Jewelry Collection Stories: Kate of @LuxCharmJewelry

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This month’s Jewelry Collection Story comes from Kate of @LuxCharmJewelry and it is a good one! Kate is a full-time art teacher and part-time jewelry enthusiast and collector. You may already be following her on Instagram, but if not you must. Her collection is pretty amazing and her story may resonate with many of you. So without further ado, I give you Kate’s collection story:

I’ve always loved jewelry. I have early memories of playing “dress up” and “jewelry store” with my grandmother Louise. She kept her jewelry in the top dresser drawer. Oh how I loved looking inside those little boxes and seeing all the sparkly jewels inside! We would arrange her jewels on top of carefully arranged bits of pretty fabrics and embroidered handkerchiefs and take turns “shopping.” It was so much fun trying on her white dress gloves and high heels and playing with all those pretty things.

When I was around 10 years old, my dad started giving me jewelry every year for Christmas, mostly rings. One year, I received a topaz ring that had the most amazing shade of bright blue. I adored that ring! Another favorite ring given to me by my dad was a gold signet ring that he had monogramed with my initials. I think I was around 15 at the time. It’s a classic look that will never go out of style and one I wear often today.

One of my favorite early jewelry memories was when my family went out to dinner before my high school senior award night. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to win the top artist award in my class, and my parents bought me this beautiful southwestern sterling bracelet and turquoise ring to mark the occasion. For high school graduation, I received a large, modernist sterling and gold ring. At the time, I wasn’t into yellow gold, and these bold sterling pieces were among the most beautiful pieces I owned. Luckily, my parents have continued the tradition of gifting me jewelry for special occasions, and I cherish them all. These pieces help to serve as reminders of special times in my life. My sweet husband has also joined in on the tradition and I have received many beautiful pieces from him now over the years, including my very first (and favorite) Victorian bird bangle bracelet and my beloved antique turquoise and diamond halo ring.

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As a teenager, I was really into second-hand shops–mainly for vintage clothes and small decorative items, but eventually I started picking up inexpensive jewelry and odds-and-ends; like pendants, chokers, chains, etc. At about the same time, I started making beaded jewelry and even gifting and selling pieces to my friends.

Years later, I decided to try my hand at selling handmade jewelry on Etsy. It was a fun, challenging, and creative outlet. Those were the relative early days of Etsy, and I grew as it grew. I did this for a couple of years and slowly started incorporating more and more vintage jewelry components and findings into my pieces. Eventually, the competition increased and my enthusiasm waivered, so I put my shop on hold.

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My love affair with antique jewelry began about eight years ago when my mom and I were antiquing at one of my favorite stores in Richmond, IN. My mom fell head-over-heels for this old gold cameo ring. At first, I was like, “What? Cameos? Ugh, I don’t get it.” Then much to my surprise, my mom professed her life-long love affair with cameos, citing stories from her youth. The shop owner quoted her a low price and my mom quickly bought the ring. She wasn’t one to make fine jewelry purchases on our excursions together, so I was intrigued and wanted to know more. I couldn’t stop staring at this unusual reddish-orange cameo ring on our drive back home; I was fascinated by it. It didn’t look like the girly, pink cameos I was used to seeing. It was more masculine in style and the gold was a rich rose color. The shop owner estimated the ring to be about 120 years old.

To my knowledge, I had never seen a ring that old before and now I wanted one for myself! The more I researched, the more I realized what an amazing deal my mom got on that ring. Sure, it was more than I was used to spending on random antique mall purchases (about $85), but still affordable. This made antique jewelry seem obtainable to me for the first time ever. I started reading jewelry books, researching online, and educating myself on antique jewelry. I liked learning the history behind each piece. It’s a perfect fit for me– combining my love of history, research, sentiment, story, etc.

Inspired by my new passion and focus, I reopened my Etsy shop–selling only vintage and antique jewelry. I absolutely loved hunting for old jewelry, even cameos! Thinking back to that special trip to Richmond with my mom, I believe this was the critical moment that later turned this new interest into a full-blown hobby and part-time job for me.

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Today I have such a deep and sincere appreciation for antique jewelry; I tend to collect a little bit of everything. All in all, I tend to go more for Victorian, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco pieces. Rings are probably my favorite type of jewelry to wear and collect. I love everything from dainty to bold, statement rings. I also love antique bangles and Deco necklaces in all sorts of finishes, metals, and styles.

One of my favorite things to collect are watches. My favorite makers are Longines and Bucherer. I have everything from watch pins, watch rings, wristwatches, and pocket watches. And I really love long enamel watch necklaces. My love of watch necklaces probably began when I scored an amazing Bucherer red guilloche enamel watch ball necklace for $60 in a small, local antique shop. I later learned this was a remarkable deal for one with its original enamel chain in perfect condition. I’ve since added about 10 more to my collection over the years. I just can’t stop myself when I see a beautiful one for a good price. I have such a weakness for fine guilloche enamel-work.

In addition, I love bird-themed jewelry and have many bird bangles, lockets, etc. I tend to favor cool-color pieces in general (it must be the Pisces in me!). I am very fond of blue–sapphires, lapis, zircon, and turquoise to name a few. Pale lavender chalcedony, dreamy moonstones, and that particular shade of green commonly used in Art Deco pieces–are all personal favorites. I have a growing collection of snake rings, too.

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I enjoy shopping at small, local places best. The Midwest is a gold mine for antiques of all kinds. The big jewelry enthusiasts seem to live on either coast and being stuck in the middle has its advantages… lower prices and less pickers. But this seems to get harder every year. My favorite display cases and shops seem to be shutting down. The old dealers retire; some pass away. I think part of me has also wanted to open a brick and mortar shop, but the risks are scary.

Currently, I seem to have the most luck shopping at antique shows and online auctions. I’m always on the hunt for new pieces. I would love to own more niello jewelry, antique enamel bracelets, and gutta percha bangles inlaid with gold. I have a thing for portrait paintings but oddly, own no portrait jewelry. I interned at the National Portrait Gallery right after college and it’s a subject I’m really interested in. I would love to find the perfect emerald ring and more “name” or “initial” jewelry to represent the important people in my life.

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Recently I celebrated a milestone birthday (hello, 40!) and had been hunting for the perfect aquamarine birthstone piece of jewelry for months. Then it finally happened…a huge, honking, 14-carat, Victorian, pear-shaped aqua ring in 15K gold popped up on my Instagram feed. Its large size, unfussy setting, and perfect pale-blue color, stopped me dead in my tracks. A direct quote from the seller was, “a mesmerizing, dreamy, huge piece of magic.” Indeed it was. I sold three personal collection rings to make room for this special ring, the latest addition to my jewelry box.

Back when I started wearing, selling, and collecting antique jewelry, I was the only one I knew who did. I just bought what I liked and what I could afford at the time. It wasn’t until I joined IG a couple of years ago that I found other like-minded people who loved and appreciated old jewelry as much as I do. Like most sellers/collectors, I am searching for more high quality and unusual pieces nowadays. Lately, there seems to be more competition, more reproductions, and higher prices on the online auction sites, making it harder to “score” a deal. While I may not be selling forever, I know I will be wearing and enjoying my jewelry for the rest of my life. It brings me so much joy. Marking special occasions and making new memories with jewelry are so important to me. Jewelry has a way of keeping our memories alive…providing a tangible reminder… connecting us to the people, places, and significant moments we cherish in life. Happy hunting!

xoxoGemGossip

WANT MORE? Check out the other Jewelry Collection Stories

You can follow Kate –> @LuxCharmJewelry

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Arik Kastan Debuts New Styles at Couture 2017

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Arik Kastan | Gem Gossip

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Arik Kastan and their team have been busy debuting some new designs and collections while out in Vegas for Couture. Buyers, press, journalists all hovered over their booth to get a glimpse of the new styles and fun gemstone combinations that still have people talking. As usual, Arik Kastan’s booth was one that couldn’t be missed when attending this year’s tradeshow.

If you missed out attending Vegas, we’ve got you covered in this installment–which is shown here on Gem Gossip, as well as all of Arik Kastan’s Newsletter subscribers. Be sure to sign up if you haven’t below!

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A padlock on a thin chain is all you need for a night out in Vegas! This one has us telling our friends it is perfect in every way. Classic and cool for a modern woman who still likes a nod from the past.

Oval cluster padlock in emerald + diamonds, Price: $2,360


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We weren’t ready for how much of an impact we would bring to Couture with our green agate pieces! Comments like, “what stone is this, it is amazing?!” and “this green color is glowing!!” have really made us proud. This ring is one of our favorites.

Five-Stone Art Deco ring in green agate + sapphire, Price: $1,280


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Since we are on a green/blue kick, we’ve changed things up by using emeralds and turquoise. This earring style and gemstone combo are totally chic, and we could picture these on a summer getaway on a plane near you!

Deco Rhombus Drop Earrings in turquoise + emerald, Price: $1,830

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To go along with the above earrings, we’ve created this ring which is sweet as can be! It is stack-ready and as we’ve said before, awaiting summer. Try wearing this one on your pinky if you’re wanting to do something more unique. Your friends will catch on.

Deco Lilac ring in turquoise + emerald, Price: $1,170

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Feeling the summer heat over here in Vegas, which is why we’re opting to keep our necklace situation simple. We have been wearing the Aster necklace most of the week and it has brought the right amount of sparkle and femininity to our lives. Definitely our kind of Vegas vibes.

Aster Pendant in diamonds, Price: $1,830


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Before we head back to LA from scorching Vegas, we want to point out our Delilah ring because SHE’S CUTE. One of our most-requested rings during our trade show and we can’t wait to see these on your fingers!

Delilah ring in emerald + diamonds, Price: $2,200

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We couldn’t wait to show off our newest vintage-inspired bow rings which debuted at Couture. And the newest gemstone color combo that had store and editors swooning–green agate and sapphires. Look out for them to hit the website soon! Can’t wait? Email [email protected]

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The Top Jewels that Sparkled in Cannes, 2017

Rihanna Chopard All photos via Getty Images

The Cannes Film Festival is arguably one of the best showcases for the top international jewelry houses to showcase their finest and brightest gems and designs for the world to see.

This 12-day festival brings out the most exceptional designs and creations from the likes of Chopard to Harry Winston.

It’s where you can see leading ladies like Charlize Theron and Jessica Chastain as well as ingénues like Dakota Fanning and Rihanna parading down the red carpet in the latest couture gowns and decadent jewels.

Here are the best jewels from the most revered jewelry houses that were showcased on the festival’s red carpet.

CHOPARD:

The jewelry house has a deep history with the Festival as it’s been the official partner and designer of the coveted Palme d’Or trophy awarded to the most critically-acclaimed movie. This year, the buzz on the red carpet was their collaboration with music super-star Rihanna.

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Singer Rihanna wore emerald, rock crystal quartz and diamond earrings, a black nephrite and diamond bracelet with a 31.95-carat emerald, three emerald and diamond rings and a floral bracelet set with diamonds, all from the Rihanna Loves Chopard High Jewellery collection, at the premiere of the movie ‘Okja’.

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Model Adriana Lima wore a diamond bib by Chopard at the screening of the film ‘Loveless’.

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Actress Miriam Odemba wore a titanium and white gold necklace with kunzites, beryls, tanzanites and diamonds, and matching earrings, from the Red Carpet collection by Chopard.

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Karolina Kurkova wore a sapphire and diamond necklace from the High Jewellery Collection from Chopard at the premiere of ‘Based on a True Story’.

Actress Juliette Binoche wore platinum and diamond earrings by Chopard.

Actress Elizabeth Olsen wore diamond flower stud earrings by Chopard. We simply adore the placement of these earrings.

de GRISOGONO

This jewelry house showcased some of the best and boldest designs to hit the red carpet with their use of brilliant colored stones.

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Model Hailey Baldwin wore stunning drop earrings set with white and brown diamonds, and edged with citrine briolettes.

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Model Jenaye Noah wore a pair of exquisite de Grisogono chandelier earrings that glowed with oval-cut citrines from their Melody of Colours collection. A perfect compliment to her vibrant blue gown.

BVLGARI

This iconic jewelry house showcased their classic Serpenti jewelry and picked up major press when actress and model Emily Ratajkowski was photographed wearing their pieces both on the red carpet and on her personal Instagram.

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Model Bella Hadid wore a Bulgari High Jewellery Serpenti necklace and bracelet in white gold.

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Model and Actress Emily Ratajkowski combined two Bulgari necklaces, one comprised of pearls, rubellites and diamonds from the High Jewelry Collection and the other pendant necklace made with diamonds, emerald and rubies.

BOUCHERON

The design house had some of the most striking statement-making pieces to hit the red carpet at Cannes. Actress Salma Hayek’s necklace rendered us both breathless and speechless!

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Actress Salma Hayek wore the Baïkal necklace with a 78.33-carat Santa Maria aquamarine, moonstones, Akoya pearls and diamonds from the new Hiver Impérial High Jewellery collection by Boucheron

Model Laetitia Casta paired the Lumière de Nuit diamond and pearl earrings from Boucheron’s Hiver Impérial High Jewellery collection with her gown at the premiere of The Meyerowitz Stories in Cannes

De Beers

The classic diamond jewelry house is known for their slogan “a diamond is forever” .This year, Chinese movie actress and taste maker Fan Bingbing embodies the classic elegance of Hollywood that the brand is synonymous with as she modelled a coveted collection of jewels from the house.

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Fan Bingbing wore the Arpeggia five-line earrings, bracelet and Aria ring at the ‘Amant Double’ premiere.

Piaget

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At the closing of the 70th Cannes Film Festival, actress Jessica Chastain, Piaget’s International Brand ambassador since 2015, paired her show-stopping gown with earrings in white gold set with diamonds from Piaget’s new High Jewellery collection Sunlight Journey.

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Model CoCo Rocha wore earrings in white gold set with diamonds, blue sapphires and black opal from the new High Jewellery Collection Sunlight Journey.

Another noteworthy mention is model Naomi Campbell’s earrings, necklace, ring and cuff in white gold set with emeralds and diamonds from the new High Jewellery Collection Sunlight Journey.

Harry Winston

Known as the “jeweler to the stars” and Nicole Kidman’s ‘go to’ jeweler, Harry Winston notably had Nicole Kidman wear his jewelry on the red carpet. Best bet as she had the most films to debut on the Cannes Red Carpet this year.

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Nicole Kidman wore Secret Cluster diamond earrings, Sunflower ring and diamond bracelet by Harry Winston at ‘How To Talk To Girls At Parties’ premiere.

All above photos via Getty images.

This post was contributed by:

wwwdaily Laura Lee Fulham | T: @WhoWoreWhatDly | W: www.whoworewhatdaily.com

Thanks to Gossip Gem

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Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show 2017

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Taking on the Las Vegas Antique Show with Becca of BCE Jewelry, with Lenore Dailey at her booth and we ran into Sheri & Trina of Metier

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Both pieces here (left & right) are from DK Bressler and both are more than meets the eye: the dragonfly is En Tremblant and the diamond brooch can convert into other pieces of jewelry

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Two gorgeous booth photos, the left is Platt Boutique Jewelry and the right I cannot remember for the life of me!

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I loved these three rings from Excalibur Jewelry, especially the open metal work on the pointer, & the right photo features an incredible Lightning Ridge Opal set in a turn-of-the-century ring from M&C Stevens

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This large pendant/medallion made me smile, from Platt Boutique Jewelry and the photo on the right are my three favorites from Jacob’s Estate Jewelry

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Lenore Dailey’s booth is just jaw-dropping in its own right, so I always take a photo of it every year — the photo on the right is an incredible ring box full of the most beautiful pieces from Simon Teakle

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I think Blue Topaz gets a bad rap–this bracelet is crazy gorgeous, from Clayton Antiques and the photo on the right features a museum-worthy suite of early Victorian jewelry

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I always have to stop and stare at the crowns I see at the show! The right photo features some of the best rings I saw throughout the entire show–these three, from Under the Crown. Favorite stack ever.

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Always a sucker for hearts, I loved this opal brooch from DK Bressler and the photo on the right features three light blue enamel bracelets from Keyamour. Once in a lifetime shot right there!

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I love to see what Joden has and this time around this necklace caught my eye–from the black enamel to the mega gemstones, wow! The photo on the right is a ring tray seen at Mary Ann-tiques

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The combo of moonstone + rubies is so good, I think that is why I loved this bracelet from Mary Ann-tiques so much. Also this tortoise shell butterfly brooch–wow, so unique and all handcrafted. This one belongs to Platt Boutique Jewelry.

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A box of goodies found at Lucy Verity … the photo on the right are my favorites from Mary Ann-tiques, some rectangles and ovals!

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Sapphire stack from Excalibur Jewelry and the jewelry box on the right was seen at Lucy Verity–that snake bracelet is to die for and unfortunately a little too big on my wrist.

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Last photos come from Excalibur–clusters of sapphire and diamonds, which create this amazing bracelet…and the photo on the right are my favorites from Craig Evan Small.

I’ve always associated the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show with The Paris hotel, however this was the first year in a very long time that that particular location was changed. This year’s show was located at the Las Vegas Convention Center. I didn’t know what to expect at all and actually didn’t even know where the convention center was located in regards to where everything else is until the day of the show! To my surprise, I enjoyed the change–but I also will be happy when the show returns to The Paris next year. I attended on opening day and then again the following day, covering as much as I could on day one and attempting to pick up where I left off the next day. I had good company on the second day–Katie of Vada Jewelry (like last year) and Becca of BCE Jewelry who had never attended before! It was cool to see someone experience the show for the first time and she walked away with an awesome diamond cluster ring.

For some reason the reoccurring theme for me this year was large, circular pendants aka medallions. It seemed like every booth I visited, I spotted one or was attracted to one. I like how with every show, I’m not sure what I’m going to find or what I will be drawn to…it is always something different. I brought home a really cool medallion zodiac pendant, which I will share in another post! I also brought back nearly ten pieces to sell for @shopGEMGOSSIP, some of which have already sold but you can certainly browse what is still available.

From the gorgeous diamond crowns I spotted at several booths, to lots of diamond cocktail rings, there was some major selections going on at this show. Lots of buyers were going full force and commenting on what a great show it was. I noticed an up tick in traffic flow up and down the aisles and saw a lot of buying happening.

As always, I have the best time roaming the aisles, running into people I know and chatting with my favorite dealers. It is fun catching up with everyone and I can’t believe this was my sixth year attending the show. And even after six years, I still relish in finding awesome pieces and the thrill of the hunt definitely still lives on at these shows. I hope that never changes!

Thanks for another great year, Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show…can’t wait until next year!

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Read my other posts from the same show, years of the past:

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

Thanks to Gossip Gem

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Antique & Vintage Engagement Rings Perfect for a Summer Proposal

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If you read articles frequently on the Internet about “the perfect time to propose” you’ll find that both jewelry stores and the general public see an up tick in proposals and engagement ring shopping around the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s). If you ask any girl awaiting that fateful question of, “will you marry me” you’ll most definitely find that to her, ANYTIME is an ideal time to propose. I personally think that the summer would be a perfect moment to get down on one knee. You could plan a summer getaway, do something fun outdoors, go to the beach…the ideas are endless–and there’s just something special about the summer that one can’t describe.

I’ve teamed up with Bailey’s Fine Jewelry to bring you some enticing engagement ring choices to create ideas for styles you may want to explore or to even find your ring for you (it could be one of these featured!). With four locations across North Carolina, Bailey’s has an incredible selection of engagement ring choices that can’t be beat. And if perhaps you want something vintage or antique, they also specialize in that category as well, which is what we’re going to be focusing on! These rings have just been acquired and have just gotten their close-ups. Now the last step for them is to get slipped onto a forever finger. Will it be yours?

Alternative Elongated Antique Styles

One of my favorite antique styles is this elongated look, which I think makes such a stunning engagement ring choice. These will make anyone do a double take, especially if you want a bold look. Who says all engagement rings need to be a single stone? There are so many different styles with this design–some more scalloped than others, some more floral in design, others very geometric and pointy. All these below would make great choices. You can shop and get more info on each by clicking directly on each photo.

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Fancy Floral Alternative Choices

Flowers are more than just a pretty plant–they are highly symbolic, especially in vintage and antique jewelry and are timeless choices for an engagement ring. Every wedding includes a gorgeous bouquet, but the sad part is that bouquet will die. I have mine sitting at the top of my closet, collecting dust and I’m unsure if I should throw it out or keep it. With a flower arrangement worn on your finger made of diamonds, you never have to worry about it dying! Below are some wonderful choices if you’re into floral engagement rings–click on the photos to get more info and pricing.

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Bring Back the Band

For a sleek, easy going engagement ring style that is can be worn every day, a simple band style is becoming quite popular. The wider style allows you to not have to wear a wedding band–so a two-in-one kind of ring is a smart choice for many. The vintage styles above showcase diamonds and design styles unlike any solitaire you’ll find and it is the unique patterns that often draw people to this choice. You can shop the below styles by clicking on the photos!

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Add a Splash of Color

Sometimes an all-diamond look is not for everyone. Some women prefer color and live colorful lives – and so should their engagement ring! Lucky for you, gemstones come in all sorts of colors, and with an educated choice, you can find the perfect stone for you. Whether you are a lover of pinks, greens, blues or even orange, vintage and antique jewelry utilize lots of stone examples, and the possibilities are endless. When choosing softer stones, be aware that you shouldn’t wear them everyday! Below are some great examples and if you click on the photos you can shop each one!

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This sponsored blog post was brought to you in collaboration with Bailey’s Fine Jewelry.

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Top Five Jewelry Moments in Movies

Jewelry in Movies | Gem Gossip

Who else finds warming satisfaction when a strong female protagonist hits the big screen donning some breathtaking jewels? One of most inspiring qualities in a female role is a strong sense of self, unabashedly confident in expressing her feminine side. A trinket may not make the woman, but it can help the woman embrace and reflect qualities like beauty, grace and sophistication — all of which should be celebrated.

Sure, it’s easy to think of lavish jewelry as unnecessary, ostentatious or vain, but those who only think in such boxed-in terms are missing some integral points. Jewelry may at times reflect things like status, but at its heart, it is art and it is precious. It is sentimental and it is transcendent. Perhaps that’s why I like jewelry in movies. It can be more easily admired in relation to the women that wear it, however complex those women are.

Whether you love jewelry with a story or you just like jewelry, perhaps you’ll enjoy this list of my top five favorite jewelry moments from the movies. They all just so happen to include antique jewelry in one form or another.

Titanic

Kate Winslet’s character, Rose wears some stunning jewelry in Titanic. But none are more regarded than the Heart of the Ocean, which is a fictional blue diamond necklace not to be confused with the Hope Diamond. The necklace used in the movie was made with CZs by Asprey & Garrard.

Gone with the Wind

In the 1938 film, Gone with the Wind, Vivien Leigh’s character, Scarlett has more jewelry moments than I can count. If you’re up for a Google search, find the mourning scene where she wears a large cameo brooch on her collar. The heirloom was borrowed from the costume designer’s mother and depicts a figural riding atop a bird. Amazing.

Moulin Rouge

Set in 19th century Paris, Moulin Rouge is perhaps the most decadent on this list. I mean, look at that necklace! Nicole Kidman’s character, Satine is wearing a gorgeous Belle Epoque festoon necklace with just over 1,300 diamonds. The fictional necklace was made by Stefano Canturi.

Marie Antoinette

Historical and poignant, Kirsten Dunst does a fine job humanizing Marie Antoinette in this film, as directed by Sofia Coppola. It’s worth noting that many argued the film didn’t fairly portray how overly and unnecessarily decadent the royal family was. All the antique jewelry you see is by Fred Leighton.

The Great Gatsby

Art Deco fans rejoice! Whoever was in charge of costume design for the recent adaptation of The Great Gatsby did a marvelous job capturing the era. Carey Mulligan, who plays Daisy, is seen wearing vintage jewelry from Tiffany & Co.

What are your favorite jewelry moments from movies? Let us know in the comments!

This post was contributed by:

Ageless Heirlooms Lauren Thomann | I: @agelessheirlooms | W: www.agelessheirlooms.com

Thanks to Gossip Gem

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Doyle & Doyle Debuts Rare Collection of Antique Jewels

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Doyle & Doyle is thrilled to debut pieces from a spectacular cache of rare antique jewels, all acquired from a single collector. Including jewelry from ancient Rome, 17th century Spain, and 19th century France, these are the best examples of their type and many are hallmarked by well known jewelers. Keep reading for a sneak peek of the historic collection before it goes on exhibition at Doyle & Doyle in September.

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These exquisite micromosaic pieces date to the mid-19th century and are hallmarked for the Vatican Workshop of the Papal State.The Vatican’s mosaic studio was founded in the 16th century, its skilled artisans create artworks commissioned by wealthy patrons and pieces for the Pope to give as gifts. The Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo, Saint Peter’s Square designed by Bernini, and Raphael’s “The School of Athens” are among the many masterpieces you can discover at the Vatican. Originally founded in the 16th century, the skilled artisans working in the Vatican’s mosaic studio create pieces for the Pope to give as gifts and artworks commissioned by wealthy patrons. They also oversee and maintain the ten thousand square meters of colorful mosaics that adorn Saint Peter’s Basilica. This bangle and brooch are beautifully made, featuring glass tesserae so tiny that the designs look like paintings in shades of red, blue, green, and white. Perhaps a wealthy young man purchased them during his Grand Tour through Europe, or they were gifts to an important Church official. No matter their origin, they are little works of art that display the incredible skill of the Vatican’s workshop.

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The collection includes other ecclesiastical jewels in addition to the Vatican micromosaics, including a variety of gem-set and enameled crosses from many different periods. This striking dimensional crucifix cross is Spanish from the 17th century, detailed with enamel and engraving that resembles wood grain. Although probably not original, we love it worn on the black ribbon choker, especially when layered with antique gold guard chains. Although these are museum quality jewels, they’re definitely wearable!

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There are also charming examples of sentimental and devotional jewelry. The rose cut diamond encrusted heart hangs from a sweet rose gold dove. The diamonds are foil backed and you can see hints of pink, gold, and even green reflecting through the stones. The rare late 17th century Spanish reliquary pendant is a small compartment that holds a tiny bit of a saint’s blood. It’s backed by a hand painted figure of a female saint and framed by emeralds and garnets. This type of jewel was probably a private devotional artwork. Spain being an intensely Catholic country, people believed in the power of saints to affect their daily life. In additional to more traditional liturgy, 17th century Spaniards prayed to their personal saint to intervene and make their lives better.

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The other half of this incredible collection is comprised of museum quality Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau jewelry. The Arts & Crafts Movement was a direct response to the mechanization and poor working conditions engendered by the Industrial Revolution in the mid-19th century. Adherents looked to the Middle Ages, nature, and popular folk art for inspiration, seeking to return to an idyllic time before mass production. Shying away from precious materials, Arts & Crafts jewelers favored readily available gemstones, such as garnet, amethyst, citrine, opal, and moonstone. The delicate gold pendant is British, comprised of hand wrought wirework set with bright blue turquoise and glowing moonstone.

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By the end of the century, Art Nouveau artists took the theme of nature to the next level. Art Nouveau jewelry often incorporated idealized female forms with swirling, whiplash hair framed by sensuous flora, like this striking silver mirror locket. Dating to 1900, this lovely piece is hallmarked for French jeweler Lucien Coudray. Coudray specialized in engraving medals and won several prizes for his artistry. Another popular form was a winged female with gossamer enamel wings studded with tiny gems or pearls. This statuesque dragonfly woman was created around 1900 and bears the hallmark of noted Art Nouveau jeweler, Gaston Laffitte. The light filters through the translucent green plique-a-jour enamel wings, creating a delicate stained glass effect.

This is just a small preview of the incredible historic collection – want to see it all? Doyle & Doyle is putting on a public exhibition in September. Email [email protected] for more information and to get on the invite list!

This post was contributed by Juliet Rotenberg of Doyle & Doyle, thank you!!

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Want more?! To check out the store tour of Doyle & Doyle, click here.

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Why Some Gemstones Make Terrible Engagement Rings

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The above gemstones are all beautiful, but which would make a great engagement ring and which two are bad choices for an everyday wear piece?

Alternative engagement rings have been popular long before Princess Diana (and subsequently Kate Middleton) donned a blue sapphire. In fact, diamonds weren’t commonly used in engagement rings until the early 20th century. Stones were picked based on birthdays, symbolism, and what color was in-vogue at the time.

While it can be exciting to imagine an engagement ring with mystical and trendy stones like opal and moonstone, these gemstones actually make terrible engagement rings. So terrible that you might find yourself sulking over a ruined ring with a stone that has been chipped and gouged beyond repair. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Why Won’t Some Gemstones Work?

Even though I don’t recommend wearing your rings ALL the time, most engagement rings are worn nearly every day. Even if you are the gentlest person on the planet, your engagement ring will always be subject to potential damage. Some stones simply shouldn’t take that risk because the gemstone may not be hard enough to handle even the slightest impact.

Every gemstone has a hardness factor, which basically tells us how much bumping and scraping a gem can take before it becomes scratched or damaged. This hardness is ranked between 1-10 on what is known as the Mohs Scale of Hardness. In theory, the higher the number on the Mohs Scale, the harder and more durable the gemstone is. There are exceptions to this rule, but generally, the lower the number, the more you shouldn’t use this stone as an engagement ring.

How Does the Mohs Scale Figure Out Hardness?

The best way I can think to explain this is exactly how I learned it in my Geology 101 class my Freshman year of college. Let’s see if you can follow, and for those of you that already know this, bear with me. The Mohs Scale ranks a gemstone’s hardness by whether or not it can be scratched by other gemstones or materials. If the gemstone being scratched shows a mark or abrasion, it is softer than (or equal to) the material that scratched it. If the hardness is equal, the gemstone that was scratched should also be able to effectively scratch the material that scratched it.

Since diamonds are ranked highest on the Mohs Scale at a 10, they should essentially be able to scratch every other gemstone’s surface.

Why Diamonds are Forever

One reason diamonds are so prized for engagement rings is because of their rank on the Mohs Scale. At a 10, diamonds are the hardest substance known to man. In fact, no other gemstone comes close to this hardness factor. This doesn’t mean diamonds are indestructible (more on this in a future post), but it does mean that it is much more difficult to damage a diamond than say a garnet that ranks between 6.5 – 7.5.

What Stones are the Absolute Worst for Engagement Rings?

Not to dissuade you, but if a gemstone makes this list, you’ll really want to rethink your strategy before using it in an engagement ring. That’s not to say you couldn’t. Some of these stones are significantly less expensive than diamonds, so if they become damaged, they could easily be replaced.

A word of warning though — take extra care not to get sentimentally attached to the stone itself, since you might be forced to replace it someday. You could also opt to not wear the ring every day. Save it for special occasions and wear your wedding band instead. There are no engagement ring rules stating you have to wear your ring seven days a week, and who says you should only have one!

But, regardless, these gemstones will make the worst non-diamond engagement rings:

  1. Opal: Ranks 5.5 – 6.5 and is very susceptible to crazing and chipping.
  2. Moonstone: Ranks 6 – 6.5 with a polished cab surface that is easy to scratch.
  3. Pearl: Ranks 2.5 – 4.5 and has a nacre coating that can peel away.
  4. Emerald: Ranks 7.5 – 8 which is hard but this stone is very prone to cracking.
  5. Garnet: Ranks 6.5 – 7 and will easily show age around facet edges in time.

Best Engagement Ring Stones Other Than Diamonds:

All hope is not lost if you’re set on using a gemstone other than a diamond for your engagement ring. Even though most of these gemstones aren’t as durable as diamonds, they will stay in great shape for a lifetime as long as you take proper care of your jewelry.

Here are some of my favorite alternative engagement ring stones:

  1. Aquamarine: Ranks 7.5 – 8 and has a gorgeous pale blue color.
  2. Blue Sapphire: Ranks 9 with a classic, timeless appeal.
  3. Ruby: Ranks 9 and is perfect for a more feminine style.
  4. Morganite: Ranks 7.5 – 8, is pale with peach undertones.

There are so many other gemstones not listed here and other factors that affect durability, too. But this guide should at least get you started. Remember to always look up a gemstone’s hardness on the Mohs Scale. If it ranks below a 6, do a little more research and weigh your options. Good luck and happy hunting!

This post was contributed by:

Ageless Heirlooms Lauren Thomann | I: @agelessheirlooms | W: www.agelessheirlooms.com

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Ten Facts You Didn’t Know About Engagement Rings

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History of Engagement Rings

1. The first diamond engagement ring in recorded history was presented by the Emperor Maximilian I of Austria to his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, in 1477. The ring was set with diamonds in the shape of the letter ‘M’.

2. A new trend for ‘acrostic’ engagement rings emerged during the Victorian period in Britain. These featured words spelled out by the first letters of the gemstones set in the ring. The word ‘regards’ was a favorite, spelled out using a ruby, followed by an emerald, then a garnet and so on.

3. The phrase “Diamonds are forever” has entered the vernacular and lent its name to Sean Connery’s final film as James Bond but did you know that it was originally an advertising slogan? It was coined by De Beers in 1947 to kickstart diamond sales after a lull caused by the Great Depression and World War II.

Diamond Rings

4. Natural diamonds are extremely old and take around a billion years to form in the Earth’s molten interior. Stones used in engagement rings can be anywhere from 900 million years old to an astounding 3.2 billion years old.

5. The ‘carat’ is the main measurement used to judge diamonds and refers to the weight and size of the stone. It is so called because originally carob seeds were used as counterweights for the scales used to weigh diamonds. A modern carat is a metric unit equivalent to 200 milligrams, or 7 thousandths of an ounce!

6. The color of a diamond is another of the major factors that determines how much it costs. Color is graded on a scale that judges how colorless the diamond is, with white stones being the most desirable and thus expensive.

7. Which isn’t to say that other colors of diamonds aren’t much sought after. ‘Fancy diamond’ is the term used to describe a stone when its color falls outside the normal color range. Fancy diamonds can be blue, green, red, yellow, pink and even purple or black.

Alternative Engagement Rings

8. Every precious gem is rated for hardness using the Mohs scale. This is a measure of how resistant the stone is to being scratched. Diamonds top out at 10 on the Mohs scale and are one of the hardest naturally occurring materials in the world.

9. Gemstones with a Mohs rating of 8 or above are generally recommended for engagement rings, because they can stand up to the rigors of daily wear. Sapphires and rubies both score 9 on the Mohs scale while emeralds are only a 7.5 and opals ae just a 6.

10. In some countries, engagement rings don’t feature gemstones at all. The Claddagh ring, a traditional Irish ring, has a motif depicting a pair of hands clasped around a heart and a crown, symbolizing love, friendship and loyalty. While some more modern variants incorporate a ruby or other precious stone, the original version does not have a gemstone set in it.

For dozens more fascinating engagement ring facts, a hundred in all, check out ROX’s guide to All Things Engagement Rings.

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Q & A and Visit with Raquel Alonso Perez of Harvard’s Museum of Natural History

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My very last stop while in Boston, hours before my flight took off, I had planned the best parting gift–a visit to Harvard University’s Museum of Natural History! Sounds dreamy, right?! Well it is and then some. An entire room filled with thousands of minerals and gems is open to the public on Harvard’s campus, and Raquel Alonso Perez was there to give me a full tour, including some majorly fun behind-the-scenes stuff. I honestly think my one-on-one time with Raquel had taught me more in one hour than my entire Freshman year at college! I didn’t want to leave! I got to hold pieces of gold that came out of the ground looking like sculptures, play with rough diamonds, see some incredible gemstones, and the highlight of my day was getting to spend some time with the Hamlin Necklace–rare and notable because of its gigantic tourmalines it showcases, which are all from the same mine in Maine!

Raquel’s hospitality, warmth and passion to share with me what she does at the Mineralogical & Geological Museum was accepted with much gratitude and I had so much fun! Here’s some insight into what Raquel does, illustrated with photos from my visit! Enjoy!

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I serve as the Curator of the Mineralogical and Geological Museum (MGMH). Our collections date back to 1798! After 230 years of collecting, the MGMH is one of the oldest, largest and continuously operated mineralogical and geological museum, built for the nation and world-renowned for its fine quality collections, broad representation of species, unique occurrences and large number of type, described, and illustrated specimens. Our repository has become a true library of the earth with over 400,000 objects divided in 4 main collections: minerals, gems, meteorites and rocks. My role as Curator is to provide access to the world-class Earth Science collections at Harvard University, encouraging its use for teaching, research and public education. The favorite part of my job is research and all teaching and academic related activities, in addition to working with the dedicated team of people at the MGMH, the Earth and Planetary Science Department and the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, HSMC, where our public gallery is located.

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In total, the museum has around 400,000 objects divided in 4 main collections: minerals, gems, meteorites and rocks and ore deposits. Only 3550 individual mineral specimens are on display at the Museum, 145 of these include a gemstone of the same variety. My favorite examples are in the wider variety of crystals and gemstones. For example, the beryls, we have a whole case of them displaying 40 specimens full of light and color. I also love the tourmalines, with all of the different kinds displayed with bi-color and watermelon elbaites from Maine, USA. As you can imagine, we have a strong collection of New England minerals, gems, and rare species. We receive a lot of donations, but we couldn’t display our entire collection, even if we wanted! Space is a major constraint, but not the only one. We also have to make hard choices about what to share in order to fulfill the Museum’s mission. Our museum is not only about highlighting aesthetics. We also need to prioritize the display of specimens that will also serve reference and research purposes.

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I am a geologist by training specialized in mineralogy, gemology, geochemistry and petrology. There are too many “logy’s” in there! These branches of Earth Sciences come together in a fascinating way, giving color and texture to the world we inhabit. In 2006 I completed my PhD at the ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, where I studied how the earth crust is formed, by comparing it with artificial rocks produced in the lab. After graduation, I took a short break to have my two children, Marco and Amaya, and returned in 2009 to professional life to work as a research assistant at the Earth and Planetary Science Department, Harvard University. A year later I was hired as Assistant Curator to take care of the rock collection at the MGMH and got appointed head Curator of the entire MGMH collections in 2011.

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I’ve always wondered why minerals acquire a color and not other colors. We know so little about the chemistry and the physics involved! My passion, stimulated by my daily encounter with Harvard’s amazing collections, is to uncover the story behind nature’s color choices! My work in the past 2 years has been focused in tourmalines and beryls. The most common color of elbaites from Main, USA is green but they also come in blue, yellow, pink, colorless and with many different hues and tones. With the use of non-destructive analytical techniques, I was able to determine the chemical distribution, trace element patterns and color correlation in a suite of elbaites from Maine, Hamlin Collection. In addition, this non-destructive dual-technique used in this study (Confocal Micro Raman Spectroscopy and LA- ICPMS, laser ablation-induced coupled plasma-mass spectrometry) has great potential to be applied to other gemmological materials to also distinguish provenance, natural versus synthetic materials and treatments. My current project aims to better understand the formation of emeralds, and is focused on the geology of the emerald deposit of Irondro, Madagascar. In fact, I mostly focus on rocks from Madagascar, which is a blessing, since the MGMH is quickly becoming the main repository of minerals, rocks and gemstones from this part of the world. I also benefit from the museum’s vast network. I sometimes end up requesting research material from friends, donors and supporters of the Museum from faraway lands! However, my main priority and where most of my work goes is into ensuring that the MGMH’s collections are curated according to the highest standards of museum best practices for their preservation in perpetuity and use by future generations. Digitization plays an important role to achieve these goals and our ambition to open them up to a wider audience, especially those concerning research, education and public outreach, which will result in an online database of our collections sometime in the fall of 2017.

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Every day, in the environment I am, could end up being a highlight and making you proud of the work you do, especially when it can impact other people life’s. I would like to share with you a portion of an e-mail I received from one of the female students attending my class at the Harvard Summer school as a beautiful example. “..Here again I want to say thank you for bringing me my best summer ever. I really enjoyed the lecture. Every time when listening to the lecture, I really feel I’m being educated and have more knowledge on mineralogy and gemology. The happiness of gaining knowledge is hard to express; it’s like seeing the moon coming out of the clouds and lighting up a street in the dark midnight. Also, I love the labs. I feel so good identifying minerals by myself, putting everything I learnt into use. I’m also fascinated by the gemstone experiments. I can’t wait to get a full set of tools and practice in the gem markets back in China. What I really want to appreciate is that for all your support for me to do more microscope experiments. I know that doing the experiment before class means you have to skip lunch, I’m really sorry. The experiment is so incredible, I never see those features before, and I couldn’t fully understand everything without doing the actual experiment. The image is fantastic. I gasp that people ever create those ways for examine stones. What I like most is the field trip. The behind the scene of the museum is awesome. I never thought that museum work would be so interesting. There are so many stories behind every collection! I also really really like the field trip to mine. You became my idol when you drove the van packed with all of us and fed us snacks. Working in the field is so different and I think I need more field work to really become a geology people. I sometimes feel so shame that I learned so much knowledge but still like a baby when put in the field. However, going to the field makes a lot of knowledge easier to understand. In the mine, when I saw you standing on the shiny mica mountain, I feel like you are one of the best women in the world—- a woman who could stand in the field with knowledge, and explore the earth, go right after the unknown, a kind of woman I really want to be. It is this summer that I, for the first time in forever, really willing to go to university; not because it is what everybody do, but because all the knowledge and skills I could get, all the resource I could access, and all the fantastic professors in the future I will meet to motivate my life..”

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My best piece of advice for anyone in general is to follow their passion, work hard, overcome challenges, focus and don’t give up! The combination of passion and perseverance will bring you where you want to be.

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WANT MORE? You can follow Raquel on Instagram —> @raquelalonsoperez

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