Friday, July 18, 2008

The First Apertifs Collection at Caeli

I've designed rings before, with faceted stones that caught my fancy, set in 18KT white and yellow gold. This, however, was my first serious attempt at a full collection of cocktail rings, with identically custom-cut large checkerboard gemstones and trios of sapphires and tourmalines. The collection was meant as an homage to the classic luxury of old, where 18KT gold was the minimum karat gold of choice, and yet at the same time, the large stones and varied colour infused it with an undeniable youthful edge.

left to right: green-gold quartz with fancy sapphires, citrine with fancy sapphires, london blue topaz with fancy sapphires, rose de france with fancy sapphires, prasiolite with pink sapphires and tourmalines (yellow gold), amethyst with green tourmalines, prasiolite with pink sapphires and tourmalines (rose gold), smoky quartz with pink sapphires and tourmalines

I chose my favourite colours for the large checkerbox stones, and then with each cut gemstone, spent hours picking out the accompanying sapphires and tourmaline shades to match. For the metal, I chose three shades of 18KT gold - a pale yellow, white, and a beautiful rose shade - to go with the different stones. To give it more texture, I requested that my craftsmen hammer and sandblast the gold, while keeping the shine on the inside. And finally, I had the label's logo laser engraved on the side.

These babies are now with Caeli, a gorgeous luxury jewellery boutique in Thailand. They carry mainly diamonds in high karat gold and platinum and we think that the rings will be right at home with them. We're very honoured to have them carry this collection.


CentralWorld, D108 Ground Floor,

Rajdamri Road, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

Tel: +66 86 389 5737

Thursday, July 17, 2008

romancing the stone: custom-cut stones (part four)

Over the years, there are a certain number of gemstone shapes that get cut over and over again, because people can't get enough of them. These shapes and cuts have endured with good reason I feel, because they are undoubtedly beautiful. Sometimes however, the design calls for something different, and that's when the traditional boundaries of jewellery get torn down.

Recently, I wanted some aquamarines with inherent quirks cut in a slightly asymmetrical fashion but I knew that there was no way I would be able to find them just the way I wanted. So I had to start right at the rough, which was fine by me, because I love that part of the process anyway. I deliberately chose the ones with character quirks, avoiding the more perfect cousins. For added texture to the design of my piece, I selected a variety of colour shades, from blue to green, and milky opaque to complete transparency. And then, requested them faceted in a checkerbox cushion cut, with the slightest hint of asymmetry to it.

I then had them carefully drilled right through, to ensure that the fragile beryl (with a Moh's hardness of just 7 and compounded by the cracks) didn't break and then wove them together with keishi pearls, tiny icy blue aquamarine briolettes and organic hilltribe silver ornaments.

And for another organic hilltribe piece, I had requested that the beryl be just shaped and polished into different sized cabochon rectangles, to mimic the rectangular silver ornaments themselves. The lapidary artisans had looked at me like I was crazy, and tried to tell me that no one ever cut their stones this way but after I insisted, delivered spectacularly all the same. :)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

romancing the stone: the different and the same (part three)

When I first started with one foot into the jewellery world, I soon learnt that the number of different gemstones in the world today was vast, but only a limited range of stones are commonly seen in the jewellery world. I was told that there were many reasons for this, and they included a) the hardness of the stone; some stones were too soft to be set or drilled as they would break; b) the rarity of the stone which thus confined them only within a very small gemstone collector circle; c) the aesthetic demand of the stone in question.

And yet, what surprised and impressed me was that the sheer diversity within each category of stones. Saying something was an aquamarine and giving the physical dimensions of the stone meant absolutely nothing. It could mean blue, green or grey and a hundred million shades in betweeen. It could be clean, mossy, dendritic, opaque, translucent, cracked and a combination of any of these terms.

santa monica blue aquamarine rondelles; photo was not digitally enhanced in any way.

blue-green free form-cut aquamarines, heavily included with tiny black dendrites

another santa monica blue example; a matched princess-cut pair

And when a single type of gemstone - aquamarines in this case - was set in jewellery, the possibilities were quite endless. Below's a sneak peak at how aquamarines can look so amazingly different. (To be continued...)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Responsibility and Sustainability (Part One)

Recently, a journalist approached me, wanting to know a little more about corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability that was one of the main themes underlying the label. So in the interest of the public, I thought I'd pen a few thoughts here.

CSR and sustainability are issues that I still struggle with. I feel that if a business comes out declaring that there is a deliberate effort on their part to be sustainable, there is a certain kind of duty that comes along with. That obligation makes me a little uncomfortable sometimes, because there are so many areas in which I cannot personally vouch for.

For example, a significant number of my gemstones are purchased from India, and although I trust my suppliers' words that the working conditions of the factories are fine, there is no way for me to personally vouch for it. But I suppose the key word is "effort", and that while there are areas that are out of my control, the ones that i can do something about, I will.

So after some thought, I decided that one way in which I could meaningfully contribute to this area would be to donate partial proceeds of sales to a charity of my choice. Not any charity at random, but one whose cause I genuinely cared about and could personally vouch for. That the money donated to the organisation in question would be run efficiently and transparently, with almost 100% of the revenue sponsored would go to the cause in question, and not the running of the administration.

Given that I was already an active volunteer at the Scholarship Committee of the American Women's Club of Thailand, I was assured of the efficiency and transparency of the programme. What it essentially does is that it helps Thai girls with completing their high school education. This is because the last three years of high school becomes optional and many girls drop out during this time. This project is run entirely by volunteers, such that every single cent (save for a few dollars that goes to the bank and postage costs) goes to the girls. The women that run this programme don't get a penny. In fact, the volunteers fund all activities by themselves; among others, they go to the schools to ensure that everything is above board. These "spot-check audits" as they are called, as well as the corroboration of bank account details and receipts, can be a huge inconvenience, but they are necessary to ensure that the money goes where it's supposed to go.

So there it is. I'll be writing more about this topic in future, as it's something that I feel very strongly about. And in the meantime, if there is anything about the programme you'd like to know, feel free to contact me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

romancing the stone: the lapidary artisans (part two)

the preforming begins

preforming pink tourmaline; at this stage, it resembled
cloudy pink candy cubes.

examining the pre-faceted stone

attaching it to the index

the wheel and the water

part of the faceting and polishing machine

faceting the stone

words aren't neccessary in this job

I asked one of the lapidary artisans to share some of his thoughts on cutting. He shrugged and struggled with words for a few seconds, and eventually said "I don't know. I just do it." When I pressed him further, he added "I choose the rough, I pre-form it, I facet it, I polish it." And then, I saw him action, and I understood why words seemed so inadequate. It was close to magic, all 45 minutes of it, and it was just for one single three carat stone.

I wished I had filmed him, but I have the next best thing, which is a series of black and white photographs.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

romancing the stone: the rough (part one)

I'm stating the obvious but I feel I need to highlight that the gemstones that we see so perfectly set with metal, come from the earth. The reason for this is that I often see the stones, polished and gleaming, and react immediately to it, gushing like a noisy magpie. Rather like seeing a beautiful woman on a pedestal, it's difficult to remember or recall how she came to be in the first place.

I'm lucky to have liberal access to the rough, especially because there are so few rough trading centres in the world. Sieving through piles of rough has to be one of the highlights of the creative process for me. To feel the uneven edges and examine the insides against the light allows me to feel a certain relationship with it, and allows me to be engaged a little more emotionally in the designing process.

Strangely enough, my greatest affection is always reserved for the rough that is not quite perfect. I don't seem them as flaws, but rather quirks. Little black dendrites, florescence, inclusions and cracks, I love them all. The “clean” rough, the ones that typically go for the highest prices, I appreciate on an intellectual level but the emotional pull is oddly towards the organic and quirky. From experience, when cut and polished, they can be as beautiful as their perfect cousins, but with little idiosyncracies that give them their unique stamp of character, never to be replicated exactly. The challenge that then arises is how to cut them, so that their flaws come across as personality quirks, rather than an irritating detraction to the overall stone. And for that, my lapidary artisans are the stars... (to be continued.)