New things bubbling away…

So, it’s been a while since my last blog and maybe you’ve been wondering why.. (maybe not of course).

Well, I guess the simple truth is I’ve just been darned busy.  For what is usually a quiet time of year for weddings and engagements, this year has been a bit bonkers.  So much romance and so many wedding bells!   There have been crazy last minute orders – “Erm, we’re getting married on Saturday is that enough time for you to make our rings?” (It was Monday! “Plenty of time” I calmly said).  There have been wonderfully thoughtful engagements (I have recently been making a ring based on a verse from a book)  and there has been one particularly cracking wedding (I was bridesmaid – and oh the pain I was in the next morning).  Add to that all the other usual commitments that come with a business and a holiday thrown in for the sake of my sanity and that’s why I’ve have been remiss in my blog writing.

Also…  there are a couple of projects that I am working on – my new website and a new boutique collection of wedding and engagement rings.  Designing the boutique collection has been very hard – I have trouble when it comes to design as one idea leads on to another and another and another ad infinitum… so I end up with millions of options.  It has been sooooo hard figuring out which designs will make the grade and which ones will have to wait for another time to shine.  Watch this space.

The new website will hopefully be up and running in a month or so, as long as I can cram a bit more time into my day to get the content and pictures to the website designers… phew.

So, better stop writing this blog and get on with it hey?

Demystifying the mist of ordering a custom-made engagement ring

I have had a few clients recently start their journey to wedded bliss with some very good questions.  Questions like ‘How do I get an engagement ring from you?’ and ‘How much would it cost me?’  and ‘How does the custom design process work?’.

I’m sure we all have a degree of jargon and industry knowledge that comes with our job and I am no different.  When I get questions like the ones above it reminds me that for many people getting a custom-made engagement ring can be a bit of a bewildering process.  I am sure that (like I feel when I walk into an expensive designer clothes shop) there is a degree of apprehension that you are getting in above your head.  That maybe you need to be arty too and have amazing design ideas for a ring.  Or that you need to be very rich as I’ll probably charge like a wounded bull for even replying to an email.

Happily none of these are true.  Most clients who come to me with an initial enquiry have a few pictures of rings they like, or have an idea of a stone their girlfriend (or boyfriend) likes, or have seen something on my website that is in the style they are thinking of.  Some clients have no idea and some have an exact idea.  Either way we can start the design process by me doing a few sketches or tinkering with an existing design and preparing a quote.

The next area of anxiety is the financials.  Most clients like to have an idea of what they are in for before they are in for it, which is fair enough.  Asking ‘how much?’ is always a bit nerve-racking, as I found out today whilst coveting a pair of boots only to find out they were a silly price.  However, ‘how much?’ for a custom engagement ring is a bit tricky.  There are many variables such as gold price (up and down like a nun’s habit), finger size, gems, difficulty of design etc.  So, when clients ask me how much I always try to give a few examples of rings from my website and how much they cost.  Many people have an idea of how much they’d like to spend and so I ask for this and then work within that budget – most things are possible.   It’s ok and expected to ask ‘How much?’ so don’t be afraid!

The other area is using an existing design.  The beauty of having a custom-made enagegement ring is you can choose the detail.  If a client really likes one of the rings on my website but would prefer a pink diamond to a white one, no problem.   Or if they would prefer one main stone and a few surrounding stones instead of a solitare, that’s fine.  Or if they have seen a ring they like on the web but would prefer it in yellow gold with a square stone instead of a round one, that’s fine too.

Again, most things are possible.  The only thing that’s not possible apparently is finding a PVD electroplater who can put black ion onto 425 stainless steel. (now there’s jargon for you…)  but that’s another blog.

What makes a good engagement ring?

Hmm, tricky question that a client asked me the other day.  The quick answer is ‘You’.  What I mean by that is personal involvement, an idea, a colour, a memory (trying not to sound too cheesy here) something that you want to bring to the design of the ring.  Why is this important? Well, because this will be one of the most personal and sentimental items that you or your girlfriend will ever have.  So to be able to look at it and say ‘I was involved in the making/creating/designing of it’ is really great.

However from a more functional point of view there are a few things that are good to remember.  Keep it practical – sounds really boring doesn’t it? But an engagement ring with sharp edges that will catch on clothing, or a protruding gem that will be susceptible to knocks, a gem that is too soft for a lifetime of wear and tear or an uneven edge that will be tricky to match with a wedding ring will end up being annoying.

Think about the type of metal you want.  Start with colour, does your girlfriend wear yellow gold or white gold/silver more?  If a white metal is what you are after, you will need to choose between platinum or white gold (there are other ‘white’ metals, titanium, palladium or silver – they have some limitations on use but anything is possible!).  The main 2 differences between platinum and white gold are price and durability.  Platinum is more expensive than white gold but is also harder.  However, that’s not to say white gold is soft, it is still a very hard metal, suitable for engagement and wedding rings.   If it’s yellow gold you are after, consider rose gold too, a softer coloured, (rosier!) gold – old-fashioned but there’s a beauty in that.

Once you have the colour sorted, next is the gem.  Of course diamonds are the traditional and still most popular choice – they are extremely hard and extremely beautiful.  However, if you don’t want to go the white diamond route – consider a coloured diamond – still the practicality of a diamond but a little different.  Diamonds come in beautiful champagne shades, luscious browns and pale yellows , black (good for men’s wedding rings) and of course pink… ahh.. pink. (I heard recently that the Pink Argyle Diamond is a good investment as they will run out soon…)

There are also a huge range of other gems, beautiful gems of all colours, really any colour you want there will be a gem that you could use in an engagement ring.  Sapphires, rubies, tourmaline, garnet, aquamarine, morganite.. anything is possible.

Then the design.  Consult with your jeweller (preferably me!) and don’t be afraid to speak out if you want to make changes, don’t like a particular design or want to change your mind completely!  It’s is important to get it right, the jeweller will want to you love the finished product so now is the time to speak out.   Keep in mind practicality as I mentioned before but also uniqueness, even if it’s a very traditional design – make it yours in some small way.

Finally… the proposal.  You’re on your own there!  good luck.

Are diamonds a girl’s best friend?

There’s no doubt about it, diamonds are VERY beautiful.  They are an exquisite example of the beauty of gems.  Added to that they are practical – I know, not very exciting, but in a ring that you will be wearing for the rest of your life it’s an important consideration.   However, is a diamond the only choice for an engagement ring?

As you can see from my gallery, diamonds are not everyone’s cup of tea and there are simply hundreds of gems out there that you can choose instead of a diamond.

Your first consideration is colour.  One client wanted blue to match his girlfriend’s ‘beautiful’ blue eyes (so romantic – sorry – I’m hopeless!), another had a specific request from his girlfriend for something yellow, another wanted something pink as they had just had their first child – a girl.

Once you have decided on a colour – the next option is hardness. Unfortunately not all stones are suitable for an engagement ring.  Take an emerald for example – very, very beautiful but not so great in a ring as they are delicate flowers!  The scale of hardness for stones is called the Mohs Scale.  The hardest is a 10 – the diamond is the ten.  The next down is sapphire and ruby coming in at 9 and so on down until you get to 1 – talc!   Anything below 7.5 on the mohs scale is really too soft, certainly as a main stone in an engagement ring.   Now there may be some clever beans out there thinking, “but hang on Zoe, an emerald is 7.5 on the mohs scale”.  Indeed it is, but emeralds are often highly included (jargon – sorry). Emeralds have a lot of physical imperfections which makes them more prone to breakage.  So, you are looking for a gem higher than 7.5 on the mohs scale and not too included.

So to give you a clue here are some good examples of beauties that fall into the requirements listed above:

Garnets come in a range of gorgeous colours, deep red, vivid green, tender to intense yellow and fiery orange.

Sapphires come in a full spectrum of colours from white through blue to pink and yellow and all hues in between.

Ruby, of course, which can come in a subtle pink through to a lucisous red.

Tourmaline is a lesser known gem but one of my favourite as it comes in some beautiful and more unique colours, earthy reds and browns, greens, even steely grey.

Aquamarine is the classic watery, ocean blue, subtle and gorgeous.

Chrysoberyl is a delicious lemony yellow, good enough to eat!

Padparadscha, which is actually a sapphire but a specific pinky orange colour, and so so lovely.


I could go on (and on and on) but I’m sure you all have things to be doing, so I’ll let you go.  Just before I do, now we’re talking colour remember diamonds aren’t always white… but that’s another blog.

The proposal…

Ahhh… the proposal.  I imagine this subject will have a fair few of you feeling a little sick.  In my job I’m privy to the plans, details and fears of this momentous occasion.  Then on the flip side I hear from my female friends what really happened / what they wanted to happen / what they didn’t want to happen, and then I guess also being a woman myself I have a female handle on all this romance business.

So here are a few stories, hints and suggestions…

There is a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless…) who has rejected her boyfriend’s proposals on two occasions because they simply weren’t good enough.  Now before all you men out there get your knickers in a knot about demanding women, I can’t read her mind, etc etc.. his proposals went like this:

First attempt:  Drunk in car (sitting in it, not driving it) at someone else’s wedding.  Turns off interior light for romantic effect no less! “So, I was thinking maybe we should just get married too.”

Second attempt:  To girlfriend in kitchen washing up dinner dishes.  “So, shall we do it then?”

See?  Pretty hopeless no?  Now I know we women can be a little bit of a confusing mystery but romance is simple and always gratefully recieved.   You don’t need to take us on a helicopter flight around Sydney, stopping for a champagne breakfast and a proposal on a beautiful rocky headland mid flight, as one other friend did.  No, you don’t have to.  You could just pick up the engagement ring and wait until your love is on the toilet and shout through the door “Do you want this ring now then?”, as someone else did.

Now those are extremes, the first one an extreme that not all of us can afford, especially after spending probably more than you wanted to on the ring. ; )   But the message is, make an effort – it doesn’t have to be an expensive effort, or a herculean effort, just an effort.  However you shouldn’t stress yourself to the extent that you both have a massive arguement because you are trying to drag your girlfriend up a mountain in winter because you have hand carved and lugged a stone tablet up there last week with the words ‘Marry me’ engraved on it. (True story!)

Keep it genuine – something you are comfortable with and that she won’t be terribly embarassed by – don’t get a stripper to come to her birthday party in front of all her friends and family, with the ring hidden between his….  (Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!)

And, don’t leave the ring in your trousers pocket… especially the trousers you changed out of at the last minute and which she chucked in the washing machine before you hurried her out the door…

Good luck!

Vintage gems…

I have had a number of clients recently wanting to recycle vintage or sentimental stones from inherited jewellery, heirlooms or simply rings which they want to rejuvinate.  It’s a great way to make a unique piece of jewellery even more personal to you or to wear gems which have been sitting around in a drawer somewhere, getting dusty because you simply don’t like the ring they are in.

There is something quite satisfying in getting my saw out and cutting into a ring and extracting the gem.  Kind of a reversal of what I usually do, wanton destruction (I nearly wrote ‘wonton destruction’… that made me laugh..).

Often a gem will have lost its sparkle, its lustre but after a little careful cleaning and polishing it’s looking its best again.  Match that with a good design, more suited to the wearer and you have a brand new ring.. same same but different, recycled, rejuvinated.

There’s often a good story with the old ring too. One client recently let me in on the fact that the diamonds in the old ring were rare ‘blue’ diamonds from the mines in her home land of South Africa, that were flawless.  Exciting for a gem geek like me..

Another client wanted me to make a wedding ring for her that matched the colour of her fiance’s vintage wedding ring (from his grandfather).  I happily did so (see previous post about experimenting..).  I also needed to re-size her fiance’s ring and so the little piece of gold I took from his I put into hers.. aww.. what’s his is mine and all.

That’s one of the things I love about this job – there’s a lot of beauty in it…

Fair trade rubies from Tanzania

I skipped down to the post office today because I had a parcel of rubies to collect.  I am a bit of a gem geek and get terribly excited about small, pretty things, especially when they arrive in the post, nothing better than getting a parcel!

These gems were pretty special too as they were my first shipment of ethical rubies from Tanzania.  There is a fantastic company in the UK, Ruby Fair, who deal with rubies, sapphires and spinel, all untreated and all ethical.  They have set up a partnership between jewellers and Tanzanian ruby miners where both the miners welfare, the environment and ecology of the land are all given careful consideration.

Sifting through the gem dealers to find ones who have stand up ethics is not easy.  Open Source Minerals are another contact of mine who I use for diamonds and other gemstones. They offer a ‘Trace your diamond’ service, so you can find out where in the world your diamond came from and rest assured that it didn’t fund some horrible war or conflict somewhere.  They also work with the Liqhobong Women’s Mining Cooperative in Africa.  All the female miners who work there are all near retirement age and recieve an additional fair trade premium for their diamonds.  On top of that they also work with various small artisanal projects worldwide that guarantee safe and environmentally friendly mining conditions and fair wages for the miners.

From these contacts I can offer clients sapphire, aquamarine, diamond, rhodolite, rubelite, emerald, ruby, tanzanite and the occasional padparadscha… (I had to have some kind of geek gem name in there didn’t I?!)

Green has never been so colourful!

Finding solutions to problems…

I have a terrible habit of taking on tasks that are a challenge.  I seem to be unable to say ‘You know what, I don’t think that is possible’  So, I seem to always have at least one project on the go that forces me to find a solution to a curly problem.

Take this week for example.  I have been making a beautiful rough diamond ring for a client.  This is the first time I have used a rough diamond of these dimensions (not small!) and any rough stone is a challenge to set as it doesn’t generally tend to have even sides.  So I had to mould the setting (in 18ct gold) to the shape of the stone.  Not too tricky, but then I had to get the perfect finish (it has to be perfect!) (jewellery is the only area of my life where I am a perfectionist!).  This posed a few problems as the stones had already been set, which means that they must be avoided when sanding the metal. Problems which my polishers told me could not be overcome.  Bah!  So, back to my studio I went and foraged and came up with some rubber tubing and tape. (Sound dodgy yet?!).  With a bit of Magyvering and some praying to the jewellery gods, I came up with a solution and put the, beautiful, sparkly, diamond encrusted ring back into the rough old polisher….  I didn’t breathe for about half and hour.   But… It Worked and I proclaimed myself a genius.

And more than that, I now know that, for next time, when a client comes to me with a similar problem, i can (confidently) say, ‘That is possible’.

So, the end result, is a happy client, a beautiful, diamond ring with ethical white gold and a gorgeous, rough, yellow, diamond.  Pics in the gallery…

Fairtrade has gone all gold and glittery!

It’s finally here! After 10 years of hard work, passion and vision from people such as Greg Valerio, the Alliance for Responsible Mining, Oro Verde, FLO, and the support from like minded jewellers, the world is now seeing its first fairtrade and fairmined gold.

Greg Valerio is a very interesting person, with a real passion and understanding of the practice of gold mining, how destructive, socially and environmentally it can be.  Check out his website for all sorts of info and inspiration.

Here is the link from the Fairtrade site about the launch of Fairtrade gold.…

As for me, I am waiting on my first order of fairtrade gold, and will be making a new collection to celebrate this huge, positive shift in gold production.  watch this space!

It’s hot, incase you hadn’t noticed.

My studio being where it is (in the middle of a national park) makes me a little nervous working on a total fire ban day, so for now I will do a safe working practice, some typing, filing, designing…

I have had a couple of clients recently reignite my imagination where jewellery is concerned.  Firstly, a meeting with a client the other day who was looking for a pair of rings for her and her partner.  She brought with her the idea of rough diamonds and I’m so pleased she did!  I have used rough cut gems before and loved them but have had my attention directed away from them by all things sparkly.  Now, however I am thinking of creating a new range of wedding and engagement jewellery using these rough cut beauties and ethical fairtrade gold.  As I was thinking about this range another client told me a quote from her upcoming wedding ceremony which just seems to perfectly encapsulate the feel of these amazing things we take from the earth and why we do that…

“As this ring is of the finest of earth’s materials, so your love is of the richest of human values. As rings are without edge or seam, have no beginning and no end, so they symbolise the perfection of a love which knows no end.”

I don’t know where the quotes comes from but I thought it was a little bit lovely.

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