Total Pageviews

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fun Custom Work

I always enjoy custom making jewelry for my customers and I enjoy the challenge of trying something new or different. But if I am to be completely honest I really like it the most when the customer already likes my style of work and wants me to do something for them that is reflective of that because that is what is most fun for me.

A few months ago a couple who are one of my oldest (in terms of being customers not in terms of age!) customers came in with a pile of diamonds. His mother has been in the process of selling off and passing on her collection to her three children and she had given them a platinum necklace with approximately 360 .15 ct. diamonds in it. The children decided they were each going to make up some jewelry with it to wear at her upcoming birthday party for themselves, and I believe some of their children as well. So my customers had 119 diamonds (almost 20 cts. in total) that they wanted me to play with. They didn't ask me to use all of their diamonds but as many as I thought would work in the suite of jewelry they were commissioning from me. They wanted a pair of earrings, a bracelet, a pin/pendant and a ring. They also picked out some beautiful blue sheen moonstones I had gotten recently to use in the earrings and one for the bracelet.

We discussed general parameters and ideas for the pieces. For the earrings I wanted to do a larger version of something I had done years ago for another customer with a lot of dangling diamonds. The bracelet I thought should be done as separate, unique links with the diamonds on them. For the pendant we looked at a piece I had out in the case with a moonstone in it for a general idea. The ring was a bit different though in that they looked at a regular design I do ( but they wanted a waving row of diamonds set into it. Because everything was being hand built from scratch this was a huge job in terms of my time. I started with the earrings and had them look at them before moving on to the next jobs. While I had a pretty good idea of where I was going on the pendant and bracelet, I had no idea what I was actually going to do for the ring until I actually began building it.

What I was happy about with this job (besides the fact that I just really enjoyed making them and the results!) was that I was able to tie in all of the pieces in different ways so that they were both a set but unique items. While you can't see it in the photos there was a distinct stripe of orange through the middle of each of the moonstones (especially visible in the one in the bracelet). This led me to think about things in terms of two sides/designs. So on the bracelet I took the square pieces and cut them in half and set them each up a little differently. If you look closely at the pendant you'll note there is a distinct design shift midway (diagonally) through the piece. The diamonds in the ring created two distinct sides. although the design on either side was similar. I wanted the customers to be able to enjoy them and look at them and see different things going on each time they did. After all that plain old Tiffany style engagement ring is going to look exactly the same no matter how many times you look at it. You'll never see anything new. But no matter how much time you spend with one of these pieces they'll never get boring.

The four pieces are pictured here. I managed to get 103 diamonds into them which I thought was pretty good. They were picked up this morning and I'm happy to say my customers were thrilled (and they said they would write a comment here so I'm hoping they will back me up on that!) Okay, okay so not all of you are fortunate enough to be given 120 diamonds to play with. But even if you only have a few I'm always happy to make something up for you!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Boulder Opals

I love opals, but I am particularly fond of the boulder opals that I specialize in. There are a variety of different types of opals with white opal, black opal and boulder opal being the best known of a somewhat larger grouping. Boulder opal is opal that is naturally backed or surrounded by the boulder, or rock, material that it is found in. One of the reasons I like it so much is that the darker background (usually the rock, or boulder, material it is found in is brown) brings the colors of the opal up beautifully. You also can get pieces that have seams of opal running through larger pieces of boulder than can be quite unusual. We once owned a piece like that which had a rather striking opal part that looked exactly like a portrait of Bette Davis, and which we ultimately sold to a guy who had a thing for Bette Davis.

One of the other things I always liked about boulder opal was that I used to be able to get, on a regular basis, what are known splits. These are pieces of boulder that have a seam of opal running through them and when they are cut along the opal seam, you end up with a matching pair of stones. Usually these were cut in a way that left the peaks and valleys in the material matching so you could actually fit the two pieces together if you put the opal parts next to each other. The colors also usually matched better than material that was simply cut up into pairs because it was the same seam of opal for both halves.

Unfortunately, a number of years ago, the availability of boulder opal splits dropped tremendously because most of the better opal material was being bought up by the Asian market which has always had an appreciation for (and the money for) finer stones and opals are big sellers over there. For the last 4-5 years it has been a struggle to find any better material in splits, no matter what the size. It reached the point where I had been forced to simply buy bigger pieces of boulder opal and have it recut into pairs. The problem with this, however, is that as with most colored stones, colors often read more distinctly, and stronger, in larger sized stones. Opals, with the vast variation in the color of each piece, is particularly like this and sometimes when we would cut the larger pieces down into smaller pairs, they didn't read nearly as strongly as the one larger piece did. This often not only meant that they weren't as pretty but also that I couldn't charge as much for all the pairs together as I would have for the larger piece (the price of which was not reduced to me so this was somewhat problematic).

So finding pairs of opals has been a growing issue for me, along with my top quality diamonds. However, I have just come into a number of pairs of opals through a variety of means. I saw my opal dealer about a month ago and I did find one larger piece that we were able to cut into two very attractive stones. Then a few weeks ago I was bemoaning the lack of boulder opal splits to a dealer I work with who never carries opals and he brought out a box of stones he was trying to sell for a jeweler who had retired recently. Lo and behold there was a beautiful pair of splits that I bought and had recut into slightly smaller pieces.

Yesterday however, my regular opal dealer called and told me he had managed to find 3 pairs of beautiful splits that a fellow dealer had and he wanted to know if I wanted to look at them (knowing full well that I was so desperate that not only would I look at them but it was a pretty sure thing I would buy them). They showed up today and I did buy all three pairs. None of them are large and they are all pretty but one of the pairs is absolutely smokin' hot! They have some beautiful flashes of orangey red, greens, blues and they are absolutely unique. I plan on setting them up into earrings in the next few days and if you'd like to get first shot at them, check in with me and see if they're done yet. By the way the larger stones I had recut are also in process and will be part of my comet series of earrings (well some people call them bugs---they're like the ones at the top of the page).

Opals are notoriously hard to photograph as the colors often float across the top and are routinely different depending on the angle you are viewing them from but I'll try to get some more pictures posted of the new goods as soon as they are done.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Trust Your Jeweler (So He Doesn't Get Fat)

As some of the long term readers of my blog know, I have advised people in the past to go to jewelers that they trust, jewelers whose designs they like, and that are willing to offer a good range of options and warrantees. I usually advise this because it's easier to work with someone like this. But additionally if you like their style and quality of work and design, you know you'll get a nice piece of jewelry that will look good and you'll enjoy over the years.

So if you come in to work with a designer like me, you should be willing to put yourself into their hands to some extent. I have more than 30 years of experience designing and making jewelry so I usually have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't. Now this doesn't mean that if you have imagined up some design that you want me to execute, you can't ask me to do it, but it does mean that you have to be willing to take some of my advice on what will look good and work well within the parameters of the design. This particularly becomes the case if you are asking me to alter an existing design of mine for you. (Yes I am going somewhere with this.)

So I recently had a young couple come in with their diamond and they decided on one of my simpler designs in which there is a very plain band that comes up and loops around a prong setting. It rises up slightly as it goes around the setting. Pretty straightforward and at times I have made it with both very small and huge stones and pretty much everything inbetween, but I almost always show it with a fairly small (quarter carat) diamond in it. Anyway, the couple's diamond was quite a bit bigger and I offered to make up a model (because I was going to have to anyway since the band was going to be made in platinum) for the customer to look at ahead of time. As I usually do, I made it up the way I thought it would look best given the design and size of the stone. However, when the customer came in she decided that she wanted me to raise the metal up around the stone setting higher because it was a much bigger setting. I'm here to make you happy, so even though I thought it looked fine the way it was, I boosted up the metal that wrapped around the setting and sent it off to be cast.

Well about three weeks after the ring was picked up my customer walked in again and, in a very humble way, asked if I would take the sides of the setting back down to where it was originally. Because I want you to be happy with a ring you're going to wear all the time, I agreed to do it immediately, even though ultimately I had to actually start from scratch with the original model and recast the entire piece (platinum is a very persnicketly metal and doesn't take kindly to a lot of changes being made). The final piece looked great and was exactly as I had first wanted it to be, and the customer seemed to be thrilled with it. Apparently she was so thrilled that she brought along an apple pie as a thank you gift, something that was totally unneccesary. And now I have to eat the whole thing, because I hate to throw good food away!

Morals of the story: If you like what your jeweler designs, trust them to make it right. If you want your jeweler to live a long and healthy life don't make him too fat!

Pictured above is a variation on my best selling ring but this one is narrower with a prong setting and a .41 ct. ideal cut Lazare Diamond, "E" color, VS1 clarity.