Opals: Fun facts About a Super-Popular Gemstone

Opals are amazing stones and they  are so hot right now. Bad Zoolander reference aside, I love them. I also receive a lot of inquiries about making opal rings. Because of that, I’d love to shed some light on a few fun facts about about everyone’s favorite gemstone.

Fun Fact 1: There are many types of opals.

There are many types of opals. Like other gemstones, there are varieties and subcategories for different colors or locations, and opals are no different. While there are many types, there are certain categories of opal that you see most commonly: Welo (Ethiopian Opal), Australian (White Opal), and Boulder (Colorado Opal). All have the rainbow coloring that we love about opals, but look of these opals varies based on the location in which they are formed.

The main difference is the coloring. Both Welo (Ethiopian) and White (Australian) opals are mainly white, but have varying levels of transparency. Welo tends to be more transparent than Australian, and are sometimes referred to as Jelly Opals, simply due to how clear the gemstone can be.

Boulder (Colorado) Opals, are typically darker in color. They can be dark brown, or even black, and have amazing pops of opal running throughout them caused by the soil in which they formed.

Fun Fact 2: Opals are Silica. Yes, like the stuff in your new shoe boxes.

Each gemstone is comprised of minerals derived from the soils and earth around them. When combined with elements from the air, and intensified under extreme pressures, they harden and form a solid, crystalline substance that we start to recognize as a gem. When opals form, it’s due to silica getting trapped in a matrix of rock. Under a microscope, this silica looks like tiny little ping pong balls stacked on top of one another. The way the light interacts with these spheres is what causes the unique coloration we all associate with opals.

Fun Fact 3: It’s all about the “play of light”

The value of an opal is in the way light hits it, creating the tiny rainbow coloring everyone loves. Sometimes people call this coloring opalescence, but its technical term is “play of light.” The more play of light an opal has, generally the more valuable the stone is. And the rarer the type of opal, the higher the valuation it has if it has beautiful play of light. While most opals are very economical, the rarest, most intricately colored opals can cost thousands.

Fun Fact 4: Not recommended for every day wear.

Opals are easy to love with their neutral coloring and little flashes of light. Those who love them, love them. And because of that, they want to wear them constantly. But like most otherworldly things, they need breathing room. Because they are made of silica, they are soft. They can be dinged, cracked, and broken under the right circumstances. I’ve seen several rings with nice large opals come in to the shop to have the stone replaced several times.

Lately, I’ve had many clients want engagement rings with them instead of diamonds, but if you are looking for an every day stone that can withstand most situations, this is not it. Opals work best in pendants or earrings, or as rings that won’t get every day wear and tear. As an engagement ring, they can work, but you need to be sensitive to what situations you’ll be wearing it in, and plan accordingly. I too love opals, and think their otherworldly beauty is so romantic, but I also want you to have a custom piece of jewelry that lasts the test of time.

Fun Fact 5: They are October’s birthstone.

The lucky babes in October get to wear this stone year round. According to legend, the opal is associated with magic, rainbows, and mysticism. While we’re not 100% sure why it’s associated with the month of October, one surmises the changing seasons and otherworldly traditions of this time of year probably had something to do with its selection. When the dead can cross over during this time of year, why wouldn’t the magic of an opal help? Also according to lore, it’s bad luck for any person not born in October to wear them. However, that legend faded when vast opal mines were found in Australia… but that’s a story for another time…

 

 

5 Things to Know About Rose Gold

Rose Gold is everywhere right now. It’s the most popular choice for modern engagement rings, and as a hot fashion trends it’s on everything from iPhones to hairstyles. This beautiful pink metal is really having a moment. However, there are a few things you may not know about this rosey-hued gold.

  1. Rose gold is an alloy.

    All naturally occurring gold is yellow. Meaning, if you were a miner and you found a nugget of gold, it would always be yellow. All golds other than yellow — green, red, white — are alloys. Alloys are different types of metal heated and bonded together. All rose gold is bonded with copper to give it that soft pink hue. Each alloy is different depending on the maker, but all will have copper, and a few other metals to ensure the gold is sturdy and pink.

  2. Back in the day, it was called Russian Gold.

    Rose gold got its start in 19th century imperial Russia. Carl Fabergé, renowned maker of Faberge Eggs is credited with bringing it into fashion. Faberge, then jeweler to the czars, used the metal in many of his ornate creations. The popularity of this pink metal took off, and spread throughout upper classes of Russia, earning it the nickname of Russian Gold.

  3. The higher the gold content, the softer the hue.

    Rose gold, like other golds, has a karat range indicating purity. The higher the karat, the more gold content is in the alloy. Rose gold ranges from 10k to 22k, lowest to highest gold content, respectively. Unlike yellow gold, whose yellow hue intensifies the higher you go on the karat scale, rose gold becomes less red and more pink the higher you go. This is because the pink color is from the copper, not the gold. So as you add more gold to the alloy, more yellow is introduced and the color becomes a softer pink, rather than a vibrant one.

  4. The rose color will intensify with age

    All metals patina with age. While silver oxidizes, gold gets a layer called patina on the outside. It’s part of what makes antique jewelry look old. Since rose gold is alloyed mainly with copper, this patina is a very coppery hue, which makes the piece of jewelry even rosier. My antique engagement ring sports a very coppery hue, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

  5. It’s gorgeous.

    OK, so you probably know this one, but I couldn’t help myself. Look at this stuff! It’s so pretty! As a woman who’s been obsessed with rose gold since childhood, I was so excited to see it come back into fashion. My wedding set is rose gold, and I stare at it everyday with admiration of how wearable this pink gold is. It looks good on most skin tones, and while pink, becomes neutral when worn. I can’t blame anyone for choosing this wonderful metal.

Your Engagement Ring Buying Guide: Does Size Matter?

“I’m just going to buy a stone, and you can design your own engagement ring.” This was my now husband’s response when we started talking about engagement rings. It made sense. I am a custom jeweler, after all. But to me it felt like an easy out.  Where was the romance? Where was the surprise? I wanted to have a ring I loved, but I also wanted him to put in a little effort. He, on the other hand, was terrified to make the wrong choice.  Many months — and torturous decisions — later, he proposed. For me, it was the perfect moment, but for him, well as much as he loves me, he was thankful it was over.

I get it. Picking out an engagement ring is nerve wracking at best, and painful at worst.  There are a lot of questions to answer. Is this the right style? What can I afford? What metal should it be?  Do I have to buy a diamond? Do I have to buy a ring at all? It can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. With this multi-part series, I’m going to break down some of the most common questions I’ve received throughout my career as a custom jeweler, and shed some light on the mystery of engagement ring shopping. Starting with my first question: Does Size Matter?

Does Diamond — or Center Stone — Size Matter? 

An engagement ring should be 2-months’ salary and at least one carat. Hats off to N. W. Ayer, the ad agency who created this panic-inducing standard. They really knew how to play off of human insecurity. As a jewelry designer, it’s one of the many things I talk about with clients. When most sit down to discuss ideas, they begin with this notion that anything less than a carat in size is somehow a failure or a slight on the person they are proposing to. Not true, and I’m here to break it down for you.

Size matters, kind of. 

My first response when asked if size matters is, “Does size matter to you or your fiance?” No. This is not a Jedi-mind trick. It’s self-reflection. Size only matters, if it matters to you or your fiance. No one else. So, if the response is “Yes, she/he really likes bigger rings.” Then yes, size is factor to consider. If the answer is “No, they’ve never really mentioned it.” Then no, size doesn’t matter at all. It’s as simple as that. Sure, it’s a little more nuanced than that, but that’s the heart of it. Some people like the look of bigger jewelry, and there are plenty of reasons why. Maybe they have larger fingers, so need to cover more surface area. Maybe they are just really into sparkle, like yours truly. Whatever the reason, if your betrothed wants a bigger ring, then you should consider size. If they haven’t mentioned it, or have told you they don’t care, then believe them and cross that worry off of your list.

Oh god. Size matters to them. Now what? 

If you fall into the “yes, size matters” camp, don’t panic. This is where the “kind of” part comes in. Even if you’re soon-to-be-betrothed is into bigger rings, this doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger center stone or a bigger price tag. As a jewelry designer, this is where I come in. There are plenty of ways to produce a ring that feels substantial and looks larger without breaking the bank. Rings with halos and accent stones naturally trick the eye, producing a larger look. Also, there are plenty of stones like moissanites and sapphires, where you can get more for your money. Additionally, “big” is relative. What looks large on some hands, will look smaller on others. If you’re fiance has small hands: congratulations, you’ve won the engagement ring jackpot. You’d be surprised how large a half a carat diamond looks on a delicate finger. Trust me, there are so many options to give them the look they want, and none of them require two months of your salary.

So style matters more than size of center stone?

Yes! That’s exactly what I’m saying. From my experience, people are typically responding to the look of something. What they aren’t saying is hit these stats to make me happy. In fact, 99% of the population I’ve interacted with would be none-too-happy if their fiance went over budget in the name of meeting a standard. At the end of the day, engagement rings are simply a symbol of commitment and love. Yes, if your fiance prefers a bigger look, then that’s something you should take into consideration. But the size of the center stone will always matter less than having a ring she thinks is beautiful and wants to wear everyday. So go forth and shop with confidence! And call me if you want some money-saving ideas.

Custom Jewelry: Rose Gold Map Wedding Band

One of the first things I ever made from start to finish was my husband’s rose gold, map wedding band. Our wedding was coming up, and I had been designing jewelry for about a year a half. At that point, I was a design pro, but very much a noob on the bench. But he was relentless. Having his wife hand-craft his wedding ring from start to finish was what he wanted. So by god, I would make him a map wedding band.

This rose gold band is simple and elegant. It showcases two different maps, connected on either side, and has a modern flat edge. It also has a story behind it. You see, we met while living in separate cities. I was living in Charleston, SC, and he was in Charlotte, NC. For nearly the first year of dating, he and I would alternate weekends visiting the other person. Fridays at five o’clock on the dot, I would leave work and drive the 3.5 hours to Charlotte. Monday mornings at 4:45 a.m., I would climb out of bed, and groggily drive the 3.5 hours back to Charleston, and go directly into work. He’d do the same the following week. Doing this every weekend was rough, but ended up being a great way to truly get to know one another.

After about a year, I finally made the move to Charlotte. But we both looked back at our long distance romance fondly. And when it came time to make our wedding bands, I was pleasantly surprised to hear he wanted a map of how we started, requesting rose gold to match my antique engagement ring.

I designed the ring from the maps of our hometowns: Charleston and Charlotte. If you look closely, you’ll see the inner ring of Uptown Charlotte, and the Penninsula of downtown Charleston. I connected these two maps, to signify the two cities finally uniting. And as a final touch, I added a line connecting Charlotte to Charleston, signifying the roadways we took to reach one another. The pattern connects all the way around, unbroken and continuous. I was very happy with the end result, and more importantly, my husband was as well.

Cocktail + Ring: Garnets and Pomegranate Frosé

Welcome to my Cocktail + Ring blog series. This is a completely self-indulgent series where I pair two of my favorite things, alcohol and jewelry, so I can learn a little more about my favorite subjects. Every month we’ll explore a new drink recipe and talk about the ring I’m wearing while I sip it. 

Drink This: Pomegranate Frosé

Frosé is having a moment, and I frankly couldn’t be happier. Not to get too hipster, but the rosé slushy has been a staple in my household for years. On a hot summer day, there is nothing more refreshing than this immensely satisfying cocktail. So when I set out to start my blog series on which ring to wear with what cocktail, frosé had to be my starting point.

So what exactly is frosé? In my house, it’s one bottle of chilled rosé wine and some crushed ice blended together. No lie. I’m a pretty simple girl. Give me a glass and some wine, and I’m good to go.  Give me blended wine that’s frothy, ice cold, and has just enough sweetness to be a treat? I’m golden. That being said, frosé can be a lot more complex. Some recipes call for fruit juice, additional liquors, and many different types of ice. Which is why finding the exact recipe for my first pairing was a bit tricky, but I think I nailed it. The recipe I’ve chosen, is a Pomegranate Frosé, with hints of grapefruit and lemon. It’s slightly sweet, with a tang, and completely refreshing on a sweltering summer day. 

Wear That: Antique 3-Stone Garnet Ring 

Most people don’t associate garnets with summer. Garnets are typically thought of as a winter stone. In fact, they are January’s birthstone. But, this summer I’ve been wearing one ring constantly. It’s a ring that surprised me more than anyone else, honestly, because it is nothing but garnets. Anyone who’s known me long enough knows that garnets are low on the list of stones I’m drawn to. But this ring, these garnets, have drawn me in.

This 3-stone garnet ring is an antique. Built somewhere around the turn of the 20th century, it showcases three full cut garnets, arranged in a straight line down the finger, prong set in yellow gold. It’s a simple ring, but on the finger, it is lovely. The three 5 mm almandine garnet stones are not completely flat, like a lot of antique garnets are typically cut. But, they are extremely low profile. Because of this non-standard round cut, the wearer can see a deep amazing fire when the light catches them. Since I’ve been wearing it all summer, I’ve noticed that the best results happen on bright sunny days, rather than low candlelight like some other antique cuts. And because of this fire, this ring has stolen my heart and become my go-to ring of the summer.

Why does this pairing work? 

It’s a little known fact that the word garnet is actually derived from the Latin word garanatus, meaning “seedlike.” It is so named because thousands of years ago, when garnets were first mined, these little red gems reminded the miners of tiny pomegranate seeds. The deep burgundy color, and the overall look and feel of a polished garnet is very close to the interior of this delicious fruit, and they’ve been associated ever since. So naturally, pomegranate had to be in my drink of choice.

Additionally, this particular garnet ring only shines with fire on a bright, sunny day. Bright skies bring out the best in this ring, creating a mesmerizing shimmer that not many stones have. So summer is the optimum time to wear this ring. This frosé works the same way. Drink it on a cool, fall day? You aren’t getting your money’s worth. But, on a sweltering, 95 degree day with 100% humidity, this drink will light you up and cool you down all in one sip. So this happy hour, I will be sitting on my back patio, cool glass in hand, staring at some pomegranate fire on my finger. Hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I do. Cheers!

Pomegranate Frosé Recipe

6 oz. rosé wine, or to taste
1 oz. ruby red grapefruit juice (100% juice, unsweetened)
2 oz. pomegranate juice, (100% juice, unsweetened)
¼ oz. fresh lemon juice
¼ oz. simple syrup
1 cup ice

I recommend using a bolder rosé, such as one made from pinot noir grapes. The heartier the rosé, the less it will become diluted by the ice. Add ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Serve in a wine glass with fresh grapefruit or lemon wedges.

Adapted from Van Gogh Vodka recipe, adjusted by me. Makes 1 serving.

Gem History: Why We Have Birthstones

If you were like me as a child, you knew your birthstone. I won’t speak for everyone out there, but in my childhood, I received many birthstone rings and necklaces. I remember this vividly, because I hated my birthstone.  Truly, hate didn’t even cover my feelings. I detested this stone. This was especially disappointing to ten-year-old Lindsay, because she loved jewelry. Receiving jewelry was my most anticipated gift. Every birthday, Christmas, or Easter, if someone handed me a box too small for anything other than jewelry, I could hardly contain my excitement. In the moments before I opened it, I would fantasize. Would it be a gold ring? Would it be a turquoise pendant? I couldn’t wait to see. Inevitably, though, I would open the box and there it would be: Yellow Topaz.

As an adult, I’ve actually grown quite fond of the citrus-y, golden hue of Precious Yellow Topaz. It’s warm, inviting, and the right specimen looks down right luxurious in an 18k yellow gold. But ten-year-old Lindsay, oh poor ten-year-old Lindsay. While externally she graciously — or semi-graciously — accepted the gift with a, “Thank you so much.” Internally, she wailed and whined about what lousy luck she had for being born in November. As a child I always wondered who assigned these gems to the calendar? And why would any self-respecting gem lover ever assign something as horrifying as a drab, yellow-orange rock to any of the months?!  In young Lindsay’s new calendar, November would have Lapis or Rose Quartz, or anything other than Yellow Topaz.

Of course, I grew up. People stopped buying me inexpensive birthday jewelry, and life moved on. It wasn’t until I was working in the jewelry business that I really thought about the symbols of birthstones again. Inevitably people would come into the shop where I worked and wanted to purchase a piece that represented the person they were shopping for. The birthstone is a perfect way of doing that. So I started digging: Why did we have the birthstones assigned this way? Who was this all-powerful OZ that made these choices? Luckily, I found a few good articles that explained a bit about this mystery.

Turns out birthstones’ history starts 2000 years ago, in Biblical times. The roots date back to an object called the Breastplate of Aaron. Aaron was Moses’s brother, and the leader of a tribe that appointed high priests. Because of his important stature, he had a breastplate to signify this honor called Breastplate of Judgement. This plate is actually described in Exodus 28:15-20, and is said to have twelve gems on it, each one representing a tribe of Israel. These gems were arranged in a three rows of four, and each had the name of a tribe of Israel carved into it. In addition to representing the tribes, it is believed they represented the twelve months of the year. Hence, birthstones. Here’s the thing, though. No one agrees on the translations, therefore we aren’t sure what the original birthstones were. I’ve combined the list of  possible originals, if you are curious:

January: Red Carnelian or Ruby
February: Topaz  or Chrysolite
March: Carbuncle or Emerald
April: Emerald or Turquoise
May: Sapphire
June: Diamond or White Moonstone
July: Ligure or Jacinth
August: Agate
September: Amethyst
October: Beryl
November: Onyx
December: Jasper

The next evolution of birthstones happened in 15th-century Poland. During this time, it became popular to wear birthstones as symbols of power. However, in stark contrast to the modern tradition of wearing only the stone from the month you were born, people would own a full set of twelve birthstones and wear each stone during it’s associated month — believing the stone would enhance your life during that time. Slowly this tradition evolved into our modern day custom over the next few hundred years.  Additionally, the stones that we associated with each month evolved as well. I couldn’t find information on how or why, these evolution happened, but I did find this awesome New York Times article from 1912.

In 1912, the National Convention of Jewelers defined our list of modern birthstones. This article speaks to the new list of birthstones, and what each one means. But, there’s also a bit of snark at the beginning that makes me chuckle. Apparently the list of gems associated with each month changed so readily, that the Jewelers Association is called out for purposefully changing the list so people had to buy new birthstones. Cold, Jewelers Association. Cold.

Regardless of the journey, the list has not really changed since 1912, and probably won’t for a very long time. Today, we know that January is associated with Garnets, and December with Turquoise. And, I’ll look at my yellow birthstone, lovingly snicker at my ten-year-old self, and then buy the full set of twelve stones.

 

Reference articles:
How stuff works; Where did the traditional birthstones come from?
American Gem Society; Birthstones By Month

Hello, Friend. Welcome to the Antiquarian

Hello, new friend. Welcome to the Antiquarian.

What is the Antiquarian? 

The Antiquarian is a custom jewelry brand that reveres the past, but stands in it’s own modernity. We’re obsessed with creating new heirlooms that you’ll want to pass down to the next generation, but we also preserve antique jewelry for the future. Most of all, at The Antiquarian, we live our own history, and want to help you make a little of your own.

Why the Antiquarian? 

My entire life I’ve been fascinated by humans. How we interact, what we value, and even how we came to exist. It makes sense that I became an archaeologist. During my studies, a pattern emerged: Species come into being, evolve, and die out. On an individual level, each of us makes a similar journey. We’re born, grow, and move on. If we’re lucky, we transfer a bit of our beliefs, sentiment, and memory onto a future generation.

Jewelry follows a similar path. It’s created, evolves, and sometimes, moves onward to the next generation. And like our own journey, it has the ability to touch the lives of many. Moving from being an anthropologist to a jeweler was a natural fit. Instead of simply studying or preserving anonymous human artifacts, I can help you preserve your own history for the next generation. It’s what drives me, and I can’t wait to help create a bit of history with you.

Please take a look around my jewelry site, and let me know how I can help you create a bit of history.