The Jeweler's Eye
My photo
I am a jewelry designer and gemologist. I love creating beautiful heirloom jewelry for clients all over the world. In this blog, I feature many of my designs and current projects as well as articles about colored gemstones, diamonds and antique jewelry. As a historian and lover of antique and estate jewelry, I am often inspired by jewels from the past.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Tale of Two Sapphires

Two Radiant-cut Sapphires

Designing a new ring, pendant or brooch is an exciting experience, a time of anticipation and imagination. One of my favorite steps in the process is comparing and selecting gemstones. Helping a client find the perfect gemstone for a design is almost as much fun as unveiling the finished jewel.

When selecting gemstones for a design several factors should be considered - the most important of which are color, cut and size. To help us discuss each of these factors I have posted above a photo of two radiant-cut sapphires from our inventory.

When evaluating colored gemstones the obvious first consideration is the color. Gemstones come in an amazing spectrum of colors that spans all the hues of the rainbow. Even among blue sapphires there is a great variety in shades ranging from light pastels to intense royal blues and violets. The two sapphires pictured above illustrate this colorful variety. The larger sapphire is a wonderful soft velvety blue while the smaller sapphire is a more intense shade of violet. When working on a project, I will often examine 20 or more gemstones before finding the one with just the right color for the jewel.

Cut is the second factor to consider. The cut of a gemstone should complement and enhance the beauty of a jewel. The two illustrated sapphires are wonderful examples of square radiant cuts. The radiant cut weds the classic step faceting of an emerald cut with the brilliant faceting favored by diamond cutters. The result is a wonderful marriage of elegance and sparkle that goes well with Art Deco-inspired designs and the flowing, geometric forms of Modern jewels.

Sapphire Seduction ring with 2.30-carat radiant-cut sapphire.

A ring I recently created, Sapphire Seduction, illustrates the sparkling elegance of a radiant-cut sapphire. In another design, Purple Decodence, I chose a classic emerald-cut sapphire, because the striking geometry of the purple gemstone beautifully complements the platinum setting.

Finally we consider size. First off, bigger is not always better when it comes to fine gemstones. A smaller, beautifully cut gemstone with exceptional color will almost always have a greater impact than a larger mediocre stone. What is important is that the size of the gemstone balances and complements the other elements of the jewel without overwhelming them. Keep Goldilocks in mind - "You don't want a gem that is too large or too small, you want one that is just right for the design!"

We have discussed color, cut and size which leads to the question "How do you evaluate and compare each of these factors as you search for the perfect gemstone?" The truth is there are no quick answers, no easy shortcuts. There is no simple formula that can determine what size of gemstone is best for a given design. Online photographs rarely capture the true beauty of a gem's color - they are subject to the accidents of photography and lighting. And although grading reports are helpful in sorting the clunkers from the candidates, they fall short in discriminating the finer qualities of cut.

The best approach is to bring together a collection of the finest gemstones available from various gem cutters. After examining each of the stones in my gemological lab, I then lay them out side-by-side and carefully examine and compare each stone first hand. Evaluating the gems in person, while working with my client, allows us to select the best gem for the jewel we are creating.

Radiant-cut 1.84-carat Sapphire

To view some of the other sapphire rings I have created,
please visit the Sapphire Ring Gallery.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Great Pumpkin - Fancy Orange Sapphire

The Great Pumpkin
A Fancy Color Orange Sapphire

With autumn comes the leaves turning to golden yellow,  rich orange and lush red hues.  And, of course,  we also have approaching the great annual tradition of  All Hallows Eve (a.k.a.  Halloween).

This time of year makes me think of some of the wonderful Orange Gemstones in our collection, especially a gorgeous Fancy Orange Sapphire we have nicknamed The Great Pumpkin.

Fine quality fancy orange sapphires are difficult to come by, especially when compared to other fancy color sapphires.

What's so great about this  3.13 carats fancy orange sapphire ?   Just about everything of course !    First you have the extremely hard and durable nature of sapphire which is #9 on the Moh's scale of hardness.  

Sapphire is the hardest of all colored gemstones which makes it a perfect choice for everyday wear.

Another great feature of orange the rich warm hue that goes beautifully with both yellow gold as well as platinum.  This is the type of color that can easily look it's best in either metal.

And let's not forget that the Pantone 2012 color of the year is Tangerine Tango.

Need I say more?  Okay....then I will.

Fancy Orange Sapphires like The  Great Pumpkin shown above are the perfect color for redheads and brunettes.  Did I mention that I am a redhead?  I guess that makes me biased,  but yes,  this is still a gorgeous color that is worthy of an exceptional custom ring, brooch or necklace.

I'm thinking it would look best in a stunning ring design, accented with colorless diamonds and perhaps some small fancy purple sapphires, but of course,  any number of designs is possible.

If you think this is a great stone for your loose gemstone collection or perhaps you would like to discuss a beautiful custom jewel project featuring this stunning gem,  please send me an email.   I would love to help you create a magnificent jewel featuring one of my favorite gems.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Progression of a Design

Clients often ask me how I come up with a design.  

  • Do I seek inspiration from a specific gemstone?  
  • Or do I have the design already in my mind and look for the best gem for that design?  
  • Do I take an existing design of mine and modify it to suit the needs and style of a specific client?
  • Do I look to the past and study ancient and antique jewels, architecture, textiles, motifs and gather inspiration from historical designs?
The answer is.....ALL OF THE ABOVE !

I want to write about how a design progresses as I modify it to fit the needs of a specific client,  to explain one example of how I create variations on a theme...and perhaps a new design all together.

A great example of a design that I have developed over the years and cultivated into other designs, is an early creation of mine,  called Cool Ice.

The first Cool Ice ring I made featured a fine grade 2 carat oval diamond (E,  VS1),  set low in four heavy gauge prongs, flanked by two trilliant cut diamonds burnish set flush within the shoulders of the band.  The ring itself was a thick, heavy and brightly polished smooth band that was as wide as the base of the trilliant diamonds and tapered in width to form a gentle dome style ring.

The  first client for whom I made this design is a brain surgeon so we often called this the Brain Surgeon Ring.  The design quickly became quite popular on our website and resulted in many clients wanting their very own "Brain Surgeon's Ring"  or something similar with variations.

I have made this design, many times, in all platinum with oval and trilliant diamonds (as shown above),  and also in an 18ktyg and platinum combination with the same type of stones.   Later, I made this design with a round center diamond and trilliant side diamonds for clients that preferred round to oval.

Some clients desired a more rounded, softer edge dome style ring where as others requested a sharper edged band with a flatter profile for a more geometric approach.

So far,  all of these were pretty similar concepts of the original design with just some minor tweeking here and there.

One day, a client asked me to locate for him a nice round, larger size diamond.  We talked about my Cool Ice design,  but he wanted something a little different.  I suggested a wider band,  not tapered,  with an inlay of  rose gold, forming a stripe along the entire circumference.  I also thought polishing the ring with a satin finish would produce a nice high-tech look.  My client agreed and so began the creation of yet another design:  Roses and Satin.

I love the stark combination of the platinum and rose gold stripe along with the soft satin finish we applied to the metal surface.

But wait....I'm not done yet.  There is more to the Cool Ice Design yet to be fashioned !!

One day, a client approached me about my Cool Ice design,  but his "fiance-to-be" loved sapphires.  Since blue is her favorite color,  he wanted to feature a rich blue oval sapphire in a ring based on our Cool Ice design.  This was the beginning of my Cool Blue series.

I have made Cool Blue many times, with a variety of gorgeous oval blue sapphires from 1 1/4 carats up to 4 carats.  I have to admit that Cool Blue has now surpassed Cool Ice in terms of custom order requests, as more and more women are choosing sapphire for their engagement ring instead of the more traditional diamond.

Cool Blue lead to another version called Horizontal Blue, when a young couple wanted an oval Tanzanite set horizontally.  I chose fancy yellow side diamonds for this ring as yellow is a complementary color to blue-violet.  I also suggested a sturdy bezel setting for additional protection to the Tanzanite which is not as hard as sapphire or diamond.

The original Horizontal Blue was made with a matching contoured wedding band.  But I have also made matching contoured wedding bands for the Cool Blue and the Cool Ice rings.  And don't miss the Concave Facetted Horizontal Sapphire Ring which is really striking or the Mini Horizontal Blue for a more diminutive look.

So what's next ?    Horizontal Violet of course !

Many women love the colors Purple, Violet,  Periwinkle and Plum.   Fortunately,  sapphires are available in all of these hues and therefore offer a wonderfully durable gemstone for an engagement or every day ring.

I have yet to create this with an orange or pink sapphire.....any takers out there?    I think this design would be fabulous with a bright pink gem !

If  Red is your about a Horizontal Red Spinel to grace your finger.   This example features an intense Fire Engine Red cushion cut red spinel in a brightly polished bezel.

I could go on and on and on !   But I think you get the picture.  The Cool Ice.....Cool Blue.....Horizontal Blue design can be made with oodles of variations to suit your personal style and taste.

The options are only by our imagination.

For more information on any of these rings,  click on the photos for links to my website with additional photos and details of these rings.

I am also happy to discuss with you a custom Cool Ice.....Blue,  Horizontal...or whatever your fancy.  Just send me an email.

Until next time.....
                              Judi Anderson

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fresh Off The Jewelers Bench !

Just finished a lovely new 18kt yellow gold wedding band for a client.  The ring features a beautiful blue oval sapphire and round brilliant white diamonds, channel set within an open top.

The 18kt yellow gold ring is brightly polished to a mirror like finish.    The ring has a squarish shape but with slightly rounded corners for a softer look and more comfortable fit.

I love how the sapphire and diamonds appear to be suspended in mid-air within this nice heavy gauge channel setting.  The open ends allow you to see the dramatic line created by the gemstones seemingly suspended.

What shall I call this dramatic ring design?   Hmmmmm.... I wil sleep on it tonight and perhaps come back tomorrow with the perfect name !

Of course if you have a suggestion,  I am all ears !

To see more of my designs and custom creations,  please visit my website Bijoux Extraordinaire - The Jewelry Experts

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Drusy Gemstones - Glistening Wonders

Drusy is a term derived from the ancient Greek word "drossos" meaning "dew" which later evolved to the Bohemian "druza" and was then transformed by the Germans to druse.   Some think of drusy as dew drops atop a mineral but I prefer to think of drusy like fine sugary crystals glistening as if freshly fallen snow on a cold winter morning.

Drusy is basically a layer of micro-crystals (i.e. tiny tiny tiny) that have formed on the surface of a mineral or matrix.
It can be seen on a variety of colors of Quartz (white, orange, yellow, blue, mauve, etc.) found world wide, as well as on vivid green Uvarovite Garnet from Russia, hot pink Cobaltocalcite from the Congo, bright turquoise colored Chrysocolla from the Southwestern United States, Brazilian Rainbow Hematite, deep black Psilomelane from Germany and Irridescent Pyrite from Russia.  

From the side, you can see the undulating depth of this lush drusy chrysocolla and the banded layers of malachite forming the side walls. Chrysocolla and Malachite are both copper based minerals that often occur together in the same matrix. Combine the rich copper generating hues of these two gems with a glittery, sugary layer of drusy and you have a spectacular prize.  


These dynamic earrings feature Drusy Uvarovite Garnets and took home first place in a design competition.
If you look closely, you will see that the surface is encrusted with dodecahedron-shaped crystals in various sizes. This occurs because Garnet crystallizes in the Isometric (Cubic) system which typically presents as dodecahedron external shapes. The intense green is caused by Chromium.

When purchasing uvarovite, look for specimens that have good surface coverage (no bare spots), intense color and well formed crystals.

Surprisingly, almost all of these materials are natural, even the vivid colors seen in Chrysocolla, Uvarovite and Cobaltocalcite. These truly are nature's wonders !

Cobaltocalcite gets its super hot pink coloring from Manganese.

I would call these "hot hot hot ! "

Irridescent Pyrite has a natural metallic shimmer of vibrant hues that remind me of exploding colorful fireworks ! The intensity of the hues is mesmerizing.

This assymetrical tongue with sweeping bands of color would be dazzling as the centerpiece of a custom necklace. I can envision a warm yellow gold frame along the body of the pyrite with a curved line of facetted rainbow gemstones forming a cross-arm at the top, culminated by a round brilliant diamond as if to mark an exclamation !

Of course there are endless possibilities for a custom jewel featuring this exotic gem. I see this irridescent pyrite set in 18kt yellow gold, brightly polished.  But a cool white platinum design with satin finish would be equally striking.  You can easily let your imagination wander with gems like this.

There are also some forms of drusy that are treated.
Titania is drusy on quartz that has been coated with Titanium to create vibrant rainbow colors.  Black onyx drusy is quartz drusy that has been dyed.

And yes, there is even drusy that is coated with 23 karat gold or platinum.

Will wonders never cease ?

One of the reasons I love drusy gemstones is that they are available in such a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors.  I am able to create truly unique jewelry with these glistening wonders ! Here is a gorgeous Titania coated drusy gemstone I used for a striking custom necklace.     This Titania Agate has a metallic blueish border surrounding a pocket of glowing micro-crystals in vibrant purples, blues and yellows.

I designed a pendant for this Titania Agate with a highly polished platinum frame that follows the natural contours of the gem. 

The oversized bail was then accented with a trillium cut neon blue Apatite (yes Windex-like color) and a small diamond for added brilliance.

Even the backside of this necklace is unique !

Of course mixing various drusy colors and gem types is permissible. These fabulous earrings showcase a pair of pie shaped vibrant rainbow hematites atop drusy yellow quartz trilliums. The round facetted rhodolites compliment the pink hues in the rainbow hematite.

These gems and much more are available in our gallery for purchase.  I work with a wonderful assortment of drusy gems that can be incorporated into a custom jewel of your liking.  You can choose from a great number of colors for the combination that best fits your style.

To see more drusy gems and jewels I have created with these glistening wonders,  please visit my website Bijoux Extraordinaire - The Jewelry Experts

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Alexandrite - The True Changer

Yes, it has been a while since I last wrote. I have had to focus my attention on other areas of my business for the last many months.  But I am now back to writing about one of my favorite subjects - Fine Jewelry and Gemstones.    

And so,  I bring you...... Alexandrite,  The True Changer ! 

Alexandrite is a unique gemstone that displays a phenomenon called Photochroism or Color-Change effect.  Due to the popularity of this particular feature, this is also known as the Alexandrite effect even when seen in other types of gemstones. 

A fine Alexandrite will display one color under natural daylight and a different color under artificial or incandescent light.

Alexandrite responds specifically to different wavelengths of light, resulting in a range of  hues, depending on the quality of the gem. 

Under daylight, Alexandrite can exhibit lush green hues, as well as greens modified by blue to create a deep teal hue and yellowish-greens modified by brown.

Under incandescent light, Alexandrite may display a dark  red hue, a purplish-Red color or a brownish-pink. The deeper and more vibrant the colors, the finer the gem.  And....the stronger the amount of color change, the rarer the gem. 

The strength of color change combined with the purity and vibrancy of the hues are THE most important characteristics in determining the value of natural Alexandrite.
Alexandrite also has a rich history that is tied to Russian Royalty. In 1830, a poor peasant laborer discovered this unusual gem in a mine deep beneath the Ural Mountains of Russia. 
Fascinated with the way the gem turned from green to red, he and others called it the Christmas Stone. 

This was also the time when a young Russian Tsarevitch, Alexander II, was celebrating his 12th birthday.  As red and green were also the colors of the Tsarist Court, the stone was swiftly renamed Alexandrite.

Although the origin of alexandrite is shrouded in mystery,  the beauty of this rare stone is undeniable. With proper cutting, the finest alexandrite exhibits a rich bluish-green in sunlight and a deep raspberry red in artificial light. 

Unfortunately, the major Russian sources of alexandrite were depleted by the early 1900s. More recently, deposits of alexandrite have been found in the gem-rich regions of Brazil. The finest Brazilian stones exhibit deep colors and exceptional clarity which rival the earlier Russian stones. It is the beauty of these fine Brazilian alexandrites that has generated a renewed interest in this phenomenal gemstone.  

And if you did not already know,  Alexandrite is considered a birthstone for those born in the month of June.   Imagine that......a gem to commemorate your own birthday !

I love working with rare and beautiful gemstones like Alexandrite.  The layout shown above is a group of gemstones I researched and located for a specific client.  She chose the gorgeous cushion cut gem,  second from the left.

If you would like to purchase a fine quality Alexandrite and perhaps have a jewel custom designed with such a rare beauty,  please send me an email .

Additional photos of fine gems and jewelry can be found at Bijoux Extraordinaire

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Luck of the Irish - Four-leaf Clover Pins

Saint Patrick's day is just a few weeks off. So, it seems an appropriate time to celebrate the luck of the Irish with a bouquet antique four-leaf clover pins. Go n'éirí leat!

Additional photos and information on each piece
can be viewed by clicking the photograhs.

A beautifully enameled Victorian lucky clover brooch. The edges of the petals
and stem are gold and set with small graduated pearls. A larger pearl is set in
the center and a second rests on a petal like a small dew drop. Created by
Bippart, Griscom & Osborn in 14kt gold, circa 1900.

A wonderful Art Nouveau brooch of a four-leaf clover set with a
small diamond. The leaves are richly detailed with fine veins
and characteristic crescent moons. A captivating example
of flowing, almost surreal Art Nouveau design. Created
by Whiteside & Blank in 14kt gold, circa 1900.

A beautiful four-leaf clover sure to bring luck to the wearer. A small pearl
is set in the center like a morning dew drop. The green enamel leaves
of the clover are naturally and richly detailed. The mid rib and veins
of each leaf are exactingly rendered. Crafted in 14kt gold, circa 1900.

An exquisite, petite Art Nouveau brooch of a woman serenely dreaming
amid lucky clovers. The woman's profile and the four-leaf clovers are
beautifully enameled in soft pastel shades. The clovers are set with
sparkling dew drop-like diamonds. Created by Krementz &
Company in 14kt gold, circa 1900.

These and other beautiful jewels from the past can be found
in the Antique & Estate Jewelry Gallery.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Estate Jewelry as a Valentine Day's Gift

Valentine's Day is a time for sweethearts and lovers to share special gifts and tokens of endearment. Cards and candies are traditional gifts. There is also a long tradition of jewels from the past being given as an expression of one's feelings in the present and hopes for the future.

The brooches and pins created 100 years ago are particularly appropriate for conveying the sentimental messages of Valentine's Day. They are laden with symbolic meanings and hidden messages favored during the late Victorian era and early 20th century. Below is a sampling of a few of our favorite brooches and stickpins from the Antique and Estate Jewelry Gallery.

So, if you are stuck on someone special or wish to brooch the subject of your intimate feelings, an antique stickpin or brooch may be the perfect Valentine's Day gift!

Flora, the Goddess of Spring and Flowers, was a symbol or rebirth and new beginnings. The Goddess's golden tresses are bestrewn with a bouquet of flowers and foliage. This brooch is beautifully rendered in the Art Nouveau style. Crafted in 10kt gold, circa 1900.

The Victorians loved jewels with hidden meanings. One form were rebus jewels in which elements of the jewel represented a word or phrase. For example small brooches with delicate enamel flowers set in a crescent moon, like this one, could be interpreted as "honeymoon."

The small dogwood blossoms beautifully crafted in pink and white enamel also held symbolic meaning. Among Victorians dogwood blossoms were a symbol of persistence as well as an indication of affection. Perhaps this brooch was a gift from a husband to his wife on their wedding night or at the time of their betrothal. Created by Krementz & Company in 14kt gold, circa 1900.

Beautifully detailed grape leaves and a cluster of fresh water pearls cascade across the oval frame of this Victorian brooch. In Victorian times grapes and grape leaves were a symbol of Christ, but also carried overtones of Bacchus and riotous revelry. Created by Ostby & Barton in 10kt gold, circa 1890.

A bouquet of golden irises flourishes amid an Art Nouveau tangle of curvaceous stems and foliage. Irises were a symbol of faith, hope and a promise in love. This brooch beautifully captures the wild, fluid aspect of Art Nouveau design. Crafted in 14kt gold, circa 1900.

A beautiful Art Nouveau brooch of intertwined ginkgo leaves surrounding a soft pastel Amethyst. The intricate, flowing design is accented with two small pearls. In Japan and China, Gingko trees are a traditional symbol of longevity and resilience. Created by Whiteside & Blank in 14kt gold, circa 1900.

An oak leaf and two acorns suspended from a small branch. The oak leaf is beautifully enameled with shimmering shades of green, yellow and pink. The acorns are set with two small pearls. The oak leaves and acorns are a symbol of strength and endurance, as well as a reminder that great things come from small beginnings. Crafted in 18kt and 14kt gold, circa 1900.

A beautiful four-leaf clover with richly detailed green enamel leaves. A small pearl is set in the center like a morning dew drop. This naturalistic jewel will undoubtedly bring luck to the giver, the wearer and their relationship. Crafted in 14kt gold, circa 1900.

A wonderful brooch of a swallow in flight. Among the Victorians swallows were a symbol of a loved one returning safely home. Aptly, swallows were often the first birds seen by ships returning to port. The piece is beautifully modeled with richly detailed feathers and wings and a red gemstone (possibly ruby or garnet) set as the eye. Created by Riker Bros. in 14kt gold, circa 1900.

Additional photographs and information on these and other fine estate jewels
can be found in the Antique and Estate Jewelry Gallery.