Categorized under: Education, Jewelry

OPAL: Birthstone for October

Opal in the Rough

Opal in the Rough

Birthstones are always a tricky subject around here because the question of “who made up these rules anyway?” invariably comes up. Sure enough it’s a tough one to answer. Some say birthstones originated from ceremonial breast plates worn by high priests of the Ancient Israelites (called a ‘Hoshen’), which bore 12 different gemstones to represent the 12 distinct tribes of Isreal. We can take an inferential leap and see how 12 tribes could translate into 12 months over the ages, and it might be easy to stop here. But Greeks had birthstones too – not to mention Hindus, whose ayurvedic tradition is rich with astrological and therapeutic beliefs to this day. The truth is, much of what we think we know about birthstones in the Western world could all just be from a  pamphlet from Tiffany & Co published in 1870, which ostensibly leveraged the intrigue and facts about birthstones as more of an advertisement.

Nonetheless, the precious gemstone opal has been associated in one way or another with the month of October throughout references and literature for over 500 years. It was once thought the most valuable of all gems, as its flashes of color and iridescent hue had many believing it was actually a combination of all precious stones in one. Today opal is still an especially treasured gem, with top-quality black opal in particular fetching over $2000 per carat. So if you were born in the month of October, put loved ones on notice to get their pocket books ready; opal can be as pricy as it is beautiful.

OCTOBER BIRSTSTONE

A Wild Variety

Opal is found in a stunning array of shapes, sizes and colors from all over the world. Australia, however, claims opal more or less as its own. It’s the national gemstone, as the country produces over 90% of the world’s supply. Its black opal (especially those found on Lightning Ridge) holds the distinction as the most prized specimen on the planet. In a close second place for value and rarity is the bolder opal – cut from ironstone boulders that are its namesake. Bolder opals demonstrate an equally vibrant play of color, if only because portions of ironstone must be left on the gem to achieve it. White opal is more common but rarer still than other gems and offers a delicate sparkle of colors, not unlike that of a jellyfish.

From left to right, top to bottom: 1.62ct oval white opal, 1.66ct long oval boulder opal, 1.08ct round Lightning Ridge black opal, 1.38 pear white opal

From left to right, top to bottom: 1.62ct oval white opal, 1.66ct long oval boulder opal, 1.08ct round Lightning Ridge black opal, 1.38 pear white opal

A Gem of Water

If at first glance opal may seem almost fluid in nature, and you’d actually be correct: Unlike any other gemstone, opal is comprised of 3-20% water. The rest is microscopic spheres of silica, formed over eons of wet and dry spells in the ground. The dry, arid regions of the world where opals are found lend a clue as to their ideal environment. Opals are formed in cracks and fissures in the earth where traces of silica are pushed down with swelling rain water, left to slosh around atop the water table, and dry out over the predominately dry season. This cycle repeats over a million years until amorphous veins of minable opal are formed.

HOW OPAL IS FORMED

A Play of Color

Gaze at an opal from different angles and you’ll surely find it glimmers with changing color. How is that happening? It all has to do with diffraction, the phenomenon when light rays backscatter upon encountering obstacles or slits in matter. Those tiny spheres of silica that comprise opal all join together – but just like a jar of marbles – they leave tiny gaps in between them. Just as mist diffracts light to produce a rainbow in the sky, we perceive opal’s vibrant colors from its ‘play’ on the light bouncing back through little gaps in its make up.

Caption: The same opal viewed from different angles and in different light can appear vastly different.

Caption: The same opal viewed from different angles and in different light can appear vastly different.

Opal Jewelry

Much of the finished opal jewelry for sale in the world is in the form of pendants, not rings. Opal is an especially soft and brittle gem easily susceptible to breakage. A piece worn around the neck is far more protected from the kind of wear and tear endured by pieces worn on the hand. This doesn’t mean opal isn’t a great candidate to be incorporated as the center piece of a ring – it is (Green Lake crafts new opal rings every month) – but the setting for an opal must be chosen very carefully. Because soft opals are sure to be abraded if worn in a ring, it’s important the thinnest area (e.g. the edges) be incased in metal. This can be done by designing in a full or half bezel for gems to be set, employing a wider wrap style setting or even grinding and polishing the opal as an inlay. Here are a few recent examples:

Custom Made 14K White Gold Diamond Ring with White Opals

This wider ring is lightened by intricate pierced work and is low-set so as not to catch or snag. Full bezels are incorporated into the curls to better ensure opals aren’t cracked or chipped.

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

Platinum and Diamond Wrap Ring with Lightning Ridge Opal Cabochon Center

Not entirely a full bezel, this wide wrap setting protects its precious center from the majority of snafus typically encountered in wedding jewelry (e.g., falling off the bathroom sink, fishing for car keys, etc.).

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

 

White Gold Wedding Set with Marquis Diamond Center and Bolder Opal Inlay

By cutting opal in-house Green Lake has been able to do some pretty cool custom inlays. This ring, with its fluid wave-like contours really makes use of the opal’s shimmering iridescence.

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

 

Warm White Gold Halo Setting with Faceted Ethiopian Opal Center

Opal richer in crystal with minimal water content is able to be faceted like a diamond. The ideal setting is still a bezel (or for this ring, a halo with a hidden ring of diamonds along the side).

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

See this ring in detail on the Green Lake Client Gallery

The Fire Opal

The vivacious and bright orange flare of a fire opal is not what we typically associate with this gem variety, yet they are indeed related. Found in dryer regions of the world the fire opal lacks the water found in its white opal cousins, making it a more durable gem with consistent clarity, seeming almost ‘jelly’ like. Much of fire opal is presently mined from Mexico, where it’s also the nation’s official gemstone.

1.69ct emerald cut fire opal

1.69ct emerald cut fire opal

Opal Art

When Italian gemologist and faceter Daniela L’Abbate moved to Australia in the early 90’s she developed entirely new carving techniques, freeing the gem from the rough while respecting its natural shape. The results of her approach are truly stunning, revealing in opal surrealistic forms with unrivaled play of color. Here are a few of our favorite works we wanted to mention:

Wraith

From a rough piece of Lightning Ridge opal, sand is removed and the gem is shaped to optimize its natural contours. After some 18 hours of polishing with a specialized diamond paste, an impressive 90 carats of gleaming opal appears almost like a wispy ghost.

Wraith Opal

Jasmine Coral Opal

Lightening Ridge rough transformed into the delicate representation of jasmine coral.

jasmine Coral

An American Opal Field

Did you know the virgin valley in Nevada has an amazing array of all these varieties, from precious black opal to crystal, white, fire and lemon opal? In fact, the black fire opal is the official gemstone of Nevada. The largest black opal in the Smithsonian institution known as the “Roeabling Opal” came out of the rainbow ridge mine in 1917 and weighs a whopping 2585 carats!

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Interested in seeing the Green Lake opal collection or having opal custom cut? Contact gemstones@greenlakejewelry.com

For inquires on creating a custom opal ring and pricing Start a Design Page and contact a designer today.

Written and illustrated by Eric Robertson / Photography for Green Lake Jewelry Works by Margaret Page & Edwin Lawrence III 
 
Additional photo credit: Opal Carvings by Daniela L’Abbate / ‘Fox Coral’ by R Tebben 
 
About the author: Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Categorized under: Jewelry

RESTORATION: Some of the Coolest Repairs Yet

An Engagement Ring for the Ages 

It’s a rare sight indeed to see an actual Victorian era estate piece show up in the Seattle studio, but when this 1890’s ring came in we knew it was going to be a fun restoration. Originally set with two identical old European mine cuts, one of the diamonds had at some point been pulled and re-purposed for another engagement ring. Decades later, the owner brought both pieces to Green Lake to have the the two diamonds reunited again at last. For it’s age, this 18K gold ring was in relatively amazing condition, still crisp with ornate detail and firm with strong settings. Bench jeweler with a specialty in Old World hand fabrication Joe Worley completed the restoration, start to finish:

Before and after - an old European mine cut diamond returned to a Victorian-era engagement ring.

Before and after – an old European mine cut diamond returned to a Victorian-era engagement ring.

 

Tableware Re-Imagined 

 The own of these antique silver napkin ring purchased in Asia years ago envisioned them being used more as a piece of jewelry. Working with Green Lake restoration specialist Gary Lamoureux, new silver plates we fashioned to match the rustic handmade appeal of these idols and each were reconstructed to fit a new necklace. Custom metalsmithing like this is an increasingly rare service offered and we’re happy to see fun – non bridal- project like this pop up in the workshop now and then!

 

From table setting to fashion piece, these silver napkin holders were reborn as a pretty hip necklace.

From table setting to fashion piece, these silver napkin holders were reborn as a pretty hip necklace.

 

Down the Drain

How many of us have lot our ring down the drain – or worse yet, into a rumbling garbage disposal? Well, that’s what happened to this gold ring. And gold – unlike platinum – losses material in scrapes like this pretty quickly. That’s what makes a jewelry repair like this that much more involved. More gold is needed, oftentimes in the form of thin wire, is carefully lasered into each scrape and gash. At Green Lake, thias is actually a prettty common restoration but the results are always so stunning we just have to share them:

Before and after - a wedding ring survives the garbage disposal and is restored to its original luster.

Before and after – a wedding ring survives the garbage disposal and is restored to its original luster.

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

 

Categorized under: Education, Jewelry

RESTORATION: How to Save a Channel Band with Missing Diamonds

Many brides wear tiny, delicate diamond bands alongside their engagement ring to add sparkle to the hand and serve as a life-long reminder of the big day, but after years of wear they may discover something truly awful – There’s a diamond missing! This is actually a rather common occurrence, and here’s why: Firstly, these little bands keep a low profile and stay on the hand even when the engagement ring is shelved for safe keeping, putting more mileage on the piece as it were. Secondly, the gems are usually very small (only 1-2mm in diameter) and are easy to miss when they’re loose, resulting in worn settings and multiple diamonds gone before the wearer may even notice.

Channel settings are more low set and free of ‘sweater catcher’ prongs.

Channel settings are more low set and free of ‘sweater catcher’ prongs.

Why worn out channel settings are difficult to fix - Channel settings are more low set and free of prongs that can catch on clothing, purses, etc. This makes for an especially durable setting for the life of the ring, but should the material wear down and become thin, it can be a real challenge to restore. Typically, a jeweler will solder more gold or platinum to the top of the ring to build the setting back up. However, this quick fix can be relatively short-lived as the joining of metals via solder is ultimately more susceptible to future breakage when the surface area to bond is negligibly small.

A new approach to restoring worn channel settings – Green Lake Jewelry Works Repair and Restoration Specialist Gary Lamoureux has started approaching channel settings very differently. He realizing that resetting diamonds into a band by soldering up a new lip is really just a half-measure, so he developed a new way to return a piece to its original luster – and keep it that way almost indefinitely. The end result looks better too.

How to repair a wedding band

This is a pricier repair – Yet it’s dramatically less expensive than losing more diamonds down the line and having to pay for yet another visit to the jeweler. While the process involves more gold or platinum to execute, it’s actually the added labor that accounts for the cost; all excess metal is filed away in the end and used again for future pieces. To do it, a wax mold must be carved to fit the worn band, and then these customized fittings are cast, cleaned, adhered to both sides then filed and polished.

This is a restoration process that requires all work and casting to be done on site if the finished ring is to be returned promptly and at a reasonable cost.

This is a restoration process that requires all work and casting to be done on site if the finished ring is to be returned promptly and at a reasonable cost.

Good as new – If the veil on Gary’s process weren’t lifted, it might be difficult to see how a worn channel band like this – with missing gems – can be restored to its original, seamless state. His new approach has yielded stunning results with clients far and wide this year. If you have a piece in need of repair, contact us at info@greenlakejewelry.com

It’s possible to restore a setting and have it look seamless.

It’s possible to restore a setting and have it look seamless.

Looking to have your jewelry repaired locally or ship it out of state for more complex restoration? Here are a few important points to consider in selecting the right jeweler: The Top Five Jewelry Repair MUST HAVES

 

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

Categorized under: Proposals and Engagements

ERIC + IRENE: Our New Favorite Clients

Well, no one’s playing favorites, but Charlotte North Carolina’s Eric E. and Irene G. were especially delightful to design for – there we said it. It would seem they liked working with us too; after a year-and-a-half, a hundred correspondences, and two trips to Seattle to visit the workshop, Green Lake must have played its own small part in their wedding experience. Just back from a picturesque get away ceremony in British Colombia, Eric and Irene passed us a few photos to share. Here they are, as well as some details on their custom-made jewelry:

Eric & Irene

Eric & Irene

Many are surprised to hear upwards of a 1/3 of our Seattle studio’s custom rings are actually designed entirely online, with clients as far away as Sandusky to Singapore. This is a huge point of pride for us, after all it demands relatively more trust, creativity and patience to craft a ring from afar than it does to just walk into a store and simply pick something out of the case. What’s more is when out-of-state clients actually fly out to visit us, as did Eric and Irene. That’s just downright flattering.

Irene is a graphic designer who throws pottery on the weekends. Like every good potter she stamps her pieces with her own mark, stylized initials ‘I G.’ The mark served as the initial inspiration for the hand fabricated platinum wire filigree that borders her bezel-set diamond center. Working with Green Lake designer Krista, the motif evolved over time to include floral elements that juxtapose each other, lending balanced ornament and enough just flair to suit its creative owner.

Hers: Diamond and platinum bezel-set mounting with filigree, custom made platinum shadow band with milgrain borders  / His: Wide 18k palladium band in matte finish with 14k rose gold inlay, carved grooves and white gold rails.

Hers: Diamond and platinum bezel-set mounting with filigree, custom made platinum shadow band with milgrain borders / His: Wide 18k palladium band in matte finish with 14k rose gold inlay, carved grooves and white gold rails.

quote

Eric and Irene demonstrate just how fun it can be to get involved with each other’s wedding rings and collaborate on pieces truly reflective of individual personalities. For many of us, wedding jewelry is not just a significant purchase – it represents the most significant decision of our lives. At Green Lake, we understand all too well how lucky we are to make these pieces and be in the business of love. Thanks again to Eric and Irene – and every couple we get to work with – for reminding us of this fact!

COLLAGE

 

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

Categorized under: Artists, Jewelry

ARTISTS AT WORK: Custom-Cut Sapphire

The Green Lake workshop crafts custom made-to-order engagement rings and wedding bands day in and day out. In order to bring each client’s vision alive, designers and jewelers must often push the limits of noble metals and precious gemstones to the max. We’ll extrude impossibly thin wire for delicate filigree,  blaze and electrify metals to achieve wild colors, engineer tiny moving parts – or in the case of this ring – take a rough chunk of sapphire to the cutting wheel and meticulously facet it into the pattern of a water lily. It’s safe to say there’s little Green Lake won’t do to make the perfect ring!

Platinum wrap-style engagement ring with a custom water lily-cut sapphire center, blue diamond accent and matching diamond shadow band

Platinum wrap-style engagement ring with a custom water lily-cut sapphire center, blue diamond accent and matching diamond shadow band

 

HOW IT’S MADE

 

Custom jewelry clients John H and Jessica A came to Green Lake Jewelry Works this spring with some rather specific ambitions for her engagement ring and wedding band: For one, Jessica works with her hands and claimed to be rough on jewelry, so she wanted a low-set wrap style mounting – OK, that’s easy enough. They also envisioned their center stone to be the perfect shade of ice-blue, so as to be a rarer sight for an engagement ring and keep people guessing about the kind of gem it is – that takes some deeper digging from the Gem Lab, but again, no problem. Lastly they wanted this uniquely colored gem to be custom cut to resemble the petals of a water lily – (record scratch!) Wait, what??

 That’s right – John and Jessica discovered the ‘Nymphia’ cut, an original design by Marco Voltolini on this really useful open source site for any and all gemstone enthusiasts, gemologyproject.com, and unfolded their plans in our studio with the exactitude of a mechanical engineer. Initially surprised at the detailed attention this couple were paying toward their wedding jewelry, Green Lake jewelry designer Sam Laddin fast became enlivened at the prospect of seeing this relatively ambitious project come to life – plus they were a lot of fun to work with. She recruited the help of fellow designer, gemologist and aspiring gem cutter Daniel Canivet who quickly set to cutting the rough sapphire.

IN 1

Unlike typical round-cut sapphires, this custom gem’s upper girdle is left ‘frosted,’ softening the sapphire overall and playing on its icy hue. How the gem is cut can also affect its perceived color to great extent; Daniel Cavinet cut this sapphire with special attention to capture the perfect shade of blue for its owner.

Grinding the sapphire into shape with a diamond-charged copper lap, Dan’s work began to take form. With an aluminum nail, he carefully ensured a precise layout by highlighting each faceted edge. Finally, the gem was polished and the pavilion carefully inspected for any remaining scratches before the finished sapphire was revealed.

Once John and Jessica were pleased with their center stone, Sam looped back to create the perfect ring design. The couple decided to make a wrap mounting in platinum, a style and metal both celebrated for their lifelong durability. Like many custom ring clients, starting a design from scratch also allowed for an engagement ring to form and contour perfectly with the wedding band, or ‘shadow band.’ To play on the icy hue of their center sapphire, a deep blue side diamond counter balances a corresponding single-cut diamond on the wedding band, offering a cool spectrum of color.

SAMANTHA LADDIN QUOTE 2

ORDERING A CUSTOM CUT GEMSTONE

Artists and gemologists at Green Lake are happy to consult on cutting – or re-cutting – a precious gemstone. In fact, Green Lake will soon be offering a signature diamond with 88 facets (The Green Lake 88) as well as cutting local and responsibly sourced sapphire right here in the workshop. To inquire about starting a custom jewelry project of your own, contact us at info@greenlakejewelry.com

Special thanks to John H and Jessica A for bringing to us their creative passion and challenging us to learn and achieve more in crafting an heirloom piece. 

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

 

Categorized under: Education

EMERALDS: A Family of Precious Beryl Revealed

Emeralds originated in ancient Egypt

We humans have considered emeralds particularly valuable for a very long time. Ancient Egyptians are credited with being the first to mine these jewels, out from the shadows of what Romans would later call Mons Smaragdus or ‘Emerald Mountain.’  Just a short thousand years later the Spanish returned from new world conquest, flaunting richly green emeralds from present day Colombia (a region which now accounts for an overwhelming majority of the world’s supply). By the early 20th century, Art Nouveau and Art Deco era designers made the gem their centerpiece, solidifying in our minds emerald as a thing of opulence and fortune.

An emerald’s distinct coloring is owed to trace ammounts of chromium, vanadium, and iron. The emerald cut – with its precise facets and steps used on a variety of other gems - is best suited for emerald’s long six-sided prisms (hence the cut’s name.)

An emerald’s distinct coloring is owed to trace amounts of chromium, vanadium, and iron. The emerald cut – with its precise facets and steps  is used for a variety of precious gems – but is best suited for emerald’s long six-sided prisms (hence the cut’s name).

Emeralds are Green (Right?)

Emerald’s lush hue speaks to the renewed promise of spring, when the world comes alive once more with vibrant, green life – the gem’s deep, almost blue-green coloring is why we designate it as the birthstone for May. Lately, however, a whole host of colored gems are being dubbed emerald too: Pink, yellow, and even red ‘emeralds’ have begun popping up in jewelry stores. Like emeralds, these gems are indeed of the same mineral (beryl), but are every beryl qualified to be emerald?

From left to right: Heliodore, green beryl, morganite, aquamarine, bixbite, goshenite, and emerald

From left to right: Heliodor, green beryl, morganite, aquamarine, bixbite, goshenite, and emerald

From late night TV to big box  gift guides, it’s as though ‘emerald’ is masked on to otherwise obscure gems just levitate their value (as was the case with toothfish before we knew it as Chilean Sea Bass, or when one young Carlos Estevez became Charlie Sheen). The thing is, emerald is defined almost exclusively by one very inescapable characteristic and it’s not simply being beryl: Emeralds are green. While it’s true that emerald has a big family of beryl cousins, they’re not emerald. And they don’t need to be, either. Each have their own story, their own character, and there’s even one beryl variety  far rarer than emerald – So here’s the line-up, emerald’s extended family:

Pictured above are a pair of 2ct, oval-cut heliore. The largest cut heliodore, on display at the American Museum of Natural History, is internally flawless and weighs 2054ct.

Pictured above are a pair of 2ct, oval-cut helior. The largest cut heliodor, on display at the American Museum of Natural History, is internally flawless and weighs 2054ct.

HELIODOR

Heliodor (which means“gift from the sun)” or golden beryl may sometimes be marketed as ‘yellow emerald,’ but as you can see it’s not green – and therefore not actually emerald. It’s heliodor, a popular export of Brazil which has also been mined here and there thought the United States. This gem bears subtle hues of pale yellow, but after it’s exposed to a little radiation (which it often is), the color becomes rich and golden. In addition to irradiation treatments, heliodor is generally free of internal inclusions, offering relatively more clarity and sparkle than emerald. Though these jewels may not be widely known to the public, heliodor is by no means a ‘new’ gem to the industry: In 1913, the New York Times reported that while heliodor was increasing in popularity, it was unlikely to oust other gems – and as you can tell, it didn’t.

Green beryl

Sometimes sold as emerald, green beryl lacks the cool hues and deep saturation of the real thing.

GREEN BERYL

Are you prepared to have your rockhound, gemstone enthusiast’s mind blown? Then check this out: Emerald is beryl that is green, but green beryl is not emerald…because green beryl, despite its namesake, just isn’t green enough. Though rich in iron, this gem lacks a deep saturation and is more yellow because it’s missing emerald’s secret ingredient: Chromium.

Remember, it’s traces of chromium, vanadium, and iron – all three- that are supposed to make beryl an emerald. Yet, in 1963 GIA widened its own classification (after a mine in Brazil began pulling up heaps of green beryl) and asserted that just the inclusion of vanadium and iron may be enough to warrant the emerald name. Disagreed with by many, some experts conversely maintain that even small amounts of chromium shouldn’t’ necessarily earn the emerald distinction.

Confused? Don’t be – if it’s beryl that’s deeply saturated with the cool, greenish-blue hue of an emerald, it’s likely an emerald. If a gem is being sold as emerald but is barely green, just creeping slightly into green under the right lighting, or is merely a fleeting whisper of a hint of green, it’s likely just a green beryl. 

Sometimes referred to as ‘pink emerald,’ morganite’s rosy hues are the result of trace manganese impurities. Like heliodore it’s generally free of significant inclusions, making it appear as a cleaner gem to the eye.

Sometimes referred to as ‘pink emerald,’ morganite’s rosy hues are the result of trace manganese impurities. Like heliodor it’s generally free of significant inclusions, making it appear as a cleaner gem to the eye.

MORGANITE

Morganite get’s it name from the American corporate finance tycoon/ gemstone buff of the early 20th century, John Pierpont “J. P.” Morgan – of whom we now know for his legacy, J.P. Morgan Chase. Morgan funded the New York Academy of Sciences, which named the gem in 1909 as homage to its primary benefactor. For a brief stint there was chatter of nicknaming the gem ‘pink emerald’ just to perk its appeal, but today morganite is largely known by its own name and has become a popular gem for fine fashion jewelry.

Designer Tip: It’s almost as though morganite and rose gold jewelry were made for each other! The warm hues are complementary and both materials are especially nontraditional for engagement rings and wedding bands, making for a truly unique piece. 

When beryl crosses from less green to more blue, it becomes aquamarine - and typically the more blue, the more valuable.

When beryl crosses from less green to more blue, it becomes aquamarine – and typically the more blue, the more valuable.

AQUAMARINE

A cousin to emerald, these gems are found in many similar regions of the world. While the difference in color is obvious, it’s actually hardness that really sets aquamarine and emerald apart. Whereas emerald is regarded as a relatively soft and easily chipped stone (on account hairline fractures or ‘inclusions’ that occur naturally in the growing crystal), aquamarine is more like it’s morganite and heliodor cousins and is generally free of significant inclusions. This makes aquamarine a beryl gem that appears cleaner to the eye and more durable for daily wear.

Maxixie Beryl

In a scant few areas of the world there exists a very unique variety of beryl that’s a far deeper shade blue than any aquamarine, making it appear at fist glance like sapphire. It’s called maxixie (mah-she-she) and it has a highly unstable color table that naturally irradiates when exposed to sunlight. Like a wildly colored tropical fish reeled in from the deep, a maxixie beryl can lose its color in only 8 hours of UV exposure, requiring synthetic gamma ray treatments and annealing to reclaim its original luster.

Aquamarine crystals are generally larger among it's beryl cousins, providing for large carat weights and big clarity.

Aquamarine crystals are generally larger among it’s beryl cousins, providing for large carat weights and big clarity.

Designer Tip: Though pricier and rarer than topaz, aquamarine can be found in a variety of larger cuts, making it a gem ideal for cocktail rings and statement pieces.  

Named for the forested lakeside town of Goshen, Massachusetts where its discovery is credited, Goshenite is a colorless alkaline rich variety of beryl that’s uniquely concentrated throughout North America and Russia.

Named for the forested lakeside town of Goshen, Massachusetts where its discovery is credited, Goshenite is a colorless alkaline rich variety of beryl that’s uniquely concentrated throughout North America and Russia.

GOSHENITE

Colored beryl achieves its vibrant hues from elemental impurities, so the absolutely clear and colorless goshenite is essentially the purest form of beryl. There’s something so mysterious about pure beryl, mined deep beneath chilly alpine foothills. It’s almost fitting the gem is clear as ice. Alas, there’s relatively little demand for goshenite jewelry; it seems a soft, easily craked ‘albino emerald’ is a tough sell. Diamonds rule the colorless gemstone world, with white sapphire in a distant second place. Perhaps in an effort to jazz up its appearance, some companies have begun blasting the crystal with enough heat and radiation to impart a tawdry array of tinted hues, appearing in the end more like a color-change paint job than a natural wonder – but as they say, that’s business.

Bixbite is very, very rare. How rare? It’s purported that just one red beryl crystal is found for every 150,000 diamonds

Bixbite is very, very rare. How rare? It’s purported that just one red beryl crystal is found for every 150,000 diamonds

BIXBITE

In 1904, 51-year-old rockhound and mineralogist Maynard Bixby unearthed the first recorded specimen of red beryl in the dusty Thomas Range of Juab County, Utah. He named this new gem ‘bixbite,’ though the nomenclature of late has been revised to just ‘red beryl,’ so as not to be confused with Bixby’s earlier discovery of a metallic black mineral he designated as ‘bixybite.’ Gifted from primordial rhyolite lava flows and rich with manganese, red beryl – or what’s now a buzz as ‘red emerald’ – is found  along this remote area of the American southwest, and it’s extremely rare. Though generally priced at six-figures per carat, most finished bixbite are quite small. Finding a cut red beryl for sale at 1ct or larger is possibly rarer an occurrence than the gem itself!

Sean Ryan

Designer Tip: Red beryl is so soft it seems almost foolish to set into a ring; setting a gem like this into a more protected pendent may be more fitting. Finding cut bixbite for a custom piece, however, may prove to be a real challenge. If you have a burning desire to make something with red beryl, contact the Green Lake gemstone laboratory at gemstones@greenlakejewelry.com

 

A Note on Emerald Jewelry

Senior Green Lake designer and graduate gemologist Sophia Shen asserts that while an emerald center stone is far less hard and durable than diamond, she understands the appeal for the gem as a center piece in engagement rings and wedding jewelry. There are a lot of creative options available to setting emeralds, as well as sourcing the right size and cut – done right, an emerald ring can be a stand-alone heirloom. If you’re interested in making an emerald engagement ring or wedding band contact us at info@greenlakejewelry.com

SUNGWOO QUOTE

Written and illustrated by Eric Robertson / Photography by Daniel Zetterstrom 

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

Categorized under: Artists, CAD Modeling, Events

BEST IN SHOW: Shinya Takahashi Wins Again

 

Shinya

As Green Lake’s Technical Director, Shinya Takahashi keeps our considerable online gallery of work neatly indexed and organized, a purpose-built collaborative design platform serving our friends out-of-state, and an internal production tracking system – as well as a proprietary client resource management strategy – all buzzing with reliable efficiency and regular updates. Shinya is a very busy guy. That’s why he’s the envy of the shop, because in addition to all these plates in the air, he carves out time to be one of the nation’s most proficient CAD modelers – even though he’s not a regular modeler jewelry for Green Lake!

Shinya Takahashi wins best in show at the 2014 Matrix Design Contest in Davenport, IO

Shinya Takahashi wins best in show at the 2014 Matrix Design Contest in Davenport, IO

This April, Shinya was awarded the best virtual design at Gemvision’s annual Matrix Design Contest at the company’s HQ in Davenport, Iowa, and it wasn’t the first time (he also won it in 2012). Gemvision is the world’s leading provider of technology products to the jewelry industry, pioneering the adoption of 3D CAD software and fueling a CAD/CAM revolution that defines modern jewelry production today. In its ever-growing design contest, there are over 300 entries from top designers worldwide that display the immense creativity, talent and innovation burgeoning throughout the jewelry industry. Shinya, uniquely, now holds the distinction of being the only designer to be awarded the top prize twice since the completion first started. It’s the acknowledgement of his clever ingenuity from his peers that must be the real prize, but it’s his new Waccom Cintique interactive display he also won as a consolation that’s caught the eye of fellow creatives within the shop.

Design 1 of 2: Photorealistic rendering of a champagne diamond ring design

Design 1 of 2: Photorealistic rendering of a champagne diamond ring design

ABOUT THE DESIGNS

To ensure a place at the top, this year Shinya submitted 2 designs for consideration in hopes at least one would get him amongst the final few. He actually considered this first design the ‘better,’ more technically challenging entry, costing  a painstaking 18 hours to render upon its final save. It’s an elaborately formed ring, full of over-and-under twists and turns, featuring a champagne diamond center and is positioned with an imaginary champagne bottle for greater thematic effect (don’t forget, nothing in the image physically exists as pictured; it’s all completely virtual).

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The second ring design features delicate yet easily cast filigree and a unique Padparadscha sapphire center

Shinya’s second entry at its face may appear simpler, with less detail than his other design, and yet this is the ring that took best in show. Upon a closer look, however, there is an ornate motif of filigree inside the ring and this is arguably the most inventive part of the piece. For most, this would appear to be an element almost entirely fashioned by hand and added later (delicate work like this is seldom achieved with models grown or milled from CAD files alone). But with Shinya modeling a rather deep albeit narrow strip of patterned gold, it would resemble filigree to the eye and run deep into the ring and out of sight, making it equally producible as to separate parts.

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Shinya Takahashi’s designs are truly stunning, yet for some may lack a romance or inspirational story you’d expect to discover. There are no genres that inform his pieces, and no artist’s statement to further define them. His approach is pragmatism at work: If it looks good then its good, if looks bad then its bad, and it should feel good on the hand. That’s it. To learn more about Shinya, visit his bio page – and if you’d like one of his designs made just for you, drop us a line at info@greenlakejewelry.com

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

 

 

 

Categorized under: Artists, Events, Press

ARTISTS AT WORK: Green Lake in Chicago

At Green Lake, you’ll see our little ‘artists at work’ slogan just about everywhere; it’s on our signage, on our letterhead, and on the little copper boxes in which each ring we craft is delivered. This slogan (by the way) is absolutely true, and this month there are two artists in particular you really need to meet: Kelsey Kudriavtseff and Colin Skelly.

You might not readily see them in the store, as a majority of their time is spent in the workshop tucked back from the glitz of the display cases, but they’re very much at the heart of we do. Both recently returned from Chicago, where they mixed with the bigwigs of jewelry and competed against the best in the industry at one of the largest annual exhibitions in the country – The Smart Show – and both cleaned up, killed it, smashed it, call it what you will…they prevailed outstandingly.

smart show

THE SMART SHOW

 

Each spring America’s jewelry leaders rally for The Smart Jewelry Show, a pow-wow for the who’s who in retail that’s hosted annually by Instore and Indesign magazines. As much a trade conference as it is an exhibition of skill, the Smart Show pits the best bench jewelers and 3D CAD modelers against each other in its ‘Bench Pressure Challenge.’ Year after year, Green Lake artists not only qualify to compete, but shine in a myriad of categories: From virtual environments where rings are developed on CAD in front of a live audience to more tried and true old world skills, like setting and engraving a piece at the bench.

This year we are happy to report that our own 3D modeling phenom Kelsey Kudriavtseff brought home the gold as the 2014 CAD champion and pro bench artist Colin Skelly received the distinguished honor of being the best hand engraver in show!

Green Lake Designer Kelsey Kudriavtseff sketching live with a lucky bride-to-be in a contest sponsored by The Knot.

Green Lake Designer Kelsey Kudriavtseff sketching live with a lucky bride-to-be in a contest sponsored by The Knot.

 

HOW KELSEY KUDRIAVTSEFF DESIGNS A RING

 

Kelsey Kudriavtseff

Kelsey Kudriavtseff

At Green Lake, Kelsey Kudriavtseff manages the CAD operation, checking virtual 3D designs for production viability and keeping the CNC milling machines and state-of-the-art 3D resin printers humming throughout the shop. Basically, in the process of making custom engaging rings and wedding bands, it’s in her area of modeling – and model-making – where pieces really start to come alive. But Kelsey is also perhaps one of Green Lake’s most influential designers, contributing a good share of original rings to Green Lake’s Signature Designs.

In Chicago this past month, Kelsey competed against America’s top modelers in a head-to-head design-off sponsored by The Knot, where one lucky bride–to-be got to put them to test. Working briefly with each designer in front of a live audience to communicate the ring of her dreams, each competitor set off to create a model ready for production and win her approval. Though the betrothed selected a more traditional ring in the end, it was Kelsey’s design that took the final award. Its organic taper, delicate crisscross and above all its ability to be produced as it was shown all contributed to her win. Congratulations again, Kelsey!

The winning ring voted by judges, a ribbon-inspired custom engagement ring in platinum:

(To learn more about Kelsey’s work or to make an appointment for a custom engagement ring or wedding band, see her Green Lake bio.) 

HOW COLIN SKELLY MAKES A RING

 

Colin Skelly

Colin Skelly

In Chicago Colin Skelly was named as the best engraver this year, winning with a pattern he only began sketching on the airplane ride out. He sketched his pattern (one almost reminiscent of a wild, blossoming garden in the spring) over and over until every leaf, curl and petal was known to him as distinctly as his own signature.

By the time he was seated at the bench, encircled by badge-clad judges and craning cameras, Colin already knew exactly what he was doing. With only a mere two hour window to engrave just one-half of their sample 14ky gold bands, he completed the entire ring – top to bottom – with time to spare. That’s fast!

Colin’s engraving sample is pictured at the top of this stunning collection of pieces fashioned in only 2-hours

Colin’s engraving sample is pictured at the top of this stunning collection of pieces fashioned in only 2-hours

Colin is a modest yet calculating jeweler. By incorporating multiple techniques – from carved elements to relief and bright-cut* engraving – the ring pops with crisp detail and catches the light of the room not unlike a faceted gemstone.

*Bright-cut engraving: By carving out a pattern in platinum, inlaying it with gold, then adding precise bright-cuts throughout, an otherwise simple wedding band is imparted with more movement and flash than you could ever see in anything mass produced. See this web short for this type of ring in action:

ENGRAVING SLIDE from Green Lake Jewelry Works on Vimeo.

To learn more about Colin Skelly and see his body of work here at Green Lake, visit his bio page

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

Categorized under: Process Videos

MELTING GOLD: Watch Pouring Ingot to Make a Ring

From the crucible to the ingot mold, watch where a ring truly begins to take shape. Fire in the Green Lake workshop is as daily an occurrence as is hammering and filing, and truth be told it ignites some magic and excitement in us every time:

MELTING GOLD from Green Lake Jewelry Works on Vimeo.

Green Lake Jewelry Works Artist, Lamoureux

Green Lake Jewelry Works Artist, Gary Lamoureux

BEHIND THE SCENES:

At Green Lake, Gary is our repair and restoration specialist. He says the best part of his job is seeing the smile on a customer’s face when he’s restored an old piece of family jewelry to its original look, especially when the customer tells him they took their jewelry to another jeweler and were told it couldn’t be fixed.

USING OLD GOLD FOR A NEW RING? 

We can help you to make something new with sentimental gold, by first melting it down much like it’s shown in the video above. It’s important to note, however, that not every piece is a good candidate for re-casting; there are a slew of variables that would cause the new, re-cast piece to be pitted or brittle. In most cases it also requires more gold to make new new piece than the old one is able to yield.  Nonetheless Green Lake is happy to do it – the torch and crucible are here waiting, just contact us directly at info@greenlakejewelry.com or check out our Restoration Page for more info.

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.

Categorized under: Education, Jewelry

Buying a Diamond Online? Here’s what Diamond Certificates Don’t Always Show

     It’s never been easier to search the world’s diamond vaults for the absolute best quality and value. From your armchair, all of a diamond’s cuts, carat weights, clarity, and color (The 4 C’s) are virtually at your fingertips to compare. Be careful, though, because with all that convenience it’s easy to get caught up with technical descriptions of diamonds – instead of the diamond itself.

After all, it’s how the diamond actually looks that you’re really after. Does it radiate with brilliant, mesmerizing sparkle on the finger? Does it catch the light of the room and remind you why it’s there in first place? While 4 C’s are all key factors in selecting the perfect diamond, they simply can’t answer these questions on their own; you really have to see a diamond for yourself to know. It seems crazy to buy a diamond you’ve never seen, from someone you’ve never met, and yet it’s becoming the norm for online purchases.

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All too often, folks get caught up in finding the biggest and most clear, colorless diamond for the least amount of money. To find it, they’ll scroll through hundreds of certifications, poring over each granular credential with all the romance of  a Dewey Decimal search in the library. We think you should actually see your perfect diamond, and compare it amongst others to ensure your final selection is the right one.

Take for instance this tale of two diamonds pictured below: Both are round brilliant cuts of comparable carat weight. Both were graded by the same reputable institution, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Both are of the same color and clarity grading, and both are considered excellent. In fact, save for a few nuances in pavilion angle and girdle depth, theses two diamonds are ostensibly the same gem (at least on the laboratory report). But these two are not the same gem. Just have a look…

Diamond Specs

Promise, no doctoring to this photo has been done to dramatize the effect. These two diamonds pictured above look the same on the certificate, yet appear very different in person. One is clearly ‘crisper’ than the other, like a freshly cleaned mirror. So, what gives? If the 4 C’s on the certification are the same, what is missing?

BRANT

Clarity Isn’t Always Terribly Clear

A diamond’s clarity grade is based on the visible amount of microscopic crystals that formed in the gem at its birth, eons in the earth’s deep past. These tiny crystals may deflect light away from your eye, which causes a milky or cloudy effect in the gemstone. Can you guess which diamond in the image above has more of these crystals? Of course, it’s obvious.

Nonetheless, these types of inclusions are generally not shown on the plot of a certificate. They’re so small and numerous that it would be far too cumbersome to report, especially if they’re not deemed significant enough to effect the gem’s ultimate grade, and subsequent value. So they don’t show up, because they apparently don’t matter enough, but they will completely change the way the diamond looks. You would never know that the diamond wasn’t as stunning as the other unless you physically saw it to compare.

DIAMOND CERT

What Else May Be Missing on the Diamond Certificate? 

While these little pin point crystal inclusions account for a majority of hidden differences, there are all sorts of subtle attributes that can equate to big disparities. For instance, fluorescencethat is the amount a diamond will glow under an ultraviolet light to reveal otherwise hidden mineral traces – is reported on the certificate, but bears little relevance to how the diamond will look in a ring on your finger. Most of us don’t live under the glare of an ultraviolet lamp, but hopefully we do get out in the sunshine – how does it look out there? That may better satisfy your own fluorescence criteria than a report alone.

Another important contribution to how bright and sparkly a diamond can be is its scintillation, that glittering iridescence that makes the diamond almost appear as though it’s on fire. A grading certificate will report the quality of the polish, and that is indeed a gauge of scintillation, yet it does not detail its facet arrangement. Diamonds cut by hand will conceivably differ slightly, which will affect their overall scintillation. The take away here is that no two diamonds can really ever be exactly the same and it’s best to see them side by side with your own eyes.

Green Lake’s Selection Process

Just as each ring at Green Lake is hand crafted and custom made, our diamond collection is hand selected. We source our gemstones directly, negotiating hard for the best value for our clients and accepting only the most beautiful diamonds while returning the rest. Whereas most online sites don’t personally view the individual diamonds they pick from a list and send out sight unseen, Green Lake meticulously inspects every diamond we present.

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We are artists who put just as much passion into gem selection as we do in our craft of fine jewelry making. Be it in our Seattle studio or through our website, it’s our gemologists, designers, and jewelers – not salespeople – who seek to provide you with the perfect diamond. Because our singular aim is to create the most beautiful rings possible, to out-do ourselves again and again, it’s in our interest to connect clients with the absolute best diamonds available within their respective budgets.

Are you in search of the perfect diamond? Get even smarter about your purchase criteria on our Understanding Diamonds page, and if you want to speak with a buyer or gemologist directly, contact Green Lake’s Gemstone Laboratory today and get some expert help: gemstones@greenlakejewelry.com

About the author:

Eric Robertson is a writer, illustrator and creative lead for Green Lake Jewelry Works.