Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter! Speaking of Eggs....

It is my understanding that in Imperial Russia, Easter is the most important of the holy festivals, and just like today, it was traditional to exchange eggs to commemorate the resurrection. 

I've always been fascinated with Faberge's eggs, they are after all masterpieces made of the finest and rarest of all materials by Master Goldsmiths, Stone Setters, Enamalists, Engravers and Micro-Mechanical Engineers.  The craftsmen kept each egg a secret and each of Faberge's eggs took over a year to make.

This particular example, commissioned by Tsar Nicholas II for Empress Marie Feodorovna, is dated April 5th, 1898.  The egg sits atop four legs of hand engraved green gold that seem to sprout like Spring's first crocus.  The egg is a delicate translucent pink guilloche enamel (a process where the metal is engraved under the enamel creating a pattern) over gold, with green enamel leaves and lillies of the valley made of Diamonds and Pearls, (the Pearls are natural of course) topped with a pave Diamond crown capped with a cabochon cut Ruby, or the cherry on top, of this gorgeous masterpiece!

Every egg contained "a surprise" and in this case, three tiny portraits, The Tsar and first two children, Olga and Tatiana.  When a Pearl button on the side is turned, the portraits grow out of the egg, and when the Pearl is turned the other way, they retract once again, keeping the egg's miniature secret.

It is in this spirit that we hide eggs, plan their little surprises, or simply endure Easter egg hunts, even after we are "too old."  For myself,  Easter is a time of rebirth! It is a great time to celebrate family, or maybe get outside with a wonderful friend like I did today, (thanks Sally:) to enjoy early Spring in Chicago and those first crocus popping out of the ground.

On a side note, next time you find yourself at an antique store, show or garage sale, you may want to conduct a little Easter egg hunt of your own... 50 Faberge eggs were made, 8 are missing.

Want more info on Faberge?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Lisa, How do I clean my Jewelry at home?"

So, a few weeks back I was at The Ritz Carlton here in Chicago for an event called "An Evening of Bridal Luxury" put on by CS Magazine.  My dear friends Kristin and Adam are getting married this Summer up in my hometown of Milwaukee, and as a 15x bridesmaid, I decided it was my duty to drag Kristin to at least one Bridal show.  Since the Ritz is right in my hood, and she loves an excuse to visit Chicago, I figured it would be relatively painless!  I'm in it for the cake, although, come to think of it, there wasn't any:(

Anyhoo, We had a great time scoping out Chicago fashion and, of course, the Jewelry!  However, one thing in particular really caught our attention... There were a lot of dirty engagement rings in that room!

Over the years, many people have asked me "What do you think of my ring?"  and 9 out of 10 times, I think "Ummm, you need to clean that."

I realize that it's not always realistic to go into your Jeweler every week to have your jewelry professionally cleaned (nor do they necessarily have time for you to) so here are a few at home tips to keep your bling, blinging!

1.  Clean your Diamond rings at least once a week if you wear them all the time.

2.  The best place to clean your Jewelry is the kitchen, near, but not next to, the sink.

3.  Generally speaking, the bathroom is NOT a good place to clean your jewelry.  Just trust me on this.  If I had a dollar for every time a customer told me they lost something down the drain, or dropped and broke something on a tile floor, well, I'd have a nice new piece of Jewelry!

4.  Grab a towel, small bowl or 2, old soft bristle toothbrush, and some dish soap.


6.  Soak your Diamonds in hot water with a little dish soap for about 10 minutes, longer if they are really dirty.

7.  Over the towel, scrub the diamonds gently with the toothbrush, getting underneath them as well.

8.  Rinse in hot water, preferably in another bowl or in sink (with plugged drain.)

9.  Dry gently with towel.

There you go, you are sparkly again! I recommend once a week, because Diamonds attract dust and dirt and oils.  This is for diamond rings, earrings, and even necklaces, I will get to other gems later, because these instructions don't apply to all jewelry.

Feed back is greatly appreciated, what do you think?  Any other questions?

What would you like to hear about next?  Spring Jewelry Fashion or more cleaning tips?

I hope everyone is having a great week!  ~Lisa

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

“Lisa, my friend is looking at Sapphires and I just wanted to make sure he isn’t getting hosed…”

The main reason I started this blog was to provide some honesty and transparency to the Jewelry industry, and this is a great example of why.  The above is what my hairstylist texted me this week.  My first question was, “Where is he looking?”  My Hairstylist, “I have a hook-up, a wholesaler.”

Ok, In the Jewelry industry, we get this all the time, whether it be diamonds (we’ll discuss this later) or gemstones.  So here is how it works, and a few gemstone buying tips as well. 

First, there is no such thing as a “wholesaler” when selling to the final customer.  Unless your Sister or Brother owns their own Sapphire mine, and, or company, that sells a large quantity of loose stones to other stores and designers, they are not a wholesaler.  Even if they do not have a retail store, this does not qualify them as a wholesaler. 

A reputable Gemstone wholesaler will, generally speaking, look something like this: They will typically source and often times have cut, their own (in this case) Sapphires.  They will specialize in them and sell to Jewelry Stores and Jewelry Designers.  They will typically, and should be, a member of The American Gem Trade Association, or AGTA.  They will travel to, exhibit and sell at, the major Jewelry shows nationally and internationally, like The AGTA Gem Fair in Tucson, AZ.  These shows are industry only, security is tight, and one has to be fully credentialed and registered to go. 

Questions yet?  Ok, back to our customer… 

After explaining how this all works, my hairstylist says, “This is why once he is given a quote I want your professional opinion so he doesn’t get hosed.”

This brings up several other issues, first of all and most importantly, TRUST YOUR JEWELER!!!  Would you go to a doctor you didn’t trust?  If you don’t trust your jeweler, and in this case, clearly the individual has questions and is contacting someone(me) they do trust, then don’t shop with them.  Conversely, I’m a Graduate Gemologist with 16 years of extensive experience, and if a client doesn’t trust me, then I would prefer they shop elsewhere. 

Next, quoting a price on a Sapphire is like quoting a price on a house in Chicago, there are simply too many variables!  The client is coming in on Monday so we can discuss this in person and hopefully they will feel educated and confident to make an informed purchase when I bring in stones for them to look at.

 When purchasing a Sapphire, or other important Gemstone, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1.        Trust your Jeweler

2.        They should be a Graduate Gemologist or have extensive experience and some gemological training.

3.       They should be able to clearly explain the quality factors when it comes to Sapphires, color itself being, by far, the most important!

4.       They should be able to understand and explain treatments, and most of them are, commonly used for Sapphires.

5.       They should be able to explain how colored stones are cut as opposed to diamonds.

6.       They should be able to explain how the quality factors of a Sapphire affect the rarity of the stone and hence the price.  Remember, small differences in rarity can greatly affect the price!

7.       They should know, and share with you, where Sapphires come from.

8.       They should have, or bring in, a small handful of stones, for you to choose from, while working with your budget.

9.       When looking at stones, after understanding their rarity characteristics pick your favorite!  Gemstones, like anything in nature, are like snowflakes.  Everyone is an individual, and different stones speak to different people.

10.   Have fun, these are nature’s treasures, and you just got a window into their world!

This was a big subject for blog #2!  What do you think?  Would you feel confident to purchase a Sapphire?


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Here we go, or, something I should’ve done a while ago….

             You know that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Ah ha, I should do this…!”  And then the thought disappears almost as quickly as it came about, until about 6 mos later and the same thought occurs?  Well, I’ve had that very same reoccurring thought, in this case, “I should start a blog,” for the better part of three years. 

We of course all get “suggestions” of things that we should do, from those that we love, Mother’s, Sister’s, and Friends etc.  My extremely well-meaning Mother says; “Lisa, you should learn to string Pearls.”  Although this is an important skill, it’s not going to enhance my career or add deep meaning to my life at this point, maybe later.  When my friend Sally said; “Lisa, you should start a Blog,” it was the the affirmation that I needed!  So, here I go!  Thank You Ms. SallyJ

For those that know me, I am not an incredibly tech savvy individual, I even had to have my antique computer refurbished just to get this Blog going! (Thanks GeekSquad.)  That being said, I’ve bought the books and done my homework, although I’m still a little overwhelmed, I’ve started my Blog!

I’m not sure where this will lead, and that is the beauty of it!  Life is full of wonderful surprises!  Make no mistake, I hope this Blog to be the go-to Jewelry Blog for Jewelry Fanatics, Jewelry Junkies (like myself ;) Industry Professionals, Insiders and fellow Fashionistas alike!  I also vehemently welcome positive as well as negative feedback, suggestions, and most importantly, I want questions!  So send them in, or leave them in comments, and most importantly, tell your fabulous friends to follow Lisa the Jeweler!