Joopy Gems Rose Cut Purple Button Pearl 8mm

Not Your Classic Pearls

I’m going to have to keep this very short and very brief as I could fill several books on the subject. I deal mainly with freshwater pearls, so that is mainly what I am going to concentrate on. Natural pearls were valued from ancient times as symbols of wealth and status and were found mainly in the Persian Gulf, the rivers of Europe (including Scotland!), the rivers and lakes of China and the waters around Sri Lanka. In the 15th century Christopher Columbus discovered pearls in the New World and this amplified European demand. These sources included both saltwater and freshwater pearls and demand remained strong until around the turn of the 20th century when a combination of the development of imitation pearls by Kokichi Mikimoto, and the development of the plastic button industry (yes really!) resulted in a decline. In 1908 oil was discovered in the Persian gulf and this quickly replaced the pearl industry as the region’s primary international industry and the industrialisation that followed this polluted and ruined the oyster beds.

For these reasons, most of the pearls that are on the market today are cultured. Because pearls have to be grown, and this takes time, there simply isn’t sufficient production to satisfy demand and so most pearls – even high end pearls such as South Sea and Akoya – are farmed, or cultured. This does not mean they are fake; simply that instead of waiting for them to grow naturally, they are deliberately grown in farms, adapting the process by which they grow naturally.

Purple Cultured Freshwater Button Pearls, 6-6.5mm
White Cultured Freshwater Button Pearls, 5.5-6mm

Pearls grow in molluscs; soft-bodied marine animals in two-part shells. As they are created by living organisms they are known as organic gems. A natural pearl forms when a foreign object somehow gets into the shell; a parasite might bore its way in, or a tiny piece of grit might slip into the shell when the animal opens its shell to feed. This foreign body is an irritant to the mollusc and so it tries to reduce this by coating it in nacre; turning it over and over and coating it in layer upon layer. Eventually this results in a pearl. Cultured pearls are made by simulating this process. South Sea pearls are usually created by inserting a bead into the mollusc; freshwater pearls by taking a piece of donor mollusc and inserting into a host mollusc. In fact, freshwater pearl culturing is so intensive that many pieces of donor mollusc may be inserted into a single host. This is a very delicate and skilled process as, if the host mollusc is killed, as is very easy to do, then obviously the pearl won’t grow.

Fast-grown pearls with a thin nacre layer are known as potato pearls. Recognisable for their non-round shapes, they often have rings around them and may not have very good lustre. These are usually pretty cheap. The longer the pearl takes to grow, the thicker the nacre, the rounder the pearl and the better the pearl.

Freshwater pearls are relatively inexpensive and plentiful these days that you don’t need to deal with imitation pearls for cost reasons but you might for other reasons, for example vegans or animal rights activists will likely object to the process of pearl culturing. Imitation pearls may be created from dipping beads into a liquid pearlescent substance – this may be entirely synthetic or made from crushed mollusc shells. Alternatively I often see shell pearls advertised and these are either formed from mollusc shells by carving, or by crushing and reforming the shells. You may also see Swarovski glass pearls, which are usually very clearly marked and marketed as imitation.

I do often get asked about how you tell natural from imitation pearls, and really it’s one of the easiest separations in my view. You just need a bit of magnification, and you will be able to see the overlapping layers of nacre. It’s really incredible and once you see it, you’ll never mistake it. A microscope is great, but you can see it with just a loupe. This picture below indicates exactly what you’ll see. There are still plenty of sources on the internet that advocate the tooth test – as in running the pearl across your teeth – a natural pearl is supposed to have more drag, a grittier feel, but pearl is so soft that this is a really good way of wrecking a pearl. Imitation pearls are also likely to be very round, very perfect, and completely uniform unlike cultured pearls which are organic, and therefore likely to have small pits, blemishes, slightly uneven shapes, subtle differences in colour and lustre and so on. It’s worth mentioning that just because cultured pearls are organically grown does not mean they are untreated. Most will naturally have dark patches and so all cultured pearls are bleached.

Surface of pearl under magnification, image courtesy of Triptar

I do love classic pearls. They are beautiful and glowing, and flattering. However I am also really excited when I see pearls that are a bit different. That’s either in the style of pearl – for instance I love anything keshi or baroque – or in what has been done to the pearl. Because yes, sacre bleu! Sometimes pearls are cut, faceted or drilled to make something entirely unexpected. I became interested in this a couple of years back when I wondered if it were possible to facet pearls so that they could be rose cut (since I specialise in rose cuts). We had a go and the results, in my view, were awesome. I have these in a variety of sizes and you can find them in my pearls section here.

I’m not the only one; two designers that work with pearls in this way are Melanie Georgacopoulos and Motley. When I first saw Melanie Georgacopoulos’ (in her collaboration with Tasaki as the M/G Tasaki brand) sliced pearl necklace I was blown away. I just hadn’t seen anything as different and exciting as this in a long time. I love the way that you can see the concentric rings of nacre throughout the pearls. Just stunning.

When I visited her website and the M/G Tasaki website I discovered more incredible designs. Pearls with segments removed or sliced and lined with gold, faceted pearls, or drilled with holes to expose the layer beneath.

Also in this category is Frances Wadworth-Jones who brings a playful and rebellious edge to pearls. In her collection for Motley she mounts them on gold and silver screws, challenging the classic and traditional. I love these.

To browse all of my pearls, click here

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November Blues

Topaz is one of the November birthstones…or is it? The GIA rather confusingly states that Imperial Topaz is a birthstone for November, whilst blue topaz is a December birthstone. Other sources say that tanzanite, zircon and turquoise are December birthstones, which in my view is quite enough blue for one month. Added to that, I’m quite sure that lots of people don’t know the difference between Imperial and other forms of topaz. So I’m just going to treat all topaz as a November birthstone and be done with it. So let’s clear up the topaz issue, and you can do that quite easily by dividing it into treated and untreated. Untreated topaz comes in a broad colour range: yellow, brown, orange, pink, purple, red, as well as blue and colourless. Yellow is the most common and red is the most valuable. The name Imperial Topaz came into being in 19th century Russia, when the Ural mountains were the leading source for topaz and the deep pink colour mined there named for – and restricted to – the Russian royal family. Currently, many in the trade will define the paler oranges and yellows as Imperial topaz: as with the boundary between pink sapphire and ruby, there is no standardised definition or colour cross-over point. Actually, although you don’t see alot of it about, deep red, orange and pink topaz is absolutely stunning.

And that brings me to the issue of price. For years the price of darker coloured blue topaz, especially London Blue topaz has steadily increased. There aren’t many places that do the treatment and this, combined with the fact that it has to sit for so long – and so therefore treaters have to tie up their money for so long with no return – added to the steady increase in popularity of this gem has made it rather scarce and expensive. It is no longer so easy to find large, flawless gems and sometimes the colour can be rather more greyish than desirable. It is a shame as it is a popular stone and the colour is unusual; I can’t think of many other stones like it, except maybe some of the darker blue tourmaline…and that is also not very plentiful and correspondingly pricey. Sky blue topaz has long been used as an alternative to aquamarine. This makes sense especially for smaller sizes as it is just a little more saturated than aquamarine generally is. Swiss Blue has a saturated and vibrant cornflower blue hue whilst London Blue is a sophisticated greyish-greenish blue.

Below from top, I love the elegant, flowing lines of Laura Stasa’s Calla Lily Pendant in silver and gold; although the icy blue topaz tones look great with white metals, I think that London Blue in particular is also sensational in gold. This pendant has an Art Deco quality to me, whilst at the same time being utterly contemporary. I really love jewellery with clean and definite lines like Kate Phipp’s tapered silver pendant set with a trillion sky blue topaz. This does illustrate how well the pale blue of this stone is set off by silver; icy perfection. The Swiss blue topaz ring by Mountain Spirit Jewels demonstrates the vibrant, saturated colour of this stone, for so long the best known and favourite colour of blue topaz, and bottom left, Kira Ferrer’s stacking rings sets all three colours in juxtaposition from light to dark in beautiful, clean settings.

There is one issue that is common to all topaz, however, and that is a property of the stone itself; cleavage. Topaz has what you call basal cleavage, which means that the cleavage plane is parallel to the base of the crystal. Cutters try to mitigate this by cutting the stones so that the cleavage direction is at a 15 degree angle to the table; however topaz can be rather brittle for this reason and does need a certain amount of careful handling.

Currently I sell blue and white topaz. I’d like to start offering other colours of untreated topaz – it is on my list of desired gems for next year.

To shop all of my topaz, click here.

joopygems.com

November Blues

Topaz is one of the November birthstones…or is it? The GIA rather confusingly states that Imperial Topaz is a birthstone for November, whilst blue topaz is a December birthstone. Other sources say that tanzanite, zircon and turquoise are December birthstones, which in my view is quite enough blue for one month. Added to that, I’m quite sure that lots of people don’t know the difference between Imperial and other forms of topaz. So I’m just going to treat all topaz as a November birthstone and be done with it. So let’s clear up the topaz issue, and you can do that quite easily by dividing it into treated and untreated. Untreated topaz comes in a broad colour range: yellow, brown, orange, pink, purple, red, as well as blue and colourless. Yellow is the most common and red is the most valuable. The name Imperial Topaz came into being in 19th century Russia, when the Ural mountains were the leading source for topaz and the deep pink colour mined there named for – and restricted to – the Russian royal family. Currently, many in the trade will define the paler oranges and yellows as Imperial topaz: as with the boundary between pink sapphire and ruby, there is no standardised definition or colour cross-over point. Actually, although you don’t see alot of it about, deep red, orange and pink topaz is absolutely stunning.

And that brings me to the issue of price. For years the price of darker coloured blue topaz, especially London Blue topaz has steadily increased. There aren’t many places that do the treatment and this, combined with the fact that it has to sit for so long – and so therefore treaters have to tie up their money for so long with no return – added to the steady increase in popularity of this gem has made it rather scarce and expensive. It is no longer so easy to find large, flawless gems and sometimes the colour can be rather more greyish than desirable. It is a shame as it is a popular stone and the colour is unusual; I can’t think of many other stones like it, except maybe some of the darker blue tourmaline…and that is also not very plentiful and correspondingly pricey. Sky blue topaz has long been used as an alternative to aquamarine. This makes sense especially for smaller sizes as it is just a little more saturated than aquamarine generally is. Swiss Blue has a saturated and vibrant cornflower blue hue whilst London Blue is a sophisticated greyish-greenish blue.

Below from top, I love the elegant, flowing lines of Laura Stasa’s Calla Lily Pendant in silver and gold; although the icy blue topaz tones look great with white metals, I think that London Blue in particular is also sensational in gold. This pendant has an Art Deco quality to me, whilst at the same time being utterly contemporary. I really love jewellery with clean and definite lines like Kate Phipp’s tapered silver pendant set with a trillion sky blue topaz. This does illustrate how well the pale blue of this stone is set off by silver; icy perfection. The Swiss blue topaz ring by Mountain Spirit Jewels demonstrates the vibrant, saturated colour of this stone, for so long the best known and favourite colour of blue topaz, and bottom left, Kira Ferrer’s stacking rings sets all three colours in juxtaposition from light to dark in beautiful, clean settings.

There is one issue that is common to all topaz, however, and that is a property of the stone itself; cleavage. Topaz has what you call basal cleavage, which means that the cleavage plane is parallel to the base of the crystal. Cutters try to mitigate this by cutting the stones so that the cleavage direction is at a 15 degree angle to the table; however topaz can be rather brittle for this reason and does need a certain amount of careful handling.

Currently I sell blue and white topaz. I’d like to start offering other colours of untreated topaz – it is on my list of desired gems for next year.

To shop all of my topaz, click here.

joopygems.com

Samples, Seconds and Bockety Shapes Sale

Yes, it’s another of my hugely popular destash sales, this one is more seconds and funny shapes rather than overstock, but there are some really lovely stones at amazing prices; diamond, sapphire, tourmaline, lost of moonstone and labradorite as well as some sterling silver findings. I’m finally admitting to myself that my jewellery making days are over, and so I’m selling off my stash of silver findings! Click here to shop the sale.

https://joopygems.com/categories/samples-seconds-bockety-shapes-sale.html

All New Summer Sparklers!

My newsletter is out, listing all (most!) of my new stock, and it’s all just so beautiful! You can see the newsletter at this link https://app.omnisend.com/view/5f0f4fa54c7fa46de454e89e/0 or why not sign up at my website. There’s usually an offer or sale each month and newsletter readers are the first to know! I’ve got a bunch of restocks this month, including some of the most beautiful clean hessonite and some really lovely pale pink tourmaline. Next month is going to be phenomenal stone month, with opal, rainbow moonstone and labradorite; some restocks but also new shapes and sizes and cuts. I’m also hoping for some all new high quality kyanite rose cuts, because who can’t resist deep blue stones?!

I’ve also got a double points offer on this month; if you don’t have a loyalty account, why not set one up? Just click on the ‘Rewards’ icon at the lower right hand corner of my homepage; it’s very simple, you just exchange points for money off coupons. The points boundaries are all completely reachable – you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get a reward!

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Not a Love Letter to Emerald

When I first started out in jewellery, I used to make lamp-worked beads and I sold my jewellery in various shops and galleries. One of the shops always said to me, ‘no green please. People don’t buy green jewellery.’ Well, times have changed and green is definitely having a renaissance. Of course, if you talk about green stones, the first one that comes to mind has to be emerald. I have to say that I am not a massive fan of the big E; why not? Well, it’s a combination of its price and properties. Emerald is generally a very included kind of stone. Most emeralds have inclusions; gas bubbles, liquid inclusions, minerals and fractures. And oh my goodness; the fractures. It’s not known whether emerald is a generally fractured stone, or whether it’s the extreme processes required to get it out of the ground. Either way, what this means is that emerald tends to be fracture filled. Something like 96% of all emerald on the market is fracture-filled. This means that clean emerald is very rare and very expensive, and that cheaper emerald is generally highly included, almost certainly fracture filled and the lustre just isn’t great. Emerald is also a rather brittle stone, and of course, as we all know, fractures will tend to make a stone more brittle; if you have a fracture filled stone, then it will appear much less fractured than it actually is, and therefore – dangerously – appear more stable than it actually is. It’s not a great choice for a ring stone. In recent years, emerald finds in Afghanistan have turned up high quality, intense green and relatively clean stones, but obviously there are issues involved with mining in that part of the world.

From GIA article Emerald Adventures in Afghanistan

If you had to give me a choice, my top pick for a green stone would be tsavorite garnet. It comes in a stunning intense green, it has fantastic dispersion (it’s very sparkly!) it’s durable, free from inclusions and is not generally treated. It isn’t cheap, but small stones are reasonably priced and they have a beauty and brilliance that you just don’t get with emerald. Below is Anderson Beattie’s Opal & Tsavorite Garnet Ring; the opal really brings out the chrome green shade of the tsavorite.

Chrome diopside is another intense green option. It really isn’t well known and that’s a shame as colour-wise it packs a punch. It retains its intensity of colour even in small sizes – conversely this means that the colour can get very closed in large sizes, and really you don’t tend to see this stone above around 8mm.

Tourmaline: ah my favourite stone of all time. Green tourmaline runs the spectrum from aqua blue through to yellow ‘beer bottle’ green, with all shades of green-blue, blue-green, intense chrome green and light green along the way. Additionally, because tourmaline is so pleochroic, you will often get several shades of green in the same stone – the ring below from Disa Allsop is a really clear example of this where you can see the bright green and gold green colours dancing across the stone. I also love the way that Lola Brooks uses this spectrum of greens in her jewellery. Mimi Favre’s triple claw setting ring also demonstrates the colour range of tourmaline and Monika Krol’s asymmetrical green tourmaline pendant highlights the beauty of this stone set in gold.

Peridot runs apple green through to yellow-green. It’s reasonably priced and so it’s possible to have it in much larger sizes. For me its at its best en cabochon in a nice strong setting. It’s not hard to find clean stones but larger stones can be prone to black inclusions. However, if you can find them, peridot can have very characteristic ‘lily pad’ inclusions, which I think are rather beautiful. Below is Barbara Tipple’s Lioness Peridot Torque, whose powerful linesperfectly showcases the beauty of this stone.

And this ring from Tayma Fine Jewellery – a large, highly included peridot which looks knockout in this strong and simple setting.

I have a variety of green stones for sale in my shop; to browse, click here

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Final Moving Sale!

As many of you already know, I am moving the business to the UK. It’s been an amazing ten years in Hong Kong but it’s time for me to return to my home now and give the kids some roots. I’m looking forward to daffodils and bluebells, strawberries, clean air and water, decent pubs, so many things! Before I leave I need to drop my stock levels a bit so I am offering a flash sale – 40% off for the next day. Just use code MOVING40 at checkout! This is the last sale I will run before I leave, so don’t miss it! Click here to shop.

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Lapis Lazuli Rose Cut Cabochon 8mm Round

Timeless, enduring, serene…but maybe, a little bit boring?

I am referring, of course, to Pantone’s Colour of the Year, Classic Blue. I don’t know, I find I am often a bit bemused by their picks. Along with everyone else, last year’s Living Coral seemed bizarre. This year, they are clearly playing it safe, but is it too safe? What do they say?

“We are living in a time that requires trust and faith. It is this kind of constancy and confidence that is expressed by Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue we can always rely on,” says executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, Leatrice Eiseman.

Ok, yes. Solid and dependable; words to make the blood start pounding through your veins? Not really. He goes on to say,

“A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky”

Ok, that’s better, and I can see that. It is a very definite shade of blue; a strong colour, but not a loud one. ‘Full fat’ says Michelle Ogundehin and it’s a good description. Blue skies thinking, celestial skies, deep blue seas, all lovely connotations. But also sadness and depression; having the blues. It’s an interesting choice too, when other colour forecasters, for example WSGN, have opted for green shades, in keeping with the current focus on sustainability and, well, green issues.

I do think there’s a difference when it comes to colours between clothing and jewellery. I can’t see myself wearing this blue in clothing form. It’s at once too loud and not distinctive enough. It’s the colour of store uniforms and cheap balldresses from Moss Bros. However, when it comes to gems, it’s a different matter, because the two biggest stars are sapphire and lapis lazuli. At opposite ends of the value spectrum, still there are affordable sapphire cabochons and lapis is making inroads into fine jewellery. Sapphire is my birthstone and yes, one of my favourite gems. But lapis is something else; still inexpensive enough that it can be used in large, experimental pieces, it frequently appears in very contemporary looks, and yet it has a pedigree that stretches back centuries. When set in gold, it evokes Renaissance paintings when, crushed, it provided the blue pigment for the Madonna’s dress. In silver it is clean and sharp.

Sapphire is more expensive and rare, and therefore the jewellery tends towards the more classic and traditional. Big, set-piece engagement rings surrounded by diamonds (like my own!). However, sapphire does also lend itself to a clean, contemporary look, princess cuts set in white metal or larger cabochons in plain settings.

Other stones that could fall under the Classic Blue hat are London Blue topaz and iolite, although the former shades a bit green and the latter a bit purple. In terms of gems, I carry a range of all these stones. To view my Classic Blue collection, click here.

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Home is Where the Gems are :-)

Some of the sharp-eyed among you may have noticed that I’ve been doing more offers than usual and the reason for that is that, after 10 years in Hong Kong we are finally moving back to the UK and Joopy Gems is moving too! I’m trying to reduce my stock levels a bit before returning, to try and reduce the overall cost of bringing them to the UK. I’m doing a time-limited 2 day sale of 35% off all stock – unless stocks fall below where I want them in which case I’ll stop it sooner.

Hong Kong has been really good to us and I’ve loved living there. It is still the most interesting, fascinating multi-layered and vibrant place I have ever lived. Although things have been difficult recently, our return is more due to family reasons – to be close to my mum and for the children to attend school in the UK. I’m excited that I’ll be able to offer a better deal for UK customers – no VAT and no Royal Mail international handling fee as well as fast delivery times. For non-UK customers, there will be little change.

To enjoy the sale, you can use code MOVING35 on pretty much all stock. Click here to shop the sale.

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Offer 3: Frozen Fire

Offer number 3 is a 20% discount on all labradorite and white topaz. What could be more seasonally appropriate than glowing, glittering, frosty white topaz and labradorite, like sparkling frost on a winter’s night? The inuit used to believe that labradorite was the frozen fire from the aurora borealis, so this is an offer full of romance and lore! You can shop the offer here, just use code ADVENT3 at checkout

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