Comment

All that Glitters...

 

Evidence of the gemstone trade dates back seven thousand years. But it is only since medieval times that trade in gems became organized and secretive. Secrets of the trade were passed on from generation to generation and are still evident today. It was essential for merchants to guard the source of their precious finds as a matter of self preservation. Today, the gemstone trade is a closed fraternity based on high levels of trust between members. Trust is the cornerstone of the professional jewellery and precious stone business. As a gem buyer, I depend on honest information from trusted dealers with a gemological background. But in a world of enticing colours and glitter the paths are fraught with deception and misrepresentation.

Just as in any other field, human ingenuity has entered the realm of gemstone enhancement, by artificially improving the appearance of the natural crystal. Heating and or irradiating certain stones to saturate the colour may increase their values, while an untreated naturally beautiful sapphire or aquamarine will be traded at a premium. Industry standards mandate full disclosure of any enhancement a stone had been subjected to. This transparency is vital to the trade, from the gem dealer down to the client adoring an original piece created with precious gems.

It is fascinating we value coloured rocks, formed in the earth’s crust over thousands/millions of years of heat and pressure. Our lust for these sparkling beauties goes far beyond the physical properties we endear. Gemstones, in particular coloured gemstones, also boast the attribution of rarity and healing power.

Precious stones are graded for value by a set of criteria known as the 4C’s: cut, colour, clarity and carat weight. One could arguably add the characteristic of rarity to this formula. Alexandrites in the desirable qualities of size and degree of colour change are very rare as is a certain tourmaline from a now closed mine in Paraiba, Brazil.

While the business behind the gemstone trade is intriguing, our imagination is very much captured by the beauty and brilliance each coloured crystal holds. Bringing this magic to light is the work of a very experienced lapidary (gem cutter), trained in various crystal systems and physical properties. This vast knowledge combined with the precise faceting skills transforms a dull raw crystal into a deeply rich gemstone. All this work is still done by hand–very skilled hands and eyes to preserve the integrity of the most valued gems. One of these centres of highly trained professionals is Idar-Oberstein, a small town in southwestern Germany. Despite economic pressures, Idar is still home to many multi-generational lapidary shops.

Contemporary lapidaries are constantly pushing the boundaries of what has been a very traditional trade. Creativity and the advent of computer applications have helped bring very effective new facet designs to light. One pioneer in creating new gemstone designs is Bernd Munsteiner of Idar-Oberstein. Starting in the early eighties, Munsteiner broke with tradition by developing what he called the “fantasy cut”, carving  strategically placed facets into the back of a gemstone. The result is a spectacular light-show appearing in the front.

While the cut of a stone describes the geometry and placement of facets, the shape refers to the actual outline. The shape of gemstones plays a dominant role in any jewellery design, the inspiration for the next creation. Classic shapes like round, oval and teardrop top the list, followed by emerald cut, square and cushion. The curved triangular form called trillion is considered one of the fancy cuts and is very versatile in jewellery design.

Colour may be the other preferred criteria when choosing a stone, as colour has the power to evoke deep emotional reactions. Red, blue and yellow are primary unmixed pure hues. Secondary hues like green, violet and brown are the result of mixing two or more primaries. Hue, saturation and tone are the three components what we commonly perceive as colour. Hue is technically the colour, saturation refers to the brightness of the hue, either vivid or dull. Tone, the third component describes the hues lightness or darkness. Balancing the three factors in a gemstone creates the beauty we desire and love.

The third “C” describing clarity is easily understood, as it indicates the level of blemishes or fractures contained within a crystal. Inclusions of any kind reduces the amount of light refracted and thus the stone will appear less brilliant. On the flip side, inclusions can be used creatively as a feature in the stone design by a gem cutter.

A few lesser known facts about gemstones: 

Sapphires are second only to diamonds in hardness and come in most hues of the colour spectrum. 

  • A red sapphire containing a trace amount of chromium in its mineral composition is considered a ruby.
  • Emeralds and aquamarine are members of the beryl family. Also included in this group are red beryl, yellow (heliodor) and morganite.
  • Alexandrite is a chrysoberyl that has aluminium replaced by chromium. This composition enables the rare stone to change colour from emerald green in daylight to a strong purplish red in incandescent light.
  • Spinel gained prominence when in the 19th century it was discovered that the Black Prince’s ruby was actually a superb red spinel. The stone is now part of the British Imperial State Crown.

Working with these fine gifts from deep inside the earth is exhilarating and a privilege. I believe each precious stone should be honoured by creating a piece of jewellery of lasting value that can be treasured for generations.

Comment

Comment

A Gallery Tour From Vancouver To Kingston

For the upcoming summer may I introduce you to my trusted partners in retail, representing my work with knowledge and enthusiasm. This imaginary journey starts in Vancouver and finishes in the historic city of Kingston, Ontario.

Several years ago I’ve had the good fortune of being introduced to the very charming Laura K Jewitt, owner of the boutique style jewellery store bearing her name. Laura warmly invites clients from neighbouring communities to special events feauring pearls, gemstones or new works by b heer jewellery originals. A visit to Laura K Jewitt Design is not complete without experiencing the sights of the powder room.

Michael Dean Jewellery, located on beautiful Granville Island, is the newest member of this exclusive club of b heer retailers. Michael and his partner Carole Baldock opened the cozy store on Boatlift Lane in 2005. In addition to his own award winning designs, Michael represents several Canadian jewellery creators. His knowledge goes beyond jewellery, always open to expand on the history of Granville Island and its diverse shops.

Invermere is a favourite weekend getaway for Calgarians, also home to the Artym Gallery. The owners Connie Artym-Bradatsch and Grey Bradatsch recently celebrated their 10th. anniversary with the traditional Gala at the end of December. With monthly shows featuring new works by artists, the display is constantly changing. Walking through the doors at Artym Gallery is always a refreshing experience. Any purchases, big or small, Connie and Grey will be happy to deliver to your home in Calgary.

Rubaiyat is a well known destination on 17th Avenue and I am proud to be represented by Pam, David and Morgan Haight and staff. This sprawling treasure trove showcasing over 400 artists and designers may require some skillful browsing, with friendly help never far away. Should you feel fatigued after a long walk, try the comfort of a patio chair on display. Don’t forget to ask for the designs by b heer jewellery originals.

Take a trip to historic Bridgeland and visit X.O Fine Jewellery for a collection of unique works by 10 local designers. Ron and Jack Hanania, with combined over 40 years of experience in gemology, opened this gallery late last year. Enjoy a complimentary beverage while browsing the diverse selection in the showcases. Ron and Jack will also provide you  with a professional appraisal of your jewellery for your insurance.

Wong Ken’s Fine Jewellery is a well established, family owned business in Willow Park Village. John Wong Ken, his wife Gerri and brother Paul offer this rare blend of exceptional service, attention to detail and a wide selection of fine jewellery. Wong Ken’s is also the exclusive destination in Calgary for created coloured diamonds. This store will serve you well with brand name Swiss watches like Tissot and Longines in addition to in house jewellery repairs.

Traveling east across the the prairies to Toronto you can visit the innovative Cheryl Fraser at Zilberschmuck. The name is derived from the German “Silberschmuck”, meaning silver jewellery. This title may sound too restricting for she represents jewellery creators working in a variety of precious and non-precious metals. Cheryl will be celebrating 10 years of Zilberschmuck in 2013 with a bigger than ever annual juried design competition, followed by a special show in the gallery.  Zilberschmuck as a gallery supports one of the largest numbers of metal artists in Canada.

 Rounding off this journey is a stop in beautiful Kingston, Ontario, a mere 4 hour drive from Toronto. Metalworks is located in the heart of historic downtown and has been serving clients for 25 years. Owner Steve Luckwaldt is the driving force in hand fabricated custom jewellery, while Vicki Westgate is the friendly face in the showroom knowledgable about the work of over 25 artists Metalworks represents, including the designs by b heer jewellery originals.

Laura K Jewitt Designs, 4469 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C., 604.282.7775

Michael Dean Jewellery, 1808 Boatlift Lane, Granville Island, B.C., 604.684.3866

Artym Gallery, 934 7th Avenue, Invermere, B.C., 250.342.7566

Rubaiyat, 722 - 17th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB., 403.228.719

X.O Fine Jewellery, 601 Marsh Road NE, Calgary, AB., 587.350.7575

Wong Ken’s Fine Jewellery, 570, 10816 Macleod Tr. SE, Calgary, AB., 403.271.9267

Zilberschmuck, 910 Kingston Road, Toronto, ON., 416.699.6000

Metalworks, 352 King Street East, Kingston, ON., 613.544.5078

Comment

Comment

The High Price of Gold

With the price of gold at record levels, or so it seems, I would like to give you the perspective of the jewellery creator. To begin may I offer you some historical background to bring the rise in value of this precious metal into context.

Since the late 1800‘s the U.S. currency has been backed by gold and as of 1944 traded with a fixed conversion rate of USD 35 per troy ounce. In 1971 the then U.S. president Nixon decided to break with tradition, remove the dollar from the gold standard and hand the precious metal to the speculators on the stock markets. After a mere 9 years of climbing this commodity reached a peak price of $ 850 per troy ounce in 1980. Following this short term spike gold settled in the $ 300-400 range for nearly 2 decades, reaching a low of $ 251 in August 1999. The next 9 years has brought a steady rise and spiking sharply in 2008 to break the $ 1000 mark for the first time. As I am writing this gold is traded at $ 1380 or $ 1383 Canadian per troy ounce.( As an interesting aside, the 1980 peak price is equivalent to $ 2359 in 2009 USD, adjusted to inflation).

To jewellery designers and creators like myself the sharp rise of our raw material  poses many challenges. I can design my work with a reduced gold weight in mind and possibly compromise durability as well as comfort. I can change from 18 karat to 14 karat, reducing the pure gold content in the alloy, thereby sacrificing the lustrous beauty of the gold. Many lower gold alloy compositions are also prone to discolourations or oxidization.

These solutions aimed at reducing input costs may help to some extent while introducing compromises that detract from the desired outcome. My aim is to offer you and all my clients jewellery created for life. Starting with an idea, function, esthetics and colours are finely balanced to create the design. Yet, a design is only as strong as the meticulously executed finished piece to the highest possible level of excellence. In combining these elements I believe to pay homage to and respect gold as the fine precious metal we value so much.

Bayot Heer

Comment

Comment

The Shapes of Diamonds

With spring approaching in the northern hemisphere so is the season for love, engagement and marriage. The diamond ring is the primary symbol to celebrate the betrothal.

You may know about the 4c’s in diamonds and may have even memorized all its meanings. I would like to introduce you to the many shapes diamonds are cut and their corresponding personality traits of the recipient.

Round brilliant shape is the most common diamond sold, and offers incomparable versatility when designing a ring. This shape best reflects family-centered, dependable, secure and safe personality traits.

Princess shape is square or rectangular with pointed corners, cut with similar numbers of facets as the round brilliant cut. This choice speaks of a disciplined, conservative, efficient and honest personality.

Emerald shape, a rectangular diamond with cut corners, the facets are cut parallel to the perimeter of the stone, also known as step cut. The small number of facets in this design requires the diamond to be of high clarity. The emerald cut shape shares the characteristics with the princess cut.

Oval shaped diamonds are very well suited for women with smaller hands or fingers and are often paired with smaller diamonds or coloured stones. This shape speaks of an individualistic, creative, well-organized person, willing to take chances.

Marquise shape, an oval shape with tapered, pointed ends, this diamond is often chosen by people with short fingers to create the appearance of slender fingers. Extroverted, aggressive, innovative and career-minded persons may find this unique shape very compatible.

Pear or drop shaped diamond is complimentary to people with small and short fingers. This shape is best suited for conforming, considerate and adaptable personalities.

Radiant shape, square or rectangular with cut corners, this diamond is a beautiful combination of the emerald and round diamond shapes. This cut is favoured for fancy yellow diamonds to enhance the brilliance and colour. The radiant cut shares the personality traits with the emerald and princess shapes.

Find your match.

Bayot Heer

Comment

Comment

Happy Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day can trace its roots farther back than its modern-day association with greeting cards and flower shops.

The Romans celebrated the “ Feast of Lupercalia”, festival of fertility on February 15th, where boys and girls were matched by drawing names the day before, February 14th.  The pairs would stay together for the duration of Lupercalia or until next year’s celebration, by which time many had fallen in love and married.  By the third century, the Roman Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage, deeming single men to be better soldiers for his army.  Along came priest Valentine who defied his ruler and continued to perform weddings. This defiance earned him his execution on February 14th and he was later elevated to sainthood.

Other versions of legend Valentine have him helping Christians escape persecution, only to be caught and sentenced to death. While in prison, Valentine falls in love with the jailer’s daughter and before his death, sends his sweetheart a love note ending with the notation, “From your Valentine”.

To commemorate these events, Pope Gelasius declared February 14th “St. Valentine’s Day” in the year 498, putting an end to the former pagan celebration.

By the Middle Ages, people in England and France saw February 14th as the day when birds started to look for their mates, further linking this day with notions of romance.  St. Valentine was later named the patron saint of lovers.

The mass-produced cards of today grew out of the popularity of handmade love notes, or “Valentines”, exchanged by sweethearts and it is now celebrated as a day of love and friendship.

Yours in friendship,

Bayot Heer

Comment

Comment

It's Not About Me

Welcome to a place where ideas, information and interaction are encouraged. A new blog will be posted regularly exploring the world of jewellery and I invite you to contribute your comments as a way to promote discussion. My intention is to lift the vale of mystery surrounding jewellery and to help you make informed decisions during the selection process.

This is also a place where you can share your experiences and stories with us. You may write about your personal experience in giving or receiving a precious gift. Buying a ring on impulse can be as powerful as having a piece of jewellery carefully designed and custom made. Share the moment when you “popped the question.” You may have spent weeks planning the event, orchestrating every last detail. You may have seized a spontaneous moment to ask for your lady/man’s hand in marriage. The answer you received may have put you on top of the world…or it may have thrown you for a loop.  Either way, your stories come to life on this website.

A wedding engagement is by far the most popular occasion for selecting jewellery. For men in particular, this can cause much stress and anxiety.  It’s all about choosing that perfect ring for that special someone. You may have had a wonderful experience in finding just what you were looking for or you may have enlisted the help of family and friends to ease the pressure of your responsibility. For others, neither of the above applies as things did not go as planned.  This major event is rich in story possibilities.

Along with your stories, I invite your questions and will attempt to answer them as best I can.  You may have concerns about the metal your jewellery is created with or the gemstones you own. I would like you to wear your precious gem pieces with the confidence that only knowledge can bring.

My contributions will range from technical and design-oriented matters, to precious metals, and my personal favourite, gemstones. We can talk about the various colours of alloyed gold, their properties and applications. The topic of gemstones covers a vast variety of specimens, representing a spectrum of spectacular colours. It’s a fascinating field!

Your participation in this blog will make for its success.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Comment