Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Eye for Detail(s) and Being Extraordinary

I am very big on detail. I love basics that are tweaked. A simple black top with an artfully draping neckline, or a surprise slit sleeve. Basic boots with a combo of leather and suede, instead of just one or the other. Interesting buckle detail. A bit of lace in an unexpected place. Braided straps. Embroidery. Laser cuts. Patinas. Funky zippers. I could go on…you get the gist. I own very few “basic” basics. I like them to have some added zing. 

If you go to my "In the Closet" Pinterest page, here:  Jill's Pinterest

you'll see what I mean. The items shown there are have stand-out color or some other detail that elevates them. I spent a decade in retail, surrounded by beautiful clothes, shoes, and accessories at my fingertips, and I don't think I've ever recovered. Nor do I want to. :)

This is the same approach I bring to furnishing and decorating my house, and to my jewelry designs. Special details, like an unusual shape, an interesting texture, a marvelously and unusually colored gem. All those little fillips of pleasure that just make your heart sing. Why be ordinary?

Texture detail on the back of a pendant. I like them to be finished well and visually interesting on *both* sides. :)

In an entirely different market, Christian Louboutin sells red nail polish for $50. Yes, you read that right. $50 for a simple bottle of nail polish.'s not ordinary:

Sephora Sells Louboutin Nail Polish

It's a CRYSTAL bottle. With a SEVEN-inch tall handle. Same heel height as his tallest shoes. Mr. Louboutin is also apparently quite big on the details that make a difference.

Crazy, right? Except that the first run sold out. And what did Mr. Louboutin have to say about his over-the-top design and price? For nail polish?

“There is no need to add an ordinary product to the beauty category. This is extraordinary.”

And well, why not? *I* didn't buy this nail polish (but I'm not what you'd call a beauty industry "big consumer"). But for beauty / cosmetics lovers, $50 isn't a whole lot, relatively speaking. 

But the sentiment...why add anything ordinary? Why, indeed? When you can be / make / design / create / enjoy the EXTRAordinary? 

As Todd Reed has said: 

I'm not interested at all in making jewelry easier or less expensive.

Same thing, no? Todd believes in the story of each design, the originality of each, the uniqueness. Each piece is handmade. No casting, no reproductions. He doesn't want to add anything ordinary to the jewelry category.  

And y'know....neither do I. I want to make designs that make my heart sing. That make YOUR heart sing. That shine in loveliness and fine craftsmanship. In fact, that's one of my overriding goals for 2015: to make even more original, extraordinary designs. To be even more extraordinary. 

I hope it's one of yours, too.... :) 

*Sorry for the font issues in this post. I can't seem to get it all to one font...or appropriate bold areas...or anything...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Tucson Gem Show 2015, Part VI

I bought a few less gems this year, because part of my budget was dedicated to buying gemstone slabs for my own cab cutting purposes. I'd taken a short class on cutting cabochons, and talked with a few gem cutters before heading to Tucson to see what was what. The one thing I heard consistently was, "Tucson is by far the best place to buy slabs". So I didn't want to miss the opportunity!

And oh opened up my eyes to a whole new way of looking at gems, and trying to figure out how I would be able to "get the lion out of the marble". It's one thing to look at something like this:

And think,"I know what to I want to do with that"'s quite another to look at THIS:

and figure out exactly how I'm going to get some interesting cabs out of it. But I'm I brought home about fifteen small, inexpensive slabs to play with. This one was my "spendy" slab, probably for later on when I have more practice under my belt. But in a week or so, I go back to learn more cutting, so I guess I'll see what happens with it all. :)

Another view, to give you an idea of thickness. I'm really quite excited about this aspect of playing with gems, and while I don't think I'll ever want to cut all of my own gems, I think I'd like to have a few specialty items that I "made"the gem as well as the metalwork. Right now that road's wide open...who knows where I'll be with this new direction by the time *next* year's gem show comes around??

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tucson Gem Show 2015, Part V

Here are some of the hits and misses from this year's shopping trip. First, the misses:

Too late:

This is a quick cell phone snap, but I think the gems show up beautifully despite that. The top is azurite / malachite with a copper (I think) infusion in it. Normally I don't like that kind of effect but these were amazing. Spendy, however. Like double the highest price I pay for earrings...I seriously thought about treating myself but I was being a good girl this year, and so they stayed.

The bottom gem...I'm still so sad about. It's one of the loveliest Tiffany Stone cabs I've ever seen. It's rare to begin with - found, so far, only in Utah - and quite pricey. This unfortunately got sold in the time I got the "okay" from a client to buy it, and the time I went back to get it. I am hoping it makes someone else VERY happy...

Too spendy:

The photo (again, cell phone; I don't haul the good camera to Tucson for gem shopping) does these no justice at all. They are facted, BIG, bicolor Tanzanite beauties. And at $450, there wasn't even a question that they were coming home this year. But they were amazing to look at.

Too rude:

The photo does none of these justice either...but trust, me they were amazing. However. When I asked about taking a photo for my client (not everyone allows it), the man I asked was very polite and said yes. So then I asked him if they would hold these four gems briefly while I texted my client the photo). He said okay, but then another man broke into our conversation and said, "Hold them for how long?" I said, "I don't know exactly, but I told her to have her phone nearly and she should get back to me shortly". He said, "That's not acceptable.". Then he paused, and said, "We'll hold them for fifteen minutes". Which was fine...but his attitude was beyond rude. I got about two steps away from the booth, and turned around. I flagged him down and said, "Never mind holding those. I'm not spending any momey with you today."

Damn shame, but there are enough lovely gems out there and enough dealers that I didn't want to spend with him. I don't get offended easily but there's no reason to be so rude. So I moved on.

And found this:

for my client. A fabulous and fascinatingly patterned Kingman turquoise. Unlike any other Kingman I've seen - the dealers had about four pieces of it, and this was the most superb. So I got the okay and now it's here waiting for me to make a very special necklace. :)

And the rest of the hits:

A very unusual crazy lace agate. Crazy lace was in short supply this year -  or at least the crazy lace *I* liked - but this was such a perfect little "scene" that I snapped it up.

Some new Mookaites (Mooka jasper, from Australia). I haven't bought any in a while, but I set (and fairly quickly sold) three or four of them last year. So I figured I'd add a few back into my stock. Its color is amazing, the cuts on these are excellent, and it takes a lovely high polish (as you can see by all the glares off the cabs in the photo). I really like to pair it with labradorite for a sort of moody, elegant combination. And the bottom one is also like a little scene. :)

These are amethyst with goethite inclusions, from Brazil. It's hard to capture the beauty of these in a photo, but they are partially translucent and beautifully cut and polished. I'm quite excited to play with them.

And finally, a sampling of  Utah lace agate. Slightly different than crazy lace agate (which comes from Mexico), this Utah lace that I purchased has some lovely red and purple-ish banding going through it, as well as some white parts which were well-cut to have them look kind of like snow-topped mountains. These will make spectacular pendants and earrings. :)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Tucson Gem Show, Part IV

It seems like no matter what time of year it is, I'm eagerly anticipating the Tucson show. And right between the end of December and the end of January, I'm *really* eagerly anticipating it. Like bouncing-off-the-walls anticipating. I really don't buy gems online very often, because I want to see and feel and know what I'm getting. There's a lot you just can't tell from photos. So every year, this is the single best opportunity to find interesting, unusual, and gorgeous gems that help determine my design directions.

This year, I found a few new / old favorites, such as these fabulous dendrite opals:

They are always so wonderful. I buy some smaller ones from a local gem cutter, but for the big, impactful gems I buy only in Tucson. No one else cuts 'em like this. :)

And as much as I love shopping for my favorites, I enjoy the thrill of the hunt for new and interesting gems. Below are a few photos of what caught my eye this year:

Azurite malachite. The gems above fascinated me with their interesting patterns and coloration. They're less spendy (especially in this somewhat larger size) than the azurite / malachite that doesn't contain the brown host rock, but I really loved the color combinations. I think I ended up with about ten or twelve cabs.

And then I picked up a few - only a few - of this gem without the host boulder:

Also stunningly beautiful. They're typically priced a lot higher than I'd like - and you can see how much cleaner the corners are on these; better quality cutting (though not always easier to set!). I pick up a few at random times when I find shapes / patterns / colors I like, figuring that eventually I'll have enough to do something really fun with them. I'm okay with a bit of hoarding. :)

Some lodelites shown above. From Brazil. I don't see lodelite, or buy it, very often...but it's fascinating. It's a type of quartz, with inclusions. And it's cut so that you get an almost 3-D effect looking down into the gem. But to get that 3-D effect means it typically has a very high dome. And they're not all polished smooth on the bottom, where the inclusions are. So setting might be a bit of a challenge, not that I mind. :)  And this brings my stash of lodelites to a grand total of three. :)

Oregon blue opal. This has a lot of matrix (the brown and white) in it, but I found it more interesting this way. The plain blue reminded me a lot of chalcedony, which I don't really use much...but I like  the contrast of the milky-sky blue with the earthy browns. And who knew that Oregon produced opals??

In my next post, I'll share some other unusual / special gems, and the beauties that didn't make it into the suitcase this year, for one reason or another. A girl's got to leave a bit for the rest of the jewelers. *wink*

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tucson Gem Show 2015, Part III

In my last post, I shared a little about struggling to find the "right" gems - right heights, right quality, right price. Today I'll share some gems that seemed abundantly available for me this year...the Peruvian opals.

Last year I'd bought a big ol' bunch of pendant-sized gems, and a few pairs for earrings. As it turned out, the pendants moved much more slowly than the earrings. By the end of the year, I was nearly sold out of earring gems. So this year I was on a big mission for earring pairs, and I hit a motherlode.

The photo above is just a random sampling of my haul. Most of the gems not shown are smaller, but all of these gorgeous beauties will make stellar earrings. And they're not heavy, thick cuts. And they're LOVELY. I love my turquoise, but seeing a whole bunch of Peruvians together makes me really, really happy. :)

Since I still had a few pendant gems left, I told myself I could only buy what really, truly made my heart sing. I try to do that anyway - choosing what I consider only "the best" makes it easier to cull through the thousands of gems I view at the shows - but this year I was super-picky about non-earring-sized gems.

I did find these:

which I adore for their translucency (though I usually prefer more opaque color) and their organic shapes. And these:

which hit me right in the gut. I knew they were definitely worth a little splurge. :)

Nearly all the Larimar in yesterday's post, and all of the Peruvian opals from today's post come from the same gem dealer. In years past. they've had displays at three locations in the Tucson Gem show; this year they consolidated to just one. Which made things a little easier and a little more difficult, because I went out of my way to one specific show just to see them, and spent the previously mentioned three hours looking through tons and tons of gems. It's a huge time-suck, because there are so many other places I need to get to - but it's utterly worth it.

I also found just a *few* pairs of boulder turquoise for earrings. The mine for these closed several years ago, and all the rough has been cut up, so new stock in these patterns are nonexistent. But in digging through the bins, I did come across these:

they were hidden away at the bottom of a bin. And now they're safely here in the studio.  :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tucson Gem Show 2015, Part II

The trickiest things about using one of a kind gems in your jewelry designs, is that sometimes you can really find what you need...ahem, *want*, easily and at the right price, like yesterday's turquoise...and sometimes you can't. This year, a few of my "regular" buys were harder to come by.

Larimar,for example, can be tricky to find. Last year the price skyrocketed and I really had to do some hunting to find what I needed. I had similar problems this year; the prices were better BUT the gems were cut really, really thick, which I don't like. A thicker cut usually means a few things:

- a sloppier or less experienced cutter

- a more expensive purchase (and not in a good way) Thicker cabs mean that I pay more for the raw material weight, then I have to use more metal to bezel the gems, which means my customers also will pay more overall. Which I don't like, which is why I look for thinner cabochons. :)

- a lesser quality gem - sometimes it seems like poor quality is "made up for " by cutting thicker gems. But I don't want "more gem, less quality" I'd rather have better quality material.

These in the photo are nice and "svelte"and the corners are well done. I am finding the patterns in the new gems coming out of the Caribbean so much more interesting than some of the earlier material that was simply straight-up blue. These patterns are fabulous!

I also found it hard to find the "right" matched pairs of Larimar for earrings. Either there simply weren't any available, or they were way too spendy for my plans. Or too thick - which, in addition to the issues I mentioned above, often means that the gems will be far too heavy for comfortable earrings. I get a lot of comments about how my earrings are comfortable to wear, and I take pride in making that part of my design prioritites. So thick gems for earrings are really just not an option.

Actually, this year I ended up making some of my own matched pairs, out of some huge bins of random gems. I sorted through entire bins to find cuts and color patterns that matched up:

I spent three hours at one dealer's location. For an eight hour shopping day (minus travel time), that's a chunk. But between the Larimar and the Peruvian opals I'll show you later, all thatt time did not go unrewarded. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tucson Gem Show 2015, Part I

Time for the annual review of the Tucson Gem show, the largest show in the world for showing, selling, and buying gems. It's a must-do if you love colored gems. The Tucson "show" is actually about 40 or so separate shows, scattered around Tucson over a period of two weeks. Some require a business license, some are open to the public.

And no gem show trip is ever free of some sort of surprise, of course. This year there was a lot of rain - for the desert in winter, a LOT of rain - during the early days of the show. Which made most of the ground look like this:

Most of the time, shopping Tucson is dusty. Not this year! Lots of ankle-deep mud puddles to navigate. Fortunately I'd brought along a pair of workhorse boots, which sufficed until the mud dried up a bit.

My first stop was where I usually like to first shop: the Royston Turquoise booth. Oh, there are others (though not many), but this booth is special. :)  The boys always have many, many lovely gems, but they *do* sell out sometimes, so I like to get there as early as possible. This year I was unable to travel early enough to get to them when the show opened, so I got there late on the first day. And they were already (on the first day! They had two weeks left!) very low on larger sized gems, which I use for pendants.

I did find these:

Hello, fabulousness! I didn't get anything on the really large side, like last year, but I found a decent variety. The two matched pairs on the bottom are meant for earrings, but the pairs on the left I'm going to break up into pendants, and the pairs on the right I think I'm going to hold onto until I can find a really cool centerpiece to go with them. Sometimes gems just get put away for a while until the right time comes along.:)

While I didn't have a huge choice of pendants...I hit the jackpot with earrings this year:

Oh, what grand fun I will have making earings with these! I love finding unusual patterns and shapes in my gems, and these are all wonderful.

I'm taking photos and uploading them here all week, so stay tuned...there are a lot more lovelies to share. :)