A Bracelet Made of Shells

The state of Hawaii is composed of many islands, seven of which are inhabited.  I have to admit that, until I got to visit the state this past January, I would not have been able to name those islands–O’ahu, Maui, Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, Molokoi, and Ni’ihau.  Most people know about O’ahu.  How many have heard of Ni’ihau?  With a population of about 160, it is a well kept secret and deserving of the name, the Forbidden Island.  

Ni’ihau has been a privately owned island since 1864, when Elizabeth Sinclair bought it from King Kamehameha IV for $10,000 in gold.  Her great-great grandsons, Bruce and David Robinson, own the 70 square mile island now, and they have kept the island isolated and pristine.  The families that live on the island today are descendants of the original families that lived there in the 1800s.  The people have their own dialect of the Hawaiian language.  They live a lot like their forebears.  This is one place where not much has changed. 

The people of Ni’ihau are well known for the beautiful shell leis they create.  Families have unique patterns that they use in their jewelry.  Artists use the tiny shells that wash up on the beach, including the highly sought after Kahelelani shell.  The sale of these leis, bracelets, and earrings is a major source of income for the Ni’ihau people.  Prices are determined by the rarity and quality of the shells as well as the skill of the artisan.  When I was on Maui, I bought a beautiful bracelet that came with its own certificate of authenticity.  I was told that, in the past, there were “copy-cats” who undersold the true artists.  So the certificate is important.  Be wary of shell jewelry that seems poorly made or is extremely inexpensive.

My shell bracelet from Ni’ihau.

If you are planning to go to Hawaii, I would encourage you to learn about the history of Hawaii.  It’s loaded with interesting characters like Captain Cook (not Hook), Queen Emma (wife of King Kamehameha IV),  and even Elizabeth Sinclair (an amazing pioneer from Scotland, who ended up owning an island!)   I loved learning about all the King Kamehamehas (there were five of them) and their wives.  Two royal women,  Queen Kapiolani and Princess Lili’uokalani, can be credited with popularizing shell jewelry.  They traveled to England for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, where they wore their long leis and made quite the splash!  

Formal photos of Hawaiian queens, wearing leis. Photos courtesy of the Hawaiian Historical Society

 

The New Birthstone- August’s Spinel

 

Natural Spinel

Natural Spinel

I have some very good news for all of you born in August.  Just recently, the American Gem Trade Association and Jewelers of America announced that SPINEL has been added to the birthstone list as an alternative to peridot.  Not everyone is a fan of peridot’s yellowish-green color, and the gem stone has a narrow range of hue.  Spinel, on the other hand, comes in almost every color of the rainbow!  The most prized color is red.  Pink and blue are two other popular hues.  So, because spinel is a relatively unknown gemstone and because changes to the birthstone list don’t happen often, it seemed important to write about it.

Peridot

Peridot

Many people have never heard of spinel.  It was recognized as a separate mineral about 200 years ago, but, until then, red spinel was often mistaken for ruby.  Some famous gems, like the Black Prince’s Ruby, which is set in England’s Imperial State Crown, are actually red spinel.  Those who have heard of it often associate it with something “cheap” or “common.”  Synthetic (aka man-made) spinel has been used for years to make the stones for high school class rings because it’s inexpensive to produce in lots of different colors that mimic birthstones like emerald, ruby, and sapphire.  Synthetic spinel is also used as the top, bottom, or both of a “triplet” that substitutes for a natural gemstone.

Natural spinel is a beautiful mineral made of magnesium, aluminum, and oxygen.  It’s colorless unless a trace element such as chromium, iron, or cobalt makes its way into the recipe.  Chromium leads to a pink or red spinel.  Iron and cobalt lead to violet and blue spinels.  A combination of trace elements produces orange or purple spinels.  These colors need no enhancement, so spinel is rarely heat-treated or irradiated.  It’s a fairly hard gemstone, scoring 8 on the Mohs Scale, and it forms in the cubic crystal system.  These qualities mean that spinel is hard enough to take a good polish and easy enough to cut and facet.  And the gem is usually eye-clean when it comes to inclusions.

Spinel is traditionally associated with Asia–especially Myanmar, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.  More recently deposits have been found in Tanzania and Madagascar.  Large crystals are quite rare, so the value goes up exponentially, not only for great color but also for size.  While not as expensive as fine ruby or pink sapphire, natural spinel is not an inexpensive gem.  Red spinel would cost approximately 30% of the cost of a similarly sized ruby.  And pink spinel would be about 85% of the cost of a same size pink sapphire.  It’s not easy to find spinel in a jewelry store.  Maybe that will change now that it’s a birthstone, but, up until now, it’s been more of a collector’s stone.

So, take heart all of you who longed for another birthstone! It’s spinel to the rescue!!  Ask your jewelry store for a peek at its spinel.  Here’s a peek at ours.

1.28 carat pink spinel

1.28 carat pink spinel

Thanks for your Patronage

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We are so grateful for our wonderful customers, who come in and share their stories with us.  Jewelry always has a story, and it’s almost always about love.  When people buy jewelry, it’s often to show loved ones how much they care.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we wanted to share a few of our jewelry stories.

The first story is about a silver and gemstone bracelet bought in Bali in the summer of 2009.  My husband and I found it in a tiny shop in a tiny town whose name I can’t remember.  But I can remember the face of the stooped old man who owned the shop.  He couldn’t speak English, and we couldn’t speak Balinese, but, somehow, the transaction was made.  A few days later, rushing in the airport to make our flight, I looked down at my wrist and felt my heart drop.  The bracelet was gone.  It had unlatched underneath my jacket, and I never felt it slide off.  Though I searched the airport, it was nowhere to be found.  I had to leave my beautiful bracelet in Bali.

It’s a sad story, but the story isn’t over.  I called the airport security when I got back to the States.  They had found what sounded like my bracelet!  I waited, impatiently, for the package to arrive.  When it did, I opened it anxiously.  Imagine my disappointment when I opened someone else’s costume bracelet.  There seemed to be no hope.  Christmas Day, 2009, came, and my husband and kids had expectant looks on their faces as I opened my final gift.  Nestled inside the box was my bracelet!!  I started crying with joy.  “How?” I asked through my tears.  My husband has never revealed to me how he managed to lay his hands on an exact duplicate of my original Balinese bracelet.  But every time I wear it, I think of the love it took for him to find it.

The next story is really a duo of stories.  It’s a story we hear, in many unique versions, over and over again.  When a mother, father, grandparent, or even an aunt or uncle dies, their jewelry can remind loved ones of the special bond that was shared.  Every time my one colleague wears his father’s watch, it reminds him of his dad.  He received it in his father’s estate, and he wears it almost every day.  Another colleague took her father’s gold diamond wedding band, melted and re-cast the gold into a lovely cross, mounted with those same diamonds.  You would never know her cross pendant was once a ring.  But she knows.  It’s a beautiful reminder of her father.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks and be giving.  We hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, filled with family, friends, and, of course, food.

With many thanks,  All of us at Dearborn Jewelers

The “Little Black Dress” of Jewelry

Every well-dressed woman has certain “go-to” pieces in her wardrobe–a black dress, patent leather pumps, a cardigan sweater. . .These are the articles frequently pulled out of the closet.  They work in a variety of situations and always improve the ensemble.

When it comes to a jewelry wardrobe, what are those classic, “go-to” pieces?   What should every woman have in her jewelry box?  Based on the opinions of many, here are the top five.  They make wonderful holiday gifts because you know they’ll be worn over and over again.

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  1. DIAMOND STUD EARRINGS are not only classic, but also a great investment.  Since the setting for the earrings is a minimal part of the cost, and diamonds rarely go anywhere but up in value, this “must” is the perfect gift.  At Dearborn Jewelers, we have a trade-up program for customers who’ve purchased their diamond stud earrings from us.  Fair market value for the earrings can be used towards the purchase of a larger pair of studs.
  2. GOLD HOOP EARRINGS, in white and/or yellow gold, are an important mainstay in a woman’s jewelry wardrobe.  They can be dressy or casual, and they coordinate with other pieces of jewelry.
  3. DIAMOND PENDANT NECKLACE just sparkles at the base of her neck.  It’s another great investment,  since, again, Dearborn Jewelers has a trade-up program.  And a diamond pendant and earrings together?  Stunning.
  4. A GOLD OR SILVER CHAIN that can be worn alone or with a pendant is an essential part of any jewelry wardrobe.  Small, simple chains are great for layering with other necklaces.  Probably the most versatile chain is a 16-18 inch adjustable wheat or box chain. (One hint for gift-givers, though, is to pair a pendant with that chain.  A chain by itself is probably not the most exciting gift.)
  5. A WRIST WATCH rounds out the top five.  At Dearborn Jewelers we carry the Tissot brand, which is a Swiss-made watch.  We have a wide selection in stock.

If you are looking for that perfect gift for the woman in your life, check to see if she has these classics.  If not, stop by Dearborn Jewelers of Plymouth.  We can help you round out her jewelry wardrobe.  If she has them all, maybe what she needs is a jewelry box.  We have those, too!

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