Sapphires, glorious sapphires – the perfect Engagement stone

I think that we have an obsession with diamonds. I love diamonds… who’s kidding who…but I also know that diamonds aren’t always in my price range for the size that I want. Enter coloured gemstones. Sapphires are an amazing alternative for engagement or wedding rings, and (usually) don’t cost nearly as much for lovely, big coloured stones.

We can thank Kate Middleton for the latest spark in sapphire fever. Her multi-carat stunner is a great example of a classic sapphire engagement ring design, surrounded by a diamond halo on a platinum band. What most people don’t know is that sapphires come in a huge rainbow of colours, from clear white to the deepest purple.

Colour range of sapphires

In terms of colour, there are “desired” colours — like cornflower blue for Ceylon sapphires — that are the most highly valued and priced, but other, less popular colours are forgotten. Gorgeous greens, soft yellows and hot pinks fall by the wayside in a lot of commercial jewellery in favour of the ever popular blue sapphire. My rule of thumb for coloured gems is that if you like the colour and the shape, don’t worry about whether it is “rare” or not. Pink sapphires grew in popularity when someone realized that those off-colour, pinkish rubies were actually kind of lovely. (Sapphires & Rubies share basically the same chemical make up. Rubies are red, and sapphires are all other colours)

The thing that makes sapphires great for day to day rings, like engagement rings, is that they are the closest gemstone in hardness to diamond. They will take all of the knocks, scratches and scrapes that any hardworking ring will, and stay looking pretty good over time. Also, because they come in so many great colours, you can choose the perfect colour for you.

So there you have it: a fabulous alternative to diamond for your engagement ring or wedding ring. Happy Monday!

White Gold Wave Ring with pink sapphires

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Pindan & Pearls

“Pindan” is the Aboriginal word for the red soil country of Western Australia. Having just returned from an amazing week in the Dampier Peninsula, my suitcase is full of it! Picture long roads of red earth giving way to white sand beaches and turquoise waters…idyllic? Absolutely. A perfect getaway from Sydney? Definitely.

Below and around all of that red earth lie some of Australia’s (and the world’s) most incredible gemstones. A little further along the Great Northern Highway between Broome and Darwin is the Argyle Diamond Mine, home to the world’s rarest gemstones: Pink Diamonds. These little pieces of amazing are being sold through the Argyle Diamond Tender as we speak…but we’ll get to that in another post. The other treasure that I fell in love with (again) is South Sea Pearls.

The warm waters off the coast of the Dampier Peninsula are home to the oysters that create some of the world’s most incredible pearls. Nutrient rich currents and the warm climate combine to create the perfect environment for the Pinctada maxima to grow and produce  pearls ranging in size from 9mm to 20mm. South Sea pearls are the most coveted pearls in the world both for their large size and their amazing lustre (the reflective quality of each pearl’s surface). Ranging in colour from white to silvery to golden, South Sea pearls are stunning.

I visited the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm (www.cygnetbaypearls.com.au ), Australia’s oldest pearl farm, located in King Sound, on the northeastern tip of the Dampier Peninsula. This pearl farm is not only one of the oldest pearl farms in the area, but is also one of the only operating pearl farms that you can visit. We set out on the high tide to check out the farm and were lucky enough to be able to see the pearl farm in action.

South Sea pearls are cultured pearls, meaning that each oyster undergoes an operation to have a small pearl (usually mother of pearl) bead inserted into a pearl sac located in the centre of the pearl’s muscle. Over time, the pearl builds up layers of protection around each little bead. These layers of nacre cause the bead to grow larger and form the lustrous surface that we know as pearl. In order to maintain the health of the oysters over these few years of growth, every oyster shell is cleaned regularly and then x-rayed to see how the pearl inside is growing. The amount of labour that goes into ensuring that each shell is healthy and cultivating a pearl is staggering!

From the operation to implant the nucleus (small piece of mother of pearl inserted into the host oyster), to the cleaning, x-raying and maintenance, to the final operation to remove the finished pearl, every pearl is lovingly guided from one stage to the next over the course of a few years to ensure each pearl has the high lustre, shape and surface that Cygnet Bay Pearls is known for.

If it is possible, I love pearls even more. The amount of labour that goes into each pearl is staggering, and the beauty of each pearl is befitting of the environment it comes from.

Image from Cygnet Bay Pearls

To Build a Ring

The Chrysler Building to me is design perfection. I realize that this like saying that you like sunshine–a very commonplace opinion — however my love for it has

almost stretched to the point of obsession. Its lines are elegant and sophisticated. It is austere and refined. And its arcs near the spire…sigh….Even the tiny details of the lines between the windows make me swoon. I even love the history of its design and construction. The architect, having designed it based on the Chrysler cars of the moment (after an initial design for another owner), built it to be the world’s tallest building. However, a rival project built on Wall Street was slated to be the same height, so the architect, Van Alen, added a 38m spire to the very top, thus earning title of the world’s tallest building.

Since my most recent trip to New York last August during an incredible heat wave, I have been drawing and drawing and drawing, looking for something that would allow the inspiration I take from this building come to life. And today, I found it in the form of a luscious blue chalcedony cabochon and silver heavy construction. I’ve attached an image of the drawing and the stone. The scallops on the edge of the setting taper to the centre of the shank and then flare out again at the base. I haven’t yet decided if the stone will be a full bezel or a half bezel, but that can be sorted once the wax has been carved. I’m pretty excited!

I am making this ring using the Lost Wax casting technique, whereby I carve a wax model in the exact likeness of the ring. The wax is set into a plaster substance, called investment. Once the investment hardens the wax is melted out (hence, lost wax) and molten metal, silver in this case, is injected into the cavity. The result is an exact replica of the wax I carved. Then it is up to me to shape and polish. I’ll post a pic of the wax once it is ready for casting.

Here goes…

design by danielle sweeney design