I hope that you are doing well, and that you are keeping yourselves busy during these crazy, anxious times we're living in. I'm writing to you in times of lockdowns happening all around the world. How strange, that the world we used to know became so uncertain all of a sudden... All because of one virus that we still know so little about, which occurred in one place and spread so quickly... We are all together in this unique and still ongoing situation.
Living in the Alps and being so close to the European outbreak, we were confronted with the virus relatively quickly: we have been staying at home as much as possible since the beginning of February, gradually becoming stricter in our approach.
Times like these makes me reflect about the past years, and how we could all easily create a better world, if only we want to see the importance of the side-effect of these strange times. Next to a lot of sorrow in the world, we are seeing the effect of the Earth becoming cleaner while people are in lockdown... I just wish the effect would be here to stay once this awful virus is under control. Let's work on this.
While working from home, I have online help from Tessa and Alice, concerning graphic design, texts, sorting emails and anything else that surrounds my work. Unfortunately, it is not all about making jewellery, but together we can manage.
Tessa came up with the idea to write a blog about something beautiful to think about when everything else seems so dark: the natural beauty of stones, as they make my mind run wild and drive my work. One important thing changed over the years: initially, I was more interested in the most perfect stones 'that money could buy', understanding and learning each day, about the importance of quality, colour, cut, or its rarity. But this interest has shifted over time and I became more intrigued by rough and natural stones, that I so often work with today.
She asked me what my top ten favourite stones were... I could have come up with 50 at least! The ten stones that I mention in this blog are not placed in order of importance to me, nor is this list complete. I might discuss more stones in the future! My love of stones is the reason why I created my "Conversation Pieces" cocktail rings as you might have learned from my previous blog about my collections. I'm drawn to stones because of their colours, their originality, and sometimes because of their historical context, as I love history...
Let’s start with the first stone that I came in touch with: lapis lazuli, the beautiful ultramarine-blue stone that has captured my fantasy ever since I was a child. A radiant and deep blue, with a warm hue (at least to me, a special and complex type of blue), which is hard to describe but mesmerising. In fact, my very first ring was set with an oval cabochon lapis lazuli, and I still have it...
I quickly got quite fascinated by this amazing blue colour. It is found in a few places in the world. Later in life, I learned about the trade from Afghanistan and the Indus valley to the rest of the world since ancient times, and that this stone is dating back to at least the 7th millennium BCE. There are so many stories to write here about this amazing blue stone!
It is known from studies and in medieval times that lapis stones were used for multiple ends, and one of them were paintings. It was often ground into powder as the base for ultramarine blue paint. This rich, blue colour was used especially in paintings in medieval times and in the 17th century... Well, I could go on and on about this, but this blog post would never end!
This sumptuous deep green colour has had an almost similar meaning to lapis lazuli throughout history. I first saw this stone in a ring from a family friend, late 70s. Malachite has an amazing colour, and I've made a couple of rings with this beauty of a stone already and a few more "loose" malachite stones, are waiting to become a jewel... I love working with this unique green and I'm sure that I will be adding new designs to my collection.
The colour of the sea, of deep blue waters with a refection of the sky above. When I worked in the fine jewellery industry, this was another stone that I immediately fell in love with. I was told a story about the resemblance of this colour to water and it was just fascinating to see my first perfect faceted, and amazingly blue stone live. In the past years I chose to work with just natural, pure and raw aquamarines, because unfortunately many stones are treated. I have a few lighter stones left that I may be working with soon!
I realised while writing this blog, that this is the third blue stone that comes up when I think about my favourite stones. Blue is known to be a very safe colour... not for me: I like blue because it reminds me of the sky and the cosmos. Also, blue stones were the first stones that I learned about. Even though I love every colour, a deep blue colour is very special to me, so I chose it for my new packaging boxes too. It was a tough decision, but somehow I knew that it had to be blue (almost close to a kind of purple) as on the outside of the box, I wanted to create a feeling of the cosmos with a more colourful inside. I wish I could show you the example here but due to COVID-19 these boxes are now being held up at the atelier in Italy… I really hope that everyone will soon be in a better situation again.
Back to sapphire! My engagement ring that I got in 2003 is set with a natural blue sapphire set in platinum and rose-gold, as I preferred a sapphire over a diamond. It took my friend, a professional miner and a gemologist who is specialised in korund, a few months to find my special stone...
Rhodochrosite and rhodonite both own a similar deeper kind of pink that I love. Pink is generally a somewhat difficult colour to me, but this stone has the perfect hue that gives less of a "pinkish vibe". I love using a rougher finish like my Possessions or Conscious technique when I work with this stone, or I combine it with another stone to accompany it. The colours of rhodochrosite that I saw in Argentina (an important mining source) were simply amazing.
The difference between rhodonite and rhodochrosite is (amongst other things) that rhodonite usually is pink with black, while rhodochrosite is pink with white. I used this reference when I made ring "Noemi": set with a rhodochrosite stone, I added a black stone as a reference to the black properties of rhodonite.
I love amber for its golden or deep brown colour. This is a fossilised tree resin coloured stone which has been written about since Roman times, but dates back to 44 million years ago. In early times, it was also used for medicinal reasons. Most older type of amber stones came from the wider Baltic region, and today mostly from the Kaliningrad area. The trade routes around the world caused the stone to be wide spread, and it became a very important one. . .
My two personal vintage Amber necklaces
Myself, I like golden and reddish-brown amber the best, and I own two vintage necklaces with this beautiful stone. One great property about it is that it is light-weight, making it perfect to work with in big rings!
As many stones are too brittle to work with in the classical way of setting, I came up with my my own way of setting a stone. A little anecdote: years ago, I found some raw pink stones. I wasn't exactly sure what they were, but I loved their structure and the soft, sweet pink colour. After I tried to set them, I realised how impossibly soft the structure was... quickly, I realised that these were salt crystals! Simply impossible to use in any ring. A few drops of water would make them melt away... This was clearly a mistake, but there are other more durable stones that can be brittle too: they will chip easily or break when setting them. Learning is part of this too. And this tenacity is one of the important reasons why an emerald is so costly, to give you an idea of its high value.
However, there are many brittle stones that I use, just because I can.. ;) And dioptase is such a stone. Many people don’t always realise that a lot of stones and jewels are for “display only”, meaning that even jewels that are made by the best goldsmiths in the world need to be treated very carefully. If you want to keep your pieces, you should only wear them to a special occasion, and not to bed or in the bathtub, as it will shorten the life span of any jewel. Gold and stones can scratch and wear out over time. Do enjoy wearing your piece, just be careful! Opals or pearls for example, can become less attractive in time. Even certain diamonds can be damaged... but that is a story in itself.
Oh, dioptase, how beautiful is your emerald colour and how exciting do I find your crystal structure!
Agate is a variety of chalcedony, and a form of quartz, and often considered to be a relatively inexpensive stone, but with all stones, it depends on which stone. And next to this is everything in life valued at what the society or culture you live in what someone is willing to pay for it, and the same goes for stones. Agate has long been used in the arts and crafts. It comes in so many varieties, drawings, and colours, it’s just totally fascinating.
In Roman times, they were used by everyone in signet rings. Even in Byzantine and medieval times, they were used in carved objects next to other jewels.
Any nuance of coral works for me, but Mediterranean coral is what I love. When I was young, I got my first coral to add to my future charm bracelet. I think that coral is the best colour for my skin tone, as it makes me glow and its red tone is just perfect. In principle, coral is very rare, protected, and regulated nowadays. Each piece that I use is sustainable, meaning that I either found it from antique shops, or that I got it through bonafide addresses around the mediterranean. Over the years, I sometimes have used larger dyed corals, simply because a good quality perfectly red coral is very costly: a coral only grows 2 millimetres a year... She is a rare beauty.
I have a few pieces left of this rare mediterranean coral, and I hardly like to use them... although, I did make a larger statement necklace titled “All fish in the Sea”, an ode to be respectful of what the Earth is sharing with us, as the sea is more polluted, the fish are suffering and in the end, so are we. This necklace is made with raw vintage mediterranean corals.
Venetian Handblown Glass Coral
Sometimes, I use handblown glass in the shape of coral from a small atelier in Venice, whose older glassblower still practices this artisan trade that is, unfortunately, slowly disappearing...
The term ‘Kristallos’ comes from Greek and means “Ice”. Even after having worked in the diamond industry for years, crystal is almost as valuable as a diamond to me, as a manner of speaking. I feel so much energy coming from crystals!
Left: Rutilated Crystal Quartz. Right: Rock Crystal
Rock crystal is a truly clear crystal and crystal with inclusions (which look like needles) is called rutilated crystal. The "crystal-clear" rock crystals that I so love have been sought after since ancient times and were used in 'glassware'. And used from the Medieval times to the Art Deco period in jewels and ornaments.
You can find crystals around the world. I found many of them in the Alps, from the Haute Savoie in France to the Swiss Alps. I have worked with different types of crystals since I started making jewellery. Sometimes in a more polished shape, or in matte or carved. I’m actually currently working on an amazing piece in icy matte rock crystal, by a master carver... stay tuned!
These were my "top 10" favourite stones, even though I could go on forever! I hope this blog may have taught you something, and I hope it has given you a break from today's matters... We have to keep realising how important our Earth is, and see the beauty in the small and beautiful things in life that come from Nature. For now, I hope you have a great rest of your week, and I hope you stay safe and healthy!