Tag Archives: gold

Gold Ring, Diamonds and a Tatoo of a Cherry Blossom

In the summer of last year I met a young couple at an art fair in Montauk.  Anthony was an actor and Laura, an oncology nurse.  They lingered at my booth, then left… and then he returned alone.

Laura's tatoo

Laura’s tatoo

Anthony wanted to set up a meeting to discuss a custom ring and he wanted to surprise his wife!  My kind of man.

She had a full body tattoo of a Japanese cherry blossom tree. He wanted a gold ring representing a cherry blossom.  We met in the city at a coffee shop on the west side.  There were drawings first.

Drawings

Drawings

Then I set to work on a wax model.

wax model in the making

wax model in the making

A 5 karat black diamond in the rough was placed in the center and 5 trillion (triangular) diamonds were placed between the petals of the ‘flower’.

wax model with diamonds

wax model with diamonds

Anthony was involved at every step.  There were more meetings at the coffee shop.  About a half dozen meetings.

The model was approved and a gold ring was cast.

ring cast in gold

ring cast in gold

Then the stone setter went to work.  My Russian friend Oleg did this part.  His work is excellent.  Finally, the “finish”, a polished exterior and a roughed up organic interior representing the cherry blossom.  See the image of “The final product”.

Then came the suspense.  He would surprise her on a special occasion.  Would she like it?  I was nervous….  A week later the report: she was happy! And so were we!

The job took 4 months.  Great customers!  A fun experience.  This is how we do custom work.

The final product

The final product

Memory Lane

A trip down memory lane is mostly a personal thing.  But this one seemed worth sharing.

Bregaglia Valley

Bregaglia Valley

The excuse for the trip was a high school class reunion in Zurich (Switzerland), 45 years after graduation!  But the first leg of the journey was to Soglio, a mountain village in a steep, somewhat claustrophobic valley called Bergell (in German), Bregaglia (in Italian) or Bargaja  (in the local tongue).  It derives from the Latin ‘Prae-galia’ , literally the land ‘before the Gallic provinces’.  It does not take long to understand that this valley served as a passage from Italy to Austria (via the Engadin) or to Germany/France, called Galia in Roman times, via the Julier pass road.  This road was built by Caesar’s armies!  Given the strategic importance of the Bergell, it’s inhabitants charged tolls to those wanting passage.  Generally these ancient border patrol people were heavily armed to control the valley and impose their tolls.

The valley has a mystic scenery and is known for producing some famous artists like the sculptor Alberto Giacometti from Stampa and the painter Giovanni Segantini, who lived in Maloja for a while, where I spent summers as a boy. We stayed in Soglio, a small village perched on the flank of the valley, in the Hotel Palazzo Salis, built 1629, that once housed the Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (ca. 1919).  He lived for a while in room 15.  I stayed in room 16 with a view of the garden in the back.  The hotel also exhibits the arms used by the Von Salis family, the local rulers, who inhabited the building for centuries, including wicked looking swords and spears, ‘Hellebarden’ or halberds, and ‘Morgensterne’ or morning starsIMG_2799I took pictures of swords with beautiful inlay work: brass (I think) embedded in the steel blades, see the title picture!  They were displayed just outside my room as if I might need them to defend myself!

Soglio is remarkable for its age-old mountain homes and beautiful views of the steep mountains on the opposite side of the valley.  This includes Piz Badile, a very steep peak with a north-east face thought to be among the most difficult climbs in the Alps.  In case you want some thrills, check this filmed ascent of the Cassin route!

Piz Badile

Piz Badile

After Soglio there followed visits with old Swiss friends from 50 years ago!  And reunions of long-lost family.   There was a new generation of children I had never met!

A visit to the Chagall exposition at the “Zurcher Kunsthaus”, with my childhood friend and current author, Daniel Suter, was well worthwhile.  It features a review of his life’s work.  It is a temporary exhibit, open until May 12, 2013.  And, finally, we met at the Hotel Storchen in Zurich for the ‘Klassenzusammenkunft’ which means ‘class reunion’.  Even the Latin teacher was present!  Sheepishly I raised my wine glass to toast him and uttered the first latin words that came to mind: in vino veritas est.

Diamond Bee Pendant

Diamond Bee Pendant (Tiffany)

Over dinners with friends and family I grew to admire several pieces of jewelry. They are featured here.  Zurich is a place where there are always plenty of nice things!

Aquamarine Gold Ring

Aquamarine Gold Ring (Gabriele Krack)

For example this stunning 20.67ct aquamarine, set in an 18K gold ring crafted by Gabriele Krack.  Or a Bee Pendant, made of diamonds set in platinum (Tiffany).

BACK IN DOHA (QATAR)

In 2009 I wrote about a visit to Doha.  The Museum of Islamic Art had just opened.  It’s a jewel of a museum and they feature a lot of antique jewelry. I am back in Doha for my 6th annual visit.  Some things have changed. The license plates on cars now display Western numerals rather than Arabic numbers.  The finished skyscrapers now outnumber the cranes in some parts of the city, but the building boom is still ongoing.  This is still a place of unbelievable contrasts.

Hodge podge of styles: (from L>R) local traditional, modern (Sheraton pyramid) and base of an ugly tower with a metal laced exterior which we call the ‘corndog’ building because it looks like a corndog!

Hodge podge of styles: (from L>R) local traditional, modern (Sheraton pyramid) and base of an ugly tower with a metal laced exterior (see below; Burj tower), which I call the ‘corndog’ building because it looks like a corndog!

First there is the architecture.  I think this is a city with some of the most unsightly and strangest skyscrapers I have ever seen.  But, also, with one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, the Museum of Islamic Art designed by IM Pei.

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

It is truly mesmerizing.  The Museum was meant to look like a veiled woman who’s ‘eyes’ are keeping watch over the city.

Perhaps the most striking contrast is in the wealth distribution.  Qatar is considered one of the richest countries on the globe. Qatar has a resident population of 1.7 Mio according to the 2010 census.  However only 1/5 are Qatari nationals.  The rest are ‘guest workers’, a euphemistic term.  They get a resident permit when they enter the country, being invited by their sponsor, the business that employs them.  Most have a single exit visa.  Their sponsor (or employer) dictates when they exit the country and often they confiscate the employees passport.  If fired, you are simply brought to the airport by your employer, end of story.  Some guest workers are luckier and have multiple exit visas usually valid for one year.  Some guest workers (but not all) also get a Health card, which gives them access to government subsidized health care.  They may also acquire a liquor license but they have to be non-Muslim, a resident of Doha and earn over QR 4,000 per month.  Most recently, those with liquor licenses can now also purchase pork products!

Guest workers or expats come in different types.   Top echelon expats are technical advisors, engineers, consultants, scientists and doctors.  They are well paid.  Their employer covers the rent and the school tuition for their kids.  These people can make money here and save money, but they can never become citizens or start their own business.  So most of them ultimately plan to move back home. More commonly expats do all the menial jobs.  They come from all the countries around the Indian ocean.  I try to speak to them.  They are maids, hotel employees, cooks, cab drivers or personal drivers, and droves of construction workers.  Their salaries are meager compared with western nations.  My driver from Nepal makes 1,000 rial per month (US$ 275), that is 30 rial per day (US$ 7/day).  Construction workers may make even less (700 rial/month), and a housemaid, depending on her employer, (700-2000 rial/month).  Never the less, these salaries are a step up from what they could earn at home if they found a job.  They are often able to send some money home and even support their families.  One house keeper put her daughter through school, at home in the Philippines, with $250/semester while making about $400/month here in Qatar.

Construction workers or... 'guest workers'

Construction workers or… ‘guest workers’

My driver has lodging provided by his company: 14 men in 7 bunk beds in one room.  Three are from Nepal and the rest are from Sri Lanka and India.  Three are Hindu, the rest are Muslim.  Life is not cheap in Doha and their salary is just sufficient for some food.  He and his co-workers from Nepal are eager to return to their home country even if that means less money and possibly no work at all.  It is interesting to draw this comparison: my driver makes 30 rial per day and my hotel room costs 1,100 rial per night!  Is this human exploitation?  It sounds like a medieval society. But am I not taking part in this?  I come as a teacher and I share my knowledge in the hope that it will better the human condition, but ultimately I also come here because I am paid!

By contrast, the new found oil and gas wealth of Qatar, deemed the richest country in the world for 2012, has also been used to do some amazing things.  Related to my line of work, the Qatar Foundation invited several western universities to establish a campus in Doha.  This started in the 1990s and now there are at least 7 campuses in Doha representing an unrivaled center for education in the Arab world.  They include the campuses of Northwestern University (communications, journalism, liberal arts), Carnegie Mellon (business administration, computer science), Virginia Commenwealth Univ. (design, arts, fashion), Georgetown Univ. (foreign service, politics), Texas A&M (engineering), Weill Cornell Medical College (medicine)  and University College of London (museum curation, archeology).  The vision and origin of the Qatar Foundation comes from the Emir himself and particulary his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.  It’s mission is to further education, science and research, and community development.

So much for contrasts.  Back to jewelry.

Chinese fisherman

Chinese fisherman

I took a long walk just yesterday from the hotel to the museum along the Corniche.   I met a few fishermen.  One man from China had caught 10 fish.  The gulf is actually rich in fish and Doha has a very old history of fishing trade.

Palm tree on the Corniche, Museum in the distant background

Palm tree on the Corniche, Museum in the distant background

From afar you can see the Museum of Islamic Art built on a man made peninsula.  From close up the contrast of old fishing boats (dhow harbor) and the modern art museum are striking!  There is an extensive review of shipping and ship construction in the gulf at catnaps.org – where there is plenty on  Islamic design and traditional boats.

Boats in Dhow harbor, museum in the background

Boats in Dhow harbor, museum in the background

Highly recommended reading!

The entrance to the museum is a long drive way lined with palm trees, with water flowing down a central trough made of black marble. It is a stunning approach.

Here are some pictures I took at the museum.  These are items that belonged to royalty of course.

Necklace make of red spinel, pearls and diamonds set in gold bezels.

Necklace make of red spinel, pearls and diamonds set in gold bezels.

A bazuband to be worn on the front of a princess, made of large diamonds set in gold with a spinel drop in front.

A bazuband to be worn on the front of a princess, made of large diamonds set in gold with a spinel drop in front.

The original owner of much of the jewelry in the museum was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal. He is depicted here on a cameo in sardonyx stone on a bloodstone mount (ca. 1630).

The original owner of much of the jewelry in the museum was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal. He is depicted here on a cameo in sardonyx stone on a bloodstone mount (ca. 1630).

On my way home, evening views of Dhow harbor with ancient boats and modern high rises in the background.

Dhow harbor with ancient boats and modern high rises

Dhow harbor with ancient boats and modern high rises

And as I approached the north end of the Corniche I walked right past the ‘corndog’ building again, past a black glass building that reflects the neighboring ‘monster’ buildings, and past the Qatar World Trade Center…    Not sure what to think of this city.

Corndog building

Corndog building (lights up at night) also goes by other less flattering names, but is really named Burj tower.

Reflections of neighboring buildings in black glass

Reflections of neighboring buildings in black glass

Qatar World Trade Center

Qatar World Trade Center with crown!

Teen Jewelry

If you are a parent of a teenager, like myself, you must sometimes be wondering about the complete discrepancy in artistic tastes between your teen and yourself. I have tried to understand.  It’s as if they are a different species. They speak differently (no full sentences), they have a different vocabulary (chillaxin) , they use abbreviations that are meant to be obscure to adults (AYSOS = are you stupid or something), they don’t use telephones or even email any more.  They are considered “digital natives” by those who study societal trends and by those that are interested in marketing of on-line businesses.  I find myself asking my teen whether to sign up for Skype versus Oovoo, or whether to buy an I-phone or an Android.  In both cases it’s clearly the latter.  With such strong opinions and with tastes that differ from those that are just 5 years older, it’s clearly important to study teens because they are the customers of tomorrow. The following is a quite unscientific study of teen fashion tastes.

First,  a sense of color coordination is very pronounced it seems to me:

Blue Sweat Shirt and Matching Blue Android

Blue Sweat Shirt and Matching Blue Android

Note the bright colors, the matching blue sweat shirt and cell phone, but the contrasting red nail polish, and purple hair dye.  Note the snake ring (definitely cool) and the LOVE mood ring which changes colors depending on your mood (so they say).   Colors need to be shocking and full of contrast.

Teens sense of shocking color contrasts

Teen’s sense of shocking color contrasts

Second, jewelry accessories for piercings are BIG.IMG_1985

IMG_1992

I was referred to a website called bodycandy.com.  Although body piercing is an ancient practice in different human cultures, there is perhaps a new worldwide trend that is gaining traction. In particular the prevalence of body piercings in young teenage girls has increased and is now often over 25-50% in countries like the USA, Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Australia according to numerous publications.  Is this the future?

Third, accessories that have a special or personal meaning are in.  Woven wrist bands as symbols of friendship, often handmade for someone special, are popular.  Plastic bangles reading I LOVE BOOBIES or SAVE BOOBIES are in.  They mean to increase awareness for breast cancer.  Similar bangles for different causes (or just for fun) are popular, in part because of their low cost.  Low cost is really important for teens.  Wearing a large number of bangles on the same wrist is trendy too.  While some of these accessories will no longer be popular when these teens morph in to young adults and have more money to spend, I think the principle of wearing a statement that has a special personal meaning, or a message, may remain important.  In deed, silver and gold jewelry with inscribed comments or insignia, or names of your children are already popular with young women and mothers. IMG_1986 IMG_1987

Never a dull moment with a teen in the house!

Closing Pin for Sky Diving

The sister of my friend recently called and asked for a closing pin pendant for a necklace.  I responded “a closing what?”

It turns out that she and her fiancée are sky divers.   She was getting a gift for him.   Closing pins are about one inch long and shaped like the number 9 (sort of).  They are essential gear for the release of the parachute.  You have to pop the pin to allow the main canopy to escape from a container.  This pin is so essential, that if it gets stuck, you are dead unless you have a backup chute.

Sky divers seem to worship this pin.  And many of them wear the pin as a pendent on a necklace.  There are several places where you can buy them.  Just google “closing pin necklace” or click here.

The pin ordered was going to be special: made in gold with red and yellow diamonds representing the colors of the canopy of the chute.

Image

So now I know a little bit about sky diving.  And if papa Bush can do it, hell, I might try one day.

Delicate & Graceful Diamond Necklace

You would not think that rocks can be sexy, seductive, elegant, graceful and feminine! Would you?  Well, it is a bit different if we are talking diamond “rocks” as in this necklace: Image

Diamonds naturally crystalize in cubes and these little grey diamonds in the rough are each drilled.  A tiny gold wire (28 gauge) is then inserted through the diamond and balled up with a minute flame from an acetylene torch and attached to a fine and elegant 18 karat gold chain.  Since the flame comes so close to the diamond, this will heat up the diamond to a very high temperature.  This technique can only be used with diamonds because other gems are less heat tolerant. Never the less, occasionally a diamond will zing!!  That’s when it splits and the pieces fly through the studio!

Because the diamonds are in the rough, there is an organic quality to this necklace.  Sometimes I get comments such as “exquisite”, “sophisticated” and “charming”.  But what I really think:  this was a huge “labor of love”.

Red Diamonds

Most of us do not realize that diamonds come in different colors. The typical clear and sparkling diamond is what De Beers has marketed for 100 years or so…but if you want to own something truly unique consider this.

Diamonds have an extremely rigid lattice. They can be contaminated by very few impurities. Thus the clear, colorless appearance of those diamonds designated ‘gem quality’. Small amounts of impurities (about one per million of lattice atoms) will color a diamond blue (boron), yellow (nitrogen), brown (lattice defects), green (radiation exposure), purple, pink, orange or red! ‘Plastic deformation’ is the cause of color in some brown and perhaps pink and red diamonds.

In 2008, the Wittelsbach Diamond, a 35 carat blue diamond, once belonging to the King of Spain, fetched over US$ 24 million at a Christie’s auction.

“Black” diamonds are not truly black, but rather contain numerous dark inclusions.

White dwarf stars have a core of crystallized carbon and oxygen nuclei. The largest of these found in the universe so far, BPM 37093, is located 50 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics described the 2,500-mile (4,000 km)-wide stellar core as a diamond. It was referred to as Lucy, after the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”.

I was recently on ETSY, a site for handmade crafts including jewelry. I searched this huge site with about 250,000 virtual shops for ‘red diamonds‘. Click and take a look.

Gold ring with rough diamonds: 2 are yellow and 2 are red.

There are more red diamonds here.

JEWELRY FOR ANIMAL LOVERS

We recently saw an amazing documentary: “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” by Werner Herzog. This film describes artwork created some 30,000 to 40,000 years ago at a time when woolly mammoths reigned. The depictions of animals, such as horses, rhinoceros, and lions, are incredibly sophisticated and the artist even employs animation methods to give the impression of movement. I take this as evidence that animals have long been a favored subject of artists, even when we were still cave dwellers.

During the Renaissance, Albrecht Durer (1471 – 1528) was a master artist famous for his prints. Beautifully detailed pictures of animals (and plants) testify to his love of nature. Interestingly Albrecht’s father was a goldsmith.

Shah Jahan, famous for building the Taj Mahal, had a fabulous statue of his falcon made. It is completely covered in precious jewels. I saw this piece in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, and have previously posted on this topic. So I take it that jewelry representing your favorite pet is an age-old thing!

I have a favorite pet too. My dog Kenda, a two year old german shepherd:

Kenda

I have studied her paws and her paw prints (such as her tracks in the snow):

Paw of German Shepherd

And here is an example of jewelry depicting her paw. This one is in Sterling silver with chocolate diamonds. It is a pendent about 3/4 inches in diameter and hangs on a silver chain:

Dog paw pendent with chocolate diamonds

This is a small silver plaque with paw prints etched on it. The idea came from my fantastic dog trainer, Gail Murphy. Kenda loves Gail more than anyone. You can have the name of your dog etched or hammered on to this plaque. This pendent was recommended by our local news e-media, the patch.com, as a Christmas gift.

Dog Paw Tracks

And here is an expensive dog tag with 40 little diamonds!

Diamond Dog Tag

For the equestrian horse enthusiasts, here is a horse shoe in Sterling silver with gold caps and diamond nails!  Personal variations are quite in order.  One customer ordered this item with blue sapphires to emulate the horse shoe symbol of the Baltimore Colts football team!

Horse Shoe Pendent

Horse Shoe Pendent

I would really love to hear from you, specially all of you with pets.

WEDDING RINGS

I have been wondering about wedding rings. Why do we wear them? When and how did this tradition originate?

Jewelry itself is as old as mankind. Prehistoric artifacts from 82,000 years ago have shown that homo sapiens in Marocco, and perhaps homo neanderthal too, made necklaces of perforated sea shells. A nice picture is found on page 8 of “Jewelry: from antiquity to the Present” depicting a necklace of perforated clam shells and small animal bones from 38,000 BC. That is before the last ice age and that is when woolly mammoths roamed across America. Along with necklaces of teeth and bones of hunted prey, these items possibly served as powerful talismans to be worn by the hunter and not just for decorative purposes. Special protection and powers from deities were expected.

7 Karat Black Diamond in the Rough in a gold ring (engagement ring)

Common lore portends that early Egyptians first used wedding bands fashioned of reeds from the banks of the Nile perhaps around 4000 BC. They were replaced by metal rings as soon as metallurgy was discovered. Gold jewelry first appeared in Mesopotamia around 2500 BC. Many of the same jewelry techniques we use today, were already in use in antiquity including repoussee, granulation and wax techniques using gypsum molds. At the royal tombs of Ur in Mesopotamia, Queen Pu-abi, for instance, wore a ring on each finger and among her 63 attendants buried with her, the women wore intricate headbands, ear rings, necklaces, bracelets and rings and the men wore ear rings, necklaces, armlets, bracelets and pectoral ornaments. At the site of ancient Troy a treasure of jewelry was found including 8000 small rings dating 2200 BC. In Egypt scarab rings were particularly common and served as a portable seal with a hieroglyph signature. You can see many samples in the Metropolitan Museum of New York and other museums of antiquity.

In ancient Rome , marriage rings became a symbol of a contract. Iron was adopted as the metal of choice rather than copper, brass or gold. Acceptance of the rings was considered legally binding. The betrothal ring was usual, but not required and was exchanged prior to the wedding like an engagement ring. It signified eternal commitment and was worn on the left ring finger because the vein of this finger (vena amoris) was thought to lead directly to the heart. In the later stages of roman civilization excessive gold rings were sported.

It was the church that then bestowed religious significance on the wedding rings with benediction of the rings beginning in the 11th century. In Jewish texts reference to rings may be much earlier. This led to our current day religious ceremonies:
Church of England (1662 Book of Common Prayer) – “With this ring I thee wed, …
Judaism – “With this ring, you are consecrated to me according to the law of Moses and Israel.”
Roman Catholic – “… take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Eastern Orthodox – “The servant of God (name) is betrothed to the handmaid of God (name), in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” said three times while the Priest makes the Sign of the Cross with the ring over the bridegroom’s and then the bride’s head.

But some religions frown on wedding rings. Quakers in particular, who claim the tradition is heathen. And Muslims, who either quote the prophet: “Wearing gold is forbidden for male Muslims, but it is allowed for female Muslims” or decry this western tradition.

Never the less, present day customs across the world nearly all involve some kind of wedding rings, although there are many amusing curiosities. In some countries wedding rings are worn on the right hand rather than on the left ring finger. In the Netherlands Catholics wear it on the left and Protestants on the right! Hindus sometimes wear a toe ring called bichiya. In east Bengal a bangle is worn by married women, in stead of a ring. Traditional Russian wedding rings are three interlocking bands of rose, white and yellow gold, worn on the right hand.

Champagne Heart Diamond in a Gold Ring

Wearing a wedding ring is not only a personal symbol of enduring commitment and eternal love, but also a public symbol, advertising marital and availability status. Every culture appears to have a set of customs by which women (and men to some extent) announce their availability. We came across a quaint custom on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where women wear a colorful head piece, called the Tête en l’air arranged with one or more peaks which represent various levels of romantic commitment: one peak means ‘my heart is free’, two peaks means ‘my heart is engaged but you can try’, three peaks mean ‘my heart is engaged and committed’, and four peaks means ‘anyone who tries is welcome’!

In discussing modern periods, a recent textbook on the history of jewelry concludes that “the major international [jewelry] houses have continued to work…following styles evolved from previous decades, [but that] innovation has come…from individual artist craftsmen trained at art schools”.

If you are looking for wedding rings, and public symbolism is important to you, you probably want to find a conventional and traditional set of engagement and wedding rings (that everyone will recognize as such). A nice custom is to use family heirloom rings from grandparents.

If on the other hand private symbolism and personal tastes are more important to the couple, there are some interesting modern day trends. You can personalize your rings by incorporating your fingerprints on your rings, or hidden messages to each other, or get a set of rings that join like puzzle pieces, and you can check out at least 500 other imaginative ideas! Working with a custom jeweler/artist you can make tailor-made rings to suit your special needs. It does not have to be expensive. Remember, the major expense in wedding/engagement rings is the gem (diamond) accounting for approx. >70% of the final price. Check out our website for more on this!

Take care, David

Champagne diamond in gold ring

Champagne diamond in gold ring

4 colored rough diamonds set in a silver wedding band

4 colored rough diamonds set in a silver wedding band