It’s Only Natural

By Robin Skibicki

Not all gemstones are minerals with a crystalline structure. In fact, some were formed through biological processes of living organisms, such as plants and animals. These natural beauties are referred to as organic gemstones and include several varieties that are important to the gem trade. We’re talking about pearls, coral, amber, ammolite, and shell, just to name a few.

Pearls

Pearls are pretty much perfect for any occasion. It doesn’t matter if you’re dressed in silks and satins or khakis and jeans, they go with everything! There are several types to choose from, like freshwater or saltwater, natural or cultured, with such varieties as Akoya, Keshi, South Sea, and Tahitian.

 

Coral

There are hundreds of species of coral throughout the world, but only a few are used for fine jewelry. Corallium japonicum and Corallium rubrum are two varieties of red coral commonly used to produce jewelry, and Antipatharia, a species of black coral prized for its lustrous, black appearance after polishing.

 

Amber

Amber had its moment in the spotlight when it appeared as a source for “Dino DNA” in the movie, Jurassic Park. This fossilized resin of ancient tree sap dates back 25 to 50 million years, with some of the oldest known material dating back 290 to 350 million years ago. Amber comes in over 300 different shades, with the most common colors being honey, green, cherry, cognac, citrine, and butterscotch.

 

Ammolite

Ammolite is an iridescent gemstone material that comes from the fossilized shell of extinct squid-like creatures called ammonites. They only come from one place: Alberta, Canada. Although they have been forming for millions of years, ammolite first appeared in jewelry in the 1960s and was recognized in 1981 as an organic gemstone.

 

Shell

Shell has been used for decorative purposes for centuries and was most likely the by-product of the search for food. It’s been used for everything from buttons to knife handles, from cameos to necklaces. In jewelry design, the two most familiar types of shell are abalone and mother-of-pearl.

Interesting facts: Abalone is composed of mother-of-pearl. Mother-of-pearl is called nacre, which makes the outer layer of pearls.

 

Visit an AGS-credentialed jeweler near you and ask them to show you some organic gemstones!

 

Art Deco: Striking, Bold & Dramatic

By Isabelle Corvin, Certified Gemologist (CG)
Staff Gemologist at Panowicz Jewelers

Jewelry trends change over time, influenced by the factors that make up life. Designs wax and wane in popularity, often cycling through many times as resurgences.

There is a strong emphasis in modern jewelry designs of this period reminiscent of the Art Deco movement. Angles, striking and sharp. Colors, bold and dramatic. Shapes, odd and thought-provoking.

Art Deco is steeped in international history, and to learn more about the modern trends, we’ll have to step back in time…

It was the Roaring Twenties.

A time of economic prosperity and technological advancement, a time of jazz and a celebration of life.

The shadow of war has passed, and the world is recovering, and growing.

The place is Paris, the most romantic city in the world.

This is the era that Art Deco was born from.

Armadani

Pink sapphire diamond pave mosaic ring by Armadani, featuring French cut pink sapphires and round brilliant diamonds.

In 1925, the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts took place in Paris, France, and marked the start of the Art Deco movement. The movement would continue up until the start of the Second World War, but would have a resurgence in popularity in the 1960s and again in the 1980s, thanks to a book published on the subject in 1968, and then to the rise of graphic design in the late 80s.

Where most design movements rose out of political or religious intentions or stresses, Art Deco was simply artistic.

The movement inspired clothing, architecture, art and of course, jewelry.

Unlike its predecessor, Art Nouveau, with its more whimsical, light designs, Art Deco was all about lines, interesting shapes and a modern flair.

Mastoloni

These timeless pearl and diamond Fan Earrings by Mastoloni, are part of the Deco Collection.

The inspiration for Art Deco came from advancing technologies and living life to the fullest. The world was speeding up, and this contributed to the modern feel of the movement. During this period, many famous archaeological finds took place, including excavation of King Tut’s tomb. Ancient influences, especially from Aztec and Egyptian cultures, can be seen in many Art Deco pieces, and the contrast between the geometrical shapes and ancient motifs creates a fanciful and unusual style.

Platinum was “discovered” during this period as well, and was used in many Art Deco pieces along with the finest of gems including blue sapphires, bright emeralds, and stunning rubies. Diamonds were also widely seen, set as both facial points and accents. Many opaque stones were popular as well; Carnelian, lapis, turquoise and black onyx.

Gemstones were cut into interesting shapes such as trapezoids and octagons, elongated rectangles and squares, sometimes with rounded corners. The cutting of these stones was often done wasting quite a bit of rough, but that just showed the lavish nature of the era.

Glass and new plastics were also very popular substances to use in jewelry and art, as well as non-precious metals like titanium and aluminum.

The jewelry was large and was made to draw attention. Straight lines, cubes, and chevrons, along with structured curves, all mixed together to create a jumbled, yet beautiful, style.

Necklaces, pendants, bracelets, rings, brooches, and earrings were all made in the style of Art Deco, with an emphasis on being bold.

Art Deco is an expression of functionality, elegance and a passion for life.

UniqueSettingsNY

Unique Settings of New York presents their custom Art Deco-inspired designs. The ring above is 14K white gold with a 1.00 CT center stone, and 0.30 tcw in side diamonds.

Just like in the past, the current atmosphere in the USA is one of hopeful growth; the economy is recovering slowly from a recent recession. The tinges of the last war are fading from memory. The world is advancing at a fast pace, with emerging technologies and ideas.

The similarities of past and present are surprising, lending a hand to the new geometric shapes emerging from top designers.

A revival of Art Deco is in the air, with the classic looks from the past mingling with a new take on the movement. There’s never been a better time to add a striking and unique piece of wearable art to your collection!

joshuaj

The drama of the Art Deco period comes to life in this beautiful bracelet by Joshua J. Fine Jewelry. It features an Old European cut center diamond, with a splash of green emeralds for accent.

 

 

 

From Old to New Again: Jeweler Gives Heirloom Jewelry an Updated Look

By Donna Jolly, RJ

Laura Stanley is like many American Gem Society jewelers: her family has a rich history in the industry. In her case, she is a third generation jeweler. It started with her grandfather, Charles B. Stanley, a watchmaker in downtown North Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1936, he and his wife, Sally, opened a small jewelry store that throughout the years grew, and was passed down to their son, Loyd. Today, his daughter, Laura is a vital force in Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, a family business specializing in fine jewelry and fine service. With such a rich history, it is no wonder that they know a thing or two about heirloom jewelry—and how to give these cherished pieces a beautiful, updated look.

Customizing heirloom jewelry is a growing trend. We asked, Laura, a CGA with the American Gem Society, some questions to learn more about updating these precious family treasures.

Living in an area rich in history, do you see a lot of heirloom jewelry coming in?

I feel like there is interesting and worthy jewelry all around the country. People are very mobile these days.  Jewelry and heirlooms move around!  I have learned to never underestimate what is tucked away in safety deposit boxes in small town America. I’ve seen everything from worn out 150-year old pot metal jewelry to large, impressive diamonds (over 10 carats).

Are there any rules of etiquette a person should consider before they update a piece of heirloom jewelry? For example, if the person who gave them the jewelry is still alive, should they let them know their plan?

Many people are uncomfortable resetting diamonds or gemstones received from a relative who is still alive, even with their permission. However, there are no rules and you should do what is in your comfort zone and makes you happy. And know that once you take apart your vintage piece, there is no going back.

What is one of the most interesting piece you’ve revamped?

A ring we nick-named “Jaws.”  It was a 3-row antique platinum ring, about 1” wide, with two rows of marquise cut diamonds and one row of baguette cut diamonds. We made a wedding band from the baguettes and a bracelet from the marquise cut diamonds. Here’s a picture of the “after” pieces.

braceletringWhat is your top piece of advice for someone who has a piece of heirloom jewelry that they want updated?

Be sure you want to take apart your heirloom, then find an experienced jeweler to help you understand your options and the possibilities of what you have. Also keep your mind open to adding a few diamonds or gemstones to achieve the look you ultimately want. Conversely, be aware that you might not to be able to use every single diamond in grandmother’s brooch or ring. You may have some leftovers.

Does it cost more to update a piece of heirloom jewelry than it would be to buy a new piece of jewelry?

That totally depends upon what you have and what you want. Here’s an example of earrings we made from a beautiful platinum antique diamond watch. A young woman inherited the watch and knew she would never wear it. So for a modest labor fee, we cut these clusters out of the case and she used the leftover platinum and diamonds to help defray costs for the project.

earring

What is more fun for you as the jeweler: creating a new piece of custom jewelry or updating an heirloom piece?

I think they are both thrilling because working with a customer to get exactly what she wants is always fun. It’s one of the best parts of being a professional jeweler!

What are the challenges of working with heirloom jewelry?

Occasionally you have to work around diamonds and gems that have been damaged over the years. Sometimes you can’t tell the extent of the damage until after you take it apart. That’s no fun for anyone, but sometimes it is unavoidable.

Do you find that there is a tug-of-war of emotions for the customer between wanting to keep the heirloom piece in-tact, versus the desire for a new look?

Well, people are funny. Sometimes a client will walk in the door and say, “ I will NEVER wear this. My great aunt was so gaudy! Help me!”

Other times it’s a long process to determine what the right decision is, and if we should even touch it. Sometimes the right answer is to do nothing, expecting that their next generation will want a piece intact.

What other advice do you have for someone looking to update their heirloom jewelry?

Find an AGS jeweler to help. That way, you’ll be in good hands regardless of your needs.

To learn more about Stanley Jewelers Gemologist, visit http://stanleyjewelers.com/. To find an AGS credentialed jeweler in your area who can help you customize and heirloom treasure, visit http://www.americangemsociety.org/find-a-jeweler.

 

 

Go Retro!

By Amanda L. Colborn

When it comes to jewelry, more and more people are looking to the past for their present jewelry inspiration.  It’s not just about style and fashion, estate jewelry has benefits to both your wallet AND the environment!

But first, what is “estate” jewelry?

Estate jewelry is, in the simplest of terms, jewelry that has been previously owned by someone else.

Is it the same as “antique” jewelry?

Yes and no, estate jewelry is not considered an antique until it is at least 100 years old, according to JewelleryMonthly.com.

So, why would estate jewelry be something for me?

There are several benefits to acquiring previously owned jewelry.  A big reason being that they are back in fashion right now. Vintage has never been more popular, making it easier than ever to find interesting pieces of estate jewelry. People love pieces that hold a story, and the best thing about estate jewelry is that they all have some sort of story, which makes shopping for them that much more fun!

Estate Watch from McTeigue

Estate Watch from McTeigue

Another reason to look into owning an estate piece, most of them are now one-of-a-kind.  Perhaps you have looked into getting a custom piece of jewelry made and were overwhelmed by how much that can cost. Well, look into estate pieces! They are usually much more cost-effective and the likelihood of anyone else having the same matching piece is slim to none.

Estate Pendant Necklace from McTeigue

Estate Pendant Necklace from McTeigue

The best and most important reasons for choosing a piece of estate jewelry is that they are environmentally-friendly and ethical.  Like all new products in our world today, it takes resources to produce and manufacture pieces of fine jewelry. When you buy a piece of estate jewelry, you can rest assured knowing that your purchase has both a beautiful, rich history and you have recycled a piece of jewelry at no cost to our environment.

When you shop with an AGS-credentialed jeweler, you’re already taking the first step towards a jewelry purchase backed with the highest standard of ethics in the industry.  When you purchase a piece of estate jewelry from an AGS-credentialed jeweler, you know you are getting a top-quality piece of jewelry from a jeweler who cares about you, your wallet, and ensuring the overall high standards of ethical behavior within the jewelry industry.

Estate Bracelet from McTeigue

Estate Bracelet from McTeigue

As you can see, there are so many benefits to going retro when it comes to your next jewelry purchase. Take into consideration the history, time period, cost-effectiveness, and environmental & ethical impacts when you consider purchasing your first or next piece of fine jewelry.  Talk to your jeweler and see what your options are. Or, find the right jeweler for you here.  And then go tell your friends to look into estate jewelry as well, so you can share the stories of your beautiful new/old vintage creations!