How do Jewelry Artists get their Inspiration?

scroll design3Haven’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.

colored pencils

Personalities at the Tucson Gem Show–Part 1: The A.G.T.A.

Tucson Gem Show 2015 at the A.G.T.A.

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.



“L O V E” your jewelry


       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.


Designing Your Anniversary Ring -A Symbol of 30 Years

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.



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.

Anniversary Ring

Andalusite, Iolite and Sphene as Autumn Reminders


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.

andalusite plymouth mi







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.




Remodel Your Jewelry

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!

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?

Daughter's pendant

Daughter’s pendant

Mom's new pendant

Mom’s new pendant

Daughter's pendant

Daughter’s pendant