uses gemstones to spell out a romantic phrase or word.

Georgian 'dearest' ring. c. 1820 via The Spare Room Antique Jewelry.

Georgian ‘dearest’ ring. c. 1820 via The Spare Room Antique Jewelry

Basically, you use the first letter of a gem to spell out a word or message.

Here are some popular ones:

REGARD: Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, Diamond

ADORE: Amethyst, Diamond, Opal, Ruby, Emerald

FOREVER: Fire Opal, Opal, Ruby, Emerald, Vermeil*, Emerald, Ruby

LOVE ME: Lapis, Opal, Vermeil, Emerald, Moonstone, Emerald

DEAREST: Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, Topaz

*Vermeil is a word that was used for garnet. It stands for V or J in acrostic jewelry.

The idea of acrostic jewelry was first introduced by a French jeweler, Mellerio, in 1809, so technically this trend started in the Georgian era and carried on well into the Victorian era. You will also find French acrostic jewelry spelling out French words like Amitié, Amour, Je t’aime, and Souvenir since it all started in France!


Thought I’d try my hand at coming up with some of my own more ‘modern’ sentiments with our own gemstones – using the list provided by Jewelry Making Daily made it real easy!






Cheated a little bit with this one … used ‘yellow opal’ for Y …


Niessing: German Engineered Wedding Bands

In the many years I’ve been in the jewelry business, the German manufacturer, Niessing, continues to fascinate and amaze me.


Niessing is a top manufacturer of premium, contemporary German jewelry design. Much like German cars, German jewelry is renown for clean lines, perfection in workmanship, and an innovative approach. Niessing’s technical achievements in metal-working is unparalelled, their workmanship is perfection and their design team makes each piece of jewelry poetry.


The Vreden-based German manufacturer is best known for their clean, contemporary aesthetic coupled with a playful attitude in their range of wedding bands. Their philosophy seems to be that one should engage with the rings rather than to simply look at it.


Many of their rings have an ‘interactive’ element to them e.g. swiveling bezels, moving diamonds, 24kt pure gold that molds to your fingers, two rings that come apart and fit together again like a puzzle and even hidden messages that only two lovers can know and feel by running their fingers over the rings.

Niessing has managed to infuse some really interesting new ideas into the age-old tradition of wedding bands. Their pieces are of the highest quality and so well made that the quirky ideas don’t seem like gimmicks but rather a testament to their willingness to be innovative and push technical boundaries.

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Pantone Gems

Pantone’s Spring 2013 collection of colors are almost perfect matches for some of our gemstones . . . get inspired by these ten shades the experts at Pantone have picked out for the season. Love the Rachel Roy dress in ‘tender shoots’!

(look for the item number in the caption and find it in our Etsy store!)