Meet the MakerMeet the Maker
Continuing our ‘Meet the Maker’ series led us to Canada and the Vivasmith studio, home to a superb partnership between Deborah Vivas and Melissa Smith. In our interview with this talented contemporary jewellery duo, we looked at what makes a successful partnership, where they draw their inspiration, and who their heroes are in the jewellery world. We touch on what led them to choose to be a designer-makers and their favourite techniques. It’s an excellent balance where two people with different areas of interest manage to combine their individual passions into one harmonious outcome. Enjoy the read.
What's NewWhat's New
The name “garnet” comes from the Latin word “Garanatus,” meaning “seedlike,” in reference to a pomegranate. Imagine a cluster of small garnets – they might look like the bright red seeds you find inside a pomegranate.
Although garnets are associated with ‘red’, they can occur in every colour of the spectrum with the exception of blue. Each colour has it's own classification such as Rhodolite, with shades of pink through to red/lavender. Garnets are a group of silicate minerals that have been used since the Bronze Age as gemstones and abrasives. All species of garnets possess similar physical properties and crystal forms, but differ in chemical composition.
Thousands of years ago, red garnets adorned Egyptian Pharaohs; Romans used them as signet rings to seal important documents. The King of Saxony is said to have had a garnet of over 465 carats. Plato had his portrait engraved on a garnet by a Roman engraver.
There are countless beliefs regarding the various health benefits of wearing a garnet. For men, it is supposed to keep the reproductive system healthy. For women, it is said to promote hormonal balance and reduce swelling.
Amethyst is a violet variety of quartz often used in jewelry. The name comes from the ancient Greek méthystos (“intoxicated”), a reference to the belief that the stone protected its owner from drunkenness.
The February birthstone, is also reputed to strengthen relationships and give its wearer courage. At one time, only royalty could wear the gem. Purple, known as the color of royalty, is a staple of kings and queens. Most notably, Catherine the Great of Russia was especially fond of this beautiful gemstone.
The color spectrum of the stone can range from a dark plum color to a slight hint of lavender. This lavish color stems from the remnants of iron in the crystalline structure when it was formed. Amethyst is found all over the world, with some of the most precious deposits still found in Greece, Italy, the Middle East, and northern Africa. Today, it can also be grown very easily in laboratories.
As long as you are actually buying amethyst, and not purple-coloured glass, the characteristics are exactly the same, and laboratory amethyst sidesteps the problems with worker safety that many mined gemstones face.
March: Aquamarine & Bloodstone
Aquamarine is known as the Queen of the Semi Precious Gemstones. In it's most desirable form, the colour is a classic baby blue. However, it also can be found in pink and greenish hues. Aquamarine has been reputed to represent purity of spirit and soul, or unity. One of the advantages of aquamarine jewellery, is that it is known to gleam and glitter even in minimal lighting.
In ancient lore, Aquamarine was believed to be the treasure of mermaids, and was used by sailors as a talisman of good luck, fearlessness and protection. In modern myth the gemstone is believed to help the wearer make new friends.
Bloodstone was the original birthstone for March. Due to its name and appearance, bloodstone has given rise to a great deal of folklore. It was once thought to be able to stop hemorrhages with the merest touch, and to relieve stomach and bowel pain. It was also said to strengthen blood purifying organs and improve circulation.
Bloodstone is a variety of dark green chalcedony spotted with red, also known as Heliotrope. It is most commonly cut into cabochons and beads.
Diamond, coming from the Greek term "adamas" means invincible. Not surprisingly, it is believed to be the hardest substance on earth. They are billions of years old, formed about 200km below the earth’s surface and eventually pushed up by volcanic eruptions.
The largest diamond ever discovered is the Cullinan diamond in South Africa, weighing in at 3106 carats before cutting and polishing. The Cullinan was eventually cut into nine large diamonds and 100 smaller ones, and the three largest of these are on display in the Tower of London as part of the crown jewels.
The ancient Romans and Greeks believed that diamonds were tears cried by the gods or splinters from falling stars, and Romans believed that Cupid’s arrows were tipped with diamonds. During the Middle Ages diamonds were thought to have healing properties able to cure ailments ranging from fatigue to mental illness. Today diamonds represent faithfulness, love, purity, innocence, and relationships filled with love.
Although diamonds are considered relatively rare on earth, in 2004 scientists discovered a planet that they believe is composed mostly of carbon, and may be 1/3 diamond, called “55 Cancri e”.
Emerald is a variety of the mineral beryl, coloured green by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. These gemstones can be found in Colombia, Brazil, Austria, Egypt, Africa, Zimbabwe, and Russia.
Emerald symbolizes mercy, compassion, and universal love. According to ancient folklore, putting an emerald under your tongue would help one see into the future. They were thought to guard against memory loss and enhance intuition. The soft, calming colour of the emerald helped early lapidaries rest their eyes after an extended period of concentration. Today, emerald is still thought to relax and relieve eyestrain.
Most emeralds have some type of inclusion or imperfection, and emeralds without imperfections or inclusions are very rare. Instead of the term imperfection, dealers like to reference emerald inclusions as an internal "jardin" (garden in French). Emeralds are nearly always oiled to enhance their colour and mask inclusions, and there is nothing untoward about this centuries-old process. It does no damage to the gemstone and its effects are not permanent.
Cleopatra, had a deep passion for emeralds. As a symbol of power, she would present carved emeralds of herself, to foreign statesmen. The Incas worshipped their goddess by filling their temples with emeralds. To the Mughals, the green of the emerald represented paradise. Green is also the official colour of Islam.
June: Pearl & Alexandrite
Pearl: The pearl is the only gem to be formed by a living creature. They naturally vary in colour, shape, and size. Every step in the creation of a pearl contributes to its unique characteristics. These include the type of mollusc, the irritant (often sand), water cleanliness, temperature, and location. Similar to how we think about snowflakes, no two pearls are alike.
Pearls have been known to symbolize fertility, loyalty, and friendship. They were used in mourning or memorial jewellery during the Georgian and Victorian eras and symbolized tears.
Alexandrite: While pearl may be the most famous of June's birthstone, Alexandrite is the most modern and has a colour changing feature that is rarely seen in any other stone. The stone appears to be either a sea-foam green or bluish colour in daylight, but when put under incandescent light, it changes to a purplish or red/pink colour.
Alexandrite was first discovered in 1830 in Russia’s Ural Mountains on the birthday of Prince Alexander II, and was named for him. Until 1987, it was only found in Russia and had almost been mined out. Since the discovery of alexandrite, the gemstone has been thought to bring luck, good fortune and love.
Rubies are one of the most precious stones in the entire world. Alongside diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires, they are among the most highly valued stones in modern society. However, rubies were only defined by their chemical makeup in the last couple of centuries. Prior to that, “ruby” referred to any red stone, and was used interchangeably with the word “garnet” to describe these stones.
It is hard to say where the first rubies were found. They are mentioned in the Bible and were central to trade during the Medieval period.
Rubies have been mined in Burma, China, India, and Thailand – in all of
these places, they took on specific cultural significance. They are also
found in Colombia, Australia, Madagascar, and even Scotland.
In China, because red is the colour of good luck, rubies were said to stimulate innate life force, and they were worn in order to draw other people to the wearer. In both Ancient Greece and India, rubies were said to boil water when they were thrown into it, and melt wax when they touched it. From China to Egypt to Greece and India, virtually every ancient culture developed symbolism around rubies.
August: Peridot & Sardonyx
Peridot is one of the few gemstones that occur in only one colour: an olive/lime green. The intensity and tint of the green, however, depends on the percentage of iron that is contained in the crystal structure, so the colour of individual peridot gems can vary from yellow, to olive, to brownish-green. It has been found in meteorites, Mars and the Moon.
Like nature itself, the peridot is a vital and active gem. Wearing one brings luck and good sense, as well as stronger friendships and a knack for attracting wealth. It is also rumoured to provide healing energies to those with a clear and untroubled spirit, but it will only cloud the minds of the emotionally turbulent.
Sardonyx is derived from the Greek words "sard," meaning reddish brown, and "onyx," meaning veined gem. It is a variety of onyx and is a member of the chalcedony family.
In ancient Rome, sardonyx was often used for seals since it never sticks to wax. Roman soldiers would wear sardonyx stones engraved with Mars, The God of War, believing the stone would bring courage, fearlessness, and victory. Today sardonyx is believed to bring success, honor, courage, and protection from evil.
For many centuries, royal families around the world have treasured Ceylon blue sapphires. Renowned for their allure and range of blues; sapphires are considered a symbol of love, loyalty, power, royalty and wisdom. Some of the most prominent relationships royals have had with sapphires are the Ceylon Sapphire encrusted Imperial Crown of Russia worn by Queen Catherine II of Moscow, the Ceylon blue sapphire brooch given by Prince Albert to Queen Victoria on the eve of their wedding (also worn by queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Diana’s renowned engagement ring, currently worn by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Typically blue, natural "fancy" sapphires also occur in yellow, purple, orange, and green colours; "parti-sapphires" show two or more colors. The only colour which sapphire cannot be is red – as red colored corundum is a ruby.
Sapphires can be treated by several methods to enhance and improve their clarity and colour. It is common practice to heat natural sapphires to improve or enhance colour. Evidence of sapphire and other gemstones being subjected to heating goes back at least to Roman times. Un-heated natural stones are somewhat rare and will often be sold accompanied by a certificate from an independent gemological laboratory attesting to "no evidence of heat treatment".
October: Opal & Tourmaline
Opals, like June's birthstone the pearl, should not be stored in air tight containers, e.g. lock boxes, safety deposit boxes. If they lose moisture, they will craze a fine network of cracks that resembles a spider’s web.
Opal’s shifting play of kaleidoscopic colours is unlike any other gem. Fine opal’s beauty is elusive and challenging to capture in words. It has been compared to fireworks, jellyfish, galaxies, lightning and volcanoes. In ancient Rome, this gem symbolized love and hope.
Tourmaline is classified as a semi-precious stone and it comes in a wide variety of colours. Brightly colored Sri Lankan gem tourmalines were brought to Europe in great quantities by the Dutch East India Company to satisfy a demand for curiosities and gems. Tourmaline was sometimes called the “Ceylonese [Sri Lankan] Magnet” because it could attract and then repel hot ashes due to its pyro-electric properties. Chemists used tourmalines in the 19th century to polarize light by shining rays onto a cut and polished surface of the gem.
Ancient legend says that tourmaline is found in all colors because it traveled along a rainbow and gathered all the rainbow’s colours. It is thought to inspire creativity and has been used extensively as a talisman by artists and writers.
November: Topaz & Citrine
Pure topaz is colourless and transparent. However it usually contains impurities that give it colour. Most experts agree the name Topaz is from Topazios, an ancient Greek name for St. John’s Island in the Red Sea. Topaz is known for its calming energies, bringing warmth and fortune to those who wear it.
For centuries, topaz was associated with the colour yellow. People assumed that all yellow gemstones were topaz, and that all topaz was yellow. Today we know it occurs in a broad range of colours. Typically it can be wine red, yellow, pale grey, reddish-orange, or blue brown.
Citrine takes its name from the citron fruit because of these lemon-inspired shades. Its yellow hues are caused by traces of iron in quartz crystals. This occurs rarely in nature, so most citrine on the market is made by heat treating other varieties of quartz.
Throughout history, people believed that citrine carried the same powers as topaz, including the ability to calm tempers, soothe anger and manifest our desires. To leverage these powers, Egyptians used citrine gems as talismans, the ancient Greeks carved iconic images into them, and Roman priests fashioned them into rings.
December: Turquoise & Tanzanite
Turquoise is found in only a few places on earth: dry and barren regions where acidic, copper-rich groundwater seeps downward and reacts with minerals that contain phosphorus and aluminium. The colour is, of course, turquoise. The stones can vary in colour from very green blue to light sky blue shades.
A sacred stone for the North American Indians, as well as, the Tibetans, it is often used by shamans in rituals and ceremonies. Turquoise is among the oldest known gemstones- it has been mined since 3,200 BC. It graced the necks of Egyptian Pharaohs and adorned the ceremonial dress of early Native Americans.
It is said to promote mental and spiritual clarity and expansion to enhance wisdom, trust, kindness, and understanding.
Tanzanite is a new addition as a birthstone for December. Named for Tanzania, the country where it was discovered in 1967, it is only found near majestic Kilimanjaro. Originally it was thought to be a new kind of sapphire. When tanzanite is found in the ground, the brown colour dominates. However, with gentle heating, the cutter can watch the blue colour bloom and deepen in the stone..