For centuries jewelry was designed by men. Seems odd, doesn’t it, when most all jewelry is worn by women? But the design field was male dominated for the same reason most fields were–men were seen as the more capable sex and the bread winners of the family. When did it become clear that women could design for women?
Perhaps the first to recognize this talent in a female was Rene’ Boivin, a Parisian goldsmith and engraver in the late 1800s. He married Jeanne Poiret, a woman who became his business partner in his jewelry workshops. Together they created fabulous designs which were in high demand among their elite clientele.
Egyptian Emerald Ring by Maison Boivin
When Rene’ died in 1917, everyone assumed that Jeanne would sell the business but, instead, she and her daughter, Germaine, assumed control. Jeanne, though not trained as a jeweler, knew a lot from working with her husband. She’d think out the designs and have someone else render them. She also had a talent for finding good talent, hiring young Suzanne Belperron in 1921 and, when Suzanne left in 1931, the talented Juliette Moutarde took her place.
Suzanne Belperron opened her own jewelry design firm with Bernard Herz, and later, his son, Jean, in a partnership that lasted over 40 years. Her designs were so distinctive–very fluid and organic. Even while those around her embraced Art Deco, with its straight lines, Suzanne elevated a more modern design. Famous women like the Duchess of Windsor and Mona Williams (pictured below) bought her jewelry. Her work was never signed, though. She always said that her style was her signature.
Sketch and finished piece by Suzanne Belperron
Juliette Moutarde worked with Jeanne and Germaine at House Boivin until they sold the company in 1976. Jeanne had died in 1959, but her daughter, a talented jewelry designer in her own right, kept the business going. Throughout these successful years, custom pieces were never signed by the individual artists. Perhaps it was seen as too bold, too assertive, for a woman to sign her work back in the early 1900s.
Design attributed to Moutarde, made for Claudette Colbert in 1936.
But because of these women, and a few others like Italian Elsa Schiaparelli, female jewelry designers today feel empowered to open their own studios, sign their names to their pieces, and earn their own success in the design world. Thanks to these pioneers, we know names like Paloma Picasso, Elsa Peretti, and Ippolita Rostagno, who have had their own jewelry lines for decades. And because of THEM, contemporary female designers–from Kendra Scott and Irene Neuwirth to Farah Khan Ali and Erica Courtney find success in the always competitive jewelry industry.
contemporary Ippolita design
Today we don’t think much about gender when choosing a designer. If you like the creation, you respect the designer! But it wasn’t always like that, and I wanted to lift up the courage of Jeanne Bouvin and her team of female designers. They worked and made their way successfully in a male world. Good for them and thank goodness for us. Their combination of talent and determination allowed women who came after to enter the field with confidence. Because of that, I want to nominate Jeanne Poiret Boivin for Mother of Female Jewelry Designers!
I’ve lived most of my life in Michigan and my maiden name is Campbell. Most people don’t know that because I’ve been married so long! But I always thought Campbell was a good name, so I was both happy and surprised to learn that there is a gemstone named after. . .no, not me, nor my kinfolk, but after the Campbell shaft of the well known Bisbee Mine in Southern Arizona.
So, what’s the story of Campbellite? As explained by one of the stone cutters at Arizona Lapidary, Campbellite is an uncertain mixture of minerals like cuprite, azurite, malachite, calcite,chrysocolla, pyrite, quartz, and copper. Its color and look varies because there’s no set amount of these minerals. It was first discovered by miners looking for copper. The bosses weren’t interested in this unusual rock, and told the miners to discard it. But the miners had a different plan. They saw its beauty. So, yes, they dumped the Campbellite in the trashcan. But they separated it carefully from the real trash. And when no one was looking, they loaded the discarded gem into the back ends of pickups. Campbellite has been showing up in the market, piece by piece. There’s not a lot of it–I’m sure plenty WAS dumped. The mine closed in 1975, and there is no other known source of Campbellite. But I bought one piece of it, cut into a smooth cabochon, and plan to make a bolo tie for my dad.
I learned a little bit about the mine shaft itself. It was first developed in 1927, originally as a way to get oxygen to other parts of the Bisbee Mine. But soon it was one of the best producers of copper ore, with yields of 8-10% copper.
Finally, who is the Campbell shaft named after? A little research revealed an amazing coincidence. The shaft was named after Gordon R. Campbell, who actually lived and went to school in Michigan! He graduated from U of M in 1893 and was a mining executive and lawyer up in the Keweenaw Peninsula. The Keweenaw Peninsula, jutting from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is one of the best known sources of copper world-wide. Towns like Calumet, Houghton, and Copper Harbor were booming back in the mid-1800s because of copper. Anyway, Gordon Campbell helped form the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company in 1901, serving as the company’s President from 1921-1931. It was this company that operated the Bisbee Mine. So Campbellite WAS named for a Campbell living in Michigan. Who knows? Maybe he’s a long, lost cousin?
The Campbell shaft, courtesy of the Arizona Historical Society
The other day a customer came in to get her ring sized. She was amazed and somewhat alarmed to learn that our bench jewelers would be cutting her ring with a saw blade in order to size it. Her beautiful ring–a piece of art–subjected to the saw! But jewelry is more than art and more than an expression of sentiment. It’s also a piece of engineering. It’s built with shanks and prongs, bails and bezels, and many other findings. It’s adjusted or repaired with the use of tools like saws, hammers, and torches. Using rings as our example, let’s explore the Anatomy of a piece of jewelry.
MOUNTING: This is the general name for the metal that holds the stone(s) in place and encircles your finger to keep the ring on your finger.
SHANK: This refers to just the curved part of the ring that goes around your finger. Shanks can have profiles(or cross-sections) that can be quite flat to very round. The width of the shank can also vary. And the shape of the shank, while usually circular, could be oval or even rectangular. A EURO-SHANK is curved on the sides but has a squared off bottom. There are adjustable shanks, too, which operate with hinges, allowing more room for a ring to slide over the knuckle.
SETTING: Sometimes a synonym for mounting, a setting probably refers more to how the stone(s) are held in place. Setting techniques include prong or shared prong set, bead set, tension set, channel set, bar set, flush set, bezel set, pave set, and invisible set.
PRONG: Tiny metal wires that suspend the stone, holding it in little “claws” (HEAD), so that light can enter the diamond from all sides.
BEZEL: A frame of precious metal that surrounds the stone, bezels can be thin like a wire or wide so that the side of stone is unseen.
FINISH: Whether the metal is shiny or more dull depends on the finish. You can have a polished finish, which is shiny or a matte finish, which is smooth but less shiny. Other finishes like satin, hammered, engraved or stone can give texture to the surface of the ring.
MILLGRAIN: This is a common embellishment on the shank of a ring. It’s a border of tiny beads that acts as a boundary or edging.
I could go on–there seems to be about ten- thousand terms that bench jewelers use. I learn a new one almost every day. Instead, let’s re-cap with a picture and save Anatomy 102 for another day. The important thing to glean from today is that jewelry is a designed and constructed piece of art. It’s engineered to be art that you can wear.
Engagement Ring with an Engraved Finish
If you love gemstones, ask your jeweler if he/she hosts roundtable events. These are usually evening events that last 2 – 3 hours, taking place after your jewelry store closes. Food and drink are often served, and you are introduced to a gemstone expert. This expert shares knowledge and stories about gemstones and the gemstone industry. Sitting at a, usually rectangular, table, guests are given the chance to see, touch, and dib on approximately 100 different gemstones. Dibbing simply means that you would like another look at that gemstone after it has gone around the table. These gemstones are for sale, but there is never an obligation to buy. The goal is to have fun learning about and playing with gemstones.
More people want to be involved in the making of their jewelry. Mountings can mask flaws of gemstones, so it’s to the buyer’s advantage to see gemstones un-mounted. And mountings can be unique if you work with a custom designer. On-staff designers are generally at the roundtable event and they can help you with ideas for any gemstone you select for purchase. The whole process of 1) picking out the gemstone; 2) deciding on a design; and 3) having the piece made by your local jeweler is a memorable one.
Dearborn Jewelers recently hosted a roundtable event with gemstone dealer, Judith Whitehead. Our next event will be in September. If you are interested in attending, give us a call and we can put you on the list. It promises to be a great time.
Haven’t you ever wondered, when you look at beautiful art, what inspires the artist? How does he or she find that initial spark that leads to a fabulous painting, sculpture, poem, or piece of jewelry?
Inspiration often comes from nature. Heather Gardner, a jewelry designer from California, said, “As I travel, I am constantly observing the environment that surrounds me, taking in the beauty of each unique place, from color palates to habitats. I absorb it all and it seeps into my skin, creating a longing inside to express the emotion I feel from the beauty I’ve experienced.”
Manmade objects can also be inspiring. Anne Bower, a jewelry designer based in London, said, “I’m inspired by the beautiful and interesting objects that I find on my travels around vintage fairs, Parisian markets, antique and curiosity shops and on the internet.”
In a similar way, New York artist, Jill Platner, commented that her jewelry is inspired by organic and urban found objects. “They all spin. They move with the wind. I am fascinated by movement, mechanics, and the way things go together.”
Sometimes artists struggle to be inspired, which, I’m sure, isn’t an easy thing to admit. They must always be ready in case inspiration decides to strike. Jennifer Welker of Houston, Texas revealed, ” I always keep a sketchpad with me. Sometimes in the middle of the night I have an idea and I’ll start drawing things. . . I draw inspiration from our daily life, from our travels, and from architectural pieces.”
Jewelry design is a melding of engineering, the principles of design, and inspiration. When you look next at a piece of jewelry, marvel a little at its design and remember that it started with a sketchpad and a bright idea.
Tucson Gem Show 2015 at the A.G.T.A.
The Tucson Gem Show attracts interesting people. People come from all over the world, and they have stories to tell. But the individual shows also have personality. This series will concentrate on three different shows–the A.G.T.A. (American Gem Trade Association); the G.J.X. (Gem and Jewelry Exchange); and the Pueblo Gem Show–and the stories I heard at each show.
The A.G.T.A. gets top billing at the Tucson Gem Show. It takes up the Convention Center, the fanciest venue, during the peak days of the two-week show. Its exhibitors must be members of the association, which has the highest ethical standards for full disclosure of any gem enhancement or origin.
It always feels calm and safe at the A.G.T.A. Everyone’s there to make a living, but there’s enough mutual respect and integrity to keep an honest exchange. It’s also very comfortable at the A.G.T.A. Booths have more elbow room, the environment is cool and carpeted, and the restrooms are of the permanent variety. At lunchtime, open doors lead outside to tables and chairs surrounded by food trucks offering wide variety.
The other shows know that you have to pre-register and meet the standards of A.G.T.A. before they’ll let you in the door. So, if you have your A.G.T.A. badge, you’re usually guaranteed entry to any other show. The A.G.T.A. deals only in wholesale, so the general public is not allowed.
Loose, cut gemstones are the specialty of the A.G.T.A. Only a few, high-end jewelers show finished pieces. The show also has booths set up for the top gemological schools and laboratories. There are educational seminars bringing in well-known speakers of the gem and jewelry industry. The Smithsonian Institution shows off its new gemstones and jewelry.
So, what is the “personality” of the A.G.T.A. Tucson Gem Show? It’s cool, cultured and full of integrity. It might also be just a little bit snooty. Everyone is well dressed at the A.G.T.A. People drink lattes for breakfast and have salad for lunch. There’s no one noisy or hot or grumpy at the A.G.T.A.
Maybe it’s this abundance of high class culture that draws me to the more down-to-earth vendors at the show. One such woman who, along with her husband, owns turquoise mines in Nevada, told a great story about a piece of turquoise I bought for my mother. It came from an area near the Ajax Mine, found in the Candelaria Mountains. She told me that one day she and her husband were walking their property and stumbled upon some pieces of turquoise just lying like gravel. They looked around and found a pick ax handle pounded into the ground nearby. It looked old, and they determined that it was probably left by a miner back in the 1930s. They think the miner saw what they saw and marked the place with the intention of returning. But, for some unknown reason, he never did.
When they started mining, they found a vein of turquoise. It’s called the Candelaria Pick Handle Mine. I can’t wait to tell my mom this story. And I’m so glad the owner took the time to tell me. Jewelry is best when it comes with a story. This one was like a good Western–rough and tough, with a little bit of mystery. And what a far cry from the classy, sophisticated story of the A.G.T.A. It was wonderful to experience both.
Next week’s story focuses on the G.J.X. show and a young stonecutter from Germany.
Ruby= R; Emerald = E; Garnet = G; Amethyst = A; Ruby = R; Diamond = D
What does it all spell? REGARD!
When it comes to creating jewelry that holds deep meaning and sentiment, the makers of the Victorian age were experts. They had to be, because the rules of behavior dictated discretion. Jewelry was a way to communicate love. Pendants containing locks of loved-ones’ hair were popular. Queen Victoria wore mourning jewelry for her late husband, Prince Albert, for over 30 years.
While I’m not advocating a revival of either of these sentimental declarations, I really like the idea of acrostic jewelry that was conceived in the early 1800s. Acrostic jewelry works a little bit like the game, Scrabble. The first letter of each gemstone can be used to form a word or name, and those gemstones can be placed in jewelry either in or out of order. For example, you could take the word “A D O R E” and make a beautiful pendant with an Amethyst, Diamond, Opal, Ruby, and Emerald. The word “B E L O V E D” looks wonderful as a ring!
Sometimes the gemstones look better out of order because of their color. Personally, I like the letters out of order. It’s a little romantic secret between the giver and the receiver!
Giving an acrostic piece of jewelry takes some time and planning, which can be part of the fun and is definitely part of the meaning. You wouldn’t go to the trouble for someone you just sort of like. But the piece wouldn’t have to be extremely expensive. Some letters have many alternatives, so if “Ruby” doesn’t fit the budget, perhaps “Rose quartz” or “Rhodolite garnet” would. If you like opaque as well as transparent gems, you could even go with “Rhodocrosite.”
Once you start playing around with words, gemstones, and jewelry designs, it’s difficult to know when to stop. One of my favorites was “C H E R I S H” with Chalcedony, Heliodor, Emerald, Ruby, Indicolite, Spinel, and Hessonite garnet. It would make a pretty and affordable ring.
Some words are more difficult. If you really want to write “L O V E”, there is a way to get around the fact that no pretty gemstones start with “V.” Although it has a different meaning today, the word Vermeil, signified a hessonite garnet to the Victorians.
Spend the time when buying fine jewelry. These pieces should have a good story to journey with them. Take a trip out to Dearborn Jewelers and let our designers help you create a special piece for your loved one. Maybe the Victorians had it right with their sentimental, old-fashioned gooeyness. Old-fashioned doesn’t have to be out-of-fashion.
After thirty years of marriage, my husband knows me, my love of gems, and my path towards the
jewelry industry. He actually likes jewelry, too, and, over the years, has bought me some
beautiful pieces. But he said to me, months ago, “I really can’t surprise you with jewelry
anymore. It doesn’t make sense when you’re the one with the knowledge and
Instead we did something I’d highly recommend to any couple. . .we designed our
anniversary ring together, following a few basic steps.
We pulled out the post-it notes and some wine and brainstormed about what our marriage meant to us.
Big things and little things. . .no answer was refused. . .until our brains felt empty of ideas.
We organized our multitude of post-it notes into broad categories, trying to see the bigger picture of what
our marriage meant. The goal was to consolidate to one or two broad themes.
Taking our themes as inspiration, we began to design our ring. What design elements
would best portray those themes? We drew. . .not very well, mind you. . .on our post-its
instead of writing on them. But, after several iterations, a ring began to take shape.
4) COMPUTER MODELING
Then I took that sketch to Dearborn Jewelers. With their Computer-Aided Design
(CAD) program, Countersketch, they can help you make your drawing into an actual
model that can then be cast and finished into a ring you can wear. . . .well, for at least the
next 30 years. Every time I look at that ring, I see the symbol of our life together.
Little known colored gemstones like Andalusite, Iolite, and Sphene are special because they exhibit many autumn colors. Any time of year is beautiful, but the colored leaves of fall, the light on the meadow grasses, and the multi-shades of blue in lakes and rivers are a feast for the eyes. What we most love about colored gemstones is. . .well, their colors. We love a rich emerald green and a luscious ruby red. But Sphenes are shades of green, yellow, and orangy-brown ALL AT THE SAME TIME! Andalusite and Iolite are other pleochroic stones, showing multiple colors in their face-up positions. Somehow these lesser known stones seem to beg for recognition at this time of year. Andalusite was named after a region in Spain where it was first discovered. It shows colors of yellow-green, green, and brownish-red. It is fairly hard, 7.5 on the Mohs’ scale, so it’s suitable for jewelry. Besides Spain, it’s mined in places like Australia, Brazil, and Canada. place in the world is the Sleeping Bear Dunes in northern Michigan. Any time of year is beautiful, but the colored leaves of fall, the light on the meadow grasses the multi-shades of blue in Lake Michigan are a feast for the eyes.
What we most love about colored gemstones is. . .well, their colors. We love a rich emerald green and a luscious ruby red. But Sphenes are shades of green, yellow, and orangy-brown ALL AT THE SAME TIME! Andalusite and Iolite are other pleochroic stones, showing multiple colors in their face-up positions. Somehow these lesser known stones seem to beg for recognition at this time of year.
Andalusite was named after a region in Spain where it was first discovered. It shows colors of yellow-green, green, and brownish-red. It is fairly hard, 7.5 on the Mohs’ scale, so it’s suitable for jewelry. Besides Spain, it’s mined in places like Australia, Brazil, and Canada.
Iolite , also called Cordierite, shows colors of blue, violet, and brown. It’s also quite hard, between 7-7.5 on the Mohs’ scale, and it is found in places like Myanmar, Brazil, India, and Madagascar.
Sphene, also called Titanite, shows intense fire when it’s cut correctly. It is not as hard as the others, registering only a 5-5.5 on the Mohs’ scale. Because of this, sphenes are beautiful in earrings or pendants, but are not as suitable for rings or bracelets. Deposits are found in Myanmar, Brazil, Austria, and Sri Lanka.
Why don’t we see these gemstones in jewelry stores? Is it because they’re rare, expensive, or not durable? I think it can be traced to a simple circle–customers don’t know about these gems so there’s no demand for them so most jewelry stores don’t stock them so customers don’t know….and so on and so on.
At Dearborn Jewelers, owner Teri Allen and her husband, Matt, travel each year to the largest gem show in the world, the Tucson Gem Show, buying interesting gemstones for their customers to set in personal pieces of jewelry.
Jewelry should always remind you of a special time, place, or person. If autumn colors hold deep meaning for you, think about sphenes, iolites and andalusites. Dearborn Jewelers can help you keep autumn close.
So many women these days have jewelry they never wear. It’s too big, it’s too small, it’s not my style, it has too many bad memories. Hearing their stories always makes me sad. I understand the reasons but I don’t understand the waste.
I’ve never met a person who didn’t value putting things to their best use. We all tell our story of a ratty old sweater we finally had to throw out because it just had too many holes in it. We scrape the inside of the peanut butter jar. We like candles that burn to the end of the wick. My mother even cuts old bath towels into dust rags and, when they get too unsightly to dust with, they become my father’s rags for the garage.
Time to repurpose it!
So when jewelry isn’t getting used, it’s time to repurpose it! One way to do that is to bring it in to Dearborn Jewelers for a remodel. Not long ago, a customer came in with the wedding ring from her first marriage, a pair of diamond studs from her high school graduation, and two opal rings she no longer wore. We talked about what she would want, and then sketched out a pendant for herself and one for each of her two young daughters to receive when they get a bit older.
Nick, the master bench jeweler, was able to use, not only the stones, but also the metal from the old jewelry to create some unique, one of a kind pendants for our customer and her daughters. She wears hers often and loves it. And, certainly, it is beautiful. But one of the reasons she loves it is because it comes with a story of taking something useless and transforming it to something treasured. How might you create a new treasure?
Mom’s new pendant