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T h e  J e w e l e r' s  E y e

Welcome to the Jewelers Eye

In addition to the many informative articles posted in the  Bijoux Library,  we have added a blog so that we may better share with you the exciting custom design and jewelry projects we are working on here at Bijoux Extraordinaire,  The Jewelry Experts.

We will also discuss the latest news and trends in fine jewelry and gemstones.  We invite you to share your thoughts,  ask our experts questions and comment on the jewels you see throughout our web site.

And now, on with the first of many discussions.

Judi Anderson          

This is a stunning Asscher Diamond ring I custom designed and made for a couple in Texas.    I called this design The Majestic because it makes such a bold and elegant statement.    The center diamond is 3 ½ carats.    The side diamonds weigh a total of 1 ½ carats.    That's a total of 5 carats !    This is some serious bling !!

I love Asscher Cut Diamonds and have created many different designs featuring this elegant style of cut.    I hope that you too will deem this design worthy of its name.

January 15, 2008                  

Tourmaline ring.
Holiday Sale!

Christmas is coming! So, we reduced the already low prices of the beautiful jewels in the  The Odds 'n Ends Gallery.  Please view all the beautiful jewels and enjoy!

The Great Ruby Hunt

Part I - The Hunt Begins

We made the above Ruby and Diamond ring for a client who wanted to create an exceptional engagement ring.  The first step in the project was to discuss and develop with the client an initial design of the ring.  Once the initial design was decided upon,  we turned to the second most important task,  helping our client find a gorgeous Ruby for the stone.  Fortunately, we offer a Gemstone Research Service to help clients find and purchase just the right gemstone for their custom rings.

I thought it would be helpful to describe the process we follow when helping clients locate and evaluate gemstones for their custom design projects.

The first step is to help the client decide what characteristics of the gemstone are most important. For the Ruby and Diamond ring the client wanted a Ruby that was a classic Emerald-cut and about 1 ½ carats in weight.  She would also consider beautifully cut oval and cushion shape stones.  But, her most important criteria was the color.  She desired a Ruby that was a classic pure red.

Once the specifics of the desired gem were set,  I interviewed a number of fine Ruby dealers and cutters about the stones available in the marketplace.  These gem dealers know our exacting standards and presented their best stones.  The Rubies that best fit the client's criteria were selected and shipped to our gallery.

As each Ruby arrived, it was closely examined in our gemological laboratory.  Several of the gemstones did not make the initial cut and were returned to the gem dealers.  Our goal is to present only the very best gems to the client.

When performing a detailed analysis of a gemstone,  I examine each of the important components that contribute the gems beauty and value.  With colored gemstones, like Ruby, the most important component is the color grade which can comprise 90% of a stone's value.

When I evaluate the color of a gemstone, I consider three components:   the gem's Hue, Tone and Saturation.

Hue is the actual spectral color of a gem.  Our client desired a pure red Ruby;  however natural Rubies are rarely a single color.  Most rubies are a blend of two or more colors. Rubies can be a pure red, or be modified by orange or purple, the colors that lie on either side of red on the color wheel.  At this stage, my job was to eliminate the Rubies with an overly modified color.

The second component of the color grade,  Tone,  relates to the lightness or darkness of the color.  Some gemstones are found within a narrow range of tones,  while others can occur in a full range of tones from nearly colorless to nearly black.  The goal is to find the right tone based on the client's preference.  Some people prefer a lighter pinker shade of red, while others desire a darker stone.  Our goal is to find the best stone that meets the client's desires.

While there are many honest people in the gemstone industry,  I err on the side of caution and independently verify a gem's quality grades.  Some dealers will misrepresent the color grade in order to sell the gem to a less knowledgeable buyer.  Our job is to ensure that the gemstones considered by the client have been accurately described and fairly evaluated.

For example, one of the alleged Rubies sent to us by a cutter had a lighter tone that, in my opinion, placed it into the Fancy Pink Sapphire Category.  The dealer had represented it as a Ruby, but as you can see in the above photo, the Princess cut gem on the left is quite pink.  And while this is a beautiful gem in its own right, it is not what the client desired, and it did not warrant the name "Ruby" nor the same per carat price as a true Ruby color.

The third color component is Saturation (sometimes called Intensity).  Saturation is critical to a gemstones overall color grade.  This is the purity of the color .... the Ooomph, the Pizzazz.   The intensity of warm colors (like Orange and Yellow) tend to be weakened by degrees of brown,  while cooler colors (like Blue or Violet) tend to be modified by gray.  At the lowest saturation level the gem appears brown or gray.  At the top saturation level the gemstone really pops with vivid color.

In my next post I will describe how we worked with the client through the process of reviewing the subtle differences in Hue, Tone and Saturation that affect the beauty of a gem and how we helped our client select the best Ruby for her ring.  Be sure to come back for the "The Great Ruby Hunt - Part II".

And, of course,  if you have any questions or comments, please let me know.

July 16, 2007                  

Sweet Sensations Pastry Shop
Special Judi Alert !

Recently we took a day trip to Maine to preview the jewelry at an estate auction.  After viewing the jewelry,  we visited one of our favorite Mid-Coast bakeries,  Sweet Sensations  in Rockport.  As usual,  we were tempted with a delicious assortment of Cinnamon Twists,  Lemon Coconut Cake (my favorite),  Praline Cookies,  Macaroons and other delectable treats.  Naturally we stocked up!

If your visit to our Gallery in Manchester, New Hampshire includes a side trip to the Maine coast,  be sure to visit Sweet Sensations Pastry Shop.  It is the ideal destination for the committed sweet-tooth connoisseur!

The Great Ruby Hunt

Part II - The Hunt Continues

We were working with a client who wanted to create a striking Ruby and Diamond engagement ring.  After evaluating a number of beautiful Rubies and assembling a strong grouping,  the next step was to review the gemstones with the client and help her select the best Ruby for the ring.

The color of a gemstone can be described in terms of Hue, Tone and Saturation.  Part of my task is to evaluate these components of color and help client's understand the subtle differences.  My goal is to make sure that the client can make an educated, informed decision when purchasing a gemstone.

The human eye has difficulty seeing and remembering subtle differences in color,  especially if you are looking at only one or two gemstones at a time.  The best way is to examine and compare a number of gemstones all at once .... the more gems the better!  Below is the dazzling array of Rubies I assembled for my client to review.

With a large number of gemstones the initial lineup can be overwhelming.  After all, each of the gems is beautiful ... just in different ways. 

The client was looking for a Ruby with a classic pure Red color.  So, first I helped the client identify the Ruby that was the purest Red.  Then we identified the Rubies with the strongest orangy Red and purplish Red hues.   With these three gems as color benchmarks, we compared the remaining Rubies to determine where they fell on the color spectrum from orangy Red to Red to purplish Red.

By comparing a large number of Rubies all at once,  my client was able to see how varying amounts of orange and purple affect a Ruby's color.  Even more important she was able to decide which shade of red appealed to her most.

We used a similar technique to evaluate and compare the Saturation and Tone of each of the Rubies, creating benchmarks with the least and most saturated (intense) stones and then the stones with the lightest and darkest tones.  This allowed our client to see how subtle differences in Saturation and Tone would affect the beauty of her Ruby.

After reviewing the Hue, Saturation and Tone of each Ruby,  the client narrowed the initial field of nineteen Rubies to the following seven.  These are the Rubies with color that really grabbed her!

The next step was to consider the Cut and Clarity of each of the Rubies.  When evaluating a Ruby,  Color is the most important factor.  The Cut and Clarity are not insignificant, but they are less important than Color in determining value.

Rubies are often native cuts.  This means the gems were cut at the source and tend to be cut more for weight and size than beauty.  Some gemstone dealers will re-cut the stones they import;   however, this is not the norm as it can be risky and costly.  When judging the cut of a Ruby you want to note and avoid obvious windows, areas of extinction, misaligned facets, significantly asymmetrical shaped stones, and poor polishing.  Improper cutting can affect the value, as well as durability of a gem.

Our client desired an emerald-cut Ruby,  but would also consider an oval or cushion-shape stone if it was just the right color.  After considering the cut characteristics of each of the remaining Rubies, our client narrowed the field to the following four - two emerald cuts and two oval brilliant-cuts.

The last factor to consider in evaluating Rubies is Clarity.  Rubies are in the Type II Clarity Classification which means they typically occur with inclusions.   Nearly flawless Rubies are extremely rare and expensive.  A flawless Ruby can be rarer than a flawless diamond.   Stones with inclusions that are very easy to see under 10x magnification and possibly visible to the naked eye are graded Very Slightly Included (VS) provided the inclusions are not too numerous and do not affect transparency or durability of the stone.

As with Cut, the Clarity grade does not appreciably affect the value of a stone except for flawless and heavily included examples.   It is important to analyze the Clarity grade for several reasons:

1.  It helps rate the relative quality and value of stones in a group.

2.  Inclusions help confirm that a stone is natural and not synthetic.  We only work with natural gems.

3.  Inclusions can provide evidence of fracture-filling and heat treatment, which in turn affect rarity and value.

After reviewing all of the features of the remaining four Rubies, our client made the final choice.  So which Ruby did she select?   You may have already guessed, from the several hints I dropped.

................(drum roll).................

The winner is a 1.58 carat emerald cut with distinctively beveled corners.  She loved the nearly pure Red hue of this Ruby, combined with the dramatic geometry of the cut and the stones silky appearance.

We started with 19 beautiful Rubies and through a process of careful elimination found the Ruby that best matched our client's desires.  When hunting for an important gemstone it is worth taking the time to view and closely examine an array of gems.  In this way you can find the best stone for your custom ring or jewel.

Now that our client has found the perfect Ruby,  what's next?  The whole process began with our client's desire for a rich red Ruby set in an engraved ring like the ones she had admired on our web site.  We still needed to finalize the design, select the side diamonds and hand craft the ring.  But that is the discussion for next time.  Not to worry ..... I will not leave you hanging too long. Please check back soon for the rest of the story.

August 15, 2007                  

Platinum Art Deco Style Ruby and Diamond Engraved Ring

The Great Ruby Hunt

Part III - Crafting the Ring

In The Great Ruby Hunt I and II,  the focus was on how I helped a client find the perfect Ruby for her custom engagement ring.  Once the Ruby had been found,  the next steps were to finalize the design and craft the ring.

When custom designing a jewel the best place to start is with jewels and design elements you already admire.  After reviewing our design portfolios and the rings at our gallery,  the client identified three elements that she particularly liked.

1.   Engraving   -   She was drawn to the rich elegance and intricate patterns of our hand-engraved rings  She admired the the flowing Flowers and Scrolls pattern and our dramatic Engraved Elegance design,  but she absolutely fell in love with the cascading richness of our Regal Elegance design.

2.   Side Stones   -   She also admired the way the trilliant diamonds were set flush with the shoulders in our  Cool Ice ring.   She liked how the trilliants were tucked slightly beneath the center diamond and appeared to flow into the platinum band of the ring.

3.    Ring Shape   -   Last but not least, she loved the low profile of the gemstones in our  Cool Blue Design as well as the tapered width of the band.  She enjoys outside activities and felt the low profile of the ring would be perfect for her active life style.

We discussed these and other elements and came up with a ring design inspired by the elegant,   dramatic rings of the Art Deco era.  The resulting ring is pictured above.

Once the design had been finalized,  the next step was to find the perfect pair of trilliant-cut diamonds.  I examined about twenty pairs of trilliants.  The diamonds needed to complement one another,  and also the center Ruby.

I wanted the trilliants to fit within the beveled corners of the Ruby.  The goal was to create a continuous line from the slanted corners of the Ruby,  along the straight edges of the trilliants,  to the outer points of the diamonds burnish set in the band of the ring.  This would create a dramatic tapered look which would perfectly accent the elegant shape of the Ruby.

After matching up a stunning pair of D-color trilliant-cut diamonds, it was time to begin crafting the ring.

When creating a special ring the quality of the workmanship is as important as the beauty of the gemstones and the design.  In creating this ring we worked with three different craftsmen - a master platinum smith to build the ring,  a talented hand engraver and an experienced gem setter.  Each is a master of their craft and a talented artist in their own right.

Our platinum smith crafted the ring in three steps:

First,  he took a small solid block of platinum and, like a sculptor, carved out the upper and lower galleries of the mounting.  By carving the setting from a single piece of platinum our platinum smith was able to shape and adjust the mounting so that it perfectly matched the shape and size of the Ruby.  This approach assured that the mounting is sturdy and securely protects the gemstone.

Next, the platinum smith crafted the prongs from flat-edge platinum stock.  He polished the prongs along their length to create a narrow taper towards the base.   We then asked the platinum smith to add a slight crease or recess along the outer surface of the prongs.  This added a little contrast to the bright surfaces of the prongs and emphasized the linear design.

Finally, our platinum smith crafted the band (or "shank") of the ring.  He hand built the band with flat surfaces and slightly rounded edges to give the engraver a good working surface.  At the slightly flared shoulders of the band,  he carved triangular recesses for the trilliant diamonds.  The recesses were shaped so the diamonds would angle slightly downward and flow into the pattern of the engraving.  Because the ring was hand-crafted we were able to adapt the design to the specific size and shape of the gemstones and pay close attention to the small details.

Platinum Art Deco Style Ruby and Diamond Engraved Ring

Our client also wanted to create a wedding band in the same style.  So, our platinum smith crafted a platinum band that matched the flat surfaces and profile of the ring.  Then he carefully carved out a section at the top of the band,  so that the engagement ring would nestle up closely against the band.  The best time to create a contoured wedding band is when the engagement ring is being crafted.  This assures the best fit between the two rings.

When wearing a straight band against an engagement ring,  there is often friction between the two rings resulting in possible wear to the setting.  A custom-fit contoured band greatly reduces the friction between the rings.

Platinum Art Deco Style Ruby and Diamond Engraved Ring

Notice how closely fitted the two rings rest against each other.  This creates a more comfortable wearing ensemble,   but it also helps to minimize the wear and tear on the two rings.

Platinum Art Deco Style Ruby and Diamond Engraved Ring

Hand crafting a ring is an "old school" technique that requires exceptional (the finest) craftsmanship and patience.  The time it takes to create a truly custom ring from scratch is rewarded in the final jewel.

If you have any questions about how we work with clients on custom projects,  please send us an email.

September 16, 2007                  

The Great Ruby Hunt

Part IV - The Final Touches

In Parts I, II and III we selected the gemstones and began crafting a custom engagement ring and wedding band for a client.  Now the ring and band are ready for the final touches  -  hand engraving the bright platinum surfaces and setting the center Ruby.

I discussed with the client several patterns of engraving as well as different engraving techniques (bright cut, relief, punch, etc.).  She decided on our  Regal Elegance  pattern interspersed with small engraved flowers and surrounded by a milgrained border.  This combination of design elements nicely complements the shape of her ring and band,  as seen in the photos below.

Platinum Art Deco Style Ruby and Diamond Engraved Ring

If you closely examine the above photo you will see small striations or vertical lines along the inside of the center setting.  These are minute saw marks from when our platinum smith hand-crafted the mounting  -  an indication that the setting was hand made,  not cast.

Platinum Art Deco Style Engraved Contoured Wedding Band

The wedding band was hand engraved to match the engagement ring.  The above photo shows the flowing leaf-like pattern along the sides of the band,  as well as the cut-out at the apex of the band which allows a close fit with the engagement ring.

Platinum Art Deco Style Ruby and Diamond Engraved Ring

As mentioned earlier,  the client wanted an engagement ring that was wide on top,  but she was concerned that the ring might look and feel heavy on her small hand.  I suggested tapering the width and depth of the band towards the base of the ring.  We also polished a slight bevel around the inside edges of the ring to create a more comfortable fit.  This solution accomplished the best of both worlds:  our client would have the bold look of a wider ring along with a comfortable fit.  The photos above and below show the taper of the width and depth of the ring towards its base.

Platinum Art Deco Style Ruby and Diamond Engraved Ring

When the hand engraver had completed his task,  the next craftsman,  the gem setter,  was ready to set the center Ruby.  First he carved a small groove (or "seat") along the inside wall of each prong.  This "seat" creates a niche to support the outermost edge (or "girdle") of the gemstone.

A skilled setter creates a seat that is just deep enough to properly support the gemstone,  but not so deep that it weakens the prong.  An over cut prong will compromise the integrity of the setting.  After the seats were carefully cut our gem setter placed the Ruby within the prongs and carefully pushed over the tip of each prong until the Ruby was securely and safely held in its setting.

The Ruby is set slightly above the trilliant diamonds so that it neatly overlaps the diamonds,  creating a brilliant line of sparkling gemstones.  Just what you want for a beautiful and unique custom engagement ring and wedding band.

After assembling a fabulous layout of gemstones,  working with our client through various design options,  and hand crafting the ring,  the final result is a stunning engagement ring and wedding band that not only showcases her beautiful Ruby,  but also features a dazzling pair of trilliant diamonds and beautiful hand engraving.  Her ring and band are truly miniature masterpieces,  works of Art!

There are many steps involved in creating a beautiful jewel of lasting quality and beauty,  but the finished piece is definitely worth the time and care we take to create a ring you will admire and enjoy for many years.

Tell us what you think of this design.  If you have any questions about Rubies,  the ring,  or how the design can be tailored to your own lifestyle and taste,  just send us an email !

October 14, 2007                  

Ice cream cone.

Special Judi Alert !

After hiking up  Mount Cardigan  on July 6th ,  Art and I did some back road exploring and discovered a wonderful ice cream cafe in Bristol,  New Hampshire.   I must admit that I am somewhat of an ice cream junkie so this was indeed a wonderful find, especially after a good hike up the mountain.   If you are visiting our wonderful state, be sure to check out  The Mill Ice Cream Cafe and Fudge Factory.

Hi Judi - Last year I hiked up Cardigan with some friends.  The ledge scramble near the top was awesome.  Next time I'll check out the ice cream parlour.  Thanks for the tip.  Mike from NY

Alluring Aquamarine

Recently a client asked us to create an engagement ring featuring an aquamarine.   We tend to get more requests for sapphires and diamonds so when he asked for a nice aquamarine to be the focal point of a custom ring, my design cog wheels started turning.  This was my opportunity to work with a gem that is not only clear and crystalline, but also a lovely shade of sea and sky like blue.

Aquamarines bring to mind the striking designs of the Art Deco of my personal favorites for jewelry inspiration.   I love the cool crisp sky blue color of aquamarine, especially when accented with white diamonds and platinum.   And I happen to have just the perfect stone in our safe; a lovely square emerald cut fine aquamarine with neatly beveled corners. After several email discussions with the client an initial image of the ring - a bold combination of square shapes enveloped in platinum.

Once I formed the basic idea for the Alluring Aquamarine Design, the next step was matching up the best size of princess cut diamonds for a symmetrical layout. The result - a striking center Aquamarine within the center of a crisp row of brilliant white square diamonds.   A wide band with highly polished mirror like finish formed the body of the ring, but my favorite touch was the square shaped platinum we used for the prongs. Our platinum smith took flat edge stock and polished it to create a neat taper from the top to the base of the head.   He then polished sharp spear-head shaped points at the tips of the prongs - a dramatic detail - like an exclamation point !

Finally he formed the prongs and the head with an outward splay for flare and the final "ta-dah".   These details and extra touches are what I often refer to as the "toute fini". But many of our clients simply call these the "Jewelry Expert touch".   I am flattered to hear this and really appreciate all the complements we receive every day.   But my greatest joy is when a client tells me the story of how they presented our creation to the recipient, and of course, their excitement upon receiving an original design from the Jewelry Experts at Bijoux Extraordinaire Ltd.

The polish, finish and symmetry in the underside of a ring is one of the things I pay close attention to...and believe me, there are many items I pay close attention to; I am a detail oriented person.   I have always believed that the hidden parts of a fine quality jewel should be finished just as nicely as the top.   A highly skilled craftsmen will pay close attention to the underside and spend as much time finishing the inside as the outside.   This is the mark of a true master jeweler.

Of course each piece I design and create must be tested for comfort and wearability. So naturally I get to road test everything I create.   What a great job I not only create beautiful jewels for our clients, but to also try them on and make sure they fit well and look great on the hand.   It's one of the highlights of my day, trying on a new jewel fresh off the jeweler's bench!  To learn more about this ring, please visit Alluring Aquamarine.

If you are the proud owner of a Bijoux Extraordinaire jewel,  please share your comments with our readers and tell your story.  Until next time ...

June 26, 2007                  

Dear Judi - I love the look of the Alluring Aquamarine Design.   Is it possible to do something like this with a different gemstone, like Emerald?  Also, can this be done in yellow gold? Nancy P. in St. Louis.

Hi Nancy.   Thanks for your comment and question.  The Alluring design would be stunning with a fine quality emerald. And if you prefer yellow gold, I would recommend building the band portion and the center head (prongs) in 18kt yellow gold, but lining the channel for the diamonds in platinum. Or the band can be made completely in yellow gold, including the channel walls.  Regards,  Judi

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