Welcome to the new blog of the Gem Collector’s Handbook by John and Laura Ramsey, two of the world’s most respected names and industry pioneers in the field of gemstone jewelry.
In this blog you will find a serialization of the Gem Collector’s Handbook by John and Laura Ramsey along with all new photos, new edits, and additional writings.
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BUILDING YOUR JEWELRY WARDROBE
In addition to evaluating your personal sense of style and how it is involved with your personality another issue is your jewelry wardrobe. Undoubtedly you already have a jewelry wardrobe. Of course, those of us who love gems and jewelry always consider the state of our jewelry wardrobe to be incomplete. There is always something new and wonderful just around the corner. However, a certain amount of evaluation here can help in the design process.
A look at one’s lifestyle can be a help in creating a useful jewelry collection. Are you a traveler, a teacher, an art1st a home maker, an opera singer, a lawyer, a policeman, a flight attendant. Each of these lifestyles may require a different jewelry wardrobe. Then too, in addition to our vocation each of us has a certain amount of free time and certain patterns of how we spend that time. Appropriate choices to go with one’s lifestyle can make jewelry more useable and functional. On the other hand we can get back to what we touched on before about making changes in ones life and using jewelry to facilitate those changes. Jewelry can be an incentive for yourself to make a change and an outward statement to others. Maybe there is a particular social event in which you would like to participate but never felt your jewelry wardrobe would stand the test. Perhaps your new jewelry esiJgns can help change that for you. So we have not only the lifestyle you live but the lifestyle you aspire to as considerations.
BEYOND FASHION: A PERSONAL SENSE OF STYLE
In addition to our sense of fashion due to our personality we can get into certain categories that already exist within the jewelry world. Categories that might evoke a sense of recognition are: casual, romantic, classic traditional, ethnic, historical. Whether we are aware of it or not each of us has our own personal sense of style, partly based on our personality, partly based on our sense of esthetics, partly based on our sense of social standing. There are literally thousands of products available to us on a daily basis that can affect our personal style. These products are comprised of many categories, from make-up, apparel, or scents, to jewelry. These products when taken as a whole become a rather full expression of ourselves and are a sign of our own preferred style. While we may belong to a particular social or ethnic group and have in a sense defined our personal style broadly along those lines, each individual has their own very specific style that is their own. The point of this is that when you are designing your own jewelry, in addition to observing outwardly, it is good to look at one’s own style. It is good if possible to look at oneself from a more objective standpoint in order to assess one’s overall look. What is it we’ve been working toward all these years with all the choices we’ve made from all the products we’ve mentioned. Despite all the choices available a person tends to find themselves opting for a few of the available choices. We do this on a regular basis and create a pattern. For instance, buying only a few of the available perfumes and· leaving the other ones alone. In terms of makeup, people find themselves using certain colors and certain products and leaving others alone. The same holds true for clothing. People tend to shop at certain stores and not go into other stores. This even gets specific enough that a person may shop only in certain departments of a given store and not go into the other departments.
Through years and years of experimentation each of us comes to a point of having our own style. So, when it comes to the act of creating, our own designs should somehow reflect the sense of style that we have and with which we are comfortable. On the other hand our designs might want to reflect a sense of style to which we aspire. In either case it makes sense to know enough about ones existing sense of style in order to be consistent with it or to move away from it in a controlled manner. This will he us make creations with which we are satisfied in the long run. Self evaluation with regards to style can help us figure out what it is we like about what we’ve been doing and what we do not like about our past choices.
FASHION AND OUR PERSONALITY
Since jewelry is used for adornment it also becomes a fashion statement. The history of fashion (apparel) is incomplete without a history of jewelry as well. As we go through time jewelry has its own fashion trends. As such the jewelry we choose to wear is as much a statement about ourselves as is the clothing we wear or the car we drive. In a sense there is a whole chain of events beginning with personal adornment and leading on to design. Starting with the notion of personal adornment a person is going to want to make his/her personal adornment consistent with his/her sense of fashion. His/her personal sense of fashion is going to lead to his/her own personal sense of style. When a person has an awareness of their own sense of style their design work will naturally tend to include certain types of designs and leave out others.
ARE YOU BOLD? ARE YOU SHY?
A lot of these elements should be considered together as part of the design process. Our sense of fashion and style helps to define our personality just as our personality helps to define our sense of fashion and style. People can be bold, spirited, shy, feminine. Jewelry can be bold, spirited, shy, feminine — any of the characteristics we would like to assign to personality. Everybody has a sense of style that tells us secrets about their personality. At times we want to communicate these things about ourselves to others through physical, tangible means such as clothing or jewelry. At other times we use our sense of style to change things about our personality. Perhaps if we perceive ourselves to be too shy we might want to communicate a hidden sense of boldness through our personal adornment. Perhaps a person might perceive themselves as being too bold and might want to tone down their projected image through their sense of style.
A SYMBOL OF LOVE
In current times one of the strongest motives for wearing jewelry has to do with sentimental reasons. The durability of jewelry helps us mark and. keep a special moment with us through time. This is especially true of certain times that are considered rites of passage. At special moments in our lives we can expect to receive gifts of jewelry. The most revered current custom is the engagement ring. In this instance a piece of jewelry helps mark the passage from being a single unmarried person to becoming a married person. The gift of a mixture of precious metal and precious stone, which are rare items and expensive items, is a demonstration of the love and esteem of the giver. The durability of the jewelry gift is a symbol of the unending nature of love. Of course there are other times when a gift of jewelry is expected. Almost everybody has a high school ring that marks the graduation from school. And then of course there are the various years during a marriage where a gift of jewelry is considered appropriate. Jewelry then can be considered an integral part of our social fabric.
A PERSONAL REWARD
In addition to sentimental reasons for wearing jewelry that are social to a degree, there are other more personal reasons for wearing jewelry. Amongst other things jewelry can be considered a reward to oneself. At times we need to put into physical, tangible terms the need for a reward for the ongoing battles of everyday life. The precious nature of the materials from which jewelry is made is something we have a craving to make part of our own lives. To own and possess beauty gives us the gratification we may need to do our daily grind–to get up early to take care of the kids, to get up and go to work, to, as Shakespeare so eloquently had Hamlet say “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. Whether the slings and arrows are as outlandish as those put upon Hamlet or simply getting cut off from a parking space at the super-market. Jewelry as a reward is attractive at least In part due to its enduring nature. Of course we have other material rewards for ourselves but many of them either require extensive maintenance, or simply do not last long by their very nature. In contrast, quality jewelry can last a lifetime with minimal maintenance and even become, through bequest, part of an ongoing family tradition. The desire to have something permanent in a world of impermanence and transience is understandable.
WHAT JEWELRY HAS MEANT IN THE PAST-
WHAT JEWELRY MAY MEAN TO YOU
However, before we go too far into the design process itself perhaps we should go into jewelry itself and what jewelry has meant to mankind through the millennia. The passage of time has denied us the opportunity to see the first person who made a piece of jewelry. We cannot go back in time and see that very special moment. Yet we do know from the records of archeology that mankind has been regularly creating jewelry for the past 7,000 years. Now that is a tradition! In the earliest years of jewelry fabncation we are not sure what the motive was for its use. However, there is reason to believe that the use of jewelry as amulets (protection) goes back at least 5,000 years. In the belief systems of those times specific powers were ascribed to specific objects. The idea of an amulet was to obtain the ascribed power by wearing the object.
WHY DO WE WEAR JEWELRY
It is interesting to ponder the reason that we do wear jewelry. If this has been going on for 7,000 years and possibly longer then the use of jewelry must be significant to human beings. An important thing to note about jewelry is that it is something we wear. While not indispensable to our comfort, as is clothing, the use of jewelry has remained in the society of man and shows no sign of becoming less popular–rather the opposite. The fact that we use jewelry to adorn our bodies makes jewelry very personal. While current use of jewelry stems more from esthetic motives rather than from a desire for mystical properties there are a number of very personal motivations for wearing jewelry.
WHAT’S EVERYBODY WEARING
Even before you sit down and attempt to put a design to paper there is a lot you can do to prepare yourself for that moment. The first thing you can do is to become observant about design. You can begin to look at other jewelry designs with a more critical eye. What do you see that you like? What do you see that you do not like? What specifically is it you see that you do and do not like? It is virtually impossible to be out and about in the company of people and not see jewelry. Jewelry is so basic to our society that virtually everybody wears some kind of jewelry. Of course there is the old standby–the mall. Almost everybody goes to shopping centers where you can observe not only the jewelry in the store windows but also the jewelry worn by the mall patrons themselves. So, jewelry is all around us. The opportunity to see what we like and do not like is there.
You can begin to categorize your observations. There are sizes, shapes, colors, textures. Observe if there is movement in the pieces you notice — especially neck wear. See about the balance and proportion of the pieces you observe. During the observing phase you can begin to discern what your general likes and dislikes are.
SOME NOTES ON JEWELRY,
While most of this book is dedicated strictly to gemstones it is obvious that most gemstones will wind up in some form of jewelry. A great number of our customers design their own jewelry from the gems they purchase. Whole books have been dedicated to the topic of jewelry design. However, in this book we .pave only the space of a single chapter in which to discuss the enjoyable enterprise of design. Since we have only the space of a single chapter it is not our intention to go into all the intricacies of jewelry design. Our goal is simply to give you some basic ideas and guidelines so that if the design bug happens to give you a bite you might have a bit of knowledge and the courage to go forth and design some wonderful jewelry. Designing is interesting and fun in a lot of ways in that it is an act of creation. It gives a person the chance to bring into being something which has not previously existed prior to the act of creation. In looking up the dictionary definition of design it is “to invent and bring into being”. Designing can be easy for some. Certain people find the act of creation relatively easy. While there are other people for whom creation is not a realistic alternative. It is our contention that most people fall somewhere in between these two extremes and that in fact more people would be creating more of their own jewelry designs given the opportunity to obtain the materials and to simply believe they are capable.
I THINK I CAN, I KNOW I CAN
One of the big aids in this venture is believing in yourself. We would like to encourage people to believe in their ability to design jewelry. We had an interesting occurrence not too long ago with a customer who had been buying some loose stones from us. She designed a pendant for her daughter. The starting point of the piece was a double triangle cut blue topaz in which she had visualized the sails of a sail boat. With the aid of a goldsmith a design was realized with a gold sail boat and blue topaz sails. It is a very effective design. However, in talking to her after the fact she indicated that despite all the compliments she got for the design work she decided to quit while she was ahead. In your own case even if you decide to design something only one time we believe that once is better than no times. But who knows, you may decide to make jewelry design a new hobby. For many of us design is every bit as much fun as collecting and owning loose gemstones.