Emerald Aisle

July 30, 2012

On to my 31st blog post. I’ll just pat myself on the back for reaching this small milestone. My last blog post wasn’t up-to-par according to my father, the godfather of the gem cutting and inlay lapidary world. Touché dad, you were right. I blame writers block. Hopefully this post makes up for the last blog I put up. Let’s dive right into it then, shall we?

So I get this job where we had some non standard cut baguette emeralds that were sitting in a channel set setting on one side. On the other side of this ring, we had some baguette diamonds also sitting in a channel set. The ring had a large emerald cut diamond and a large emerald cut emerald acting as the two center stones for this old school accessory (probably dating back 50-70 years to my estimation). Before I continue, ‘non standard cut’ stones means that you wouldn’t find this style at your regular gem dealer. Standard cuts usually follow manufacturing guide lines based on increments of size change. I.E. 4x2mm, 5x3mm, 6x4mm, etc… That’s the easiest way to explain it for people not familiar with industry terminology. So for something like the size I need to cut down to, at 4.2×2.2mm, I’d need to find a stone close to that size. It’s always economical for me to find something that is as close as possible in size and weight.  Every gem stone has some sort of market value set and and you multiply it  towards the weight and you get the total worth of the stone itself.

With this particular job, the emeralds in the channel set were damaged from years of wear and tear, and the outside walls of the channel needed some laser soldering. Plus, to finish off the ring a nice high polish. You may be wondering where are all the pictures? (coming up below). I wasn’t planning on making a blog on a standard job like this but what unfolded, became a nightmare.

Before I hammered out all the emeralds to break them to start my process of cutting new emeralds for my setter to set into this ring, I took it to my jeweler to fill in the walls by laser soldering the area. While applying the gold solder onto the outside side wall, my guy calls me in to see what’s going on.  We were all baffled with the current situation we were facing – the metal started to crack and flake.. I did a little research and it turned out this ring was nickel plated. So here’s my educated guess on what was done to this ring (I might be wrong but it makes perfect sense). The ring was originally 18karat white gold and whoever owned this ring decided to nickel plate the piece. Why would you do that? My guess is that when you nickel plate something, it produces a crazy shine that sterling silver gives off and it’s way cheaper versus plating something in gold and silver. Nickel plating consists of copper, nickel and zinc properties. Economically speaking, it sort of makes sense. My customer didn’t know it was nickel plated and nor did I. This is where I started to think this job was ‘blog’ worthy.

Notice the indentation on the wall? That’s where I’m supposed to fill it in with the laser solder process.

You can sort of tell some of the emeralds are damaged from the image but take my word on it, they were all either chipped, cracked or damaged in some sort of way. You can even see on top of the wall of the channel there is a bit of damage as well.

What we decided to do is rebuild the whole channel from scratch, lap off all the nickel plating, and build a new support system and new channel for the new emerald baguettes. If you take a look, the large emerald cut emerald center stone was removed to avoid damage that heat and any stress would cause the stone. Emeralds are very fragile and few brave setters dare take on such a task of setting these stones. They’re loaded with tons of natural inclusions you can visibly see and not see so you have to be careful setting them or they will break on you.

The walls are slightly higher then the rest of the ring because it gives the diamond setter more flexibility while setting and it would be eventually leveled out and made flush with the rest of the ring.

So we started to set the baguette emeralds into the channel. In situations like these, it’s always great to have your setter close by when working on jobs which require each stone to have a special measurement in order to accent the limited space you have to work with. The setter would tell me ‘trim the stone from this angle a little bit’ and we’d go from there.

I’ll let you marvel a little so I can stop rambling.

This monster of a ring turned out just fine. It’s like I restored an old car back to life with some modern touches. The customer was extremely happy with the results, after some unexpected hiccups on my end, but it was well worth the trouble. The owner of this ring should be proud sporting such a classic on their finger.

So this is where I want to plug myself via my Instagram page to expand my viewership . If you have instagram, look me up at ‘CJD_Sako‘ or click on this link here, http://followgram.me/cjd_sako/ which should take you to my profile. I’m not sure you can follow someone via a home computer but from what I read, followmegram.me allows you add a user without a phone. For my next blog, I’ll be doing a unique Instagram special on all the jewelry items I’ve posted on the site. Some of the filters really make my work look like something out of Vanity magazine. Anyway, if you have any questions, comments or concerns or even suggestions on what you’d like me to chat about, let me know, leave a comment on this blog or email me at sako@cicadajewelrydesign.com. I can help you out with all your needs.

Till next time…

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Keepin’ Busy

July 10, 2012

This is by far the biggest lag I’ve had between blogs. I promise to put them out more regularly. Hope you all had a good and safe 4th of July everyone. I’m just going to start this edition of my blog with some of the stuff I’ve been fiddling with in my shop. So let’s get straight to it then, shall we? So I’ve been cutting some onyx into these earrings for a designer that I shouldn’t really mention on my blog (the photo is my only hint to who it is.).

The onyx sits into the channel with a slight angle. In order for the onyx to sit into the slot, I was forced to slide it in from the side rather from the top – the normal side when it comes to inlay lapidary . Once the onyx sits into the channel, I start the process of lapping the onyx flush with the piece.

So I got this yellow gold ring that needed some a new enamel applied to the side of the shank. For those who aren’t familiar with enameling, it’s the process of heating powdered glass at temperatures between 1300 to 1500 fahrenheit, which causes the powder to melt, flow, and harden. Color is added with various minerals in the mixing process. I’ll get into more enameling talk some other time.

So basically we need to remove all the old enamel and re-enamel the middle area of this ring with the same colors to match the original colors that were put into this ring.

The red enamel with the blue dotted area showing the detail of the work and the whites in the hands was just half the work that was needed. My customer needed blue enamel filled where the writing wraps around the top of the ring.

The ring came out great and the enamel gives it that pop which brings out all the details that are on top of this ring. Apparently, this is ring has some religious undertones, which seem pretty interesting.

So this customer wanted me to cut some onyx and inlay it into the white gold frame with a dome cut and then add facets on top. (Yes, it’s shaped like a bear). The white tape on top of the onyx is my guide to make life easier until I get my hand tool and put the details into inlaying this onyx shaped bear to fit into the white gold piece.

I received this white gold diamond ring with onyx inlaid around six pieces of princess cut diamonds. This is tough to do and you’re bound to break a few of the onyx pieces when you attempt to inlay it into the ring. On the bottom of this picture, there is the old onyx that was inlaid previously by me about 10 years ago maybe? I’m impressed this ring lasted this long. These are actually old ‘Simon G’ rings that I used to inlay back in the day so It was a surprise to see it come in for repair from a different customer 8-10 years later.

This stunner of a ring with a gorgeous antique look I’ve been working on needs elongated sapphires that I need to cut into each side of the shanks to be set. Should be fun and I’ll keep you posted on that one.

This is my little tray of stuff that’s in process. There is a heart shape pendant that I’ve cut two pieces of crystals with loose diamond bezels that sit in the middle, between the crystals for the pendant. There’s some inlaid rings that need to be lapped flush with a high polish finish. A Black star sapphire that needs a nice polish to get that star shining in the middle. And an emerald and diamond ring that I’ve been working on. I rebuilt the channel holding the emeralds and supplied new emeralds and set them in. I’ll blog about that soon.

This octagon shaped emerald cut emerald is a thing of beauty.

It’s about 11 carats in weight and my customer wanted me to polish the table and crown facets of this emerald. After I polish it, I was asked to oil the emerald to bring out that Colombian color that makes it such an expensive stone to own.

I used some flash in this image to bring out the color on this emerald. An olive green color that collectors go after. If you guys have any questions regarding the jewelry world or the gem cutting and inlay lapidary world, feel free to ask away. This blog is meant to give you a better understanding on the jewelry and gem world and the man hours that are put into works like these. I try to simplify things and avoid sounding like a robot. I want your reading experience to be organic and have you, the reader, know there’s someone real behind these words. Till next time…

Armored Innovation

November 16, 2011

This post was supposed to be up 2 weeks ago but I’ve been lagging it. I don’t buy into the whole notion of saying ‘I don’t have time’, because you can always make time for anything you put your mind to. I either fire my secretary, which I don’t have, or I learn how to schedule myself better. Anyway,  I always love coming up with different cuts that’s not in the norm. They’re usually special cuts to inspire that designer in us all. Shapes that you won’t find in the market because there isn’t a demand for that shape. Well, I was inspired to come up with this new cut that looks like a shield so I named it a shield cut because me being the artist/designer, I have to exercise my artistic freedom.  If you have a vision I can shape your creation so feel free to ask me or send me your requests. Ok, enough selling myself, time for the good stuff.

First off, I’m a fan of Amethyst. One, it provides me with a wide range of that purple hue color that I’m a fan of. Two, It’s affordable and I have a that freedom of trial and error without killing my pockets. You can waste a lot of money if you’re not trained when mapping out where and how to cut your piece of rough so take your time and map out the steps when dealing with the cutting process.

So here’s my piece of rough I chose. This particular Amethyst is a ‘rose de france’ amethyst. The color is reminiscent of a lavender lilac shade which is a lighter color that usually comes from the Amethyst family.

This is the process of slicing. I need to slice this piece of rough in order to get my desired section I choose to preform the stone out of.

This diamond grade disk is spinning at a high RPM. Water is needed to cool off the friction this process causes.

Take your time when pushing the piece of rough through the disk. You don’t want to break the stone and don’t want to lose a finger in the process so be cautious if you ever decide to slice.

So I sliced through the rough and notice how clean it came out.

I displayed the two pieces of sliced Amethysts for an up-close, personal view so you can to check out the aftermath of the slicing process.

After the slicing process, I started to preform the Amethyst. I started the process by hand until I got the desired shape I’ve been looking for. I then transferred the stone to my dop stick (check out one of my older blogs by clicking on the link to get the terminology, I.E. ‘doping stick’ by clicking here.) for a more controlled and measured feel to the shape I was aiming for.

If you can see here, I’m cutting rounded inward grooves into the girdle (the side of the stone which separates the top from the bottom of the stone).

I got the rounded areas done. This is that time in this process where you really start to get excited by the way it’s starting to take shape.

The next step for this rose de france amethyst is to start cutting some facets into it.

I’m touching up the rounded sections on the girdle.

I added a regular table to the top of the amethyst but I wasn’t too pleased with the outcome so I decided to go with a double-sided checkerboard rosecut to the stone.

I love the ‘trial and error’ process. I’m honestly satisfied with the final product.

Why put the inward, rounded grooves into the stone you ask? I don’t know, maybe I can build something with bezels that snuggle perfectly into those grooves or have some sort of prong or build some weird bezel? Who knows, it all comes down to your artistic innovation – when that designer in you comes out to play.

Till next time…

Modern ROCKer

June 24, 2011

Busy. This is somewhat of an rare occurrence in the jewelry world during June at times like these. I’ve been busy finishing up some inlay work with some gem cutting and my special orders have picked up as well for me. I’m not complaining nor am I not getting ahead of myself,  just keeping it ‘solid’ – as a UPS security guard named Jay once told me. Work used to show up on my doorstep back when it was real good. Now, you have to chase after it. Times have changed and most of you reading this are being introduced to my blogs via email while I try to generate interest in the work I do. But I digress. This blog entry is an homage to one of the most exclusive Los Angeles jewelry designers I’ve had the privilege to work with. Lena Wald, the Modern Rocker.

Who is Lena Wald? As always, I’m glad you asked. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Like most of us out there, we have a puzzled look on our faces after we graduate asking ourselves, ‘what the hell now?’ Lena always had an interest in the arts so she moved back to LA where she started doing wardrobe styling for commercials, print ads, etc. She later moved into the magazine world working for publications such as L.A. Style and InStyle. Over time, she realized that the magazine industry was not for her. But she always had an interest in fashion and design. So she pursued a job at Richard Tyler (a fashion house in L.A.).

Lena was hired as the assistant to the fabric buyer Lela Rose. After 3 months, Lela Rose left to start her own clothing line and Lena was promoted to fabric buyer. She saw this as a great opportunity to begin making a name for herself. Along the way, she met some of her closest friends at Richard Tyler and made some incredibly good contacts. Her job allowed her to travel to Europe twice a year for fabric shows.

After three years at Richard Tyler, she felt like she gained enough experience to start a jewelry line. (This is where I come in). Lena’s ideas usually begin with something that she wanted to make for herself to fulfill her unique style. She wanted a ring carved out of a solid ruby. The 1st sample she made, came out so well, that she brought the idea to Maxfield (A prominent fashion retailer) and they immediately placed an order. The rings are made from natural stones, such as turquoise, ruby, black onyx and crystal. She was fortunate enough receive press in W magazine, Vogue, Bazaar, Elle, and other famous publications. She began to further expand her line to include necklaces and bracelets. But then she had a completely new idea which spawned from her need to get herself some diamond-initial earrings.

Here’s Lena Wald’s Vogue magazine spread.

People love anything personalized. You name it and you can get it personalized to your liking. The earrings have been very well received by stores and their customers. Even Cameron Diaz wore her ‘C’ and ‘D ‘ earrings to the Oscars.

look who’s ring she’s wearing. This was a screen shot from the movie called “The Sweetest Thing”.

These are the diamond initials and charms from Lena Walds line.

This line has expanded into many different styles of trend setting necklaces and earrings made in yellow, rose, and white gold with a choice of either plain, adorned with diamonds, or set with other precious stones.

Lena’s business has grown significantly over the years and many stores and websites carry her jewelry worldwide.  She has a great following among stylists and many celebrities have been seen wearing Lena’s jewelry including Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Kate Bosworth, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon, Katie Holmes and according to Lena, her favorite out of the bunch, the first lady, Michelle Obama.

Hope you liked my little introduction to the Modern Rocker herself, Lena Wald. Now on to this onyx I was commissioned to make for Lena. I can’t give you a 100% breakdown and you’ll notice certain steps are missing, but you’ll get a basic idea on the process that goes through making this ‘Cigar Band’ faceted onyx with silver lining.

The silver lining insert is at 7.5 finger size which will sit inside the onyx.

The silver lining surface is made purposely rough so when I glue it into the onyx, it will have a tighter grip to avoid sliding around.

I drilled through some onyx rough and glued the silver insert into the onyx.

The onyx was pre-formed to this perfect round, cylinder shape.

I cut the sides down to 18mm thick from wall to wall

Fast forward through all the cutting and faceting and you get this beauty!

Notice the domed curvature on the onyx.

The inside of the silver lining has a high polish to it.

The onyx walls are flush with the silver lining

I introduce to you, the Cigar band faceted onyx ring with silver lining.

Here’s another one I made a while back.

The turquoise material is called a spider web green turquoise

It’s beautifully cabbed with a gold lining insert with a high polish. Killer stuff!

And my favorite piece. The classic blue turquoise piece with a nice high polished cabochon with a gold lining insert.

I truly enjoy doing work for Lena Wald. If any of you out there that are interested in a signature Lena Wald piece, please feel free to contact Lena Wald direct at info@lenawald.com

Till next time.. (next week as always)

Gem Cutter, G.D.

November 3, 2010

The Optical Ride in Gem Cutting


Unlike diamonds, colored gems possess a variable of optical properties and are not cut to a uniform ideal. A well-cut colored gem exhibits an even color, an acceptable number of inclusions, a good brilliance; and it shows the majority of carat weight when viewed from the top.

Broadly, the styles of gem cutting can be divided into faceted gems (those with geometrically shaped flat polished faces) and non-faceted gems (those that do not have geometrically shaped flat polished faces such as cabochons). Now onto the four steps which I like to call ‘S.P.S.P.’ Don’t worry, this isn’t as dangerous as it sounds. (the boring intro is over folks.)

Slicing: slicing, in my opinion is the most pivitol stage when it comes to gem cutting. Why? I’m glad you asked. It pretty much determines the size and beauty of the piece of gem you’re about to cut. Once you’ve selected a piece of rough, and may I add that  you’re about to play doctor with this piece of rough.

Anyway, using a diamond-tipped circular steel saw, I, Dr. Gem Cutter, will determine how to cut, where to cut, and how many pieces to cut, in order to produce the highest quality from the rough gem. If the rough is cut incorrectly, and you’ll start to realize this when you start opening up windows in your gem stone, but that step is further down the line, its beauty may be ruined, bringing the value down  of that exceptional gem to that junk known as commercial gem stones.

Pre-forming: Once you’ve played doctor with the gem by slicing it, you can now play plastic surgeon to the ‘gems’ and start to pre-form the gem. pre-forming is typically performed by using a vertical steel grinding wheel.

The pre-forming process carries a great deal of stress. Why? I’m glad you asked. The pre-forming process determine the shape and adaptation for each gem that wants to look pretty and land itself a nice owner. So, if you screw up, mistakes at this stage can be catastrophic and every other synonym for ‘catastrophic’. When pre-forming, keep in mind the weight of the finished gem. Pretty much the weight of the gem adds more ‘bang for your buck.’ There’s always an exception to that rule if you look at cuts, color, clarity, etc… lets save that for another blog. Back to my example: A 5.23 carat Ceylon Sapphire, oval shape is at $550.00 per carat. You multiply the 5.23cts by 550pct and you get $2,876.50. Hence, ‘bang for your buck.’

Shaping: Once you’ve pre-formed the stone, its time to start shaping it and to start adding facets. In order to complete the next phase, a special type of heat activated resin or wax is used to glue the stone onto a metal rod, commonly called a dop stick.

You then grab your stone and apply it to the wax and slowly press the stone into the resin. Put the dopping stick in an upright position and let it sit till its still as a rock.  The fun is about to begin. You delicately apply the gemstone to the shaping wheel to obtain a more accurate presentation of the facets and size. Due to the immense precision required by this process, the shaper is usually a very experienced pre-former.

Polishing: The final step is known as polishing. What I like to call it is ‘opening a window.’ So your gemstones reaches  its ideal size and shape, you apply it to a horizontal polishing wheel or a metal disc that spins at very high speeds and is implanted with tiny particles of diamond. The stone is brought into contact with the disc, and a facet is born. This disc is called a “lap.” the gem cutter completes the faceting by polishing the pavillion (the bottom of the stone) and the crown (top of the stone). When you are done with all that good stuff, slightly apply the stone sitting in the wax on the dopping stick to heat. The resin will start to loosen up and with a small blade, start to peel off the wax as much as you can without putting too much force into it. Treat it like you would treat a bum of a baby. What I like to do next is drop the stone in some denatured alcohol and wipe off any last particle of unwanted wax. The best part about all this is when you reach the climax of the ‘money shot'(I.E. your finsihed gem stone) and you look at the piece of art you’ve just created.

With a few months of training and will power, you could be, potentially facetting 20 to 30 gems per day. But it may take many years to become a skilled preformer. Till next time…