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Finding Your Sparkle: How to Choose a Custom Jewelry Designer

Choosing a designer for your custom jewelry is like finding the right dance partner for a waltz on Dancing With the Stars! It’s a crucial step in translating your dream into a tangible, sparkling reality. Just as those pesky trolls love to tie knots in your chains (see previous blog:), the right custom jewelry designer will love to untangle your ideas into something truly magical. Mothers jewelry and remounts are great places to start. Here’s why teaming up with a skilled professional is the path to achieving your unique jewelry dreams.

blue troll with jewelry

  1. Your Dream Realized: The magic of custom jewelry starts with your vision. Whether your imagination holds a distinct design or needs a gentle nudge from an expert, your designer is your partner in shaping this vision into an exquisite piece of wearable art. A skilled designer will gently lure your jewelry desires to the forefront by knowing what questions to ask.
  2. A Celebration of Uniqueness: Custom jewelry is the equivalent of your one-of-a-kind personality. Many traditional jewelry stores have sales people and occasionally a craftsman or bench jeweler. Very few have a trained designer! With a designer (aka, an artist) dedicated to bringing your personal piece to fruition, you gain a work of art as unique as your own fingerprint. Imagine wearing your personality, literally on your sleeve, or perhaps around your neck or on your finger! It’s like having a piece of yourself that can be an extension of your creative identity.
  3. Assured Expert Craftsmanship: As a fine jeweler, I am passionate about creating quality pieces, ensuring that you entrust your dream to a professional committed to building jewelry for generations to enjoy. Custom jewelry marries premium materials with meticulous craftsmanship. And we make sure the final product doesn’t just meet but exceeds your expectations.
  4. Inherent Flexibility: Designing custom jewelry isn’t like choosing a one-size-fits-all hat; it’s a flexible journey where your style preferences guide the way. Your designer acts not just as a creator but as a trusted ally, ensuring that every piece reflects your individuality, whether you’re drawn to the elegance of classic designs or the innovation of modern styles. 
Custom versa designs by Jbriggs.Co

Custom versa designs by Jbriggs.Co

This process is more than just about making jewelry; it’s about crafting a symbol of special occasions, personal expression, or the luxury of owning something truly one-of-a-kind. In this collaborative venture, you’ll find that a custom jewelry designer could become as cherished as a lifelong friend, celebrating your unique story with a piece crafted with love and finesse.

PS: If only we could figure out how to create a custom jewelry piece that stops trolls from knotting chains and  stealing socks! But until then, we’ll keep making beautiful things that help you shine.

Thanks for reading,

Jennifer

A Guide to Understanding Colored Gemstones in Fine Jewelry

When it comes to fine jewelry, gemstones are the alluring stars that often steal the show. Although diamonds typically take center stage, an array of other gemstones offer a wide spectrum of colors and symbolism. Colored Gemstones originate from all over the word; This guide will delve into some of the most common gemstones you’ll see in fine jewelry, offering a new appreciation to the variety and beauty of these precious and semi-precious stones.

Emeralds

Recognized for their deep, rich green color, emeralds are members of the Beryl family of minerals. Highly prized in fine jewelry, the value of an emerald can often surpass that of a diamond due to its rarity and color. They symbolize rebirth and love, and their vibrant hue brings elegance and sophistication to any piece.

The majority of the world’s emeralds are mined in Colombia and Zambia. Colombia’s emeralds are highly sought after for their pure green hue, while Zambian emeralds are known for their deep, bluish-green color.

Rubies

Rubies are revered for their fiery red color, representing passion and protection. They belong to the Corundum mineral family, and their durability is second only to diamonds, making them excellent choices for everyday wear. Fine rubies with little to no imperfections are incredibly rare and highly valued.

Historically, the Mogok region of Burma, now Myanmar, has produced exquisite rubies with a pure, saturated red color known as ‘pigeon’s blood’. However, Thailand’s Chanthaburi and Trat districts are also significant ruby sources, producing stones with a darker, more garnet-like color.

Sapphires

Sapphires, famed for their royal blue color, are part of the corundum family and come in nearly every color except red. They symbolize wisdom and nobility, making them a popular choice for ceremonial jewelry and engagement rings. These gemstones are mined worldwide, including locations such as Madagascar, Australia, the United States, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Kenya, and Tanzania. However, the three most prominent sources, known for their high-quality sapphires, are Kashmir, Burma, and Sri Lanka.

The sapphires mined from Kashmir are the most rare and valuable. The Kashmir mines were active for only about 40 years between 1880 and 1920, which contributes to the rarity and high value of these stones. Sri Lanka, previously known as Ceylon until its independence from Britain in 1948, is a significant source of vibrant sapphires. The blue sapphires from Sri Lanka, referred to as Ceylon Sapphires, are renowned for their lighter, brighter, and more vivid hues compared to the darker blue sapphires from other regions. These Sri Lankan or Ceylon Sapphires have a rich history dating back to the second century A.D., making Sri Lanka home to some of the world’s oldest sapphire mines. Their popularity peaked during the fourth and fifth centuries when they were extensively traded internationally, establishing their lasting appeal and importance in the gemstone market.

Amethysts

These charming purple stones are a variety of quartz, known for their wide range of purple shades. Once as expensive as rubies and emeralds, amethysts became more accessible once large deposits were found in Brazil. They are believed to promote calmness and balance, making them a popular choice for spiritual or meditation jewelry.

Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state is one of the world’s leading amethyst producers, with mines extracting the gem from volcanic rocks. Uruguay’s Artigas region also has large amethyst deposits, with the stones often found inside geodes in the area’s basalt flows. With a hardiness rating of 7 on the Moh’s scale, Amethyst and it’s fellow quartz varieties are ideal for pendants and earrings.

Opals

Opals are truly unique gemstones. They exhibit a range of colors in a single stone through a phenomenon known as “play-of-color.” The presence of tiny silica spheres within the stone diffracts light to create this dazzling effect. Opals symbolize hope, innocence, and purity.

Coober Pedy in South Australia is known as the opal capital of the world, with the town’s opal fields producing an abundance of precious white opal. The Lightning Ridge area, also in Australia, is known for its rare and valuable black opal.

Boulder Opals

The Boulder Opal is another variety of Opal that is quite lovely. These distinctive gemstones are unique in that the opal forms in a thin layer within the fissures and cavities of ironstone boulders. The opal layer is often left attached to the ironstone backing when cut and polished, providing a dark and dramatic backdrop that enhances the opal’s vibrant play-of-color.

The Queensland mining fields in Australia are a primary source for these beautiful boulder opals. Their captivating interplay of color and unique patterns, framed by the raw, rugged ironstone, makes each boulder opal a unique piece of art.

Pearls

While technically not gemstones, pearls have been an integral part of fine jewelry for centuries. Formed within mollusks, pearls are the only gems derived from a living creature. They come in various colors, including white, black, grey, and pink, and symbolize wisdom and integrity. The deep green & rose ‘oil slick color combination known as Peacock is highly desirable among Tahitian Pearls

Natural pearls are most commonly sourced from the Persian Gulf, especially around Bahrain. Japan, however, revolutionized the industry in the early 20th century by developing methods to cultivate pearls, making them more widely available. Natural pearls are now extremely rare.

Aquamarines

Known for their captivating sea-blue color, Aquamarines are the blue to blue-green variety of Beryl, the same mineral family that emeralds belong to. These gemstones have been cherished for their tranquility and soothing characteristics, symbolizing harmony and trust.

Historically, the most famous deposits of aquamarine have been in the country of Brazil. However, other significant sources include the African countries of Madagascar, Kenya, and Nigeria. Pakistan’s Karakoram Mountains are also well-known for producing stunning aquamarines, often found in pegmatite deposits. As with Emeralds, Aquamarines are best suited for pendants and earrings or light wear in a ring.

Tourmalines

Tourmalines are among the most versatile of gemstones, owing to their availability in an almost endless variety of colors. From luscious greens to deep reds and even multi-colored specimens, tourmalines are beloved for their unique chromatic range. They are also known for their durability, making them suitable for all types of jewelry.

Historically, the most significant tourmaline deposits are found in Brazil and Africa, specifically Nigeria and Mozambique. However, they are also found in several locations in the United States, predominantly California and Maine. The unique watermelon tourmaline, with its green exterior and pink core, is one of the most sought-after varieties. Symbolically, tourmalines are believed to promote inspiration and happiness, lending an emotional depth to their physical beauty.

Peridots

Peridot is one of the few gemstones that come in a single color: a vibrant, olive green. These gems are formed deep within the Earth’s mantle and are brought to the surface by volcanic activity. Their green hue represents nature and is believed to bring healing and protection.

Peridot is one of the few gemstones found in meteorites, though these extraterrestrial specimens are extremely rare. The world’s largest peridot deposit is located on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, USA.

Garnets

Garnets are a group of minerals that come in a rainbow of colors, but they are most commonly known for their deep red hue. They are believed to represent commitment, honesty, and hope. Their durability and versatility make them suitable for various types of jewelry.

Garnets are found worldwide, with major deposits in Africa, India, and Sri Lanka. Russia’s Ural Mountains were historically the leading source of garnets, known for their distinctive emerald-green variety called demantoid. Tsavorite is also a beautiful green variety, and Spessartite is a vibrant orange!

There is a world of gemstones beyond diamonds, each with its unique characteristics, color, and symbolism. Next time you’re shopping for fine jewelry or working with a designer to create a custom piece, consider these captivating gemstones. Consulting a Certified Gemologist is also always helpful. They not only add color and individuality to your collection but also carry stories and meanings that can make your jewelry truly special.

Thanks for reading,

J. Briggs and Co Team

Gemstone of the Month: Peridot

The French word “Peridot” is originally derived from “faridat” in Arabic, meaning gem. Ancient peridot can be traced back to Egyptian jewelry in the 2nd millennium B.C. The stones came from a deposit on a small volcanic island in the Red Sea, some 45 miles off the Egyptian coast, which was not rediscovered until about 1900 and has since been exhausted.

Peridot is gem-quality “olivine,” a common mineral in mafic and ultramafic rocks. Formed as a result of volcanic activity deep inside the earth’s surface, gem-quality peridot is a rarity in olivine.

The demand for this beautiful stone was reignited a few years ago when peridot deposits were found in the Kashmir region; and the stones were so incredible in color and transparency.

Although it’s one of the only gemstones found in just one color, the intensity and tint of the olive green hue depends on how much iron is within the crystal structure. Varying from yellow to olive to brownish-green, peridot is most valued as a dark, emerald-resembling gem.

If you were born in August, you may be fortunate enough to receive a peridot as a birthday gift. If received as a ring, wearing this birthstone carefully is important, as it isn’t as tough as it looks. Prone to breaking, peridot are better suited for bigger necklaces; a bonus being that larger stones carry a richer color.

Throughout history, peridot has been thought to possess great mystical powers to ward off anxiety and inspire happiness, strength and loyalty. It is also believed to promote success in relationships and marriage.

Once called the “gem of the sun” in ancient Egypt because of its dazzling appearance in the sun, the curiosity and enchantment that surrounds peridot has made this radiant gemstone timeless.

Good energy, fabulous jewelry

As someone in the field of gemology, I believe in the energy of metals and stones. The properties of these beautiful rocks made by Mother Nature come with the same purity and vulnerable qualities that we are all comprised of. This same energy plays an important role in the creative process as well as the overall client experience. What I have learned along the way is that my happiest customers and best pieces have been a result of relationships built on positivity and dynamic energy shared by all involved.

When a client comes to me with a project, it is most often a collaboration, I do my best to create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing with me their ideas and expectations.  This helps avoid the introduction of angst- the artist’s nemesis! Bottom line: it is paramount that not only the jewelry be fabulous, but that the entire experience is positive from start to finish.

As an artist, I actively look to avoid stressful situations that may impact how the piece is achieved. Bottom line: when my customers are collaborative and upbeat, I feed off of that energy and it shows in the finished product.

Of course not every situation is ideal and there are ways we can overcome a little negativity together. Let’s say a client, “Kate,” has wanted to re-design her engagement ring for several years, but has put it off. She has a hard time envisioning her perfect ring and has convinced herself that she is not creative. Kate may ask, “How will I know what style I’m looking for without trying it on?”

Finding the answers are all part of the design process. It’s about sitting down with a customer, building a relationship, learning their taste, and discovering exactly who they are. Often, that also includes uncovering what someone may dislike as well.

Working together can really produce incredibly energy that leaves many of our “Kates” at J Briggs & Co wearing their gorgeous new rings, saying, “I definitely should have done this sooner.”

As your expert explorer at envisioning that perfect new piece, I love creating fine jewelry with good vibes. Come in and share yours with me.

Here is an example of the remounting process I did for a customer:

 

Various pieces were given by the customer to merge into a re-mount project.

Various pieces were given by the customer to J Briggs & Co to merge into a re-mount project.

After conversations and exploring their style, I draw sketches of that best capture what the customer is looking for.

Jewelry artist Jennifer Briggs Jenkins draws sketches of the piece that capture the conversations she has had with the customer.

A life-like rendering of different angles comes back to show customer what to expect. After any edits are made, a casting mold is then taken.

A life-like rendering of different angles comes back to show customer what to expect.

A gorgeous finished design is born!

3 highly underrated stones not to be overlooked!

Ask any woman what her favorite gemstone is, and you’ll most likely receive replies that range from diamonds and emeralds, to rubies, amethysts — perhaps even the popular tourmaline. And as gorgeous as those are, we thought it was time for a few less well-known rocks to have their moment in the sun! Check out two gemstones we think will surprise you with their beauty, while leaving you “ooohing” and “ahhhing” for more!

Pink Sapphire:

The second biggest seller in 2014, sapphires have always been a favorite gem. Blue ones, that is.But sapphires can also be found in yellow, white, green, purple, black and…drum roll please…a gorgeous, deep PINK.

Sapphires

Sapphires deepen in color as the quantity of chromium in them increases. In a pink sapphire, the deeper the pink color, the higher their monetary value, as long as the color trends toward the red of rubies. Second in hardness only to diamonds, sapphires are perfect for everyday jewelry and we think you’ll find pink sapphires quite the conversation piece!

N AC Pk Sapp 3.48ct.jpg

Tsavorite Garnet:

Perhaps you haven’t heard of this brilliant beauty, but tsavorite garnet is type of stone in the “grossular” group, which is comprised of calcium and aluminium. Named in honor of the world famous Tsavo National Park in Africa, this gem’s homelands between Kenya and Tanzania have been the primary source of tsavorite since it was first discovered in 1967.

Tsavorite garnet’s rich green color make it almost mistakable for an emerald – until you sigh in relief at its far less-expensive price tag. A gemstone with a robust hardness, tsavorite is unlike many others in that it is neither burnt nor oiled for its shine. Any such improvements or alterations are unnecessary, as tsavorite garnet is a pure piece of Mother Nature in its natural state.

calibrated-tsavorite-garnet-emerald-aaa

4 reasons trusting your jeweler means everything

With no shortage of stores and independent jewelers to purchase your precious gems and jewelry from, how can you know that who you are working with is truly the professional they say they are?

Here are four tips to tuck away when your jewels are on the table:

1. Pushiness: Have you ever felt the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you enter a jewelry store, like an antelope amongst cheetahs? Many larger stores are commission-driven, with inventory they need to sell right out of the case and quotas to fulfill. If you are leaning toward one-of-a-kind or custom, you may consider switching it up this time. An excellent alternative is to sit down with a trained designer & gemologist to help you bring your jewelry to life instead of settling with a mass-produced piece, often not made in the USA. A salesperson will certainly offer to make your jewelry, but most salespeople are not seasoned designers or certified gemologists!

2. Full disclosure: When you invest in jewelry, your questions should be answered honestly and accurately. Is your amethyst lab-created or treated? What is the quality of the diamond or gem? Are you leaving with assurance that your jewelry is of the quality that you paid for?

*This is where the gemologist in me has to insert a sidebar. I implore you to take extreme caution if you have your heart set on buying fine jewelry on a cruise or tourist destination outside the US. The standards and regulations that protect the buyer in the US do not apply in many other countries. Despite how fancy the place appears or what the nice salespeople in port will tell you, you most likely are not getting a deal. Even worse, you may be getting something completely different than what you think ~ and the salesperson is not worried because they are pretty sure they will never see you again! And that phone number they give you to (often a US number), is just another sales tactic.

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

3. Stone-switching: When you take your beautiful diamond engagement ring to be cleaned — the one that your husband carefully chose for you and put on your finger on your wedding day — are you comfortable leaving it to chance that your stone will be the one returned to you? It happens. We want to assume the best in everyone, but when you hear the story of a disreputable jeweler, it gives the industry a bad rap. Take some time to get to know the character of the person you are working with.

4. Expertly Trained: What makes your jeweler an expert? Look for — and ask for — signs of certification of their industry experience to feel comfortable that this isn’t just another career stop. Working with a designer who is an artist over just a one-stop-shop can produce a truly exquisite piece that will become heirloom jewelry to enjoy for years to come.

Hopestar with logo

Jennifer Briggs Jenkins

Bachelor of Fine Art, Metalsmithing & Jewelry Design

Certified Gemologist, Gemological Institute of America