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

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You can follow Kate –> @LuxCharmJewelry

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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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xoxoGemGossip

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

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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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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.

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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.

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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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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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Top Five Pieces I Wanted to Take Home With Me at Couture 2017

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This year the Couture show opened its doors to hundreds of buyers and press from all over the world, while I walked in a day late of opening day, I was quick and eager to dive into all that it had to offer. Each designer stood beaming behind their booths, creativity on full power and all their blood, sweat and tears front and center under the grappling lights. More on the show in general in a few days, but I wanted to focus in on five pieces, from five different designers that I felt stood out to me. These pieces may not be the flashiest or have the biggest gemstones; they are pieces I would want for my personal collection–items I could see myself wearing and enjoying on a daily basis. There are lots of jewels at Couture that were bold, striking and great for editorial shoots–but translating them into every day wear for an average American didn’t quite fit in my eyes. Yes these jewels might be fun to drool over, to take a photo of, or to just simply stare at, but as I stood there thinking to myself, “what if I owned a store in Nashville, what would I buy that would fit my audience?” I realized that sort of changed my entire thinking while browsing. Most of the time when I’m in “Gem Gossip mode” I’m one-sided in my thinking, focusing on what pieces would photograph well, what would my followers want to see, what would get the most “likes.” So here are my top five pieces that I surely wanted to take home with me at Couture 2017!

1. Anthony Lent Crescent Moonface bangles: being celestial obsessed must be commemorated somehow and these bangles fit the bill in many ways. First off, they are wearable and go with just about anything, for any occasion. Secondly, they are timeless and can be passed down through generations. Best part is they are each hand-made by Anthony Lent himself in his Philadelphia-based studio.

See the Anthony Lent website here.

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2. Anything in opal from Jacquie Aiche: If you’ve visited Jacquie Aiche’s booth at Couture, you know–every year she outfits her spot in gems and mineral specimens that have you feeling like you’ve been transported to her world. And once inside, there’s no shortage of jewelry–each corner and nook is filled with displays, dripping in jewelry. And that’s exactly their mantra–cover yourself in their pieces and style yourself to the max. Every necklace, bracelet, earring, ring and body chain complements one another, and now we know why she has so many devote “tribe” members!

See the Jacquie Aiche website here.

Couture | Gem Gossip

3. Stackable, easy on-and-off chokers from Suzanne Kalan: ok, we all have realized chokers are still going strong in popularity and if you’re really wanting to invest in something that is well-constructed, easy to wear, and gorgeous all-around, I suggest these! Suzanne Kalan is known for her baguette diamond wizardry and she follows through again in the choker design department. At the show, the chokers were displayed in large bunches, stacked together and they looked just as good, if not better when worn! There’s no clasp or ties, it is flexible, so you can take it on and off SO easily!

See the Suzanne Kalan website here.

Couture | Gem Gossip

4. Enamel surf boards from Tara Hirshberg: I loved all the charms I was seeing at Couture this year and these enameled surf boards were a definite highlight from the debuting designer. I have never surfed before in my life and honestly am frightened beyond belief of the ocean, but even with those pitted against me, I have never wanted a gold surf board more in my life! haha! I love the colors used, the size of them and the wearability. Creating surf-related jewels came naturally for LA-based designer Tara and her ocean living and ocean loving life.

See the Tara Hirshberg website here.

Couture | Gem Gossip

5. New diamond bow rings from Arik Kastan: I always look forward to seeing the new designs from vintage-inspired Arik Kastan. This year’s new bow rings had my head spinning and jaw-dropping. They are perfect to stack and fit right in with other antique pieces, as seen here stacked with some other fun Arik Kastan rings. Loving all the green agate too! Tough decision though choosing which bow–the top or bottom??

See the Arik Kastan website here.


Couture 2017

Want more? See my top picks from last year’s show!

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How to Clean Antique Jewelry: The Important Do’s & Don’ts

How to Clean Jewelry | Gem Gossip How to Clean Jewelry | Gem Gossip How to Clean Jewelry | Gem Gossip How to Clean Jewelry | Gem Gossip

For anyone that’s unfamiliar, antique jewelry is any piece of jewelry that is more than 100 years old. That’s a lot of years for dirt to collect under gemstones, metal to patina, and for grime to take away from the inherent beauty of the heirloom. It’s tempting to pick up a polishing cloth and buff away years of unwanted residue. But wait! Before you do that…

There is a right way and a wrong way to clean antique jewelry. We’ve compiled some basic do’s and don’ts you must know before you potentially ruin your investment.

*Remember, this is a general guide for fine antique jewelry. Some antique jewelry like cameos or hair jewelry require special care beyond what is listed here.

D O N ‘ T


1. Polish away patina on old rose or yellow gold jewelry

Patina is something that takes years to form. Some reproduction jewelry will actually try to fake this patina in order to make an item appear older than it is. For Georgian and Victorian jewelry, it’s important not to go overboard with polishing. You don’t want the yellow gold to be so light and shine like the day it was made.

Be careful if you’re having your rings resized by someone not familiar with antique jewelry. The tendency is to take rings to a high polish once the sizing is done. Advise them only to lightly polish the portion where the gold has been added or taken away on the bottom of the ring shank.

2. Use ultrasonic machines

There are times when it is okay to put antique jewelry into an ultrasonic machine for a very quick clean, and I mean quick. But to err on the side of caution, avoid using them altogether. If you have a platinum and diamond engagement ring from the 1920’s, an ultrasonic machine might be okay if the stones are tight and the prongs are in good shape. Most of the time though, the subtle but intense vibrations from these machines can do more harm than good.

3. Submerge jewelry for a long period

Liquid can be detrimental to some antique jewelry, especially jewelry with cameos, opals, seed pearls, or any other soft stone. For fragile jewelry, it’s best not to completely saturate the piece with liquid at all. Instead, lightly clean with a damp brush or cloth.

4. Clean with harsh chemicals like ammonia

The internet will often tell you how wonderful ammonia is for making your diamonds shine. This might work (in moderation) for new jewelry, but antique jewelry deserves a much gentler approach. Avoid harsh detergents, ammonia, and please never use household cleaners containing bleach!

D O


1. Make a gentle cleaning solution

Sometimes the best way to clean your antique jewelry is by making your own DIY cleaning solution. Most jewelry cleaners you find in the store will cost you a lot more money and may not even be as effective. They may even contain harsh chemicals.

To make your own solution, mix lukewarm water with a small amount of mild soap like Dove until it is sudsy. The key here is in the cleaning technique, not necessarily in the solution.

2. Use a soft toothbrush and lint free cloth

Once you make your solution, it’s time to clean your antique jewelry. You’ll either submerge the item for a few minutes to loosen grime, or if your item contains soft stones, you lightly dampen your toothbrush. Before you begin, make sure no stones are loose.

Then, gently brush your jewelry, paying attention to areas like underneath the stone and underneath the prongs. Use slow circular motions using only light pressure. If the piece is extremely dirty, don’t be tempted to use more pressure; instead, implement more patience. Submerge your jewelry into the solution again (if your jewelry can handle it) then gently repeat, repeat, repeat.

3. Make sure to rinse and dry thoroughly

You don’t want to give fragile jewelry a bath, but you want to be sure you remove any soap residue that might build up and defeat the whole purpose of cleaning your jewelry. Run the jewelry under lukewarm water and pat dry. For rings, take a polishing cloth and very lightly buff the shank, avoiding any area near stones or engravings. Let jewelry completely dry before putting it away.

4. Have the right expectations

Antique jewelry is never meant to look new. If this is your intention when cleaning jewelry, think again. Sure, you want to remove dirt, grime, bacteria, and all that other gross stuff. But you don’t want to take away years of character and patina. Is there a scratch in the gold? Leave it, don’t have it buffed away. Is the gold too dark for your liking? Consider a more modern replica like those from Arik Kastan instead.

How do you clean your antique jewelry? Any tips I missed? Let us know in the comments.

This post was contributed by:

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

Source: GossipGem.com

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Gem Gossip Visits Gem Jewelry Boutique in Chicago, IL

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Bracelets: Pascale Monvoisin 9k wire bracelet, Black wrap bracelet

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

the storefront of Gem Jewelry Boutique with its beautiful gold leaf

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Necklaces: Gem Token black diamond peace sign necklace, Emilie Shapiro watermelon tourmaline + pink sapphire necklace, Emilie Shapiro moonstone + sapphire necklace

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

I love the vignettes that tell a story; displays that speak louder than words

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Some Ruth Tomlinson, Megan Thorne, Gem Token, Satomi Kawakita rings stacked on stacked — shop rings

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Gold elements, mirrors and a window of sunlight; some of my favorite parts of Gem

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Earrings: Ten Thousand Things 18k gold bead dangles, moonstone & diamond stud earrings by Gem Token

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

I love how every piece is displayed! Love the pieces of recycled leather to display the earrings

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Ear piercing parties are one of Gem’s newest additions–because all these studs need to be worn!

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Earrings: Gabriela Artigas Asymmetrical Orbital earring, Lip studs, wwake small chain earrings

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Lips velvet pouch zipper bag on the left, Variance Objects stud earrings + ring on the right!

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

“Get Lucky” Figa by Pascale Monvoisin

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

“Dope” “Mama” “Boss” bracelets by Zoe Chicco (these also come in necklaces)

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Not only does Gem sell jewelry, but other lifestyle products like candles, bags, scarves, & home goods

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Necklaces: Gem Token black diamond peace sign necklace, Emilie Shapiro watermelon tourmaline + pink sapphire necklace, Emilie Shapiro moonstone + sapphire necklace

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

owner of Gem, Laura Kitsos and myself

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Rings: rough ruby by Emilie Shapiro, twin tourmaline ring by Margaret Solow, watermelon tourmaline + pink sapphire ring by Emilie Shapiro —- moonstone + sapphire ring by Emilie Shapiro, tourmalated quartz ring by Margaret Solow, opal + pink sapphire ring by Emilie Shapiro

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

The interior of the store was done by Laura’s husband who is a general contractor

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

I love how everything stacks and coordinates perfectly together–lots of different designers shown here!

Gem Jewelry Boutique | Gem Gossip

Our last stop before heading home from our quick but amazing #JewelryRoadTrip to Chicago was Gem Jewelry Boutique, located a few minutes outside of Chicago in Oak Park. I had to see for myself Laura’s talked about and infamous curating skills–both jewelry-wise and display-wise. She is undeniably talented when it comes to putting things together, whether it is an entire store, a single display, an outfit, or a jewelry look. Gem has been open for nearly 13 years, with four different locations over the years. Most recently they moved to a new location which opened in June of 2015 and is what you’re seeing in the photos above. It is Laura’s most favorite location out of the four she has had, and as you can see, rightfully so! Laura says, “I wanted this location to invoke a sophisticated, calming environment yet with the slight edginess that depicts Gem’s image.”

The storefront is a beautiful jewel in its own right (I love the gold-leaf on the windows) and when you walk through the front door, you are immediately met with the open and airiness of the space. It proves to be an ideal jewelry showroom. The gems and jewelry sparkle in the sunlight, and the dark gray walls with mirrored and gold accents make you feel like you’re actually inside a jewelry box. The custom sliding cases and the large cabinet against the wall were all created specially for the space, thanks to Laura’s husband Michael. Another very sentimental addition to the store--the giant antique gold mirror–which was restored and outfitted with back-lighting, was essentially a wedding present from Michael, but ended up being the perfect focal point for the store. And I can agree! I love the mirror…and I can attest to the fact that jewelry stores NEED mirrors. I think they are essential!

Laura hadn’t always been on a clear path to opening a jewelry boutique from the beginning. She was actually the one designing and creating jewelry, teaching herself along the way, taking a couple metalsmithing classes and being inspired. This was back in 1995 when she lived in Portland, Oregon. Before that, it was her grandmother Lucile, who lived to be 101 years old, who infused a passion for jewelry in Laura from a very young age. Laura reminisces, “Each time I’d see her, she’d take me into her bedroom and on the bed we’d lay out all her boxes and jewelry while she told me the story behind each piece. It was heaven to me! And at the end, she’d always give me a piece. I learned how jewelry tells a story.”

One fateful day, Laura strolled into Twist in Portland and had an epiphany. In 2004 her first store opened, mainly selling her own designs and some vintage pieces. It goes without saying that the store has evolved very much over the years, especially beginning with what is featured. About two years into having the store, Laura attended a market show in NYC and a whole new world opened up before her eyes. She became passionate about supporting and learning about other designers, especially women artisans. Laura says, “Over the years, the store has evolved in that we now carry more designers than ever and I am focusing on a finer brand. The price point has risen over the years because I am carrying designers that are reputable, unique and are not mass producing their work. I appreciate “hand made” jewelry and especially jewelry made by women. I try to curate with that point of view.”

Designers like Vale Jewelry, Brooke Gregson, Emilie Shapiro, Blanca Monros Gomez, Arik Kastan, Megan Thorne, wwake, and Ruth Tomlinson are favorites and staples amongst Gem’s lineup. One of their newest additions, Pascale Monvoisin was an Instagram discovery for the store–which proves to designers that you can be discovered on social media! Although the mix of designers is eclectic and spans different countries and different continents, they all flow together and are able to be styled easily for a cohesive look because of Laura’s eye. You may see Gem Token as one of the designers featured several times in the photos above–that is the store’s own line of jewelry! Gem is also really excited about adding a few more brands to their roster, including Rusty Thought which is coming soon!

I loved visiting Gem and if you’re in the Chicago area, you are lucky to have such a great local jewelry store! Whatever your jewelry needs are or if you need a special gift, you will leave happy. I loved seeing a few customers come into the store while I was there and each person had a better day because they chose to come inside Gem. I know I sure did!

GemJewelryBoutique

135 North Oak Park Avenue

Oak Park, IL 60301

Phone: 708-386-8400

www.shopgemjewelry.com

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Just in Time for Easter: Fabergé Eggs from A La Vieille Russie

ALVR | Faberge

Miniature white enamel egg set with a red enamel coin of Elizabeth I and four cushion-cut sapphires. By Fabergé, ca. 1895.

ALVR | Faberge

Miniature egg with white enamel stripes and set with a turquoise. By Fabergé , workmaster A. Hollming, ca. 1900.

ALVR | Faberge

A jouré yellow and green gold egg, punctuated with rose diamonds around the center. By Fabergé , workmaster A. Hollming, ca. 1900.

ALVR | Faberge

A two-color gold-mounted egg-form aventurine quartz hand seal on brilliant translucent green enamel base. By Faberge, St. Petersburg, ca. 1900.

Legendary Fabergé eggs–eggs so popular, that almost everyone knows what you’re talking about when you mention their name. For me, these were my first obsession above all other types of jewelry. I remember going to my local public library and wanting to check out a book on making crafts out of egg cartons–I saw the recommendation on Reading Rainbow! Instead, I found my way to a book on Fabergé eggs and was infatuated. In fact, for the first time in my life, I loved the book so much I never returned it. I didn’t care it was wrong because this book lit up my life! My second run in with Fabergé eggs happened when I was in high school. I became obsessed with watching Joan Rivers on QVC and admired her love of Fabergé eggs. Back then, she had created her own jewelry line with bundles of three eggs per chain of her own miniature versions of “Fabergé eggs.” I ordered my first trio of eggs and was hooked. I can’t remember how many I collected over the next few years, but after graduating college, I was able to pay for my trip to study abroad from selling my Joan Rivers Egg Collection. It was quite a few. I honestly wish I still had those eggs, but I wouldn’t trade my overseas experience for anything!

It is no myth that Fabergé eggs are enchanting, often mysterious, and full of intrigue. If you were married to a Russian tsar, the ideal Easter gift would be a Fabergé egg designed by none other than Carl Fabergé himself. The first ever Fabergé egg was made in 1885 and presented to Alexander III. Since then, it varies as to how many are apparently out there, but some sources say 65 Imperial eggs were made, some say 50, some say 52, but it is known that only 43 have survived–there is a really comprehensive table that describes each, citing where the egg is now. A few are cited as “Lost” and it is with lots of hope that they will be recovered someday.

ALVR | Faberge ALVR | Faberge

Circular aquamarine and diamond Imperial Presentation brooch with an Imperial crown decoration. By Fabergé, workmaster A. Hollming, St. Petersburg, ca. 1913.

Natural pearl and diamond floral brooch with blue enamel border. By Fabergé, Moscow, 1896-1908.

ALVR | Faberge ALVR | Faberge

Diamond and green garnet necklace mounted in platinum. By Fabergé, ca. 1900.

Natural pearl ruby and diamond necklace set in platinum and gold. By Fabergé, ca.1900.

ALVR | Faberge ALVR | Faberge

Fabergé gold-mounted lozenge-form brooch, set with diamonds and red enamel wreath over white guilloché enamel ground. By Fabergé, St. Petersburg, ca 1890.

Lozenge brooch with a central cabochon moonstone, set with rose diamonds, and white enamel. By Fabergé, workmaster A. Hollming, St. Petersburg, ca. 1900.

Fabergé eggs created for the general public, not just zsars, continued being the company’s most popular pieces. In the year 1900, the House of Fabergé was completed which literally was a large building which centralized all the operations–bringing together workshops, artisans, a design department, even Carl Fabergé’s own place of residence, in one large building. Throughout the turn-of-the-century, Fabergé turned out elaborate pieces of jewelry, decorative drinking cups and bowls, items for writing, miniature hardstone animals, a wide variety of photo frames (as Kodak launched its first camera), and much, much more. He employed hundreds of craftsmen under conditions that were very superior, with great pay. As success continued, expansion happened, until the first World War broke out in 1914. The House of Fabergé lost a lot of workers to the draft, precious metals were haulted to use, so the items that were produced during this time were created from materials like copper, nephrite, brass, and silver. Carl Fabergé ultimately fled Russia and died in 1920.

Many of the pieces of jewlery and decorative arts which Fabergé created during its height of success are highly collectible. A La Vieille Russie, a shop in NYC, has specialized in Fabergé since opening in 1961. You’ll be amazed by these authentic, one-of-a-kind Fabergé items, including some eggs that ALVR currently has in their inventory. If you haven’t read the blog post featuring my visit to ALVR, you must! Here is the link.

ALVR | Faberge ALVR | Faberge ALVR | Faberge

White enamel and two-color gold hanging bellpush. Contained in original fitted hollywood box. By Fabergé, St. Petersburg, workmaster H. Wigström, ca. 1915.

Carved two-color jasper miniature egg in the form of a Kingfisher with diamond eyes. By Fabergé, Moscow, ca. 1900.

Gold-mounted brilliant pink guilloché enamel egg-form pendant locket, the opening set with rose diamonds. By Fabergé, workmaster M. Perchin. St. Petersburg, ca. 1895.

Anyway, I thought the quick history on Fabergé paired with some pieces that are available would make my readers very happy on Easter! Hope you enjoyed!

Works Cited:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabergé_egg

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts app called Fabergé at VMFA

This sponsored blog post was brought to you in collaboration with A La Vieille Russie.

ALVR

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Jewelry Collection Stories: Leslie of @PinkPirahnah

PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah PinkPirahnah | Gem Gossip PinkPirahnah | Gem Gossip

This month’s Jewelry Collection Story comes from someone I’ve actually met in person, which doesn’t happen too often since so many people from our lovely Instagram community are from all parts of the world. Leslie came to the GIA Alumni meeting when I spoke in DC last summer and I recognized her right away because of the opal ring she was wearing! Funny how sometimes that happens. It has been fun getting to know her on Instagram and am so excited she agreed to share her personal collection story with us–take it away Leslie:

“I am a total museum junky by nature and my love for classical art and history runs deep. However, jewelry as art was not on my radar until about 12 years ago when I found my first vintage piece, the pretzel ring. Yes, I had a few token pieces of mall jewelry but I never really thought there was much substance to jewelry until I discovered the vintage and antique world. A golden pretzel with diamond salt appealed to my sense of humor and art. It was also meaningful to me as a Speech Pathologist working with my special needs children on requesting items, one of those items was actually pretzels! I can’t tell you how many kiddos have actually tried to lick it over the years! This one ring started an obsession but also introduced me to my friend Lara from Icon Style in NYC. I learned so much from her over the next few years and with her help I really grew my collection and love for all eras.

My current collection includes Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau. Art Deco, Vintage and a few Georgian pieces. I don’t necessarily have a preferred era but I think the biggest appeal of antique and vintage jewelry is how unique and detailed the pieces can be. Color is a big factor for me but most importantly I like quirk. If it’s funny or unique, I have to have it! I love to mix and match eras and pile it on pretty thick. Certainly, no one would accuse me of neglecting my jewelry.

One thing I wear every day is obviously my Art Deco engagement ring. I had always assumed I would get a Victorian cluster ring but when I tried this piece on I fell hard for its lively black opal.

The one motif that I am magnetically drawn to is snakes. I can spot a serpent in a jewelry case like a shark scenting blood in the water. In fact, I found my tiny snake earrings despite their purposely discreet location in my friend’s display case. In the histories of various civilizations, snakes have come to symbolize many ideas but my favorite is that of eternal love. Symbolism aside, snakes have the unique visual impact that I find hard to resist.

Charms are another obsession I have. I try to limit myself but I just love some of the funny and super detailed pieces you can find. My favorite charm is my vintage gold ghost. He is perfectly crafted and has the most beautiful brown marquise diamond eyes that peek from behind his sheet.

Another style of jewelry I desperately love is Art Deco era “pools of light.” Layering these rock crystal orbs is addictive but also causes some serious neck strain. I have several pieces but the most interesting one is a rock crystal orb the size of a jaw breaker. It is completely encased in an open silver work shell depicting bunnies paddling in canoes.

Rings are my go-to to buy and again I don’t discriminate. I collect a variety of stones, styles, and metals. One thing I don’t like to do is size my rings. I have a few exceptions but in general I try not to alter the finger bling that comes into my collection. If one is too big I simply stack it with gold bands to adjust the fit.

When I was first collecting I would shop at Icon Style in NYC and I would go to all the big NYC shows religiously. Having relocated to the DMV area I have had more opportunities to go to antiquing in rural areas but also go to the bigger shows like the DC flea and the Baltimore Antique Show. I don’t shop online much but I have found several lovely pieces through the Instagram community.”

xoxoGemGossip

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