Behind the Curtain and Inspiration
Showpiece; a jewelry piece created to enter into a show or competition. It is not commissioned by a customer or to fill the jewelry case. It is a jewelry creation that may take many hours to complete. A showpiece should challenge your jewelry skills at every level… without a concern about it selling.
It is so rewarding to create a piece by hand as it slowly progresses to that final polish.
I want to share with you that same experience of watching a “showpiece” evolve. Each time I work on it I will photograph the various elements and give a brief description of the process.
Of course, it will be difficult to capture the long hours and all of the technical aspects with a simple snapshot but I am open to questions as it develops.
I hope you enjoy looking “behind the curtain”.
I have a sizable collection of gemstones and although I am always acquiring new and interesting stones many I purchased years ago.
When I see a particular gem it speaks to me. Perhaps it’s the shape or pattern or just the pure brilliance. I can envision it’s potential in my jewelry designs and style.
I have to have it.
It is a useful addiction that my wife has teased me about and half concerned as the gem inventory grows. However I need to add and over the years the craving has worn off on her. She now encourages me or picks out a gem, not for herself, but for me to work with. I am now saying, “but I have so many stones already.”
Anyway, as I often do, I was looking through my trays of gemstones. There it is again… the familiar free-form shaped “ammolite”. I pull the glass gem box from the tray and flip it over. I bought it back in 1995. As always I am again intrigued with its beauty, it’s vibrant colors and pattern. Why has it taken so long to work with this? It is long overdue to be seen and enjoyed.
The next tray I move I see another gem that has always been there… for decades! A round brilliant cut Mexican Fire Opal. Immediately I know the color compliments the ammolite gem in my hand.
I cannot answer why I never saw this connection before but I am excited about the discovery.
A brief gemology description to better appreciate the gems:
Ammolite is formed from the fossilized shells of ancient sea creatures called ammonites. Seventy million years of tectonic pressure, heat, and mineralization resulted in the formation of an iridescent ammolite layer in the fossil. Although ammonite fossils can be found around the world, ammolite has only been found in one place, the Bearpaw geological formation in southern Alberta, Canada, making it one of the rarest gemstones.
The quality of ammolite is based on a combination of brilliance and diversity of color in the stone. The highest quality ammolite is very brilliant with every spectral color present. Particularly prized are ammonite fossils covered with ammolite. For hundreds of years, the Blackfoot tribe considered the gem a gift from the gods, possessing supernatural properties.
Natural ammolite is relatively soft, with a hardness of 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs Scale. However, many stones are capped with synthetic spinel, which provides protection. Since ammolite is a relatively delicate gemstone, it should be removed before strenuous activities. To clean, wipe with a soft damp cloth.
Mexican Fire Opal is a term used to describe a type of opal. It is typically a rich yellow or red and is found in many parts of the world. However the most valuable material is often found in Mexico and this term describes the best quality. It has the same characteristics of Opal: a silica structure with up to 20% water and a relatively soft gem, 5 to 6.5 on the Moh’s Scale.
And that’s all it takes. I have my inspiration and designs are flowing through my head. I know the piece of jewelry I create will contain both of these gems. Now the question is, “What shall I create?”