Friday, October 23, 2015

10.26.15 Where did October go? Time for November birthstones.

Trillion - citrine
Oval - topaz
It seems like it was just yesterday that I was writing about the beginning of October...and now it is almost over.  We had few days of fall in Texas earlier in the month (my daughter has already seen snow flurries in Boston) - last week it was hot as Hades, over the weekend we had 5+ inches of rain, and today it's sunny and fall like, again...confirming the old adage "if you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait five minutes."

No matter the weather - the calendar certainly says "fall". We successfully celebrated all the October babies - and now we are moving on to November, and my fabulous mother in law's birthday.  I adore my husband's mother (who we call Mimi) - I have ever since I met her - but especially with my own mother gone, she fills a huge place in my heart and I love having a reason to celebrate with her.

Ametrine earrings - my collection
Like October, November has two birthstones - topaz and citrine.  Topaz comes in a wide range of colors, but the most prized topaz - imperial topaz -  is a reddish-orange, very much like citrine.  Several gem and jewelry sites suggest that they were confused in antiquity, and that is possibly why they are both used as November's birthstone.

Citrine is a variety of quartz, and sometimes under the right conditions two parts of the same crystal form with different levels of oxidized iron, resulting in a two color stone know as "ametrine" - because it is a combination of amethyst and citrine.  Virtually all ametrine and citrine are mined in South America.  Naturally occurring citrines vary in color from pale yellow to coppery brown depending on the amount of iron in the crystal.

Several years ago, my mother in law gave me a number of pieces of jewelry from her family - including a gorgeous citrine ring with an ornate gold setting that was worn by her grandmother (who was also known to her grandchildren as Mimi).

I took those rings, along with some that I had inherited from my own grandmother and great aunt, to Russell Korman to have them cleaned, checked to make sure the settings were secure, and sized for my daughter - who loves to wear them when she has a party to attend, or goes out for a fancy evening.

Peggy Li smoky topaz pendant
Topaz, November's second birthstone, is a silicate crystal that also occurs in a variety of colors.  Pure topaz is clear, but it is found in a range of hues including pinks, reds, browns and blues.  The variations in color result from mineral impurities in the crystal formation. Smoky topaz and blue topaz are two of the most popular colors for jewelry.  Natural smoky topaz is abundant, however, blue topaz is much more rare, and is often achieved by heating clear or very light blue stones to get a darker color.  The color enhancements are stable and result in a bright stone at an affordable price.

One of my go to jewelers - Peggy Li - has some beautiful topaz pieces, including this large smoky topaz I gave my mother in law as a birthday gift several years ago.  Her bubble necklace - which comes in both topaz and citrine - would make a wonderful November birthday gift.

For lots of other gift ideas, visit my November birthstones Pinterest page, with lots wonderful pieces from some of my favorite jewelers and jewelry sites.

As winter approaches, and the days grow shorter, I hope you have the warmth of friends and family around and lots of cause for celebration.

Until next time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

01.03.05 Jewelry of the Day

Update:  this was my very first post - and I've come a long way in almost 11 months.  Check out #todaysearrings on Instagram to see what I'm wearing now.

I have a lot of jewelry -  and sometimes I get stuck in a rut, wearing the same (favorite) pieces over and over.  One of the ways I've tried to vary what I wear is by posting photos - it gives me an incentive to pull out something different, if not every day, at least a few times a week.

Posting also gives me an opportunity to share some of my favorite jewelry shops and designers with you - especially since several of them have been instrumental in getting me to start this blog.

So, watch this space.

Monday, October 19, 2015

10.19.15 Motor City

1968 Ford Galaxie 500 Sedan
Photo credit:
Growing up - we were a Ford family.  The first family car I really remember was a big, blue Galaxie 500 sedan.  My brother and I used to fight in the back seat, so my mother took a roll of mastic tape and put a strip down the middle - giving each of us "our side".  Looking back, it seems pretty amazing, because that car was - as my husband calls it, a "land yacht" - and we both had way more room than any two kids today.

1970 Ford Torino Wagon
Photo credit: Jeff Cooper
The Galaxie turned out to be a lemon and spent way too much time in the shop, so in 1970 my parents replaced it with another Ford - this one a white Gran Torino station wagon.  My mother always referred to it "Moby Dick" because it was indeed, white and huge.  The wagon fared much better - it was the car I drove in high school - until 1979 when it was rear ended and the country had gas rationing.  Then we became (and remain) a Honda family.

1967 Camaro
Photo credit: Barrett-Jackson cars
My husband comes from a Chevy family.  He grew up driving his dad's 1967 Camaro.  He loved that car - and to this day he mourns its untimely demise. When we were first dating he was appalled to learn that I couldn't tell the difference between a Camaro (a working man's sports car) and Chevy's high end model, the Corvette.  Whenever we were out and about and he saw either car, he would ask "Camaro or Corvette?"  It wasn't a deal breaker for our relationship, like the Baltimore Colts quiz in the movie Diner, but it was clearly important that I be able to tell one model from another.  Eventually, I figured it out.
1968 Corvette
Photo credit: Barrett-Jackson cars

Fast forward to jewelry making...I recently wrote about my new interest in cabochons because I'll be using them when I take my four week fabrication class.  As I was reading and learning about them, I came across references to a stone called "Fordite", which is not really a stone at all, but does make spectacular jewelry.

Uncut Fordite from
ScaleSolutions on etsy
"Fordite", also called "Motor Agate" or "Detroit Agate" is old automobile paint which has been baked and hardened over time.   It was formed from the built up of layers of enamel paint slag on tracks and skids on which cars were once hand spray-painted.

Fordite Heart from

While it is called "Ford"-ite, it comes from all kinds of automobile plants, including the Corvette lines, which produce some amazing stones with red layers. Inventive collectors began taking the "raw" material and cutting and polishing it into "stones" for jewelry.  With new painting processes in place, there is no new "Fordite" being created, but it is still available for purchase.

Fordite ring
Photo credit: Beth Wilson
Raw Fordite looks a lot like a block of uncut stone, and finished cabochons bring to mind agate, or millefiore glass - with vibrant colors and intricate patterns. In addition to looking at loose cabs, I've pinned pictures of a lot of finished pieces to my inspiration board.  I love this piece, made by my friend and jeweler, Beth Wilson - and it appears she does too, because the photo caption says "Fordite ring...this one won't make it to the shop".

After looking at lots of options, I chose this piece, from Magic Stones on etsy, because it has so many different colors. I'm thinking it will make a lovely bezel set pendant.

I'll be posting updates from the course on Instagram, and by late November I hope to have a finished piece to share (well, in pictures anyway - like Beth, I plan on keeping this one).

Until next time.

Monday, October 12, 2015

10.12.15 Hook 'Em!

If you don't live in Texas (or Oklahoma), you might have thought that this long holiday weekend was about a plundering Spanish explorer who landed on the shores of North America thinking he had made it to India, and you would be...WRONG.  
This weekend was about football, pride and bragging rights.  Yep, this past weekend was "Texas-OU", or as we call it in these parts, the Red River Showdown.

The two teams have met 110 times since their first face off on October 10, 1900, always in Dallas which is located halfway between Austin and  OU's home in Norman, OK.  Since 1932, the game has been played at the Cotton Bowl on the Texas State Fair grounds.

Going into Saturday's game, Texas (2-4) was a 17 point underdog to #10 Oklahoma (4-1).  I think it's safe to say no one really expected the Longhorns to win this one - but win they did!  Not only did they silence the haters, now even if it's not a winning season - it will by definition be a good one, because the Golden Stetson and all associated bragging rights (it's shiny, and kinda like jewelry) comes back to Austin for another year (and Oklahoma dropped from #10 to #19 in the FBS ranking).

We Texans are a proud people, and we like to wear our pride on our sleeves, our heads and our ears.  My mother loved being a Texan - even when she was living on the east coast - she identified with the Lone Star State and pined for it in her absence.  She was so happy to be back when she and my dad moved to Dallas in 1990.  In the five years they were here before returning to DC, we saw more than one Texas-OU game (but not all of them ended as well as yesterday's).

With that on my mind, I thought I'd write about some of her Texas treasures. I've written a lot about my mother's jewelry - yes, she had diamond earringselegant hoops and several James Avery pieces that were definitely fine jewelry, but she had "fun" jewelry, too.  That's not so surprising - while she was frighteningly smart and could be a very serious person, she also had a wicked sense of humor and loved to have a good time.  So, when she didn't have to look professional, she donned her more whimsical baubles. 

She had two favorite pairs, and she brought them whenever she and my dad would come to Austin for a visit.  I don't remember where, but I found the pair of armadillos before they moved to Dallas and sent them to her.  She loved them - and whenever people asked, she was more than happy to talk about Texas - nice people, good food, and no, not everyone rides a horse or has an oil well.  I don't know where she found the Texas shaped ones with the stone bluebonnets, but I know why she choose them - she loved Texas wildflowers, and always tried to come to Austin in the spring to see them.

I've been thinking about my dad this weekend, too, as today would have been his 80th birthday.  I miss them both terribly - but am grateful for my wonderful childhood, their constant support, and the amazing example they set for me as parents and in their marriage. When I picture them in my mind, it is in moments like this one - from 1998 - when we were all in Texas, happy, healthy and together (if you look closely, you can see that Mom is wearing the armadillo earrings).

As I mentioned in my last post, we have entered into the period of non-stop celebrations that lasts until after the new year - including some other very special birthdays this of my college roommates and BFF (hers was Sunday), my brother and my nephew today (you read that right - my father, my brother and my nephew were all born on the same day), and my brother in law - with whom we'll celebrate next weekend.

I love all my shiny things, I really do - but it is the stories that go with them, and the memories they hold - not the precious stones or metals that make them so special.

Until next time.

Monday, October 5, 2015

10.05.15 O is for October...

Opals in the Gem Room at the Smithsonian
...and opals and overdrive.

Around our house, mid-October marks the beginning of a multi-month frenzy of birthdays, anniversaries and holidays that leaves me winded just thinking about it - thank goodness the summer heat is showing signs of abating. By the time the mayhem subsides, we'll be a couple of weeks into 2016.

Since birthdays are a big part of all that craziness, I'm starting this month with a post about October's birthstones - opal and tourmaline.

Photo Credit: Able Ground
I find opals fascinating - they are unlike any other gem I can think of, in that they are composed of stacks of silica spheres, as opposed to most minerals which have a linear crystal structure. Opals are very soft - around a 6.0 on the Mohs scale (a diamond is a 10) - which makes them delicate, and better in earrings or pendants than rings, just because of wear and tear.

Most of the world's opals come from Australia, and another jewelry loving friend recently told me that there is an Aboriginal legend about their origin. There are variations on the story, but they all involve a rainbow being sent to the earth as a message of peace - certainly something we can all use in these tumultuous times.

In some versions, the opals were formed where the rainbow touched the ground, in others it is where the creator stepped. The details of the legend may vary, but is clear why the Aborigines believed these gems were the embodiment of a rainbow - the finest ones contain every color.

Most opals are cut as cabochons rather than faceted - in part because of their softness - and because they are somewhat opaque faceting doesn't add as much as it does to a clear stone.  I have couple of pair of opal earrings that I love - both with cabochon stones.  The filigree pair was given to me by my colleagues when I left my state job and went into consulting (to the dark side, as some of them said) almost 20 years ago, and the other is a pair that I bought in Marblehead, MA as a souvenir when I attended my cousin's wedding.  

October's other birthstone is the tourmaline - and like opal  it is a
silicate, and comes in a rainbow of colors - but it has a more typical gemstone crystalline structure.   My favorite tourmalines are the "watermelon" ones, so named because of their combined pink and green colors.

This pair of watermelon baguettes is one of my go-to choices in the summer - just wearing them makes me happy.

So, if you know an October baby, and you want to get them some "pumpkin spice" - hop on over to my October birthstone Pinterest board and look for something shiny!
Tourmalines in the Gem Room at the Smithsonian

Until next time.