Raining Diamonds for April

We’re almost through April and I haven’t covered the April birthstone yet. Let’s do something about that…

Traditionally, the birthstone for April is the diamond. I found a few articles stating there are two different birthstones for April depending on the zodiac symbol (people born between March 21 and April 19 are Aries and those born between April 20 and May 20 are Taurus); however, according to the American Gem Trade Association (http://www.agta.org), the birthstone for the month is diamond. I am going to trust the AGTA because they are considered an industry authority when it comes to gemstones.

Because of the cost associated with diamonds, alternative stones can be used in birthstone jewelry. The alternative stones used in place of diamonds typically include quartz and white spinel (pronounced spi-nel).

According to Merriam-Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com), a diamond is crystallized carbon and is usually nearly colorless. It is the hardest known mineral and because of this, it’s not only used in jewelry, but is also used as an abrasive.

Diamonds have been used in both jewelry and cutting since ancient times. It is believed that most diamonds came from the area now known as India. Even today, most of the world’s diamonds come from India. Most diamonds are then traded in Antwerp, Belgium. Antwerp’s association with the diamond trade dates back to the late 15th century when new techniques for polishing and shaping the stones were developed there.

Recently, manufacturers have developed new methods of creating synthetic diamonds. These stones are grown in laboratories and they are visually identical to naturally-occurring diamonds. When purchasing diamonds, your jeweler should inform you whether or not your diamond is natural or synthetic.

All gemstones have at least a little folklore following them, and diamonds are no different. It is believed diamonds protect those who carry one bound to their left arm. It is also thought to ward off panic, pestilences, and enchantments.

Sadly, I do not have diamonds worked into any of my current jewelry designs, so I do not have photos to share with you. However, if you have questions, please let me know. If I cannot help you, I can direct you to a reliable information source.

Thank you for reading!

 

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A Flapper Flashback…1920’s Jewelry

When I was in high school we had to read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The novel is considered a literary classic, but I sadly do not remember anything about it except that I know I read it. I do know the story takes place in 1922, when America was in a heyday. We had recovered from World War I and the economy was doing well. There were social gatherings where people dressed lavishly and image was everything.

This winter, The Great Gatsby movie (based on the book noted above) is set to be released. With this expectation, the fashion industry is predicting that styles will build on the retro feel that is already coming out of the Mad Men TV show (set in the 1960s). It’s interesting to see the similarities in jewelry styles between the 1960s and the 1920s. Let’s explore a few of the 1920’s jewelry trends to see why these two eras will be able to blend so well together this year.

When thinking of the 1920s, there are a few terms that come to mind. Finger waves. Speakeasies. Art Deco. Flappers. I don’t know about the other trends, but flapper-inspired jewelry is set to make a comeback this year.

Let’s start at the beginning. What was a “flapper?” A flapper was a brash woman who went against the norm for women of the time. She smoked, drank, danced, and frequented speakeasies. She held nothing back as she wore heavy makeup and donned a fashion style all her own.

While other women of the 1920s wore simple and elegant jewelry, long strands of beads or pearls are typically thought of as the iconic flapper jewelry. These necklaces were generally worn in a single layer around the neck and tied in a knot at the sternum. They would usually hang down to the waistline, but sometimes they went longer than that. If you recall my post about necklace lengths, opera length necklaces are best for accomplishing this style. These are necklaces ranging in lengths longer than 28 inches.

Multi-strand necklaces were also popular in the flapper style. If the necklace itself wasn’t multi-strand, ladies often layered several beaded or pearl necklaces together. When this was done, the strands would usually vary in length from choker length to opera length.

Pins, rings, and brooches were also very popular in the flapper style. These were often art deco in style using geometric shapes and large colorful gemstones. Elements depicting nature, such as leaves, and animals were also often incorporated into these jewelry pieces. Whatever elements they included, they were large focal pieces.

I find all of this to have an interesting similarity to the jewelry trends of the 1960s, which the fashion industry is saying are big this year. Multi-strand necklaces. Pins. Rings. Brooches. Large statement jewelry. All of these were fashionable in both eras. Most women I run into say they think of themselves as “little jewelry” women. They wear their wedding/engagement rings and maybe a thin chain with a small pendant. That’s it. With statement pieces being in vogue this year, I say break out of your shell and try them. Depending on your age, you wore them the first time around, why not enjoy a bit of your youth and do it again? I believe that bold jewelry is great fun, so I am in love with the idea of having it in style this year, especially when it calls on times gone by. So I challenge you, go to your local antique or vintage clothing store and get a piece of jewelry, whether it’s 1920s or 1960s, and have some fun!

Thanks for reading!

 

How I destress

I’ll admit I’ve been a funk the past few days. We all go through those, right? Days when we feel like we aren’t getting anywhere, when we’re feeling unmotivated, and the like. The one thing that often helps me is creating jewelry. I might not be a fan of the other aspects of running a business (the paperwork, the taxes, etc), but the joy I get out of creating a pretty piece of jewelry makes everything worthwhile. So, I decided to sit in my “studio” and give it a whirl. I cranked up some classical music (it’s great for thinking), pulled out some sterling silver wire and some moonstone pebbles and went to town. Here is the result:

I think I accomplished my goal of breaking my funk. This bracelet measures 7-1/2” long. My skin is a little pale for the white, but it’ll make a great summer piece.

Now for the stone. Moonstone.

Moonstone comes from the feldspar mineral group and is found in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Madagascar, Brazil, Australia and India. It is the state gem for Florida, although it is not found in Florida. It is also not found on the moon. When the Greeks and Romans looked at moonstone, they thought it was born from the moon because the visual effect is has reminded them of the moon.

That visual effect is called adularescence, which comes from the floating light that appears to come from below the surface of the stone. This is due to the way light reflects off of the layers within the stone. Some stones have a white light while others have either a blue or an orange light. The stones in this bracelet have a blue light, although I was not able to get my camera to pick it up.

If you are interested in the metaphysical properties of gemstones, moonstone has several. It is believed to bring good fortune to its wearer and is thought of as a stone of protection. It is also thought to fight against obesity and to calm emotions.

Have you ever seen moonstone? Were you able to see the adularescence? If not and you are in the Lancaster County, PA, area come out and check out this pretty new bracelet this spring. You can see my upcoming schedule on my new website: Gretchen Smith Jewelry. Just go to the “Find Jewelry” link at the top of the page. Thanks for reading!

 

Where do my stones come from?

Let’s shift topics a bit here. I am currently working on obtaining a certification through the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), who is regarded as the world’s foremost authority in gemology. The certification is titled “Accredited Jewelry Professional (AJP)” and through the courses I’m taking I’m learning a lot about the elements that go into each piece of jewelry. One of the subjects we looked into was the origin of gemstones. I was very fascinated by this and would like to share it with you.

Where I come from (Central Pennsylvania), we are not really known for our jewelry-quality gemstones. However, we do have some supplies of quartz, agate, amethyst, fluorite, magnesite, and corundum (which can appear as sapphire or ruby). Have you ever wondered where your gemstones do come from? It’s an interesting and eye-opening subject to research, that’s for sure.

The most beautiful gems come from some of the farthest reaches of the Earth. In these locations, mining is often done by companies with limited capital and primitive equipment, which can put the workers’ safety in jeopardy. Most of the work is done by hand with picks, shovels, and washing pans (pans with fine screens in them used to separate the other rocks and debris from the gemstones) so it is very labor intensive.

These areas do not have the safety standards we find in America, so the mining operations are not only labor intensive, but they can also be dangerous. Mine floods and collapses are very serious and possible risks. However, because the residents of these countries live in such poverty, they are willing to take the chance and risk their safety in order to make money to support their families.

Gemstones make an interesting journey before they end up in your jewelry box. As I noted above, they start out as rough stones in mines throughout the world. Then they are carefully removed from the mines often through manual labor. They are then shipped to a manufacturer who cuts and polishes the stones. The way a stone is cut is often related to the way it is shaped when it comes out of the mine. This is done to ensure the least amount of stone loss during cutting as possible. After a stone is cut and polished, it is sent to a dealer who will sell it to a retailer. You then purchase the stone from the retailer. Many companies are trying to reduce the middle man in this operation in an attempt to cut costs. They are aiming for the manufacturer and the dealer to be one person or company instead of two.

 

Here is a list of some of the places that are commonly known for their exquisite stones:

Myanmar (Burma) – Rubies

Kashmir (region straddling India and Pakistan) – Sapphires (also called Kashmir Sapphires)

Colombia – Emeralds

Brazil – Emerald, tourmaline, topaz, amethyst, alexandrite, and opal

Tanzania, Africa – Tanzanite

Austrailia – Black opal

 

Are there any gemstones found in the area where you live? What are they?

As always, thank you for stopping by and reading!

Vintage Jewlery Styles

Are you familiar with the television show Mad Men? It’s okay if you aren’t, I’m not either. However, it has been popping up a lot lately on various style websites. Thanks to these websites, I now know the show takes place during the 1960s and has a lot of great style going on.

With the talk of Mad Men going around the fashion forums, I’m feeling inspired to create some retro-inspired jewelry. If you know me well, you know I have a soft spot for retro jewelry and clothing, but I don’t create it often nor wear it often. I need some feedback on what other ladies think about it before I do too much with it.

The jewelry of this era was defined by pearl necklaces (real and glass), button earrings, statement pendants on chains (gold or silver), and brooches. Some of the other jewelry trends were large cocktail rings, glass jewels, and multi-strand necklaces. At just about any level in society, jewelry seemed to play an important role in every woman’s wardrobe.

Another material that often showed up in jewelry during the 1950s and 1960s was Lucite, a synthetic polymer used in place of glass (Plexiglas is a form of the same material). It was lightweight, durable, and economical. In simple terms, it’s a transparent or translucent plastic. I mention Lucite specifically, because it is not something you see very much in jewelry today, but I really like the look of chunky Lucite jewelry pieces.

What I find interesting about this time period is there were actually two different worlds going on in regards to jewelry and fashion. I’m focusing on more the Mad Men style of jewelry because that is my personal preference and that’s what is getting noted in the fashion media outlets, but I feel I must also make a note of the hippie style jewelry that was present in this time period. Hippie jewelry styles focused more on natural materials, especially wood, shells, stone, feathers, leather, and cotton cord. The metals in hippie jewelry styles were often aged looking and not shiny like it was in the Mad Men style.

I find it interesting how these two styles of jewelry were both very popular during the same era, yet they couldn’t be more different, and they are both back in style today. I have a few pieces I have created to unleash my inner vintage love.

This necklace is more of the Mad Men style. I think the color creates the vintage look more than the necklace style itself. It was created with Swarovski’s crystal pearls and sterling silver. Swarovski’s crystal pearls have a leaded crystal core to give them some weight, and then they are finished with multiple layers of highly luminous pearlescence to give them a high-quality pearl look.

I would put this necklace in the hippie style category. It was created with wood beads accented with green glass beads to give it a great natural look. It is chunky, but very lightweight.

Which style do you prefer?

Thanks for reading!