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In Honor of 婆婆

One of the things I enjoy most about jewelry-making is the flexibility that the process lends—both in terms of design elements, as well as in choice of materials. Say you’ve been admiring that turquoise beaded necklace a friend recently wore to a party, yet you’d really prefer wire-wrapped round beads to knotted oblong ones. Rather than purchase it as-is with design qualms, why not approach a jeweler who can custom design and fabricate a piece that meets all of your tastes. You’ll be likelier to re-wear your necklace time and time again with no regret, rather than lament the expense and leave it ignored in the jewelry box.

My grandmother (婆婆), Sai, for whom my business is partially named after, passed away last winter. Following that time, my mother and her sisters took possession of and split the jewelry collection she had amassed over the decades. The collection ranged from special occasion jade and yellow gold pieces to more quotidian costume jewelry. Among the items my mother chose, was a double-stranded necklace of pearlized, rosy-toned, round beads complete with a flower crystal box clasp. However, one of the strands had come loose with so much wear, and the clasp’s tongue was no longer functioning well. Some of the beads had also experienced quite a bit of wear and some of the coating was coming off. In honor of Sai’s memory, I wanted to meaningfully (and economically) gift my mother with a re-invented version of the necklace re-utilizing my grandmother’s original beads (the ones that had remained in decent condition). To complement the rosy hue of the beads, I wire-wrapped them into a single opera-length strand with 14k gold-filled wire and interspersed some delicate gold-filled beads throughout. I took the largest of the beads available, and transformed it into a small detachable pendant. I did the same with the crystal clasp, removing the tongue component, and converting the remainder into an alternative pendant to wear on the strand.  The detachable nature of these pendants lends versatility of wear.  Now my mother is able to accessorize her outfits with a restyled necklace and matching earrings that still honor her own mother’s memory and their shared simple, yet elegant taste.

003 SaiLin Designs - Custom Work - Sai Documentation

Arranging the good available beads in preparation for wire-wrapping | © 2015 SaiLin Designs

001 SaiLin Designs - Custom Work - Sai Documentation

Beginning the wire-wrapping process | © 2015 SaiLin Designs

004 SaiLin Designs - Custom Work - Sai Documentation

Wire-wrapping progress | © 2015 SaiLin Designs

Christmas Carol Earrings Await!

A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of meeting Carol at the holiday boutique at the Hopkinton Center for the Arts.  Having lost its twin to a favorite pair of earrings, she hoped that we could replicate her dark cranberry beaded piece.  With joy and just in time for Christmas, we present Carol’s new earrings: dark cranberry freshwater pearl earrings on sterling silver!

 

 

Caring for Your Jewelry

From rustic jewelry trees (featured tree above is from West Elm) to lady-like, painted ceramic wares, jewelry storage options have dug itself a nice little niche within the home and interior décor industry. However, as temptingly-stylish as those options appear, I encourage you to think twice and perhaps opt for something a little more orthodox.

Jewelry-Storage-Options

From left to right: Jewelry Box by HomePointe | Mid-Century Cufflinks Box in White Lacquer |Renee Sectioned Sueded Jewelry Box in Black by Mele & Co.

The best way to care for and maintain the life of your jewelry is by truly treating it like treasure. Keep your pieces individually tucked away, cleaned regularly, and have your finer pieces examined by a professional on a yearly basis to make sure that your gem settings are secure. Taking these measures will help ensure that your jewelry indeed lasts a lifetime and longer.

Here are some simple guidelines to follow:

-Avoid wearing jewelry when using household chemicals such as chlorine bleach. These substances can lead to the discoloration or damage of your fine metals and mountings. Chlorine bleach can pit gold alloys.

-Avoid wearing your jewelry when involved in athletic activities or rough manual work, as a gemstone can be susceptible to coming loose or chipped if it sustains a hard blow.

-Make sure jewelry is the last thing to be put on when getting ready for the day, and the first thing taken off when winding down the evening. Cosmetics, lotions, and perfumes all have the potential to damage your pieces.

-When storing your jewelry, keep your pieces separated if possible, so that they do no tumble against each other. This can lead to the scratching and dulling of the metal. Utilize those ring rolls and padded ring slots that you typically see in jewelry boxes. An alternative is storing your pieces in anti-tarnish soft cloth pouches or air-tight bags or boxes.

-For your diamond and silver jewelry, a regular home cleaning with an ultrasonic cleaner or by hand will keep your pieces looking sparkling new. To make your own jewelry cleaning solution, mix one part ammonia to six parts water and gently scrub with a soft cloth or a soft toothbrush (one that hasn’t been used for any other purpose than jewelry cleaning, please!) to loosen dirt and restore the diamond’s brilliance. Rinse after cleaning.

iSonic Ultrasonic Cleaner

iSonic Digital Ultrasonic Cleaner

-If a jewelry professional has told you that your gem settings are getting worn down, avoid cleaning your piece with an ultrasonic cleaner until your setting has been “re-tipped” (the process where additional metal is usually added to the worn-out tips of your prongs and polished to match the look of the original setting). Ultrasonic cleaners utilize high frequency sound waves within a soapy fluid to remove oils and grime that have accumulated within your piece. However, in insecure settings, this can shake the gems loose from their mountings.

-Be especially careful with antique and estate jewelry. Sometimes these pieces are too fragile to endure even a toothbrush scrubbing. In these cases, simply rinse the piece with some water and wipe with a soft cloth.

-Be aware of any treatments that your gemstones may have undergone. This will impact how you should have your jewelry cleaned. Treated stones like emeralds are often filled with oils or resins to reduce the appearance of inclusions. Ultrasonic and steam cleaners may wind up purging those treatments from the stones, negatively affecting the stone’s appearance and even stability.

-Soft gems, such as pearls, can be easily scratched. Never use detergents, ultrasonic or steam cleaners when cleaning your pearls. The GIA recommended method for pearl cleaning is using an unused makeup brush and gently brushing the pearls clean with warm, soapy water. Then, allow the pearls to lay flat on a towel to dry completely before touching them again. The wet string can stretch, as well as attract dirt.

-Since pearls are such a soft gem, wear and store them separately from other jewelry, preferably in a cloth bag. Storing them in a slightly damp linen cloth will help the pearls from drying out in a low humidity environment and centrally heated areas.

Finding the Right Necklace Length For You

When shopping for jewelry online, it can be tricky to imagine the scale and size of a piece relative to the rest of you, even when the seller provides the product dimensions.   With necklaces, it can be difficult to visualize where a given necklace is going to sit relative to the chest and neckline.  I’ve created this quick image guideline to make life easier:

Necklace Length Guide | © 2015 SaiLin Designs

Necklace Length Guide | © 2015 SaiLin Designs

Gem Highlight of the Week: Moonstone

For this week’s gemstone highlight, I thought we could continue along the mystical moon vein started last week by taking a look at the moonstone. All hallows’ eve is coming up soon, after all.

Geology | Origins of a Gemstone

Moonstone originates from the “potassium aluminosilicate” variety of the large mineral group of feldspars. With feldspar making up over half of the Earth’s crust composition, it’s likely that you could pick up a rock anywhere in the world, and it would probably contain at least one mineral from the feldspar group (University of Minnesota, Potassium Feldspar). In its rough form, potassium feldspars typically form pink, reddish or white, hard blocky crystal masses. The potassium feldspar series has its own sub-varieties, including: orthoclase, sanidine, oglioclase and microcline.

Moonstone is typically cut from the sanidine or orthoclase. Sanidine is a high temperature form of potassium feldspar and has a less ordered crystal structure than orthoclase. It is primarily found in volcanic igneous rocks where magmas cooled more rapidly and crystals have less time to form, resulting in a distinctive bluish iridescence (University of Minnesota). During formation, intermingling minerals, orthoclase (potassium feldspar) and albite (a plagioclase feldspar), separate into stacked, alternating layers (GIA, Moonstone). As incident light rays play between these thin layers, they scatter, producing the optical phenomenon called adularescence. The visual outcome of this light effect is a milky blue luster and the appearance of a floating light or sheen that seems to billow across the stone’s surface as it’s rotated. This effect has often been artfully compared to lunar light floating on water, and it is the inspiration for its given gem name. A quality cut when working with the crystal rough, will maximize this beautiful play of light.

Rainbow moonstone is typically derived from the labradorite (plagioclase feldspar series) species.

The Romanticism of the Moonstone

The moonstone gemstone has a rich cultural and mystical history that dates back long before it was designated as a June birthstone or popularized in western culture by Art Nouveau. Several ancient legends have suggested that moonstones were formed from moonbeams or drops of moonlight. According to some sources, moonstones in India were considered “’dream stones,’ that could bring the wearer beautiful visions at night”. In Arabic culture, moonstones were a symbol of fertility (gemstone.org, Moonstone).

The romanticism that speaks to me the most is the belief in the moonstone as a “lover’s stone”:

The moonstone symbolizes our being in its entirety. With its shimmer, it strengthens our emotional and subconscious aspects….a “lover’s stone”, [it] evokes tender feelings and [safeguards] the true joys of love. It is also said that wearing a moonstone strengthens our intuition and our capacity to understand. (gemstone.org, Moonstone)

Of course, many folks will say that things like flower meanings or a gemstone’s mystical properties should be taken with a grain of salt. The same could be said for the whole “something borrowed, something blue,” bridal wedding tradition. Regardless of whether you choose to put stock in romantic ideology, I think moonstones make a lovely gem to wear on special date or even a wedding day. I, myself, wore rainbow moonstone shoulder-duster earrings during my nuptials.

SaiLin Designs_RainbowMoonstone earrings

Rainbow moonstone shoulder duster earrings | ©SaiLin Designs

They are subtle and elegant, with glimmers of a joyful play of light. Plus, they will work regardless of whether you’ve opted for the traditional white/ off-white gown, or something of a blush variety. Moonstones also make a nice alternative to the pricier opal. Be mindful, however, that moonstones may be susceptible to scratching, as they are considered a somewhat “soft” stone and fall to a 6 on the Mohs hardness scale. So, handle your moonstone jewelry with care!

Sources:

Department of Geology. University of Minnesota. “Potassium Feldspar: Feldspar Group of Silicate Minerals.” 15 October 2015 <https://www.esci.umn.edu/courses/1001/minerals/potassium_feldspar.shtml>

GIA. “Moonstone Description.” 15 October 2015 http://www.gia.edu/moonstone-description

International Colored Gemstone Association. “Moonstone.” 15 October 2015 http://www.gemstone.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=126:sapphire&catid=1:gem-by-gem&Itemid=14

Altered Beauties: Gem Treatment

It’s very easy to feel spellbound by the first glimmering gem that you see in the jewelry case. How could Mother Nature produce such a vivid blue sapphire? Or, take a look at that stunning princess cut emerald! However, before you purchase that emerald pendant, make sure you are making an informed purchase. To do so, you need to know about gem treatments.

Every natural gem comes from a piece of “rough.” Rough refers to the original rock or mineral chunk discovered and retrieved from the mine.

Example of ruby rough | Photo from GIA

Example of ruby rough | Photo from GIA

Example of a finished ruby | Photo from GIA

Example of a finished ruby | Photo from GIA

Expert gem cutters and manufacturers than examine each piece of rough in order to assess how best to cut and polish it to yield the most marketable and attractive gemstone(s). Quite often, however, those gemstones still need a little “help.” Much to the chagrin of an unknowing consumer, the gems we see in the department store jewelry case are not always naturally quite so rich in color or “flawless” in clarity. Sometimes, they need to be enhanced through treatment. These treatments should be disclosed during the purchase of your jewelry. Even if it isn’t, it’s safer to assume that the gem has been subjected to treatment, unless examined by a professional gemologist and reported otherwise.

By the technical definition provided by GIA, gem treatments are any human-controlled processes beyond the typical cutting and polishing of a gem during the manufacturing process that improves the appearance, durability, or value of a gem.

Heat treatment is a common example method used as a gem enhancer. Typically executed in kilns or ovens at temperatures ranging from 200-2000 degrees Celsius, the gems are packed within a crucible, along with sand or a similar material in order to allow the material to heat up slowly and avoid thermal shock. The high temperature allows for electrons within the crystal structure to move and form different bonds, resulting in a change of electron valence and hence, a different color (JTV.com).

Sometimes, other elements or factors are also introduced to the treatment process. In the case of rubies, the controlled presence of oxygen in the kiln during heat treatment can actually result in a purer red with a reduction in the purple tint. Heat also has the capability of melting or dissolving certain inclusions in the ruby and helping to heal and close internal fissures. So overall, the outcome is a redder ruby with the appearance of improved clarity. Keep in mind, that heat treatments can sometimes involve additives. This too, should be disclosed during the gem purchase. Sometimes, inclusions within a ruby are fixed by filling it with a lead glass. Emeralds, in turn, are sometimes filled with oil or resin, to disguise the appearance of internal fractures. “Some estimates state that 90 percent or more of emeralds are fracture-filled” (GIA, Emerald Care Cleaning). Such additives should be kept in mind when having jewelry cleaned or repaired. Ultrasonic cleaners are a great tool utilized by jewelers to efficiently and effectively remove dirt and grime build-up from your jewelry due to daily wear. However, the vibrations from this device or even the heat from steam cleaners can loosen the fillings from fractured stones, or cause oil and unhardened resin to sweat out.

This brief discussion on gem treatments is not meant to frighten or deter you from buying jewelry with gemstones. If executed and disclosed properly, gem treatments simply allow your gemstone to achieve its highest aesthetic potential, and you just have to be mindful of how treatments will impact the way in which you should care for your jewelry. Just because it’s treated does not mean your gem is any less real (unless it’s synthetic or simulated—but that topic is for another day). It may, however, explain the pricing of a piece you’ve been eyeing.

Macy's Fine Jewelry Page

Macy’s Fine Jewelry Page

A major factor in gem pricing is its rarity. A genuine, natural ruby that has been certified as unheated will certainly command a premium, because it is so commonplace to treat that stone. Admittedly, other factors such as gem size, fair trade, and responsible sourcing will indeed come into play, as well, during gem pricing and purchases. Overall, however, I think it can be said that treatments broaden the accessibility of beautiful looking gems for consumers and jewelry aficionados.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.gia.edu/emerald-care-cleaning

 

A New Facet to “Diamonds are Forever”?

Last year, The Atlantic published a fascinating article, “Where the Dead Become Diamonds,” which discusses Swiss company, Algordanza’s desire to transform the way in which we mourn our departed. It hopes to achieve this by converting the crematory ashes of our dead into diamonds, potentially bringing new meaning to the popular jewelry catchphrase, a diamond is forever. A man who weighs approximately 176 pounds when cremated will generate about 5.51 pounds of ashes, which can subsequently be made into 0.2 gram diamond. That’s equivalent to a one carat diamond! Wow.

True to the uniqueness inherent in natural gemstones, no “memorial diamond” will necessarily look the same. As founder, Rinaldo Willy explained, ‘…we believe in no manipulations. As soon as you have additives, there’s something in the diamond that doesn’t belong.’ Despite the immediate “no additives or preservatives!” lunch-meat image that comes to mind, I enjoy the sentiment—maintaining the purity of the gem and of the person you are essentially eternalizing.

“Instead of being predetermined, the color of each Algordanza diamond results from the specific combination of trace elements present in an individual’s body. Fake teeth, titanium hips, or the remnants of chemotherapy can all impact color. Nitrogen lends a yellow hue. Traces of phosphorescent chemicals can produce diamonds that glow in the dark…” (Morin, “Where the Dead Become Diamonds”)

Mourning Jewelry: Found on The New York Times | Photo from: Massachusetts Historical Society

Mourning Jewelry: Found on The New York Times | Photo from: Massachusetts Historical Society

Both cemetery burial and regular cremation practices end with a great sense of loss and emptiness, so the appeal of this endeavor is understandable. Reminiscent of Victorian mourning jewelry (ie. lockets with snippets of hair), these diamonds gives mourners an elegant opportunity in which to hold on to a piece of their beloved. Most clients reportedly wind up incorporating their finished diamonds into a piece of jewelry, which if done justice, should last for generations to come. Imagine never having to fully say goodbye to your loved one. Imagine “living” forever as a diamond way beyond your own lifetime. The artist in me rejoices, “How wonderful to be able to memorialize someone so dear in such a way. This will bring jewelry storytelling to a whole new level!” The cynic in me mutters, “That’s not healthy. That’s just marketable poetry.”

This dead to diamond process, though romantic, will unfortunately cost mourners a pretty penny. A given conversion of parceled ash to gemstone will cost anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000! Well, if Algordanza seeks to capitalize on our grief, then this venture will require some smart branding. I suppose they are off to a good start. The company actually encourages its clients to make a pilgrimage—a tried and true motivator—of sorts, to the isolated Swiss town of Chur, in which it’s based. “[Passing] through medieval cobblestone streets, a golf course, and wildflower fields…to [bring] the ashes or [pick] up the diamond in person…” Their “choreographed” six-month production process culminates in the hand delivery of the final diamond, nestled within a small, glorified coffin, I mean, “polished wooden box”.

Well folks, if this is indeed the future of mourning, perhaps we should put more stock in the phrase, “bigger is better.” McDonald’s, anyone?

Sources:

Morin, Roc. “Where the Dead Become Diamonds”. The Atlantic.  14 October 2014. Web. 06 October 2015.