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May's birthstone - Emerald July 17 2017, 0 Comments

If you were born in the month of May, like me, then the Emerald is your birthstone.

Gem quality emeralds are incredibly rare, and therefore very expensive. The vast majority of emeralds found contain a lot of natural inclusions, and therefore buying them can be a complicated process as a huge variety of quality levels varying in colour and clarity are available.

However they do have the most wonderful green colour, and even with imperfections are incredibly beautiful.

Emeralds were first mined in Egypt, and have been a symbol of wealth and prosperity since the time of Cleopatra. Emeralds have also been thought to strengthen the heart, liver and kidneys, as well as quieten the mind. 

Last year I made this skinny baguette ring with a wonderful high quality emerald for a special order. The colour really is extraordinary the pictures don't really show the vibrancy when the light hits it.

I can produce most of my standard designs with an emerald via special order, and would love to hear from you if you would like to discuss a specific piece.

nikki@nikkistarkjewellery.co.uk

 


April's Birthstone - Diamond June 19 2017, 0 Comments

Hugely behind with my birthstone series, where did April go??

April's birthstone is the diamond, probably the most famous gemstone. Diamonds are the hardest substance in existence and have a variety of uses across different industries making them hugely valuable.

Diamonds were first found in India somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago, and were used in religious icons. The name comes from a Greek word meaning unalterable or unbreakable.

Although wedding and engagement rings can be reliably dated back to Roman times and were probably used before that, the idea of a diamond being essential to an engagement ring comes from the 1940s. The slogan 'a diamond is forever' was first used by De Beers in 1947.

Orbit ring with diamond

A diamond's optical properties are one of it's most unique qualities, and the faceted cuts which are very popular make the most of these to increase the sparkle. Along with clear diamonds also come in a variety of natural colours including blue, green, brown, pink and red, and opaque varieties.
Brown diamond ring with white gold setting and rose gold band

 

Buying a diamond can be a complicated business, each stone is graded according to it's clarity and many different levels of quality might be available.

There are also complex ethical concerns regarding exploitation, (Have you seen Blood Diamond?? Such a good film.) All the diamonds I buy are certified conflict free according to the Kimberley process. I think it's unlikely you will find much on the UK market now which isn't.

I'm generally a fan of natural materials, but this is often because their imperfection makes them more interesting than mass produced identical items, so if what you are looking for is perfect clarity and sparkle then it is worth considering an alternative like a moissanite. These really don't look any different to the naked eye, and the price is a little less eye watering.

Brown diamond ring with white gold setting and rose gold band

I would love to know what you think. Does it have to be a natural diamond? Do coloured or opaque versions have the same magic? 


5 Key decisions to choose your wedding ring May 22 2017, 0 Comments

9ct white, yellow and rose gold rings

When discussing wedding rings I very often hear the phrase 'I just want something simple'. No stones? No unusual shapes? No radical materials?

No problem, there are just 5 key decisions you still need to make:

Profile - 

If you were to cut through your ring and stretch it out into a straight line, what shape would you see at the end?

'D' and Court shaped rings are what most people would recognise as a traditional wedding ring look. Court bands have a curve on the inside to make them more comfortable. 

Flat bands can look more contemporary, and the Easy fit version with a curve on the inside is an option for more comfort.

Weight - 

Not all profiles will also offer weight options, but the more popular bands such as courts sometimes offer light, medium or heavyweight versions. The actual weight of the metal won't change, so heavier weight versions are thicker. This really is about whether you like the feel of a weighty ring on your finger.

If budget is a key concern going for a lighter weight version will generally be cheaper, as will choosing a 'D' shape over a court band. 

9ct white gold court band, 5mm

Width - 

Again all of these designs of ring will come in various widths, and the decision is about the look you want. If your fingers are larger, a wider ring will generally look more balanced, the same if your fingers are smaller. 4mm is about average in my experience for a court band. 5mm or 6mm will give a chunkier look. 

Metal - 

There is a lot of information on the different options for metal in the dedicated pages on my website.

Gold Carats and Colours

White Metals

If you are generally a silver wearer, or don't like the idea of bright yellow gold consider 9ct white as a softer, flattering alternative.

If you like the look of platinum, but are struggling with budget, consider looking into palladium as an alternative. 

Be aware if you are placing the ring next to an engagement ring that very hard metals like platinum can wear softer metals like gold.

Finish - 

Most jewellery is sold with a very highly polished finish. If very shiny isn't your thing then a matt finish is also an option, this can give a very different feeling to a metal.

I also offer hammered finishes on most of my pieces. This can be very pretty on a slim ring, and can be slightly more rustic on a larger surface. 

Shiny hammered, and matt wedding rings in 18ct yellow gold


Hallmarking April 10 2017, 0 Comments

Have you ever wondered what those little marks inside rings mean? 

A hallmark is legally required if you are selling over a gram of gold, half a gram of platinum or just over seven grams of silver.

The mark is made up of 5 elements.

1: A makers mark

Each registered maker has a different mark made up of some initials inside a shape. Mine is NAS inside an oval shape. Each combination of initials and shape must be unique to the specific maker.

2: A traditional fineness mark.

This tells you what precious metal the piece is made of.

3: A millesimal fineness mark.

This gives you the percentage of the precious metal, so 925 means 92.5% which is the proportion of pure silver in sterling silver. A mark guarantees that the piece includes at least that quantity of the metal. The assay office test each piece they receive before applying the marks.

4: An assay office mark.

This identifies the office which marks the piece.

5: A date letter.

This tells you the year the piece was marked in.


March's birthstone, Aquamarine April 03 2017, 0 Comments

A little bit late this month (oops), March was VERY hectic, but continuing with my birthstone series, if you are born in March then your stone of choice should be an aquamarine. This stone is a member of the same mineral family as emerald and morganite.

The name comes from the Latin aqua marina, water of the sea. The most valuable colour is darkish blue, similar to a very pale sapphire, although there are various different shades. Aquamarine has been highly valued in jewellery for a long time, aqua coloured glass pieces intended to imitate this stone have been found which were at least 2,000 years old. 

Aquamarine is said to calm thoughts and help emotional and physical balance.

I don't offer aquamarine as a standard option for any of my rings as it’s a slightly more expensive stone and more complex to purchase, but would be happy to quote any item you are interested in.

These two special order rings were made from a mixed parcel of Aquamarines I purchased. Most of these are so pale they are almost colourless but they are very pretty nonetheless.

 


Moissanite, a diamond substitute February 20 2017, 0 Comments

Moissanite is a synthetic diamond substitute which has recently started to become more popular in the jewellery market.                                                                                  
                       

Discovered in 1893, moissanite occurs naturally in very very small quantities, mostly in meteorites. The quantities in nature are far too small for use, but it has now been synthesised in a lab and the artificial version is becoming more widely available.

Moissanites have a wonderful fire similar to a diamond, this is what sets them apart from cubic zirconia and other stones such as sapphire and topaz which come in clear forms. They can be even more dramatic than a natural diamond, and at considerably less cost.

In general I tend to prefer natural stones if possible, but although I always buy conflict free diamonds from a reputable source there are still complex ethical concerns around diamond production.

Possibly in this occasion an artificial substitute is worth considering, I would love to know what you think. Does it need to be a diamond, or if you are looking for sparkly perfection is the visible effect the most important thing? If it was impossible to tell the difference, would you mind?


February's Birthstone - Amethyst February 06 2017, 0 Comments

February's birthstone amethyst is a variety of quartz, as are an awful lot of things. It comes in various shades of purple and violet from very pale to dark. I have occasionally seen a very pale almost pink form called Rose de France, which is similar to rose quartz but slightly more blue. 

Amethyst and sterling silver stone set ring

The name comes from ancient Greek, the stone is associated with the god Bacchus, and the name is a reference to the fact that apparently wearing the stone can help protect from drunkenness.It has been used in jewellery since ancient Egyptian times, and was often carved into elaborate intaglio gems. 

Amethyst and white topaz stacking rings in sterling silver

Medieval knights wore amethyst amulets in the belief they would protect the bearer from injury and keep the wearer cool headed. If worn whilst sleeping the stone is thought to reduce anger and impatience.

Orbit ring with amethyst in 9ct yellow gold

Amethyst used to be very precious but recently large deposits have been found and it can now be quite affordable. I offer amethyst as an option in most of my stone set rings, it is gorgeous with both gold and silver.

 


Gemstones for beginners - Cabochons January 23 2017, 0 Comments

A few months ago I wrote a post on faceted gemstones, and this month I am following up with a couple of facts about cabochons.

The name comes from a middle French word for head, and refers to a stone which has a smooth polished top rather than facets. Often cabochons are made from opaque stones rather than transparent ones. Ovals are the most traditional shape, as the eye is more sensitive to imperfections in a circle than an oval.

Whilst symmetry is essential to a perfectly faceted diamond a cabochon can be quite irregular, and the cutting is sometimes very led by natural inclusions and imperfections within the stone.

Labradorite and coral cabochons

Softer stones not suitable for facets like opals or turquoise are also normally cut into cabochons.

One of the key differences for a jeweller in working with cabochons is that they have a flat back, rather than the point of a faceted stone. This gives a different set of options and challenges in terms of setting the stones into a piece.

Often cabochons are more associated with chunkier more boho jewellery but they have their place in traditional jewellery and can be very pretty on a small scale. This teeny ring below has a coral cabochon. 

Flat backed stones which have a faceted top are called rose cut. Look out in a few weeks for some more information on this type of stone cutting.


Anatomy of a ring January 16 2017, 0 Comments


January's birthstone - Garnet January 09 2017, 0 Comments

Garnet, the birthstone for January, can sometimes be seen just as a cheap substitute for Ruby, but it's a really beautiful stone in it's own right.

The name comes from a middle English work for dark red, 'gernet', which itself comes from a latin word for a grain or seed, which is thought to relate to pomegranate seeds.

This gorgeous baguette ring has a rich orangey red garnet from Mozambique.

Although the most well known colour for Garnet is red, fancy versions in colours from purple and pink to bright green and yellow are available, and growing in popularity.

Garnet is thought to stimulate passion and creativity, and even to inspire love. It's a great choice with either gold or silver. 

Garnet is a standard option for most of my stone set rings, send me an email if you would like to check whether it is available with any of my designs.


Happy New Year! - Recent Rings January 03 2017, 0 Comments

I hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year break.

This poor blog has suffered horribly through the mad rush that was December. I though I would share a few of the commissions I sent out towards the end of last year.

These two hammered palladium bands are 2.5mm and 4mm wide. Palladium is a great choice if you are looking for a white metal that is hard wearing and won't require much looking after.

This 2mm wishbone in 9ct rose gold was to sit with an unusual art deco ring.

Another bespoke wishbone, this time in 18ct yellow gold with quite an exaggerated dip in a teeny size.

I also supplied this 4mm 18ct yellow gold court ring for the groom at this wedding.

Another bespoke wishbone this time in 18ct white gold without rhodium plating. This again was to sit with a vintage style engagement ring.

Some more commissions already in progress for this year, keep an eye on my instagram for images


December's birthstone - Turquoise December 05 2016, 0 Comments

Turquoise is the birthstone for December.

It is the oldest precious stone having first been set into jewellery 7,000 years ago. The Aztecs and Incas believed it could bring good fortune, and it is often thought to bring long life to the wearer.

The names comes from the fact that turquoise first came to Europe from Turkey along with other valuables from the silk road.

Orbit rings with turquoise in sterling silver

Turquoise can be a variety of different shades of blue, with the most valuable being the colour of an American robin's egg (a strong sky blue.) A lot of modern turquoise is treated to improve the colour.

Turquoise is quite a soft stone in comparison to many gemstones, and can also fade in light over time. Older turquoise is often a softer, greenish colour and can be very lovely although more subtle.

My orbit stacking rings with turquoise are one of my more popular pieces, the teeny pop of blue is really cute and adds a pop of brightness.

I tend to think of turquoise as a summer stone, I'm not exactly sure why, but it is interesting that it is the choice for December.


November's Birthstone - Topaz and Citrine November 07 2016, 0 Comments

November babies have a choice of 2 birthstones, Topaz or Citrine. 

The name topaz comes from the Greek name for St John's Island in the Red Sea where an orange stone was mined. In the middle ages the word topaz was used for any orange or yellow stone. 

Topaz is found naturally in various colours including red, orange, green, blue, grey and brown  as well as totally clear. Imperial Topaz, which is yellow or orange is the most valuable colour. The blue versions which are so popular are generally grey or clear stones naturally which are heat treated to produce different shades of blue.

London Blue Topaz and sterling silver Orbit ring

Blue topaz is considered to help with creativity, and particularly to be good for writers.

Swiss Blue Topaz Orbit Ring

Citrine is sometimes considered a cheap alternative to precious topaz, but is a very pretty stone in it's own right. As the name suggests it comes in various shades of yellow and orange similar to citrus fruits.

Citrine is thought to increase awareness, control emotions and raise self esteem.

I offer blue topaz for most of my stone set items, and can offer citrine as a special order item. Citrine is a relatively inexpensive stone. Natural imperial topaz will be considerably more expensive.


Giveaway Time! - Win a £100 gift voucher October 31 2016, 0 Comments

To celebrate the fact that I now offer gift vouchers I am giving away a £100 voucher!

Good Luck Everyone! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To purchase a gift voucher follow this link....


Sample Sale October 17 2016, 0 Comments

      
There are around 60 items available at big discounts in my sample sale!                                  
Request access here to have a browse                                                                                    
Happy Shopping! 

October's birthstones - Opal and Tourmaline October 10 2016, 0 Comments

October babies are particularly lucky when it comes to birthstones. Not only do they have two to choose from, tourmaline or opal, but tourmaline comes in a wonderful range of colours

Opals are a very unique stone, often containing a huge number of colours. It’s sometimes described as a rainbow captured in a stone. The black base stones are the most valuable, but I prefer the white base which is a little softer but still with a gorgeous rainbow shimmer.

Milky Opal Orbit Ring

Opals have been valued for a long time and considered to have many interesting properties. In the middle ages it was though that wrapping an opal in a fresh bay leaf and holding it could make the bearer invisible (if you have any luck with this let me know!!)

Later they acquired a quite different reputation after Walter Scott published a novel featuring an opal, called Anne of Geierstein. The novel features an opal talisman with supernatural powers, but a drop of holy water falls on the stone, it turns colourless and it’s owner dies. After the novel was published in 1829 sales of opals dropped by half and didn’t recover for 20 years.

One of my personal favourites, tourmaline is classified as a semi precious stone. It comes from various parts of the world, but historically Sri Lanka provided most of the gems brought to Europe by the East India Company.

Possibly the most well known colour of tourmaline is a bright bottle green, as in this ring which is one of my best selling pieces. Bluer shades are slightly more expensive, and pink and reds even more so.

Red tourmaline is sometimes known as rubellite, which can be misleading as it suggests it is some sort of ruby but it is a completely different stone.

As with all stones tourmalines vary in quality and can have natural inclusions. This affects the value of the stone.

Pink tourmaline is thought to help bring trust and love to wearer, whereas green tourmaline reinvigorates the heart.

Green tourmaline and Milky Opal are available as standard for most of my stone set designs, and other colours are available for special orders.


Hello October October 04 2016, 0 Comments

It's certainly Autumn this week, the air has that lovely fresh feel.

In typical back to school style I have treated myself to a new diary from Kate Spade at John Lewis in an attempt to feel organised. It has some lovely tips for this time of year. I'm not sure I'll be doing any of these, apart from possibly drinking the cider.....

I have a few exciting new projects I'm working on this month to keep your eye out for.

I'm planning an online sample sale to move some of my old stock, and will be opening up a private Facebook group soon. As a sneak peek here are a few of the items that will be available.

Orbit ring with Amethyst, size L  

Sterling silver and chalcedony ring, size L

Sterling silver knot ring, size N

I will also be launching gift vouchers towards the end of October, and giving away a gift voucher! 

Keep an eye out for your chance to win

Happy cider drinking.....


Sterling Silver - a brief introduction September 26 2016, 0 Comments

This weeks blog has a couple of facts about silver.

Most of the silver jewellery sold in the UK is sterling silver. This is 92.5% pure silver, with the rest being made up of copper.

The copper adds hardness to the silver which makes it more suitable for daily wear. Pure silver although harder than gold is a malleable metal.

Sterling silver slim hand shaped ring, 6mm, hammered

An alloy (a mix of metals) with these proportions has been used since at least Saxon times. The UK currency used to be based on a specific weight of sterling silver, which is where the name comes from.

Larger stone set ring with amethyst, and Orbit ring with white sapphire

Silver, in contrast to gold, tarnishes in air over time. If worn regularly your silver jewellery will retain it's sparkle as the oils in your skin will protect the surface from the air.

 

Sterling silver skinny rings

If you have a piece of silver which has been left for some time without being worn and has turned dull or black, a quick rub with a polishing cloth should bring back the shine.


September's Birthstone - Sapphire September 21 2016, 0 Comments

September’s birthstone is the Sapphire. Sapphires are of course one of the world's most precious stones, the most expensive examples being beautiful blue stones from Kashmir. 

Sapphires come in all kinds of colours from totally colourless to green, pink, orange and yellow. Rubies are technically identical, it's just the trace minerals which give the red colour which mean this stone is considered separate. This dates from the time when far less was known about the chemical composition of stones and generally they were referred to by colour rather than by their mineral base.

This central stone is a lovely pale green sapphire set in sterling silver.

White sapphires don't have the fire of diamonds but are a lovely alternative to an artificial stone and are very reasonably priced.

As with most precious stones the price of a sapphire depends on the colour and clarity of the natural stone. Perfect blues can be very expensive, but more unusual colours can be quite reasonable. 

Orbit ring with white sapphire

Sapphires are also one of the hardest natural stones, just behind diamonds and so are perfect for everyday wear. 

Sapphires are also associated with many unusual mystical powers, and can apparently heal wounds and act as an antidote for poisons! Definitely worth investing in.


The 5 key decisions to choose your wedding band September 06 2016, 0 Comments

When discussing wedding rings I very often hear the phrase 'I just want something simple'. No stones? No unusual shapes? No radical materials?

No problem, there are just 5 key decisions you still need to make:

Profile - 

If you were to cut through your ring and stretch it out into a straight line, what shape would you see at the end?

'D' and Court shaped rings are what most people would recognise as a traditional wedding ring look. Court bands have a curve on the inside to make them more comfortable. 

Flat bands can look more contemporary, and the Easy fit version with a curve on the inside is an option for more comfort.

Weight - 

Not all profiles will also offer weight options, but the more popular bands such as courts sometimes offer light, medium or heavyweight versions. The actual weight of the metal won't change, so heavier weight versions are thicker. This really is about whether you like the feel of a weighty ring on your finger.

If budget is a key concern going for a lighter weight version will generally be cheaper, as will choosing a 'D' shape over a court band. 

9ct white gold court band, 5mm

Width - 

Again all of these designs of ring will come in various widths, and the decision is about the look you want. If your fingers are larger, a wider ring will generally look more balanced, the same if your fingers are smaller. 4mm is about average in my experience for a court band. 5mm or 6mm will give a chunkier look. 

Metal - 

There is a lot of information on the different options for metal in the dedicated pages on my website.

Gold Carats and Colours

White Metals

If you are generally a silver wearer, or don't like the idea of bright yellow gold consider 9ct white as a softer, flattering alternative.

If you like the look of platinum, but are struggling with budget, consider looking into palladium as an alternative. 

Be aware if you are placing the ring next to an engagement ring that very hard metals like platinum can wear softer metals like gold.

Finish - 

Most jewellery is sold with a very highly polished finish. If very shiny isn't your thing then a matt finish is also an option, this can give a very different feeling to a metal.

I also offer hammered finishes on most of my pieces. This can be very pretty on a slim ring, and can be slightly more rustic on a larger surface. 

Shiny hammered, and matt wedding rings in 18ct yellow gold


Wedding rings August 30 2016, 0 Comments

Here are a few of my recent wedding rings from this summer. 

This 18ct yellow gold ring is a hand shaped court band, with a soft curve added by hand to the inside of a piece of 'D' shaped wire. This band has a lovely soft feel to it, not the sharp, smart edges of a machine made court band.

        

A palladium 4mm band, and 9ct yellow gold 2mm band, both with a hammered finish.

        

 A pair of 4mm rose gold smooth bands

        

And some unique wishbones

       

       


August's Birthstone - Peridot August 16 2016, 0 Comments

Peridot, the birthstone for August is one of very few gems only to appear in one colour, green. The intensity can vary and the most valuable stones are a dark olive green. It used to be mistaken often for Emerald, but has a much more yellowy tone in general.

Peridot2.jpg

Peridot is a type of mineral called Olivine, which is quite often found in lavas, and peridots have been found in meteorites.

Peridot is thought to banish demons and regenerate organs including the liver, pancreas and heart.

Although less expensive than Emerald peridot is considered a precious stone and depending on the exact shade of green can be expensive. It is quite popular in modern jewellery.

Most of my standard designs could be made with peridot. I tend to use tourmaline as I prefer it's colour but this is still a lovely stone and perfect for this time of year.  


One Day Designers Sale August 01 2016, 0 Comments

On Thursday this week I'll be at Craft Central for the One Day Designers Sale with a selection of sparkly things at some reduced prices!

Here is a sneak previous of a few of the pieces I will have with me:

Stone set rings, a gorgeous pink tourmaline slice, a teeny milky opal, a moonstone and a really unique grey/green sapphire 

Skinny bands and wishbones in 9ct gold and sterling silver


Gemstones for beginners - Facets July 26 2016, 0 Comments

Following on from my introduction to gemstones, here is a little information on cutting.

On a basic level stones are generally either cut with facets, or into cabochons, which have a flat back and normally a smooth surface.

Generally transparent gemstones are faceted, as those which are opaque don't reflect light internally in the same way. Harder stones are also generally used as scratches are more obvious on faceted stones.

Cuttings diamonds started in the middle ages, diamonds are naturally octagonal crystals, and until cutting was developed they were only used in their natural form. The first cut diamonds simply had their natural facets polished, then slowly the shape began to become more and more complex, with more facets added to increase the sparkle.

Garnets cut into faceted baguettes

Computer design and mathematical advances have been used to study how light travels through the stones, and have led to huge developments in cutting. The modern brilliant round cut was developed around 1900, and normally has 58 facets. Symmetry is hugely important to this process, as the pattern of facets are designed to bounce the light around to provide maximum reflection.

Faceted stones come in a variety of shapes, some standard and occasionally some which are more unusual. The different shapes and cuts are more or less complex, with a princess cut for example being a more complex way of cutting a square or rectangular stone. 

Faceted and cabochon Labradorite, the faceted stone has a stronger peacock surface and appears darker. The cabochon stone looks lighter.

Basically it's all about sparkle, and that marvellous game of turning a ring under the light to watch the different surfaces reflect. With a transparent stone you are looking beyond the surface into the stone, but even with something more opaque stones facets will create more reflection on the surface.

When I first started making jewellery I didn't think I had much interest in faceted stones, I considered them really for use in very traditional pieces and not of much interest to me. Over time the sparkle has slowly pulled me in, and now I love thinking of new ways to incorporate faceted gems into my work.

Brilliant cut diamond Orbit ring