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The Australian Opal: Nature’s Eye Candy

White Opal and Pink Tourmaline RingOver the past 15 years, opals have gotten a bad rap. After having a fashion moment during the 1980s, these mysterious stones quickly become synonymous with tacky ’80s jewelry, and were waylaid soon after. This is not the opal’s fault. It is not the opal’s fault that hundreds of bad jewelry designers got together and decided it would only be set in yellow gold. It is not the opal’s fault that they decided the could only be cut into marquis-shaped cabochons and then set into tacky cocktail rings. These crimes do not belong to the stone, only to those who mishandled it.

Opal and Diamond ClusterSo Custom jewelry is here to set the record straight: Opals are Mother Nature’s eye candy. Created to tantalize our eyes and capture our imaginations, these beautiful opaque stones are not only dreamy by themselves, but can be simply swoon-worthy when set in a ring that enhances it’s natural fire.

October’s birthstone, opals are technically a mineraloid, rather than a full fledged mineral. They are comprised mainly of silica with a small percentage of water, and they form slowly over millions of years as layers upon layers of silica deposit uniformly in one spot. Not all opals that are formed will have the “play of light” or “opalescence” that we’ve come to signify with the opal’s name, but those that do can vary drastically in color simply based on where it’s formed and under what climate conditions. Opals can come in many colors, including black and green, and typically display almost every color of the rainbow in their opalescence.

Opal Pendant 2But beyond the science of opals, all I know is that I love them, and I’m loving that they are having a resurgence in popularity right now. As a jewelry designer, I feel like it is my duty to help right the wrongs of jewelry past, so we were thrilled when not one but two clients recently asked us to show opals some love. The first was a pendant we created from a lovely and large Australian opal. The second was an heirloom redesign, where we took stones from multiple family rings and formed them into one gorgeous engagement ring. One set in silver, the the other in yellow gold, you can see with just a bit of a modern touch and the love of a master jeweler, these stones become not only tiny masterpieces, but fashion statements, rather than fashion mistakes.

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Hot off the Bench: Modern Art Nouveau Pendant

Some of you may already know how much we at Custom love the era of Art Nouveau. So we were thrilled when we were commissioned to make a modern Art Nouveau pendant. Our client was referred to us by our friend Phil over at Alternatives Lapidary. Phil had cut an amazing 9 carat shield-shaped Citrine, and our client wanted us to turn it into a one-of-a-kind present for his girlfriend. He knew he wanted something reminiscent of the Art Nouveau time period, but left the ultimate design completely up to us.

Art Nouveau Pendant1The Art Nouveau time period is known for its natural motifs and organic, airy shapes. The trick with this design was to balance the gorgeous — but angular — central stone, with soft detailing that felt whimsical and natural. After a few rounds of designs, we came up with a unique motif that is reminiscent of leafy vines, olive branches, and ultimately a walk in an Italian wood. Cast in sterling silver, we allowed the Citrine to be the center of attention, and accented it with marquis-cut tourmalines and round cut iolites, which play up the lovely golden hue of the center stone. We’re thrilled with the final piece, and I like to imagine the finished necklace is something a Grecian goddess might wear when she communed with the humans on earth.

We couldn’t be prouder to deliver this final product to it’s owner all the way in California, and we’re very happy to hear our client’s girlfriend was thrilled by her truly one-of-a-kind piece.

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Rose Cut Diamonds: Bringing Old Cuts Back

The rose cut is one of the oldest types of diamond cut. Started in the 15th century, and perfected during the early 16th, by today’s modern standards its six to twenty-four triangular facets do very little to cull the deep, scintillating fire, that a modern brilliant-cut stone can provide. And while it was cutting edge technology circa 1590, as technology advanced and we started to understand more about light refraction, diamond cuts focused on getting more brilliance and fire out of each stone, sending the rose cut by the wayside.

Rose Cut Diamond Ring Perspective

Today, the rose cut has fallen out of favor in most of the modern world. India still produces many rose cut diamonds for use in traditional jewelry, but for the most part, these stones are hard to come by. Maybe it’s because the backs of these stones are typically flat. Maybe it’s because you lose so much of the stone in cutting. Whatever the practical reason, though, I can’t understand it, because I’m obsessed with rose cut diamonds.

Rose Cut Diamond Ring Side1 You can call me a sucker for an underdog, but seeing a rose cut diamond uplifts my spirits in a way that few other stones can. There’s something about the subtlety of its shimmer that sends me into a trance. The way light plays on the top of this stone reminds me of how light dances across the ripples of a pond. And while this stone may not deeply refract light, the cut lends itself to highest levels of reflection during low light. Like a disco ball. Yes, you heard me. A disco ball. And, like a disco ball, the facets on each stone reflect tiny spots of light onto any surface that is near it. Think about it. You can wear a tiny disco ball on your finger. Every room you enter will be a party! Who wouldn’t want that?!

Rose Cut Diamond RingAll I know is that I’m a girl who rocks a rose-cut rock on her left hand, and at Custom we’re all about bringing the rose-cuts back — starting with this amazing engagement ring we created for one lucky lady. This gorgeous, two-tone ring is set with a to-die-for oval rose-cut diamond, as well as three tiny asymmetrical seed pearls. It’s a perfect combination of old and new, modern and ancient, and can hopefully do a small part in shedding some light on these beautiful old cut stones.

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White Gold Mayan Temple Memoriam Ring

Men's Mayan Temple Band

I spent my early twenties as an archaeologist digging up everything from hunting knives and pottery to the remnants of housing structures. After that, I moved on to a corporate job that was cushy but not fulfilling. After seven years, I left my cushy corporate job to devote my life to creating and learning about jewelry. Last month, a project came in to Custom jewelry that reminded me why I took that leap of faith.

Mayan Temple RingA gentleman came in and asked us to re-purpose a ring that had been significant in his life into a white gold band he could wear as a daily reminder of his past. His main request: let the band look like a Mayan temple. From my anthropological schooling, I knew that while much about the Mayan religion is still unknown, at its core, the Mayans believed that our existence was comprised of rotating cycles of creation and destruction that infinitely loop across time. A beautiful concept, and a heavy significance for a ring.

During my archaeological tenure, I saw firsthand the important roles objects play in our daily lives. Knives to hunt and chop with. Pottery to store and cook. Housing to shelter us and keep the fire going. Even in our most primitive states, our lives were filled with practical objects made for practical reasons. When I dug up my first small pile of necklace beads, I pondered their utter impracticality. They didn’t provide food, warmth, or shelter, and they weren’t created to protect us from the elements. They were absolutely insignificant in a practical world. Yet we still made them, wore them, and passed them down from generation to generation.

It was in that moment I realized how deeply significant adornments are. While they may serve little practical purpose in our daily lives, each piece can be incredibly meaningful and very personal, helping to create our individual human narratives. Jewelry reminds us where we come from, who we are, and who we want to be. We share it to profess our love or commemorate life-changing events. And the most significant pieces we pass down between generations or wear daily to remind us who we are and, in a lot of cases, who we’ve loved.

White gold mayan temple bandA jeweler is really a scribe of the human condition. A purveyor of impractical artifacts that become precious and meaningful only by the significance we place on them. Metallurgy, like the Mayan religion, is an infinite cycle of destruction and creation, using fire to change someone’s past into their present. And with each new piece a jeweler casts we potentially create a new piece of the human narrative.

White gold mayan temple bandAs with this white gold Mayan temple ring, I too had to de-construct my past in order to move into my future. The ring’s owner sacrificed an important artifact in order create something for his present, and in doing so, married his two identities. And one day, his new ring may be passed down to a future generation to be re-purposed again, continuing the cycle of destruction and creation that moves our lives along through time.


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Hot off the Bench: Skull Engagement Ring


Skull-engagement-ringHappy Halloween, Everyone! I can’t imagine a better way to say goodbye to October than with this awesome skull engagement ring. A few weeks ago Custom Jewelry was asked to create the most perfect October engagement ring ever, and I’m thrilled that we were able to complete it before the month’s end. Our customer wanted white gold, diamonds, and skulls. Skulls aren’t a request we get everyday, so we took notice. The symbol was special to him and his soon to be bride, and he wanted us to incorporate it into the ring in a subtle way. Never ones to shy away from the unique or interesting, we got to work, and I have to say I’m thrilled with the results.

Skull-three-stone-engagement-ringThis ring features 3 diamonds, two from heirloom family rings, and a third, new one picked by the groom for his bride. To ensure the ring didn’t look too traditional, the diamonds were set as an organic cluster, rather than in a traditional three stone line. The diamonds were then accented with two realistic, but tiny skulls peeking out from underneath them. Deciding the stones and skulls speak for themselves, the ring was finished with a simple white gold euro-style shank to balance out the ring’s top weight. I have to admit, I’m in love with this ring, and haven’t been able to get enough of the teeny, tiny skulls. Custom Jewelry was thrilled to be a part of a ring so original, so outrageous, and so truly gorgeous on the hand.



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Hot off the Bench: Diamond & White Gold Teardrop Necklace


Occasionally I’ll see a piece of jewelry and become completely head-over-heels obsessed with it. All too often, it’s a piece of jewelry I have access to on a daily basis, and then it becomes a non-stop struggle not to spend everything I earn at our own store. This 2.4 ct (tw) diamond and white gold teardrop pendant is one such item. This is a Custom designed piece and holds approximately 30 diamonds of varying sizes, cascading from smallest to largest from top to bottom. Set in 14k white gold, it has a subtle but intense shimmer. This is a piece I see and get fuzzy headed over. It’s a piece I try on daily. It’s a piece that looks wonderful in its own beautiful simplicity, and it’s currently for sale in the shop. So stop by and check it out, and give me a chance to pull it out and swoon.