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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What is the Best Gem Show in Tucson? AGTA GemFair, A Must See!

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Outside of AGTA Gem Fair where you can pull up and valet your car–my parking skills thinks this is a great idea

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Oh my opals! From Exhibitor Only Beads based out of Atlanta

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Freaked for this huge yellow sapphire from Mayer & Watt

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Both photos above were found at Under the Crown Jewelry — the carved scarab moonstone struck a cord with me and I loved learning about their Crown Jubilee faceted diamonds, their trademarked diamond cut which is fashioned from an Old Mine or Old European cut diamond. There are two sets of crown facets and two sets of pavilion facets. It’s the only diamond that has the crown and pavilion in perfect harmony!

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The view above–AGTA is huge, with over 300+ exhibitors, you truly need AT LEAST two days to cover the show–for me I took two days, plus a third day to come back to buy some things that kept haunting me.

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These types of set ups lead to a treasure hunt unlike any other! Whether you have a piece of jewelry in mind you’re designing or just let yourself gravitate toward certain stones…it is a fun experience!

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If I want to see the cream of the crop, I visit Omi Prive where I got to try on incredible sapphires, emerald, zircon and tsavorites. Amazing!

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I loved the concept that Pala International devised with these “Collectors Sets” of gems–each a unique assortment of gemstones, perfect for a collector or connoisseur.

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Gold rush has come over the AGTA Gem Fair! Lots of vintage goodies from Excalibur Jewelry

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Left: a yummy watermelon tourmaline from Kimberly Collins Gems

Right: an insanely perfect specimen of chrysocolla from Rare Earth Mining Co.

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Seriously enchanted by these kite-shaped emeralds from Manak–these need to be rings ASAP!

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Just browsing the many aisles upon aisles of gems, jewels, and treasures at AGTA.

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Left: more watermelon tourmaline and Right: some insane opals from exhibitor Robert Shapiro

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No caption needed–you may be already able to tell these insane gems and rings are Omi Prive.

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Opals of different patterns and translucency all in one display! These are from Joel Price Inc.

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More favorite finds: the two inlay stone pieces are from Rare Earth Mining Co. and I think they are my favorites of the entire Tucson trip! Left shows more opals, which I loved this unique display–really showed off each one individually.

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Some incredible rings from Excalibur Jewelry, spanning all different ages and styles.

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Loved learning about sunstones from Desert Sun Mining & Gems–each one is mined in Oregon (I even have a map and dvd to learn even more)!

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As you may have guessed, I spent some serious time at the Excalibur booth, just because antique jewelry is my main love. All of these rings are special in their own way and I just loved this diamond bow necklace featuring a giant emerald cut emerald!

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One of the “Collectors’ Sets” from Pala International–love the variety of shapes, sizes and varieties of gems.

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Pairing gemstones is quite the task–these gemstone pairs from Kimberly Collins Gems give any jeweler or designer so many options!

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Left: this huge opal lay on an exhibitor’s table with a sign that read “please touch, please take my photo” Right: colorful earrings from Campbellian Collection–can you spot the mismatched pairs?!

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I also loved these rings from Campbellian Collection–from the bright colors to the unique designs, so good!

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Some gemstones cut by the master Clay Zava featured here–including the snowcone cut which is slightly out of focus on the bottom.

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Are you planning your trip for next year yet?? I feel like by now you might be!

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Of course Mayer & Watt would have some insane trapiche emeralds–what amazing earrings would these make?!

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Left: myself with the very talented Clay Zava of Zava Mastercuts, Right: Mayer & Watt was proud to present this incredible 190 ct aquarmarine sculpture with under-the-sea motifs like an octopus and other sea creatures carved into the piece. It is called “Love at First Sight” and was created by Susan Allen & Michael Cristie. Also included in the piece is a 470 c. chrysoprase, a 10.3 mm Tahitian pearl and 0.63 ctw of diamonds in 18k yellow gold.

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From Lightning Ridge mine in Australia, this incredible opal featured at exhibitor Joel Price at AGTA.

I haven’t made the journey out to the desert for the Tucson Gem Shows in five years! Can you believe it?! I’m usually focused on the Miami Antique Show and for the first time in years, the two shows don’t overlap as much as they usually do–that makes me very happy and also very travel worn, but I’m up for the challenge!

The AGTA Gem Fair has been happening since 1981 and is a tradeshow that is open to wholesale only, where they cater to those stores, designers and clients who are discerning, looking to find the best jewelry, gemstones, and so much more. There are several aspects about AGTA that sets it apart from other gem shows in Tucson during this week, and when attending your first AGTA Gem Fair like myself, you quickly learn and take notice! This year’s show spanned from January 31st-February 5th, at the Tucson Convention Center–a glorious facility with all the necessary features for a large tradeshow. A huge plus for AGTA show-attendees is the fact that you can shop and buy with confidence knowing each exhibitor is a Member of the AGTA. Every exhibitor is a United States or Canada-based professional, who adhere to a rigorous code of ethics. Quality, value and selection–all high standards of AGTA, providing sources you can trust.

Other great features include valet parking–which my rental car would like to personally thank AGTA for this, as I nicked my car a few times trying to parallel park in Tucson. Good times. Also, the variety of food trucks outside the show was really cool! We all have been there before–super hungry during a tradeshow with limited options for dining. This was such a neat way to remedy hunger and also be on trend–because everyone loves a food truck! And other perks including some obvious-yet-vital things like air conditioning! Yes, the desert gets toasty in late January/early February, and with most shows outdoors in the sun, we sometimes forget how nice an indoor, air conditioned show can be!

My first day at the show, I just come off a four hour plane ride + two hour car drive, so I knew exactly where to head on the show floor–the antique jewelry vendors!! I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were actually a few and they each easily gave me life. I enjoyed oogling over Excalibur’s jewels and Under the Crown’s diamonds, of course learning a thing or two, as I always do from my antique friends. I may or may not have bought something amazing from Excalibur on day three–just because I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and although the piece was supposed to be for a client of mine, I’m 89% sure I’m now keeping it for myself. Oh lord, I need help.

Day two of the AGTA show included exploring every aisle and seeing what I could find! Certain gemstones caught my attention–chrysocolla, sunstones, insane opals, fancy kite-shapes, etc. I was mesmerized by everything from Rare Earth Mining Co. and died a little when I saw some of the inlay pieces. Every single booth had something unique and if I had LOTS of money to spend, I would buy one thing from each exhibitor, most definitely. I remember someone saying that the people roaming the aisles is like a Who’s Who among jewelry designers, and you’ll likely get star-struck on many occasions. This was totally true! Running into some of my favorite designers was definitely a perk of attending the show and seeing each one in his or her own element, focusing in on designing and finding the right stones was fun.

My last day in Tucson was supposed to be roaming the highway shows and I actually ended up finding myself back at AGTA! There were several pieces that kept haunting me and I knew I had to come back to make them my own. I also wanted to spend some time at the Mayer & Watt booth because not only are Simon’s gems incredible but he always has a keen sense on the gem industry and what is currently going on. I also am a big fan of his app–called Mayer & Watt–if you download it, you will see an entire database of gems! Both inventory and sold items are pictured, along with a Gemipedia, which gives you LOTS of information about each stone. The app is fun to go through and also done really well, most importantly the photography is gorgeous! So you must download it when you get the chance!!

I know many of you loved seeing my updates from Tucson and are wanting to plan ahead for next year already! Well you’re in luck, AGTA already has announced next year’s dates–so put January 30th-February 4th, 2018 in your calendar! I know I already am counting down the days (and saving my money lol)!

What a fun trip this has been–special shoutout to Abby of @nomadgold for being my sidekick, helping me with photography and convincing one another to YES buy that, definitely! Also thank you to AGTA for providing accommodations while in Tucson.

Follow along with my AGTA GemFair coverage over on Instagram >> @gemgossip AGTA | Gem Gossip

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Tucson Gem Show: Don’t Miss the JOGS Show!

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JOGS Tucson Gem and Jewelry Show is one of the leading jewelry events in North America, let alone the annual Tucson Gem Shows. It brings approximately 40,000 visitors to the Tucson region annually, including international and national dealers from across the globe. Jewelry manufacturers, miners, stone cutters, carvers, jewelry designers, importers and treasure hunters from 26 countries make the trek to Tucson every year! This annual show is an absolute must for jewelry hunters chasing unique jewelry and gems masterpieces, stunning new jewelry lines that manufacturers were preparing all year long for the JOGS Show buyers, making JOGS perfect event for restocking for the new year.

I would recommend checking out the JOGS Show for at least 2 or more days—why?? Because it features more than 800 booths! They also offer cool things like jewelry making classes and seminars (over 200 possibilities with classes taught by world renowned designers and craftspeople). The atmosphere is friendly and inviting, just an overall upbeat and warm place. You never know who you might run into—new business contacts, stone collectors, miners, and jewelry designers. Those are just a few special reasons to love and attend the JOGS show. Other reasons include amazing deals (liquidation prices mean you could buy a ring for under $100 and see that very same ring at a store or mall a few months later for $100s), be ahead of the trend forecast (much of what is offered will become the next upcoming trends), and other perks like free parking, free shuttles and complimentary brunch buffet for qualified buyers.

JOGS gained popularity by having diverse international and domestic pavilions: Amber Jewelry – direct manufacturers and designers from Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Indonesia and Columbia with large variety of amber cameos, carvings, beads and designer jewelry; Southwest/Native Americans – handmade Native American Jewelry, Southwestern/Indian Arts and Crafts reflect the mastery of techniques; Major miners and dealers with finished sterling silver jewelry, cabochons, beads and rough from the world’s best turquoise mines; Indonesian/Bali Jewelry Manufacturers – direct manufacturers and designers of sterling silver and gold jewelry with semi-precious stones, shells, wood, pearls and corals, handmade from Bali and all around Indonesia; Silver Manufacturers​ – superior selection of finished sterling silver jewelry presented by the largest silver jewelry manufacturers and famous jewelry designers from USA, India, Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia, Italy and other countries; Nepal Group – ethnic tribal handcrafted jewelry, crafts and gifts from Nepal and Tibet; International ​Jewelry ​Designers; ​International ​Gemstones – international dealers bring their stocks of gemstones, precious and semi-precious from low to exceptional quality; rarest colored stones, cut stones, specimen, cabs, rough, fossils and beads from Thailand, India, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Columbia, Africa, Russia, Bolivia, and other countries and Stone/Mineral Decor – finished gemstone products, rough materials for decor purposes: sculptures, luxury fountains, stone and petrified wood furniture, onyx decorative home and kitchen decor, hand carved interior decorations from China, Madagascar, Brazil, Africa, and much more.

Registration is already open. To save time in line, pre-register now, just follow the link here.

JOGS Tucson Show is a not to be missed gem and jewelry event of the year!

This post was brought to you in collaboration with JOGS.

JOGS Gem and Jewelry Show

Show Dates: Jan 26 – Feb 6, 2017

10 am – 6 pm, last day Feb 6 10 am – 4 pm

Address: Tucson Expo Center, 3750 E Irvington Rd, Tucson, AZ 85714

Pre-registration link: http://jogsshow.com/register/?cmpn=gemgossip

For more info please visit www.jogsshow.com


>> P.S. JOGS Gem and Jewelry Show 2017 will host the biggest clam in the world!!!! from Volker Bassen (Volker Bassen will be showcasing it at JOGS Tucson Show along with other unique pieces).

He found the clam personally in East Africa. Once cleaned and polished it weighted 355 kg, making it the biggest giant clam in the world! It took him a week to clean out the giant clam as it was full of calcified lime stone, almost as hard as cement. To his surprise, he found a blister pearl the size of a tomato followed by a smaller one, 2 pearls in one clam! He called the largest of the pearls ‘Pearl of Noah’ and the smaller pearl ‘Pearl of Siv’ (names of his sons). Being 1256 carats, the Pearl of Noah is the largest T.Gigantea pearl ever found while the Pearl of Siv being 758 carats, making it the second largest T.Gigantea pearl in the world. The pearls are now in Switzerland to be dated, estimated age between 200,000 to 240,000 years old, making them the oldest baroque pearls ever found. The clam is absolutely unique and largest one and will be presented exclusively at JOGS Tucson Gem and Jewelry Show only.

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Gem Gossip Visits TWIST in Seattle, WA

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GREAT MIX of designers: top left, going down–Ileana Makri, Fernando Jorge, Marc Alary; top right, going down–Spinelli Kilcollin, Marc Alary, Sophie Bille Brahe

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Love the artisan-made cases, organized by designer

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Wearing all Polly Wales

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Trying on some Kothari pieces

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The colorful world of Jamie Joseph, some best-sellers!

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A nice stack of Dorette rings, I’m in love!!

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…and can’t forget the matching Dorette necklace

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All these are by Judy Geib: emerald bracelet, circular band, number ring, emerald ring

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Rings by Marie-Hélène de Taillac

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Checking out the bridal selection, it’s like a store within a store!

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Some of my bridal favorites! Pinky is Rebecca Overmann, ring finger is Mandrel Studio, middle finger is Mandrel Studio, pointer finger both rings by Mallary Marks (awesome necklace in background)

TWIST has been well-known for their incredible selection of fine designer jewelry for years! I realized a few weeks ago that my second blog post I ever wrote on Gem Gossip, I featured some selections from their website, so saying I’ve been a fan for awhile may be an understatement. Those not akin to the Pacific Northwest may not realize that TWIST has TWO locations, one in Seattle, WA and one in Portland, OR. Most are familiar with their popular website twistonline.com where people from around the world can shop their highly sought after curation of designer jewelry from the comfort of their home! I gush as I profess having a love affair with their newsletters. Anytime new designers are added or new pieces are added to their website, an eye-catching newsletter gets sent to my inbox, alerting me to check out what’s new. And for TWIST, anything that they do is one step ahead of the curve. I learn of new, upcoming designers often from TWIST and love seeing how they curate their selection from all that is out there and available. Each piece is special, unique and often tells a story.

Walking into TWIST was like a fantasy becoming a reality. The store is located in Pacific Place shopping center, where some of the best shopping can be done in Seattle. A quick toss of the keys to the valet and off we were where five floors of shops awaited, TWIST being on level one. An aspect that defines TWIST since the beginning is their devotion to artists, so although jewelry now rules their main focus, some eclectic pieces of art (and although jewelry can be considered art) are still a part of the store. Items like sculptures, blown glass and pottery to be exact. Case in point, the giant penguin that stands majestically outside the storefront. It was created by artist Leo Sewell who transforms scrap metal and junk into fun animals. This piece has become iconic to the shop since first opening in 1999.

The jewelry sprawls across multiple cases at TWIST, organized by designer and neatly displayed in artisan-made cases. Everyday pieces mixed in with one-of-a-kind, over-the-top…super cool alongside funky and chic, the jewelry is quite endless in terms of possibilities and truly such a fun shopping experience. The moment you think, “where is the engagement rings and bridal selection?,” you stumble upon the tucked away bridal boutique that is just as unique as the rest of the store. Traditional mixed with alternative, with their favorite designers putting a spin on what they would consider bridal, this section reveals much to swoon over. Yes, there are diamonds, but there are also “rustic” diamonds, specially cut diamonds, inverted diamonds, fancy colored diamonds and so much more. I hope my photos above prepared you for some kickass jewelry!

Perusing the jewelry cases with Cullen, store manager and partner of TWIST, proved to be a Who’s Who of the jewelry world. My favorite designers, pieces I’ve been coveting, and works of art I’ve had to stare at for a few minutes to grasp its amazingness, all in one place. Polly Wales and her masterfully-crafted jewelry set off one section of the store–both her staples and her most recent collection was displayed. I got to experience French designer Marie-Hélène de Taillac and her eye-popping colorful designs. She proves how color can be so fun and within one piece, a whole rainbow of spectral colors can be found. Arik Kastan, a brand I’m more than familiar with, was on display–but did you know they create an exclusive matte gold collection just for TWIST?! I’ve actually never seen it before because the pieces go straight to TWIST, so this was so great to see in person. It is funny how just changing one aspect, like the finish of the gold, can create a whole new look. And for the first time ever, I got to experience Judy Geib, a designer who hand-fabricates everything out of her Brooklyn studio. She is a phenomena in her own right, being self-taught, and on top of that, she mainly works with opals and emeralds, two of the most difficult gemstones to work with (very soft stones). There were SO many great designers featured, for a full list check out this link.

I don’t think I can say enough positive things about TWIST, so I’m going to leave you with this idea–if you’re in the area or planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest, make sure you visit either their Seattle or Portland locations. You could easily spend hours in here, so plan accordingly. (I also recommend the wine bar located at Pacific Place, Sixth Avenue Wine Sellers for before or after visiting!) 😉

Thanks Cullen and TWIST for showing me some amazing designer jewelry while in Seattle on my #JewelryRoadTrip, I’ll be catching up in the meantime via newsletter!

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Pacific Place, 600 Pine St #300

Seattle, WA 98101

(TWIST’s other location, Portland, OR)

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Ideals of beauty

What is beauty? Who is beautiful?These are questions I ask fashion communication students after they complete my semester and a half long course on Costume Appreciation, where we discuss the aesthetics, beautification processes, and attire worn by people around the globe.

What is beauty? Who is beautiful?
These are questions I ask fashion communication students after they complete my semester and a half long course on Costume Appreciation, where we discuss the aesthetics, beautification processes, and attire worn by people around the globe. For me, it is the single most thought provoking discussion that a fashion school can and must have and after a lot of thought, I am sharing my views on this topic here.

History teaches us that there is no one yardstick for measuring beauty and how Various ideals of beauty have evolved over time. In some cultures, spotless white or black skin is the ideal of beauty while in some other tattooed or painted skin is considered beautiful. Some prefer no accessories while other elongate necks and earlobes with jewelry. Some think anklets indicate slavery while other think they celebrate free-spirited nature. With the passing of time, different cultures have borrowed from each other, amalgamating their ideals with those that contradict them, leading to rich cultural practices.

Photo: Kritarth Ghosh, Model: Adhithi Priya, Headgear: Divya N, Concept: Birth of Colors
When the (Victorian) British came to India, they were shocked to see even women from respectable families without blouses or wearing skirts that reached the knee. It went against their tenets of modesty, respect, and cultural values. However, here, in the hot, humid subcontinent skin show was not just accepted but also appreciated for what it is worth. Slowly, along with their mindset, their clothing process also changed and the west started accepting show of skin (on certain parts of the body) as a sign of beauty. At the same time, Indians, who coveted the high neck, ruffled collared blouses and tweed jackets of the English felt that covering the body made them more beautiful and hence covering the body became the Indian culture while baring skin became western culture.
Image from Basics: Fashion design – Jewellery design by Elizabeth Glaton; book review coming up soon

In the past European women, applied lead powder on their faces as paleness was considered the epitome of beauty and in the process suffered painful cancers. Hindu, Tamil Brahmin women used to apply turmeric on their face and hands as yellow was considered as the auspicious (mangalagaram) mark of a married woman (Sumangali). Marie Antoinette’s powdered hair is legendary along with the staggeringly high fruit and feather coiffures of the18th century noblewomen which would be inhabited by mice and vermin. Until the mid 90’s only curvy women were considered sexy in Indian movies with 2000’s giving way to anorexic models.

Who is to say what is right? In this age of extensive and often extreme grooming does the concept of Saamudrika Lakshanam hold good?

One of the main functions of fashion is gender identification and differentiation but how can we define how a man or woman should look without considering the context of the civilization, the geographics, demographics and the evolutions of the culture?

Lord Krishna, the best strategist and one of the most handsome Gods is said to have had radiant blue-black skin, lotus pink lips and he is described in epics as wearing bright yellow silks with pearl and diamond jewelry and sometimes a nose ring. A very famous Cretan sculpture shows a powerful goddess holding up snakes with her breasts spilling over her jacket. In the high Gothic period wearing a hose that came over the mid thigh with velvet breeches was considered as manly perfection. A very famous Cretan sculpture shows a powerful goddess holding up snakes with her breasts spilling over her jacket. On a more relatable level, I remember my grand uncles having long hair (similar to a back oseldet) and wearing chunky diamond studs in both ears as a part of their tradition. I see male traders wearing nail polish and Mehendi even today and I know of women who’ll only wear all black or blue outfits.

Today, our societies, our nations and hence our practices are in a constant flux. Living in this melting pot of cultures, we are racing towards frontiers and embracing technology as our second skin but we are still not open to breaking stereotypes and challenging falsely conceived notions. At a time when leggings are being considered as destructors of culture, are we willing to call a man wearing a pantyhose and gathered velvet shorts as manly? Are we open minded enough to see him wearing yellow silks, a nose ring, flowers and pearls? Should a woman be completely covered up to be a “good, respectable woman”? Can a plus sized or even large women wear short, fitting clothes without being ridiculed? Why is a girl considered feminine only when she wear pinks, pearls or flowers? Why is there is constant debate whether the fair or dark skin is more beautiful?

I understand that this is sensitive (and controversial) topic with exhaustive arguments from either side of the bench. But the fact that there is a discussion itself is a positive development for me. I feel that Fashion brands, designers and enthusiasts have a responsibility to make this society more open minded and aware and accepting of the fact that we are all created equal. No one being should ever be made to feel that they are less than another for looking a particular way. I laud Jabong‘s sequel to their “Be You‘ Campaign that discusses alternative ideals of beauty and questions stereotypes as a positive step in this direction.


Without going into the commercial or strategic aspect of branding, I think this one of the best fashion advertisements of recent times in terms of content – styling and choreography. Controversial as it might be, it is interesting to see the Indian advertising industry transform into this mature, complex visual medium. It makes you sit up, take notice and propels you to discuss real yet scarcely discussed issues like “identity”in a contemporary Indian Context.

Recently, I found this post on Facebook that said “One’s choices may not resonate with you! But that does not make them wrong!”. I don’t think I can sum up this post any better. One does not have to conform to a particular way of looking to be considered beautiful. With a little awareness, acceptance, and kindness everyone can live beautiful lives.

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Rock Vault Amazes at Couture 2016

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Incredibly unique designs by Rachel Boston Jewellery, including some alternative bridal

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The fluid, free-flowing designs of Completedworks are done in 18k yellow gold and are mesmerizing

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Newly crowned “Best in Gold” Couture Design Award Winner, Imogen Belfield, known for her “rockesque” designs

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Extremely cool Jacqueline Cullen Jewels are all done using Whitby Jet, yes just like the Victorian Jet jewelry from the late 1800s

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These rings by Lily Kamper made me say, “WOW!” They are set with specially carved agates

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And here are her signature necklaces done in Perspex and Marble set with end caps of 18k gold and gemstones, by Lily Kamper

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Was so excited to get to see RUIFIER’s designs in person! The colors and geometric shapes are everything!

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Shimell & Madden also blew me away–extremely modern, with lines and curves making up the collection. Love the matte finish and the multiple shanks.

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Photo on the left, Jordan Askill’s necklace made of rock crystal with a 3D panther carved out of white cacholong set on top. The photo on the right features more rings from Completedworks.

If you’ve ever wanted to sneak off, away from all the hustle and bustle of Couture, and be instantly amazed, refreshed and wishing you spoke with a British accent, I highly suggest checking out Stephen Webster’s jewelry initiative called Rock Vault. This mini-ballroom hosts eight highly talented British designers, all whom are bringing their insanely gifted skills to the US. As I strolled along to each designer and spoke with them about their creations and inspirations, it became clear as to why Stephen Webster started Rock Vault in the first place!

“Rock Vault is a jewellery initiative to support, showcase and promote Britain’s most innovative, fine jewellery talent. Curated by Stephen Webster, this unique showcasing initiative has been developed by the BFC to nurture the creative fine jewellery talent based in London. It gives these designers the opportunity to further develop their businesses, as well as exposure amongst both UK and international media and retailers.”

I felt positive vibes from every designer featured in Rock Vault–an overall sense of excitement and gratitude, radiating with pride for not only their work but to be showcased in Las Vegas at the Couture show. Above you’ll find some photos I snapped, at least one from each designer featured in Rock Vault. Here’s a little more about each designer:

Rachel Boston Jewellery: a young, talented designer born and based in London with a wild imagination. Nominated for numerous awards, including New Designer of the Year at the UK Jewellery Awards. I’m completely obsessed with her Anceps ring done in 18k yellow gold from her latest collection called CONTRA. Fun fact: Rachel got married in Vegas after the show! Congrats to her!!

Completedworks: Flowing lines, bold architecture, fluid shapes…Completedworks was on my list of “must-sees” for Couture since I began planning. Artistic Director Anna Jewsbury has a unique background in Mathematics and Philosophy, which truly defines the line. The Pillar collection is inspired by architectural ruins, like the classical columns, and they are done in white and black marble, jade set in 18k yellow gold.

Imogen Belfield: with a background in Fine Arts and Sculpture, one look at Imogen’s designs and you can see how that path has influenced her creations. Her fine line just recently launched, with each piece being carvings all hand-done, which take on the form of rocks. The gemstones she uses are quite unique as well–I was taken back by the hot pink stone in one of her designs–so cool! It is actually an extreme heat-treated onyx (you can see the neon pink color in the photo I took above). She also just won the Couture Design Award for “best in gold” category!

Jacqueline Cullen: precious Whitby jet–a prehistoric fossil which dates back 180 million years which is most well-known in jewelry form from Victorian mourning jewelry. Jacqueline creates contemporary pieces of jewelry using this now very rare organic material. Her designs are innovative and have graced the pages of magazines and celebrities alike.

Lily Kamper: her love for unusual material combinations and modern luxury define Lily’s aesthetic. Her iconic pendant necklaces made of marble and perspex are all hand cut. She also has a bridal line just as unique as her other designs and her newest collection features hardstone jewels set in 18k yellow gold.

RUIFIER: I’ve been following this brand for a few years now and so excited to finally see their collection in person! RUIFIER knows how to push boundaries and create really unique pieces. They also have a knack for choosing great color combinations and gemstones for each design.

Shimell & Madden: created by duo Luke Shimell and Emma Madden, this London-based jewelry line fuses high-quality craftsmanship with scientific design and universal concepts. Each piece looks as though it belongs in a museum, while at the same time, extremely wearable. I was instantly wowed by this jewelry line.

Jordan Askill: last but not least, this jewelry line is evocative, nature-inspired and jaw-dropping. From the gemstones used to the designs themselves, each part of the overall design is planned out with utmost precision. Jordan’s background working for Alexander McQueen and throughout the fashion industry helps embellish his journey as a jewelry designer. His work and accolades extend far and wide for such a young designer, I can’t wait to see what is next for him!

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Source: GossipGem.com

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It’s a Winter Wonderland in the Luxury World of Jewelry

Have you ever taken a walk through a quiet, beautiful winter scene, where every branch is lined with snow and the ground is but a white, untouched path? Nature’s icy elements create a breathtaking appearance that is unforgettable. When it comes to your personal style, you can create an appealing outfit as well by showing off your own icy elements – high-end diamond jewelry. Gear up your jewelry collection this season by adding some festive winter accents from luxury fashion designers. These frosty jewelry designs will provide a classy elegance without making your wardrobe freeze over.

The intricate structure of a snowflake is hard for the naked eye to see, but is fully visible in the design of the 18K White Gold Diamond Snowflake Pendant Necklace by Louis Vuitton for $4,950. The necklace is made of 18K white gold and features a chain that holds a diamond-paved snowflake pendant bearing the brand’s logo in the center. This necklace is sure to make a bold statement.

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Another mesmerizing snowflake necklace design is the 18K Yellow Gold Diamond Snowflake Pendant Necklace by Bvlgari for $2,480. Twinkling diamonds embellish a simplified snowflake motif made of 18K yellow gold that hangs from a chain of the same precious metal. This necklace would be an ideal subtle accent for adding extra flair to a casual or formal ensemble, and can also be layered with other necklaces.

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Ladies will feel like the queen of the ice wearing the 18K White Gold Diamond Snowflake Ring by Damiani for $2,489. Four lovely snowflakes lined with glimmering diamonds are set upon an 18K white gold band to produce a dazzling appearance. Like a sculpture, the ring flawlessly expresses the beauty of snowflakes as they fall from above.

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Ladies will feel like the queen of the ice wearing the 18K Yellow Gold Ice Cube Diamond Band Ring by Chopard for $1,890. The ring’s design and dazzling appearance makes it the ideal bridal jewelry piece, whether it be for an engagement or nuptial. A row of 18K yellow gold cubes showcase glimmering diamonds that seem to be frozen in place.

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The Ice Cube 18K White Gold 3 Row Diamond Bracelet by Chopard for $22,000 seems to mimic stacked cubes of ice in its cleverly crafted geometric design. Tiny cubes of four diamonds set in 18K white gold connect in a row of four to frame a simply elegant bracelet. The diamonds in each cube glisten with every turn of the wrist.

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As the climate drops, keep your wardrobe cool with these festive jewelry designs that echo the striking sights of winter. At Luxury Bazaar, we have a large assortment of wintery jewelry models by top fashion labels such as Carrera y Carrera, Damiani, Bvlgari and more. Browse through our jewelry inventory specials to shop authentic designs priced at rates below their retail value.

The post It’s a Winter Wonderland in the Luxury World of Jewelry appeared first on The Luxury Bazaar Blog.

Thanks to LuxuryBazar

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An Important Figa Collection & Its Rich History by Ariana of Marteau

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The Figa–rich in history and quite elusive to some. What does it mean? And where did the talisman originate? I was mesmerized by a collection which has been in the making for years–that of Ariana Boussard-Reifel, owner of Marteau (formerly Mode Marteau) who has a penchant for vintage and antique anything, but especially jewelry. I had to know more about her collection and asked for her expertise on the topic of the Figa, so she has put together a wonderful blog post for us. Be sure to check out her newly launched website, Marteau.

“I am a collector first and I choose my conquest second. The act of collecting, more than the act of possessing is what enchants me. It’s all about the thrill of the hunt, the seeking and the vanquishing. Unlike some whose collections are focused, I devour jewelry that spans time and space. In this way all of history is exposed by the process of searching. Right now, I’m steadily pillaging the world’s supply of antique Mano Figas.

The first one I saw immediately captivated me. It reminded me of Rodin sculptures and Gabriella Kiss earrings. In appearance, it was both beautiful and macabre, clearly showing the labor of its maker in the finely articulated fingers. But it is the story and symbolism that made me a devout collector.

The gesture of the thumb protruded between the pointer finger and middle finger has a variety of different meanings dating back nearly 8,000 years. In Central Asia where the term for it is rosehip, it is an obscene gesture not unlike the middle finger. It means sex in Japan, the number 5 to the Maasai, the letter ‘T’ in American Sign Language, and ‘got your nose’ to every 4-year-old I’ve ever encountered.

But the specific symbolism that gave rise to the charm that we refer to as a Mano Figa originates in Etruscan Italy. Mano means hand and Figa means fig, a slang term for female genitalia. The gesture is undeniably a reference to heterosexual sex. In ancient times it was worn as an incantation to The Goddess, a call for fertility, virility and good times (the fig also has close ties to Bacchus). They were traditionally made of silver or blood coral, sacred elements for Luna, the goddess of the moon and Venus, the goddess of the sea, respectively.

Through time and colonization, the symbol crossed the oceans with Christianity, and beginning in the early 17th century figas began to be produced in South America. Now they are commonly worn throughout Brazil and Peru as a symbol of protection against the evil eye. The obscenity of the gesture is said to distract Satan from his conquest for your soul. Because of the close ties to femininity and motherhood it is traditional in Brazil to tie a tiny black figa to a child’s wrist to ward off bad luck.

For all the richness and history of the mano figa, I can’t help but love them large and small, fine and primitive. Because the gesture carries such breadth of meaning it’s easy to imbue it with the significance you choose. I wear figas daily to feel a connection to my femininity, to represent my love of antiquity, and simply because they are always a good conversation starter.”

Marteau

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Gem Gossip Visits Roberson’s Fine Jewelry in Little Rock, Arkansas

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Arkansas is the kind of state where one can go to dig up diamonds in the dirt and return home with your findings–even if your find is an 8.52 ct diamond and slated to shatter some serious records. The gems are there, you just have to look for them. I didn’t have to look far to see a gem of a store–Roberson’s Fine Jewelry located in Little Rock boasts some serious jewels. They also are on the cutting edge of forward thinking as they just hosted a first-ever in store trend event on September 24th, 2015. This private event brought together some of the best trend experts in the jewelry business–one from the East coast, Nancy Robey and one from the West coast, Jen C. Williams of Luxury Brand Group, who brought to life upcoming trends illustrated through the jewelry from Roberson’s. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend this event as their special guest–so I got to see the jewelry store itself as well as experience this first-of-its-kind event.

Roberson’s Fine Jewelry is a family-owned jewelry store where for over 30 years they’ve brought together jewelry from around the world to small-town, Middle America. You won’t find another store like this! Designers like Stephen Webster, Roberto Coin, Armenta, Gumuchian, Erica Courtney, Jude Frances, Arman Sarkisyan, Penny Preville, Lana Jewelry, Suzy Landa, Monica Rich Kosann, Gurhan, and more are represented in this global round-up. The open-concept store is decorated by store owner herself, Trish Roberson, who has an interior design background. I’m in love with the Greek and Roman head sculptures that set off the vibe of this jewel sanctuary. The modern pendant lights which hang down onto different cases add to the feel for Roberson’s main objective as a store, which is to “Build a fashion-forward, brand conscious jewelry store known for service. Build a brand that is shaped by our guiding principles. Create a work environment where people are challenged to achieve higher greatness on a daily basis. Positively impact the lives of everyone involved.”

I had so much fun trying on jewelry with Julie Maddox, who lives and breathes gorgeous jewelry paired with customer service. I love Roberson’s selection–especially the pieces that were specifically chosen from each designer featured in their store. The rings they have available from Arman Sarkisyan are some of my favorite from the designer (seen above). I also felt their selection of Penny Preville and Gumuchian jewelry paired and played off one another really well. I think it is awesome when mixing and matching of several designers happens, and so does Roberson’s. Jude Frances and Armenta are lines that do really well for this jewelry store and they make note of what their customers are saying, thinking and feeling. You know you’re doing something right when you listen to your customers! It was also such a treat to meet designer Suzy Landa who was at the event as well with all of her amazing gemstone-centered designs. Gemstones can speak volumes, and Suzy Landa gets it!

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Roberson's Red Carpet

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What is it you notice, a red carpet?! Yes, it isn’t everyday that a jewelry store puts together an event that incorporates making their clients feel like a movie star, but this is exactly what Roberson’s had in mind! Julie says, “We strive to offer our customers access to the most coveted jewelry from across the globe. We are forward thinking and innovative, and it is our mission to search out and bring the international trends to our local market.” Vice President, Julie Maddox continues, “Our customers want to know what’s happening, before it’s happening, and we are their resource. This elegant and exciting trend-focused fete was an opportunity for our clients to learn and and experience the trends in an intimate and interactive way.”

The private event featured small group trend forecast discussions where customers explored how the ‘boomer’ and ‘millennial’ generations interpret and adapt trends to their own personal style. With the use of visual props, model photography and the Trend Book produced by TRENDVISION + Forecasting, an independent international research observatory, the four major trends included: Airy Perspective – The Essentialist, Dramatic Poetry – The Romantic, Global Delights – The Exoticist and Digital East – The Digitalist. Nancy Robey and Jen C. Williams brought their expertise to the event and also gave customers the opportunity to ask questions about the trends, try on jewelry and ultimately purchase the on-trend designs.

Customers arrived at scheduled times throughout the day and walked the red-carpet outside of the store, posed for photos on the step and repeat, and later took photos of their jewelry-adorned hands on the “Jewel-Cam” – a mani-cam like the one seen on “E! Entertainment” during award shows. There were giveaways, specialty cocktails and light bites, along with fun to be had–even jewelry to be purchased, which was a perfect opportunity for people to see some exclusive pieces that were flown in by designers just for the event! Many of these pieces will be at the store until the end of this week–so stop by if you are in the Little Rock area!

I had an amazing time visiting Roberson’s Fine Jewelry and attending their Trend Event! It was awesome to see such a fun-loving group of people who share a common passion–jewelry! It is no wonder they have an award-winning store and team, and are doing big things. Thanks for having me!

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Visit Roberson’s Fine Jewelry website.

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Q & A with Jewelry Designer Sarah Swell #LoveGold

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If you combine ancient techniques with California cool, you’ll get Sarah Swell‘s jewelry aesthetic! This jewelry artist recently opened up a showroom in Sausalito and has been creating more and more yellow gold designs than ever before! Yellow gold, with 18k in particular, is her favorite metal to work with. Sarah says, “I love the richer gold color. For me, it evokes the feel of ancient jewelry. I often use a semi-matte finish on my work which makes the gold seem to glow and the diamonds really pop.” She has created a bridal line that is incredibly gorgeous and although it is available in any metal, she decided to make and feature it in all 18k yellow gold to convey a more “regal feel that is both ancient and modern at the same time.”

Her designs have fascinated me for a long time, and I’m glad to have finally gotten a chance to catch up with this busy designer and see what she’s been up to:

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I recently opened a showroom in Sausalito, CA which houses my studio and also showcases my work, so I’ve been refining my vision. I’m also preparing to launch a series of mens bands this Spring as well as continuously adding to my bridal and studio collections.

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