First Dibs….Fresh Vintage & Antique Jewelry…Every Week

Here’s an inside look at some of the exciting new baubles at Hunter Ridge Jewelry. Just click on any picture to go right to the store.

June 13, 2014

 

Sterling Silver Taxco Cuff Bracelet

 

This heavy sterling silver cuff was crafted in the studio of world renowned Taxco Artisan – Margot Van Voorhies. Her studio, “Margot de Taxco”, produced some of the most important Taxco silver jewelry of the last century. We are pleased to offer this masterpiece to our loyal customers. It hails from a collection that included pieces by Spratling, Aguilar, Pineda and other Taxco master silversmiths. In the coming weeks, we will be posting the remainder of the collection in our store. This particular bracelet features a classic Mexican swirl pattern that is interrupted by a plain flat bar of silver. The “modern meets classic” juxtaposition makes for a real show stopper.

 

Sapphire Ring

 

There is no blue like “sapphire blue” and this classicaly designed cluster ring takes full advantage of that fact. Over a dozen full cut natural blue sapphires are web-set in a solid sterling silver 14K-gold-finished ring. The use of silver as the base metal helps keep this stunning natural gemstone ring in the most affordable of price ranges. Its bold styling and size dress up the hand in a way that say’s “I’m all that”.

 

 

Gemstone Lavaliere Necklace in Solid Sterling Silver

Gemstone Lavaliere Necklace in Solid Sterling Silver

This stunning lavaliere necklace is crafted from solid sterling silver and features a mix of amethyst, citrine, garnet and iolite. Fit for a princess, it has enough color to go with pretty much outfit. Perfect for a low cut summer get up.

 

Vargas Sterling Silver and Gold Accent Vintage Panel Necklace

Vargas Sterling Silver and Gold Accent Vintage Panel Necklace

Ummm….gorgeous! That about describes this classic choker length necklace. It was expertly manufactured in the late 1940’s by the world-renowned Vargas jewelry company of Providence, Rhode Island. This sure-to-please solid sterling silver beauty features an elaborate rose pattern with light gold accents.

Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver & Coral Dainty Cuff Bracelet

Vintage Navajo Sterling Silver & Coral Dainty Cuff Bracelet

Want to express your tribal flare without wearing a massive cuff? Well here’s the answer – this dainty vintage cuff bracelet is set with a piece of red coral and is flexible enough to be molded around even the daintiest of wrists. It has all the charm of its bigger cousins without any of the carpal tunnel inducing weight. A great addition to your spring ensemble.

Vintage Sterling Silver Asian "Lantern" Earrings

Vintage Sterling Silver Asian “Lantern” Earrings

 

We’re not entirely sure what to make of these….but they’re super cool. They resemble tiny lanterns and have an Asian continent (or sub-continent) look to them that’s irresistible. Dress up your look with these ethno-chic beauties and be the “light” of the party.

 

 

Posted in Musings / News | Leave a comment

How to tell Real Amber vs Fake Amber Jewelry and Everything In Between

This is a home guide for distinguishing real amber from fake amber. We welcome your comments!

The warm glow and smooth feel of natural amber has captivated humanity for thousands of years. This unique gem falls within the class of jewelry materials known as “organics” because it originates from the living world. Like Coral, Pearls, Jet, Ebony and Ivory, it is the byproduct of a living thing and served a unique purpose in the ecosystem long before it was recognized for its aesthetic value by human beings.

Amber Earrings Top

Vintage Sterling Silver & Amber Earrings from our ebay store

Amber is a prized material for jewelry and other accessories. Unfortunately, there are dozens of tricky substitutes for amber that are often mistaken for the real thing. The purpose of this article is to help the casual observer distinguish between fakes and real amber.

Before delving into the specifics, it is important to have an understanding of the nature and origin of natural amber. All amber began as resin oozing from the exterior of an ancient (at least 2 Million years ago) tree (unlike sugar bearing sap, resin originates from the exterior of tree and serves a variety of protective purposes). You can see modern tree resin on most pine trees at points wear a lost limb or other injury caused the tree to exude resin.

The resin from these ancient trees was transported by nature into lakes, swamps and marine environments where it underwent a polymerization process known as “amberization”. The chemical make-up of the resin was actually changed during this process and gives amber the unique qualities that make it suitable for use in jewelry. Amberization, under most conditions, requires at least 2 Million years. If the Amberization process is interrupted before sufficient time has passed, the result is a not fully polymerized material known as Copal.

With that introduction to amber in mind, we can proceed to field observations and analysis that will help distinguish between amber and its substitutes.

There are 4 general things that can be mistaken for Amber: 1) modern plastics / resins; 2) vintage plastics and pre-plastics; 3) glass and silicon based minerals (e.g. Carnelian); and 4) other tree resins. Through basic observation and some limited home-testing, you can confidently distinguish amber from these substitutes. With time and practice, testing becomes less necessary.

Continue reading

Posted in Jewelry Guides | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Synthetic Diamonds – Real, but not Natural, and a Philosophical Dilemma

Humans, in their never-ending effort to understand what makes the universe tick, and replicate mother-nature’s creations, have discovered multiple processes by which to create synthetic diamonds. These man-made stones, which are practically indistinguishable from natural diamonds, have recently shown up mixed with natural stones in some of the world’s foremost diamond mining and jewelry manufacturing centers. In addition to posing a real and substantial threat to the natural diamond industry, the mixing of synthetic stones raises the philosophical question as to whether we, as diamond consumers, should be concerned at all – and if so – why? The answer requires us to look at the unique relationship we’ve developed with nature in the post-industrial and post-tech revolution era.
Continue reading

Posted in Musings / News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Pearls of Fiji -Extreme Beauty

View from Our Hotel

View from Our Hotel

“Bula” (pronounced mboolah) jewelry lovers, aficionados and hobbyists! Bula is Fijian for hello and we’re just back from a South Pacific buying trip that included a brief stop over in the Fijian Islands. Literally traslated, the word “Bula” means LIFE and we haven’t encountered a place more teeming and full of life and natural beauty than Fiji. While in Fiji, we visited the Island of Savusavu. This emerald paradise is home to around 5,000 residents and also the J. Hunter Pearls “Pearl Farm”— established by Fijian Justin Hunter, who returned home to Fiji from the United States in 1999.

Hunter’s Suvasu facility is low water coastal pearl farm located in a pristine Fijian bay. Hunter’s operations is based on the cultivation of “Black Lipped Oysters” (Pinctada margaritifera).

black lipped oyster

These large oysters are easily identified by their size, fringe like growths at the edges and “black lips”.

J. Hunter Pearls is a relatively new player in the “pearl game”. However, the company’s forward thinking, innovations, passion and desire to grow with the community have garnered a great detail of positive attention.

Sign Outside the Farm

Sign Outside the Farm

While visiting the J. Hunter Pearls showroom, we were enchanted by some of the most colorful and spectacular specimens we have ever seen.

We learned that process of producing such pearls requires the perfect oceanic environment and farmers who carefullyPearls in Box monitor and nurture black lip pearl oysters. Further, it involves “grafting” — the delicate process (basically a surgical procedure from our understanding) of inserting a nucleus into the oyster. The “pearl” then forms around the nucleus. When harvested, the pearls can come in an assortment of different colors including: Gold, Copper, Champagne, Pistachio, Cranberry, Chocolate, Blue and Green.

  • Some of the pearls we saw and handled in the showroom even appeared to have hues of turquoise and rose-red. The average size of the pearls at J. Hunter are between 10.5 – 11.0 millimeters. However, some are as large as 18 millimeters. We also learned that being a pearl farmer means being at the mercy of Mother Nature.

In March 2010, Fiji was hit by Cyclone Tomas, and the J. Hunter Pearls farm was devastated. Yet the company continues to rebuild and looks forward to the future. This picture below is the bay where the pearls are actually grown and farmed. J. Hunter works closely with the local community to ensure that their pearl farming operation not only produced gorgeous pearls, but does so in an environmentally sustainable and economically responsible manner. Check in with our  ebay store in coming months where we will be offering some of the pearls we acquired from the J. Hunter. Farm

Posted in Musings / News | Leave a comment

Moonstones in Jewelry: The Timeless Allure of Diffracted Light

Moonstone Bracelet Sterling Silver

Moonstone, Amethyst and Sapphire Bracelet

Visible light diffraction occurs when a traveling light wave meets an obstacle and bends to find an outlet, a common occurrence in many gemstones,  but the defining characteristic of high grade moonstones.  In fact,  the cut, setting, and ultimate value of a moonstone piece is largely dependent on showcasing this effect.

Moonstones consist of two varieties of the mineral, feldspar, fused together and layered.  When light travels between these layers it diffracts producing “schiller,” a bluish luster that is said to mimic lunar light falling on water, hence “moonstone.”

Moonstone Ring

Exceptional Schiller / Moonstone & Sterling Ring

Moonstone naturally occurs in various regions across Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North and South America, and was prized by ancient polytheistic cultures as a manifestation of the power of their lunar gods.  The civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome were particularly fond of the stone, and began to incorporate it into their jewelry, showcasing the beauty of what they believed to be frozen or solidified moonlight.

Today we know better, but the knowledge of this gemstone’s earthly beginnings hasn’t diminished its popularity. In fact, Victorian, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and more recently New Age/Nature and Revival jewelry styles feature moonstones. Regardless of the style, era, or method of manufacture (artisan-made v. machine-made), moonstones are usually cut and set in a fashion that highlights their unique schiller. The most popular of which is the cabochon. This polished rounded cut allows more light to penetrate all those feldspar layers and gives the impression of a flowing blue glow. When moonstones are not the main character in a piece, you’ll often see them in faceted cuts to provide accent to another gemstone, otherwise their hypnotic blue luster might just steal the show!

Moonstone Earrings Sterling Silver

Roman Style Moonstone Earrings

For all their staying power in the hearts and on the fingers of jewelry lovers throughout history, moonstones are rather delicate. They are a relatively soft stone and porous, so care should be taken while wearing, storing, and cleaning. When it comes into contact with a hard surface of even another piece of jewelry, moonstones are quite susceptible to nicks, scratches, and even shatters. Prolonged contact with chemicals and cosmetics can even rob your moonstone of that all important schiller, so be sure to clean it gently with warm water, and keep it apart from other jewelry while not wearing  – lest you incur the wrath of your favorite lunar god!

Visit our ebay store today and find your own piece of captured moonlight.

Posted in Jewelry Guides | Leave a comment

Lapis Lazuli Jewelry

Lapis Lazuli’s exotic blue color works equally well in both gold and silver jewelry. It ranges from a fine ultramarine blue to a light-blue, almost gray, color and hits every point of saturation in between. Like many gemstones, it has been used as an adornment since the dawn of civilization.

Lapis is a metamorphic rock that derives its blue color from its primary component – the mineral Lazurite (though varying amounts of Sodalite also contribute to the blueness of Lapis). It is a semi-precious gemstone that is quite affordable. It is graded based on a traditional Afghani  system (Afghanistan remains the primary source of lapis) with the most brilliant blue inclusion-free stones being afforded the highest grade and the gray-blue calcite-included pieces being afforded the lowest grade.  Some people strongly prefer pyrite included lapis over uniform blue lapis. The best pyrite-included pieces look like a sea of blue with tiny flakes of gold scattered throughout.

Arts_Crafts_Lapis_Sterling_BroochWe regularly offer for sale many pieces of jewelry that feature pyrite as a primary or secondary gemstone.  The Brooch to the left is an excellent antique example of a brooch that heavily the subtle beauty of lapis. The single, large teardrop shaped stone has speckled white and gold inclusions that are remniscent of an artistic depiction of the cosmos. It has an infiniteness to it that charms the eye. The brooch itself is an antique arts and crafts style piece forged from hammered and hand shaped silver. A trombone clasp is attached at the back for added security. 

Lapis can be found in every conceivable type of jewelry and every period from ancient to that which was manufactured this morning. The earrings below are set with lapis cabochons that capture the non-uniformity of this earthy stone. One cabochon exhibits bold pyrite inclusions while the other is nearly inclusion free.

Sterling_Lapis_Earrings_Pyrite

Lapis is used prominently in Native American Jewelry. The shell shaped, hand engraved earrings below are Navajo made and rely on two brilliant blue oval lapis cabochons. Both stones have strong pyrite inclusions that contrast well against the silver background.

fine lapis earrings

We also frequently encounter lesser-grade lapis set in 950 silver. These pieces are almost certainly all of Mexican origin and usually utilize hinged links for bracelets, necklaces and even some earrings. Below is an example of one such piece. You can see that the lapis used ranges in saturation and inclusion. The round cabochon towards the top left has heavy white calcite-inclusions and no pyrite-inclusions. The teardrop shaped cabochon at the center has an abundance of pyrite-inclusions with little white streaking. This is one of the things that makes all natural gemstone jewelry, and particularly lapis, such a joy to wear.

lapis_950_braceletThere are many stones that imitate lapis, but should not be confused with lapis. First among them is sodalite – a less brilliant blue stone which usually occurs in lapis, but is not lapis by itself.  Sodalite is quite a lovely stone, but it should not be marketed as lapis. The large modern pendant below is set with a dark Sodalite cabochon. It lacks the brilliance of lapis but has its own unique beauty.

sodalite

Other stones that frequently mimic lapis include dyed howlite, dyed calcite, imitation “Gilson” lapis and blue glass. All of these stones can be fairly reliably distinguished from real lapis with a simple macroscopic analysis.

A recently more trendy stone in the “lapis world” is pale blue stone termed “Denim Lapis” which can be identified by its sky blue color and blotch inclusions. This stone was always popular in southwestern jewelry and used to be substantially cheaper than regular lapis. However, a rise in popularity has pushed the price of this once inferior grade stone to be competitive with its more traditional cousins. A baby blue variety of Chilean origin has become quite popular in recent years and is often seen on television shopping networks.  The ring below is is an example of a piece that that features a large Chillean denim lapis cabochon.

Denim_Lapis

Posted in Jewelry Guides | Leave a comment

Meet Real Jewelry Artists : LISA ROSSITER – WROX designs – CORVALIS, OREGON

As promised, we’re starting our Meet Real Artists series this week. We were delayed by the robust holiday season, but are now ready to move full steam ahead. The goal of this project is to look at the work and inspiration of active jewelry artists who are not only moving the creative ball forward, but also regularly marketing and selling their own work.

LISA ROSSITER – WROX design – CORVALIS, OREGON

In my mind, Oregon is an American Degobah – a natural, almost primordial wonderland full of contrasts and alarming beauty. Think scarlet red coral mushrooms growing ephemerally from a seabed of fallen pine needles. Think shear white peaks reflected perfectly true in still black lakes. Think my grandfather carving driftwood into turtles and dragon flies and otters and me.

It makes sense to me, then, that Oregon is the homeland of our first Real Artist – Lisa Rossiter of WROX design.  After looking at hundreds of pieces of studio jewelry, with reddening eyes and a touch of cotton mouth, I came across one of Lisa’s cast rings on her blog. Its alien-tech shape stood out like a dandelion on a well-kept lawn. It refused to conform.

Lost Wax Lost Wax2

The chunky 13 gram sterling silver ring is lost wax cast. This is a jewelry production method in which the design is first carved in semi-hard wax. Once finished, the carved wax is placed in wet investment (think plaster) which then cures into a mold. The mold is kiln fired to burn off the wax (“lost wax”) and once flowing red, the molten medium metal (silver, gold, bronze, etc.)  is poured into the negative space left behind (I always thought of it as being kind of like a fossil). After a brief settling, the entire mold is dumped in cold water where the investment sparkles away leaving the newly cast treasure attached firmly to its sprue.

The ring has a Nordic / Alien-Tech look to it that lends a sense of stability to an otherwise more whimsical piece —- Think Liquid Terminator meets Thor. It adds that little thrill to the hand that is sure to draw the attention, and envy, of those who see it. This is a one of a kind — but you can see Lisa’s other rings here.

Wrox

It was shipped in a custom recycled kraft box bearing the WROX logo on the cover. As we say in almost every review, we love the artisan jeweler who takes the time and effort to include a gift box or pouch with items sent by mail. It makes the gift giving process all the more special.

Although the cast ring was the first thing to draw me to Lisa’s work, it was not the first piece we purchased. Initially we opted for a simple pair of Lisa’s “Bubble” earrings. I didn’t expect much from these earrings until they arrived and I put them under the loupe. Anyone who as ever worked with silver would have a keen appreciation for the technical expertise exhibited in the construction of these earrings. The solder points are so invisible that it appears as if the “bubbles” are being held together by magnetic force. Everything is filed smooth and presents masterfully. When an artisan puts this much time and effort into a small pair of affordable earrings – you can expect greatness across the entire range of work.

Earrings2Earrings1We had an opportunity to catch up with Lisa to get some insights into her inspirations, her life and her work. She’s called several places home – Los Angeles – London — New York City (my people!) – San Francisco – and of course, Degobah (Oregon). Lisa is a natural artist but she got her first “formal” training in a metal arts class at San Francisco College. Lisa was gracious enough to answer some of our specific questions:

HR: What jewelers and/or artists have inspired your work?

Lisa:That would be a very long list! Some favorite Jewelers off the top of my head are Roger Rimel, Antonio Pineda, Nina Mann, Luisa Bruni, Art Smith, Elisenda de Haro, Kate Bajic. I am constantly looking at jewelry and art and finding inspiration. I love to work with metal and stone, but my mom’s paintings, my daughter’s paintings, the music I’m listening to, usually modern jazz or something with a fantastic beat from Africa, all spark a fire in me. I also get inspiration from place. Right now I am close to nature and I feel trees and moss and mushrooms for shape and texture, but I also long for the city and sometimes want a lot of crowded angles in my designs.

 HR: As an artist, do you ever have trouble parting with your pieces?

Lisa: Yes! When I first started selling I was so thrilled I didn’t think much about it. But one day about a year ago I sold a necklace I was really attached to. I started thinking about using more personal names after that. I decided that if I named a piece it would have more permanence for me. Like a baby that grows up and moves away, but is still a part of you.

HR: Have you ever worked in any other type of media?

LISA: I’ve tried and still try everything I can. I danced when I was young and I made movies most recently. I write a lot. I take pictures and draw even though I am not adept at either. I spend a lot of time with a 3 year old so it is very freeing to play at whatever medium is at hand and not have to worry about accomplishing anything. I love play-doh. It is a much more coherent design medium than drawing for me. I also make a lot of bread and soup. That is art here in Oregon…..

HR: Is your current collection reflective of past and future work?  Or do your styles change year-to-year or season-to-season?

LISA: I am always changing, growing. That is what being an artist is all about for me. Everything I see influences me and everything I do influences me. I don’t think it’s linear though. I am feeling like making much simpler stuff now, probably partly because I am a busy mom. I am also very calm in my life right now and that shows in my work. Sometimes I am a storm though and that is fun too. Probably in the Spring I will get wild again.

See more of Lisa’s work in her store and on her blog .  We’ve got three more artists lined up so check in shortly for the next installment of this project. 

Posted in Jewelry Reviews | Leave a comment