Some of the gemstones have funny names……

So what are all these gemstones in Liri’s jewellery? I’ve not heard of most of them…..

……don’t worry, you’re not the only one…..

Like me, you probably own jewellery with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires or rubies. Like me, you probably thought these were the only gemstones around, after all, that’s all we tend to see in our high street jewellers, right? These are the ‘big four’ gemstones and it’s fair to say they’ve dominated jewellery designs for years – pendants, solitaire rings, cluster rings, tennis bracelets – chances are all these designs have been made with these four gemstones only. Yes, they’re beautiful, shiny and valuable, but, as I’ve learnt during my life-long obsession with gems, there’s more to gems than just these, way more, in fact; truth be told, these four don’t even scratch the surface of what our beautiful world can provide us in terms of sparkle and shine. I’m constantly amazed and excited by what is actually out there and am still learning about new gemstones every day; who knew that Tourmaline, Amazonite or Diopside were gems that, if I am honest, can be a lot more beautiful than what we are used to being served?

TV and online shopping to the rescue

I blame the high street for our limited understanding of, and access to gemstones. For years, it was just the big four, with a bit of Amethyst and Garnet thrown in for cheaper designs. Unfortunately, it takes a while to convince people there are other gemstones out there that are actually more beautiful than what we have been used to seeing.

Thankfully, with the change in shopping habits, we’re seeing ‘new’ and exciting gems starting to trickle through (which have coincided with more exciting ‘contemporary’ jewellery designs I might add). People are willing to experiment more and embrace the new. I know people sneer at shopping TV but I actually think they’re leading the way in educating us about the kinds of gems and fabulous jewellery out there. We no longer just shop on the high street and channels like TJC and Jewellery Maker in the UK are leading the way in showcasing what is available to us; check them out, you will be amazed. Ah but are they real gems, they’ve got funny names? I hear you say; yes they are real and and I use them in my pieces. As ever the high street is playing catch up and we’re starting to see jewellery with gems such as Labradorite and Lapis Lazuli in their windows, (did you also know Sapphires came in different shades other than blue? Now you do), but it still has a long way to go before we get to see the variety we deserve.

Boring jewellery designs

I actually started designing jewellery because I was bored by what was available to me on the high street. I was bored of old fashioned designs my granny would wear, bored with the limited number of gemstones around; just plain bored! I knew there was more out there and I wanted to see jewellery that gave me the variety of gemstones and designs I so desperately wanted. I don’t know about you, but jewellery is as important to me as my outfit, sometimes more, as I will often decide on the jewellery first, then the outfit; I had to do something if I was going to get what I needed!

When I first started using stones such as Tanzanite, Lapis Lazuli, Rhodolite Garnet, Aventurine and Apatite, people would say to me I’ve never heard of them. That’s because we’ve been conditioned by the conservatism of high street jewellers, both in terms of their designs and the types of gems they use. We are now living in a different world where the four corners of the earth are at our fingertips; we’re also seeing more independent designers who are not afraid to experiment with everything that is available. We’re also seeing genuine, high-quality gemstones in much more fashionable designs; it is really an exciting time for the jewellery industry and I am proud to be part of it. It has also never been a better to be a jewellery customer – us independent designers have a passion for gems and fashionable designs and we’re working hard to bring them to you.

There are even different gemstone types – cuts, polishes, shapes…….

Not only are we seeing different gemstones, we are also seeing gems in different shapes. For decades, it has been all about the polished loose gemstone, claw set in a solitaire or cluster in 9ct gold. Designs were limited as a result, which was again boring, old fashioned…..all just the same. Luckily we are seeing gemstones in other shapes – cabochons, and my personal favourite, beads. Whereas in the past beads would be plastic, glass or ceramic (they still are in many designs), which were generally of poor quality and used in cheap fashion jewellery. To be seen as ‘quality’ designers would stick to the familiar, which, again, perpetuated a narrow understanding of what we could get for what price and standard.

Now, we are seeing every gemstone in bead form (even diamonds), which for me has transformed jewellery design and customer accessibility to quality. It enables the designer to make fashionable pieces and use high quality materials. As with everything, gemstone beads differ in quality, but it is possible to use the best to make the most contemporary designs. You like the trend for tasselled jewellery? no problem, we can use gemstones, precious metals, leather, suede, which, combined, give you a very high quality, yet fashionable piece; why settle for less?

Choosing the right gemstones

So, with such a huge variety of gemstones available to me, how do I choose which ones to use in my designs to make sure I create contemporary, high quality designs? First and foremost, the quality of the gemstone has to be high; I will use most gemstones, so long as they are at least A+ in standard. There’s no need to use sub-standard stones, not with the ease of accessibility to the best.

I want to make jewellery with as wide a range of colours as possible, but I must admit, I have a bias towards the purples, pinks and aqua colours. Its all about creating a mood within a piece, which can be achieved by either using one type of gemstone in a piece (see the Bolder, Sweet Dreams and Kul collections), or I will group complimentary colours together, purples with pinks, aqua with deep navy (see the Paradise and Regale collections). I find a single gemstone creates a bold statement, whereas grouping complimentary stones together creates a softer, yet equally effective statement, it just depends on your mood and style.

Favourite gemstone

What is my favourite gemstone? I really can’t choose just one, rather I have a few that seem to crop up in most designs – Turquoise, I love this more and more since moving to Mauritius, Rhodolite Garnet – a nice pinky/purply stone, Tanzanite is also a firm favourite when you want a softer blue from a Lapis Lazuli. I find Chalcedony to be perfect for a nice calming piece, and Apatite is also just right for infusing jewellery with a touch of tropical paradise. Peridot is also growing on me, so look out for this vibrant gem in future designs.

So, next time you’re browsing your high street jewellers, look out for the more ‘unusual’ gemstone, and if they don’t stock them, ask why. It is true that customer taste and demand influence stock, but if customers have been led to believe that it is only the big four that’s available to them, how are they going to be able to ask for more gemstone and design variety? Question your jeweller, anyone worth their salt should know what you’re talking about.

So, let’s start to welcome, look out for, and ask for, the ‘not so familiar’ gemstones in their various sizes and cuts. They’ve always been there, its just that only now we’re starting to discover them.

For more information on the gems I use, please read About the Gemstones on my web page.

Take care,

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