Archive for 2011

turquoise and palladium ring

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Palladium and Nevada Turquoise Ring

This is an engagement/wedding ring made from palladium with a gorgeous turquoise piece from Nevada. The couple I get my US turquoise from prospect, mine, cut, and polish all their own turquoise. They do not enhance or stabilize the stone in any way. They are awesome and their stones are amazing. This stone is from their Dyer Blue mine in Nevada.

Palladium and Nevada Turquoise Ring

Palladium and turquoise ring

Palladium and turquoise ring

More of their stones I have in stock:

Turquoise from Nevada and New Mexico

The large piece at 7 o’clock is amazing: it has reddish brown matrix and chunks of jet-black chert in it. The piece at 5 o’clock (has a pretty mossy green tinge) is turquoise that formed inside of a brachiopod clam fossil. (How cool!)

tapered ginkgo and rose band

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Carved band with roses and ginkgo leaves and diamonds; 14K white gold

A carved band with rose clusters and ginkgo leaves scattered across the top. Also: five 2.5mm diamonds; hooray! This ring turned out great, I think. It was the wedding band to go with a 3/4ct diamond solitaire. The effect was quite impressive.

Carved band with roses and ginkgo leaves and diamonds; 14K white gold

Leaves of the ginkgos act as the “prongs” to hold the diamond in place.

Carved band with roses and ginkgo leaves and diamonds; 14K white gold

Carved band with roses and ginkgo leaves and diamonds; 14K white gold

More views of the ring. Tapered bands like this are surprisingly comfortable and non-constricting to wear. I am a huge fan.

And lastly, we have our model wearing the band and showing off her finest gray studio hoodie. Fancy!

Carved band with roses and ginkgo leaves and diamonds; 14K white gold

first jewels

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Oh my poor, poor neglected blog. Sorry folks for the dramatic pause in pretty pictures.. I have actually been very busy and have not had enough function left in my brain to keep my blog populated. I bought a “fixer” house, moved, had a nasty bout of colds/flues that rampaged through the household, tore apart and remodeled the bathroom, and now am working on the kitchen. And we had family visiting. And I got way behind in my orders doing all of this.. (But I’m caught up now!) Whew. Onward.

I have a number of custom pieces I have made over the past few months and I will get them posted here over the next week. For now, I just wanted to point out how amazingly cool Michelle Obama’s jewelry was at the recent Correspondent’s Dinner. I usually think her formal ensembles are pretty great and whatnot but this time her jewelry picks were completely AWESOME AWESOME and AWESOME!!!

Michelle Obama's jewelry ensemble for the 2011 Correspondent's Dinner

The three layered necklaces. The pewter color scheme here is really nice and unusual and goes well with the dusty purple color of her dress. All pieces are pretty sweet: the chain lariat choker that hangs over the lower necklace of interesting metal beads.. But what really makes this for me though is the heavy cable chain on top. Too cool.

Michelle Obama's jewelry ensemble for the 2011 Correspondent's Dinner

Here’s a close up of the bracelet stack. Snakes! I love it when people wear snake jewelry.

(I have no idea who designed any of this; if anyone does, please mention it in the comments for me? Thanks!)

Michelle Obama's jewelry ensemble for the 2011 Correspondent's Dinner

The entire ensemble. Did I mention how awesome I think this is? Check out her snake ring too. The earrings are whatevs; I don’t have anything to say about them.

Anyway, I was super impressed with her jewelry choices (her stylist’s jewelry choices? Does she select her own clothing/jewelry for functions like these? I really have no idea how these things work) and I think she looked flipping gorgeous.

EDITED: I found out who the jewelry designer was: Irit Design for all pieces, including the earrings. Sterling silver and diamonds! LOVE it all!

tucson gem show 2011

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Cultured Sea of Cortez pearl

[Blue cultured Sea of Cortez pearl. It’s pretty amazing, not only because it is gorgeous, but because it is from the first ever cultured pearl farm in the Sea of Cortez. Previously, it had been understood that culturing the “Rainbow-lipped” oysters in the Sea was impossible. But three guys figured out how and now they have a small farm in Guaymas.]

Well, the gem show was overwhelming and hectic as usual. Two days to buy everything I think I might need for the next year is pretty nearly impossible—but I do give it my damnedest. At least I feel like I made some decent contacts.

Mostly, I bought pearls (some things do not change). The Cortez pearl above was the fanciest/rarest I’ve ever purchased. I will definitely have to visit the farm one of these days; it’s only a five-hour drive or so from my parent’s house. I’ll write more in depth about the various stones I got in a later post. For now, I’ll just post a little eye candy.

Tahitian pearls

Mmm: lovely round and semi-baroque Tahitian pearls. Gorgeous peacocky and magenta colors.

South Sea pearls

South Sea pearls from Myanmar, except for the upper right round pearl, which is a Chinese freshwater.

Chinese freshwater keshi and round pearl

I actually bought these at the last year’s show, but never got a nice photo before. Chinese freshwater rose/peach round pearl and keshi of various colors.

NV Turquoise -- all natural and unstabilized

Turquoise! I can never resist buying this stuff. These are all from Nevada I believe (maybe a couple pieces from New Mexico—will have to check) and are discovered, mined, cut, and polished by two of the nicest people. All their turquoise is non-stabilized and un-enhanced, and it is lovely stuff.

Rose-cut translucent diamonds

Rose-cut diamonds! The largest is 1.6 carats, the smallest is maybe 1/2 ct. Coolness!

* * *

And I did not watch the Grammy’s on TV but I did peruse the blogs this morning to see what everyone wore. So far my favorite jewelry piece was the Lorraine Schwartz snake bracelet: gold and platinum with large diamond slice ‘spots’ and pave white and yellow diamonds. It looks like it has ruby eyes too. (You can get a huge blown-up version here.)

Lorraine Schwartz snake bracelet

karen and jon’s spacey rings

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Retro spacey rings - Platinum, palladium, blue diamond

[Platinum, blue diamond, and palladium.]

One of my good friends from way back in high school (hello Facebook!) got a hold of me with a ring idea for her husband. They had been married for some years but never really got nice wedding bands; she thought she would surprise her husband with one for christmas and began scheming up ways to sneak-measure his finger size without him noticing anything. Amusingly, about a week later, he suggested out of the blue that they buy themselves wedding bands for their christmas present that year. Karen, evidently, needs to take lessons in subtlety.

Karen and Jon are both total sci-fi geeks and she thought a spacey sort of theme might be interesting, so I started sketching ideas. I found design inspiration from vintage science fiction cover art—you know all that awesome stuff of dudes in round globular helmets and retro spacecrafts with toggle switches and orange square buttonry, comets flying by in the sky with maybe a ringed planet, red rocky outcroppings, pointy cities.. um, and stuff. (I do love me some retro cover art.)

Gennady Golobokov's retro sci-fi cover art

[“Space Workers” by Gennady Golobokov, 1973, Russia. I’m digging the pointy helmet.]

Retro sci-fi cover art by Jeff Jones

[Isn’t this awesome? It’s Jeffrey Jones’ cover for the Amazing Science Fiction magazine, September 1970.]

The rings are laid out in three sections: ringed planet, spiral galaxy, and comet—with lots of flowy wavy designs between. Karen’s ring is in platinum with a little 2.5mm blue diamond in her comet, and Jon’s ring in palladium (the two metals are almost identical in color but the palladium is not as heavy and not as expensive; for a man’s ring, this helps immensely in keeping the cost from getting ridiculous). Animated gifs of all sides of the rings are here: Karen’s ring and Jon’s ring.

Retro spacey rings - platinum, palladium, blue diamond

It was the first time I’ve worked the two metals side-by-side and it was interesting to compare how they felt and finished up. Though platinum is a harder and denser metal, I would say that they were equally difficult to finish; palladium is more “sticky” perhaps, and platinum more “dry” feeling. From what I have read, palladium has extremely similar wear characteristics as platinum, which makes it pretty much the perfect white jewelry metal (aside from the hard-to-finish aspect). Both took about a million years to file, sand, sand finer, polish, polish finer, etc. I know Karen has a soft spot for heavy metal so I surfed through my mp3 player for some inspirational music to help pass the time whilst sand-sand-sanding away.

Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles cover art

[Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles cover. I also like the Fahrenheit 451 cover; it’s not really spacey, but I liked the look and the abstract reflections in the helmet.]

More totally cool retro cover art from the former Soviet Union & eastern bloc countries here. And some German art here.

pavé class

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

faberge poppy ring

[Poppy ring by Faberge (modern). Multi-colored diamonds, padparadscha sapphire, blingy-bling, platinum, gold, etc.]

I left for my pavé setting class (at Revere Academy in San Francisco) with all sorts of grand ideas about what I would make the moment I got home. I even sketched designs on the flight over. Of course, after one day of class, it was sharply clear that I will need to practice for MANY hours before I will be even near confident enough to offer pavé set stones in my pieces. Pavé is hard! I can’t believe it!

But it is also kind of fun. In a super-neurotic hyper-detail-oriented sort of way, which is my specialty. I acquired a bunch new tools, including lots of pokey sharp gravers, and one of those opti-visors so now I can look like a grouchy old man when I set my stones. It was a long time coming and I have to face the facts: my eyes are not spring chickens anymore. My husband has been telling me this for years.

[Another modern Faberge design. Doesn’t it look like FUN to set all those little diamonds? I’m assuming this is a ring and that it was made by a hoard of nimble-fingered fairies.]

This was also my first real introduction to engraving using actual engraving tools (I had previously only done sort of half-assed engraving using scavenged tools modified for the job and, you know, it’s just not the same). I was surprised to discover I really like engraving. Engraving = carving metal, essentially, and so I suppose it should not have come as a surprise. Unfortunately, it’s WAY harder than carving wax so my engraved attempts were totally wonky and my lines wobbly and gougey and too deep/thick/everythingelse. But with some practice, I think I’ll be able to add engraved design elements into my pieces. Hopefully engraved designs paved with wee sparkling diamonds. Yay!

[Massive crazy ruby-encrusted ring (also modern Faberge). I’m generally not a huge ruby fan but, you know, I’d totally wear this.]

lalique dog collar - reed players

lalique dog collar pansy

[Rene Lalique: top is the centerpiece for a pearl “dog collar” style choker with molded glass reed players and diamond folliage. The bottom is an enameled pansy choker centerpiece with pavé diamond accents.]

I can’t even imagine how long it took to set all the stones in some of these pieces. I used to think this sort of thing was gaudy but I have since amended my blasphemous ways. I am especially fond pavé-set stones of varying color and size, and the way Lalique uses pavé in his designs is my absolute favorite. This is pretty much what I set out to do when I started making jewelry: make stuff as cool as Lalique.

And lastly, because this is after all Portland, OR (where we love everything cephalopod), I present to you the diamond encrusted octopus:

pave diamond octopus

(Squids, shocking though it may seem, are grossly underrepresented in the diamond jewelry world. I hurt.)

deco-inspired pendant

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Art Deco-inspired palladium pendant with diamonds and a sapphire drop

This art deco-inspired pendant is cast out of palladium (in the platinum family, very similar in look and wear properties, but it is not as heavy), is set with three small 1.6mm diamonds, and has an oval sapphire drop. This is the first time I’ve attempted constructing palladium (i.e., soldering and forming).

I had to buy welding goggles to protect my eyes from the high temperatures required to solder the metal (cool!) and I ended up using 18K palladium white gold hard solder (recommended by the metal supplier for color match). The only problem I really had was that I was told (well, I researched it on the internet; the INTERNET TOLD ME!) not to use any flux. Which is fine but the flux is very helpful in simply holding the tiny bit of solder onto the piece when soldering.

What I did was this: place a minuscule bit of solder on a jump ring (a rounded, curved, non-flat surface, mind you) and watch it fall off. Do it again. And again. Do it three more times and finally, somehow, it balances without falling off. Take a deep breath (but don’t let it out! It might knock down the solder). Check to be sure the solder is still there (it is. Whew). Put on my welding goggles, flip up the dark part and start my torch using my striker. Finally get the torch started, adjust the flame, and bring it back to my piece to start (oh! after I flipped down my dark visor, that is) only to see that in the meantime, my solder has fallen off again. Turn off torch, take off visor. Hunt around my charcoal block for errant piece of solder. Repeat.

I think I did this whole try-to-solder-only-to-realize-that-the-solder-flew-away-in-the-meantime routine a good 20 times. And that’s not to mention the few times where it actually was still there by the time I got around to applying my big bad flame. Only to have the wind from the torch blow it off my piece. Chalk up another 10 or so failures to my 20 above.

There was much swearing though I managed to remain admirably calm through this utterly absurd routine. I actually used up the entire flint on my striker (and I didn’t have another) and had to make a run to the hardware store to buy a new one. The new one, unfortunately, is just as hard to use as the old one. Blast!

In the end, I reigned triumphant.

Art Deco-inspired palladium pendant with diamonds and a sapphire drop

There’s got to be a better way. Perhaps using a little flux won’t actually end life as we know it on this planet. Because I see this deco piece as a pair of earrings with pearl drop dangles. (Oh yeah!) I will figure this out.

back to 2011!

Monday, January 10th, 2011

lalique thistle collar

[Thistle motif choker center by René Lalique. Gold, diamonds, cast glass, and enamel. Freaking amazing.]

Well, I’ve been back now for a week and I have only slowly been getting back on my feet. My brain was still on vacation, I believe. But now it has returned (to much fanfare) and Gin & Butterflies is back in business for the new year!

I hope you all had a kick-ass New Year’s. I spent mine halfway between a hard airplane seat and the baggage claim; we sort of dully noted the passing of the decade as we schlepped along with our groggy child. It’s okay though. As soon as we got home, we dosed a glass of egg nog with a slug of bourbon and lived it up for about seven or eight minutes before passing out cold.

Some exciting things coming up for me (and you, soon) is I’m going to San Francisco to take a pavé setting course at the Revere Academy. I’m terribly excited. The image at the top is René Lalique’s choker centerpiece with pave diamonds set into the leaves.

After that, I’m off to the big Tucson Gem Show! I’m so so excited and have been making my list, checking it twice, well, many more times than twice.. I’m on the lookout for rose-cut translucent diamonds and sapphires of various colors, pearls pearls pearls (as always), and great big hunks of turquoise, among other things. Plus whatever else strikes my fancy (that’s a broad boat there..).

I’ll be gone Feb 3-7th and if anyone is interested in any unusual stones for a custom piece, now is the time to get a hold of me!