VIX Jewellery

General Gemstone Buying Advice or The Hard Truth about those Pretty Coloured Rocks

Vicki IoannouComment

Gem buying is an expert’s game. This applies to anyone in the world who is considering buying a lovely gemstone, or two, or more. Rule of thumb:  if you have no experience in the business of gemstones, the odds are stacked firmly against you.  You’ll run into all types of scams and scammers in the gem world, even in shops, trading areas and at mines. 

Let’s get one thing straight : Gemmology, as opposed to Geology, is a b-u-s-i-n-e-s-s.  Its sole purpose is to make money for the vendor.

That said, there are many vendors who are really good people.  They don’t want to scam you because they want repeat business.  But don’t get side-tracked or deluded into thinking they are your friend.  They are business owners, which does not mean they are scam artists, they are in the trade for a living income. 

Are you travelling? Well, keep in mind that if you’re a tourist in a foreign country, you will be perceived as a rich outsider. That is, you’re considered fair game, the proverbial sucker, if you like … you know, there’s one born every minute. Don’t be deluded or romanced into the notion of fair play.  You will find that local business customs may differ from what you are used to, back home. If you’re going to play the game, you can’t just take people’s word for it!

But you can’t resist that huge emerald at a steal! Or the rubies that are priced too good to be true! Sorry to be the one to burst the bubble… the other mindset is that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.

Negative information is rarely volunteered, in fact, you need to stay in the buyer beware mindset.

Already bought gems before you read this article?  No problem.  Have the gems carefully examined at a gemmology lab.  I’m guessing there is one in every major city, so get into the yellow ages and look it up.  This is good practice.  Human error occurs in even the best situations, even the vendor may have been not enough on his game and may have been tricked.  Very occasionally, you can get gems checked before even making the purchase.  Not often, but it has been known to happen. 

If you want to test the gemstones on your own, you need to use tried and true methods. These are the tools of the trade that you will require, plus the knowledge of how to use them and what you are looking for.

Dichroscope - Spectroscope - Microscope - Refractometer - Specific Gravity Liquids

Oh, and by the way, the gadgets you purchase on eBay or the dollar shop by means of a shortcut to gem identification, don’t work - save your money.

Tourmaline Bi-Colour Crystal from Afghanistan

Tourmaline Bi-Colour Crystal from Afghanistan

Aquamarine crystal from Afghanistan

Aquamarine crystal from Afghanistan

Getting the best out of my collection of seashell fragments

Vicki IoannouComment

So, today I was feeling like I should polish something.  The shell fragments I collected from the beach a few weeks ago were winking at me so I grabbed a likely looking piece and started the process of acid wash.  The acid removes a lot of the calcification. 

I would not bother with this process on anything tiny and fragile, this process is best for heavy chunks of shell that are nacre-rich.  Anything else just weakens in the acid bath and crumbles when it is handled.  This shell is about 1/8” nacre, so it can stand the intensity. 

The acid wash is done in 30 second increments, as I have to be mindful that only calcium deposits are removed.  What I want is a sturdy piece of attractive, useable material to be the result. 

Of course, this process must never be done without the proper precautions taken.  This is a professional grade workshop, so safety is a top priority here. 

The shell has emerged as a potential beauty, so I moved on to the grinder where the sharp, rough edges were removed and smoothed down to a wearable condition.  This process is actually hellish on the hands, but the result is worth it.

Began with this fragment of Turbinidae shell.

Began with this fragment of Turbinidae shell.

Lots of rainbow shades in the nacre

Lots of rainbow shades in the nacre

I left just a dash of the colour which is dark green

I left just a dash of the colour which is dark green

Quartzes anyone?

Vicki IoannouComment

Quartz. The name comes from the Slavic word for hard. It is also the name of a group of minerals of pretty much the same chemical composition - silicon dioxide or SiO2 - and similar physical properties. Today, I’m all about the macrocrystalline quartz, the Rose Quartz.

Rose quartz is that lovely pale pink stone that inspires love and Valentines and all things pretty and pink. It is romantic and lovely and feminine. It looks amazing set in silver and in gold. Jewellers love it, clients love it. As a professional jeweller, amateur rockhound, all-round gem-enthusiast myself, I can report that the stone often shows crackling and turbidity within its structure.  This, by no means, makes it unattractive to the quartz enthusiast.  Quite the opposite, it is these imperfections that make each cut stone unique and fabulous.  The pink tone comes from the titanium content, however, colour can fade, so store it carefully. 

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The star effect we sometimes see in Rose Quartz is caused by microscopic rutile needles within the crystal.  When cut en cabochon, the star appears.  usually, only the larger, clear stones are facetted.  Crystal enthusiasts love to use beautiful Rose Quartz has been used in love rituals and ceremonies for centuries, and of course, this is the stone of the hopeless romantic.  The crystal structure is trigonal and Rose Quartz can be found in quite large specimens.  Lucky for us, there is no shortage of Rose Quartz, which can be found in abundance in mines throughout the world, most often Brazil, Madagascar, Mozambique, India, Namibia, Sri Lanka and the United States.

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Strawberry Quartz is another member of the silicon dioxide family of minerals.  It is the marketing name forgone variety of included quartz.  By included, I mean, the needle-like inclusions of other mineral material.  Strawberry Quartz gets its colour from inclusions of various forms of iron oxide. There are four different, but chemically related, iron oxides that may be found in quartz and look like what marketer’s call, well, Strawberry Quartz. They include lepidocrocite (FeO(OH)), goethite (also FeO(OH) but with a different crystal structure), limonite (FeO(OH)*nH2O) and hematite (Fe2O3).

Genuine Strawberry Quartz and Rose Quartz of dazzling prettiness, set in silver. All Jewellery made me me.

Genuine Strawberry Quartz and Rose Quartz of dazzling prettiness, set in silver. All Jewellery made me me.

Some material sold as strawberry quartz is synthetic rather than natural; most of it is simply glass, so buyer beware.  They are commonly fashioned into jewellery components such as beads or pendants and may also carved into into decorative objects. But don't confuse these synthetic products for genuine quartz with natural iron oxide inclusions.  My tip: always buy from reputable sources.






Support small business - buy it on ETSY

Vicki IoannouComment

As I am sure you already know, ETSY is a great place to look at and buy fashion, costume, vintage, antique and fine jewellery.

When ETSY started, anyone could sign on and start selling stuff and you never really knew the quality of the product, until you got to hold it in your hand.  Focussing on jewellery today, there are millions of jewellery items for sale on ETSY… literally, millions.  Sure, there is cheap and crappy stuff, in addition to really good stuff.  You have to do your due diligence here.  Keep looking, and looking and looking. If it is treasure you are after, you really have to wade through it to get to the treasures, and it will be worth it when you find it.  

My best advice is to always use keywords to narrow down the search when you are looking for something.  Be really specific, it really helps your chances of getting to the prize sooner.  For example, sterling silver sapphire box chain bracelet  is a better start than just typing in silver chain bracelet.  Instead of just gold necklace, type18k yellow gold curb chain pearl necklace. See what I mean?  The more keywords you can use, the merrier your search will be!

If you are just browsing and you see something you like, add the store or the item to your favourites. Many times, (and this has happened to me, too) it can be hard to find the same store twice if you forget the name.  Also, there is the possibility that a seller who posts one item you like, will post other items you’ll like.  

If something is lacking in pictures or information, don’t be shy, ask the seller questions. Very few sellers will ignore a potential sale via the conversation option, so be conversational and ask.  Good communication is key.  That said, don’t expect an immediate answer - do be mindful that the seller may be in a different time zone. 

Seller reviews should be read.  However, being a person who has been happily and successfully online shopping for the past twenty years or more, I would suggest you only read the negative reviews and decide for yourself.  That’s what I always do.  Why, you ask?  Because, it is the negative reviews that will be properly define the situation for you. Not everyone has less than five star reviews because of stuff they have done badly.  Obviously, it’s a no-brainer that buyers will gush about a good sale.  That doesn’t tell you much, except that they are happy with their purchase. 

It’s the negative feedback that holds the truth in an honest review.  Like, for example, something like, “… loved the product, perfect communication, awesome shop… had to pay $xx and wait ages for my parcel to arrive…” Everything was perfect except that it took ages to get here. That is not the fault of the seller. A five star review should be all about the first three options.  Deducting stars for something occurring outside the control of the seller is just not a nice thing to do!  Postage costs and postal delivery times are out of the control of the seller and have zero to do with the seller’s professionalism and dedication to giving the buyer a first class online shopping experience.  Some years ago, I had sold a sapphire necklace that was intended as a Christmas gift to the buyer’s beloved.  Everything went well, he had thoughtfully made the purchase several weeks before Christmas and the package was despatched with an anticipated  delivery date well before Christmas Eve.  There was nothing to worry about, right? Wrong.  A hurricane struck and East Coast postal deliveries were delayed indefinitely in the ensuing chaos.  Needless to say, the delivery took several weeks and the beloved didn’t see her sapphire necklace until late January.  My buyer was dismayed, to say the least.  For my part, I kept in close communication with this buyer and did all I could my end to keep his spirits high about the whole situation.  Despite the tribulations, the review he left was nothing short of glowing.  If you do buy things, leave honest feedback about the product.

I once bought something through ETSY that arrived in a damaged and torn box, the item (a beige vintage felt hat) was damp and ultimately, unwearable.  I did not jump straight into feedback on the seller’s page, instead I photographed the box and the item and sent the images to her, with a note explaining that this is how it arrived.  She instantly contacted me to apologise, advised I toss it in the trash and refunded my money. She was as shocked as I was at the condition of my purchase and its container.  Again, communication saved the day.  What a great seller.

Many Etsy sellers accept returns, but not all. Never count on being able to return something unless it specifically says that you can. Even then, you’ll be responsible for return shipping, which is not entirely unreasonable.

The only thing more annoying than buying shoddy goods is buying something beautiful and anticipated, but you cannot wear it.  Check your measurements before committing to a purchase and if in any doubt at all, communicate with the seller to sort this out.  No sense in going without something you really love and must have, right?




Look for beauty in all things, not perfection!

Vicki IoannouComment

Been fighting a cold this past week and decided to tackle a largish piece of Kunzite that I had sitting a drawer for a long time.  In my quest to be a "wholistic" jeweller (couldn't think of a better adjective, sorry!) it is only natural for me to learn new skills to complement my bonne métier, if you like.  Stone carving is a skills that I have taken to, these past few months, like a duck to water.  It has also taught me a bit about what is actually beautiful.  A simple chunk of rough mineral has a beauty all of its own.

A really nice piece of Kunzite. As I cut and polished this, it cleaved into a mere shadow of its former size.  That is one of the risks a lapidary faces.  As careful as you can be, you just never know when part of it will give way!

A really nice piece of Kunzite. As I cut and polished this, it cleaved into a mere shadow of its former size.  That is one of the risks a lapidary faces.  As careful as you can be, you just never know when part of it will give way!

Most people seek out perfection in favour of beauty.  Sure, you will get perfection in a computer designed, 3D printed article, that is what that technology is all about.  I am not so sure that this is the last word, because whilst the creative process can be satisfied, made easier and time-saving via CAD software and 3D printers, it doesn’t really mean squat as far as the manual dexterity, cunning and skill of one’s very own paws!  Whilst I have been known to have used the services of a CAD expert in one or two particular pieces, this is strictly my 1%.  Ninety-nine percent of my pieces are handcrafted from scratch, and now I can say that a portion of my gem components are handcrafted by me, too.  

A old piece of Turquoise that is awaiting transformation.  Still not sure which way I'll go with this one, but hopefully it will turn out really nice!

A old piece of Turquoise that is awaiting transformation.  Still not sure which way I'll go with this one, but hopefully it will turn out really nice!

For years now, I have toyed with the idea of hand-carving: creating something beautiful; in my case, from a rough chunk of mineral.  This blends seamlessly with my original notion of being a true artisan.  We live in a world now where technology does so much for us that the handcrafting skills are fast becoming a thing of legend.  

Two beryls: a pale beryl bead that I carved, a bit hard to make out the details, it is a simple melon.  An uncut chunk of Emerald rough.  This is the biggest piece I have from that parcel.  

Two beryls: a pale beryl bead that I carved, a bit hard to make out the details, it is a simple melon.  An uncut chunk of Emerald rough.  This is the biggest piece I have from that parcel.  

I have pressed my nose against the glass cases of museums the world over and have swooned in near Stendhal Syndrome at the beauty and amazing creativity of artisans of past centuries.  These works are by no means “perfect” in the modern sense of the word … cracks, fissures, off components, slightly off measurements etc can be spotted by the highly trained eye.  But that doesn’t matter to me and shouldn’t matter to others, either.  The finished product and the overall look is of incredible beauty and poetry and that is what I am, and have always been, seeking to create.  In my world, THIS is what handcrafting is all about.

 

 

Handcrafted Artisan Made ... it's a Thing

Vicki IoannouComment

For much of what I spend my money on, I love handmade. I buy handmade, I make handmade and I sell handmade.  I have salvaged handmade from rubbish skips and opportunity shops, the world over.   Just yesterday, I was asked why handmade is so special and why I bother making in the first place when “similar” things can be found all over the place, in malls and department stores.  Strangely, these days one is asked directly why one does this and even how one’s business is progressing.  Even by people one has only just met!  It often feels intrusive and, more than once, hostile.  I am often stumped as to what to answer.  I know there are people out there who do what I do, so I shall be referring to “we”.  If you are reading this, then you know who you are.

So what really is so special about handmade?  It really is a mistake to compare handmade with mass production and even multi-level marketing or direct marketing as it has become known.  There is no comparison and it is not sold the same way.   We don’t buy it in the same way or even receive it in the same way.  What we do is made to order, bespoke, custom and very often, unique.

Buying handmade is more sustainable  Mass production means bulk buying and this forces the lowering of prices down the line, mainly in the production.  Handmade is more sustainable than mass production.  Lower production costs ensure that the large-scale companies can make more profit while selling, at what first appears to be, a low price – a bargain price.  People buy cheap, get sick of it and chuck it out.  They can afford to buy new stuff because it’s cheap.  Where does a lot of this stuff end up?  Landfill.

Research has shown that many people worldwide are forced into jobs with low pay.  In turn, this has a knock-on effect for those countries, in so far as they cannot develop.  The wealthier nations, such as our own, subsidise these poorer countries with loans, rescue aid, charitable giving, etc.  Guess what?  That money comes from you. 

Buying handmade is the real thing  Many shops want their product to replicate the handmade feel, but it does not.  They continue to buy from trade fairs and mass producers.  Buying from local artists means you are helping to sustain local business and that is priceless.  

Buying handmade supports local people  Buying handmade supports local craft people, wherever you buy it. The price you pay for it is exactly what you see – there are no hidden costs. The revenue stays within the country and people are not out of work but working in their business either as individuals or groups. Taxes are paid, money is generated and the overall impact on our economy is huge.  Buying handmade keeps craft skills alive.

We are facing lost skills, the demise of fine quality handcrafts and a real loss of our cultural identity.  The general buying public can’t even tell the difference!  Buying handmade ensures traditional craft skills are kept alive and creates a demand for education in these skills. Buying handmade celebrates who we are and each high quality handmade item is about people, not machines or corporations.  It’s about the skill of each maker and the magic of their imagination.  It’s about the time and effort that goes into each piece of work. It’s treasure in a world of disposable mass produced tat.

Handmade is forever not for just now  Each handmade piece of work is unique.  Just like you.  Mass-produced items are perceived as disposable.  We’re living in a subculture of if it’s broken, toss it out and just buy a new one.  This attitude is so prevalent that we actually throw away things that are perfectly fine.  We want an upgrade, the latest version, the next best thing… because we want to be noticed that we have what she has.  Where’s the fun in that?  Spend a pile of cash, just to get what she has??? 

OK, so I’m biased … but don’t deny the facts – buying handmade is far better than some people have ever given it credit for!

Caring for your Gemstones

Vicki IoannouComment

In order to keep gems looking as vibrant and valuable as on the first day of purchase, it is important to keep in mind a few basic rules and follow some basic care techniques.

Since genuine gemstones vary in hardness, storing them next to each other can easily result in scratches and  reduced polish. Keeping your jewellery in separated punches or tray compartments is not a problem given the types of containers available on the market, these days. Muji has a line of velvet lined trays that are really luxurious and economically priced. Alternatively, you can store your precious jewels wrapped in cloth, like silk or velvet.  Hang on to those drawstring baggies that come with your jewellery.  If you have nothing suitable, then you can hop online and find some really nice ones at an affordable price.    

Keeping your jewellery safe and packed correctly is easy and it will prevent damage.

The temperature at which gemstones are stored should be constant.  Extreme temperature fluctuation can cause gemstones to fracture.  Also, avoid keeping your gemstones in prolonged strong sunlight.  Sunlight can cause some colored gemstones to fade or discolour. 

Check for any loose gemstones every so often.  This is best done before wearing your jewellery and always remove it when engaging in housework, gardening or exercise.  As a general rule,  I always suggest to my clients they wear their jewellery only when they are doing nothing more strenuous than lifting a champagne glass!  Get your pearl or bead necklaces re-strung at least every two years, or every year if you wear them frequently!  This will save you the heartache of your favourite necklace breaking and scattering beads everywhere.

Do not wear your jewellery if there is a risk of exposure to chemicals. For example, do not wear your jewellery whilst during activities such as swimming or showering.  Chlorine can damage gemstones and soap residue leaves most fine jewellery looking quite dull.  Plus, the chemicals in cosmetics, hairspray and perfume can damage gems.  

The rule is: put jewellery on last and take jewellery off first! 

If you want something done, ask a busy person

Vicki IoannouComment

So, been a while since I posted, but I have been very busy in a new role: being a kitty foster mommy.  I have been hand-feeding newborn kittens and let me tell you, no human mommy can say that it is less work or care.  Tinies have to be fed about ten times every 24 hour period.  Everything has to be meticulously clean, use only boiled water to mix their formula and their crib liners have to be changed daily, if soiled… and they are usually soiled when I see them every morning.  When I say crib liners, these are just squares of old bath towels that are excellent for a myriad of uses around the house and the workshop.  They can be used, laundered (and bleached, if necessary) and used again and again.  I tend to not throw stuff out like so many people like to do.  Re-purpose and recycle are words to live by, in my house.  But, that's just me:  I tend to hang on to things when I can re-purpose them.  Why spend money to buy things you already had in the first place?   

The first five weeks of a kitten's life are critical:  every care must be taken to provide a clean, warm and safe environment for the little nugget to grow.  Sadly, there are hidden dangers, viruses and bacteria that have already invaded a tiny, defenceless body and erode its ability to get further in life.  I didn't see that coming and sadly, made the discovery a couple of days ago.  However, the three little amigos (as I have come to call them) look like they are surviving and thriving.  A quick visit to my vet two days ago resulted in their being given subcutaneous fluids and they are now on a (really nice smelling... tropical punch?) antibiotic for the next ten days to clear up sticky eyes and hopefully, the systemic bug that has caused it. 

Added to this new caper, I am happy to say that my creativity levels have spiked somewhat and I have been working most vigorously on new creations in the shop.  They say that if you want something done, ask a busy person?  Well, that's me right now.  I am thriving on a busy daily schedule of jewellery designing, workshop, home duties, neo natal care, cooking and six hours’ sleep.

Four babies, four days old.

Four babies, four days old.

Young Leo (6 months old) is quite fond of the little ones.   

Young Leo (6 months old) is quite fond of the little ones.

 

Work and catch up on your reading at the same time a.k.a Multitasking

Vicki IoannouComment

Being a jewellery designer/maker is something of a solitary profession, especially when you are located in the heart of rural NSW.  Yes, we live in a house in the middle of a huge paddock. 

But, thanks to modern technology, I can actually put multitasking to further good use.  I have embraced Audible and can now “read” books while I saw, hammer and buff away at the bench.  This is brilliant for someone like me who must have all burners going at once in order to live a satisfactory life and get some work done!

I have delved head first into some books that I will share with you here.  My most recent recommendable reads are as follows:  

Witch: A Tale of Terror, by Charles McKay   Unbelievable the stuff that condemned innocent people in centuries gone by.  We are definitely living in better times, now!

Silent Child, by Sarah A. Denzil    Another “page turner” - I binged on this.  Unputdownable!

The Women in Black, by Madeleine St John  Embark on a delightful trip back in time to the Sydney of the late 1950’s.  The story is centred on a group of shop girls.  A wonderful indulgence.

The golden years of Hollywood: Women who buy their own jewellery

Vicki IoannouComment

I think I can now state that my love for the golden years of Hollywood movies can be known as one of my defining factors.  Rainy weekend afternoons and staying up late into the night, when everyone else had gone to bed, were spent watching black and white films of the early years of Hollywood’s first century.  It was, and still is, a wonderful and magical way to spend hours.  I recall so many of those stunning beauties of the era, decked out in the most splendid and spectacular finery that the art and costume departments of MGM, Paramount, Universal and RKO Pictures could turn out.  I voraciously read everything I could get my hands on about the real movie stars:  Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Merle Oberon and so many more.  These were some of the strong, modern women of their time.  They had careers, fame, the love of their fans, the respect of their peers and …. they bought their own jewels.  Yes, these women bought their own jewels and wore them.  Sure, they could always borrow, but it just isn't the same.  A woman who buys her own jewels makes a proud statement about herself to the world.  She knows her own worth and isn't waiting around or hoping that a man will deliver!  Though some stars were famed for their massive jewellery collections,  am focussing here on the ladies who commissioned and purchased their own. These ladies were collectors of the great creative jewellers of the era: Verdura and Flato, to name just two.  These men had the dream job, creating unique and fabulous pieces of wearable art that were owned and worn by the most luminous women on the planet.  These men inspired me so many years ago, albeit circuitously, to be creative and find my own place in the world of jewellery.

Merle Oberon wearing her Cartier necklace of diamonds and 29 pebble-sized Emeralds

Merle Oberon wearing her Cartier necklace of diamonds and 29 pebble-sized Emeralds

Barbara Stanwyck wearing her own platinum and diamond Gardenia necklace by William Ruser.  The gardenias are detachable and she wears just one in the movie still from "Sorry, Wrong Number".

Barbara Stanwyck wearing her own platinum and diamond Gardenia necklace by William Ruser.  The gardenias are detachable and she wears just one in the movie still from "Sorry, Wrong Number".

Rita Hayworth, the quintessential star:  sings, dances acts and plays the guitar.  She wears an 18k white gold and diamond swag necklace by Paul Flato.

Rita Hayworth, the quintessential star:  sings, dances acts and plays the guitar.  She wears an 18k white gold and diamond swag necklace by Paul Flato.

Joan Crawford loved jewellery, especially statement rings set with large gemstones.  In this photo, she is wearing a 72ct emerald-cut Sapphire.

Joan Crawford loved jewellery, especially statement rings set with large gemstones.  In this photo, she is wearing a 72ct emerald-cut Sapphire.

Gorgeous Paulette Goddard shown here with her husband, Charles Chaplin.  She was known for her collection of beautiful jewels.  This one is the Feather platinum necklace encrusted with diamonds.

Gorgeous Paulette Goddard shown here with her husband, Charles Chaplin.  She was known for her collection of beautiful jewels.  This one is the Feather platinum necklace encrusted with diamonds.

Shown here is the 200ct Star Sapphire that Mary Pickford is wearing, known as the Star of India.  When not in use, it was kept in a vault.

Shown here is the 200ct Star Sapphire that Mary Pickford is wearing, known as the Star of India.  When not in use, it was kept in a vault.

Ava Gardner and Mickey Rooney were engaged in 1942.  The ring her gave her was diamonds set in yellow gold.  During the war years of 1940-45, platinum was not available for use in jewellery.

Ava Gardner and Mickey Rooney were engaged in 1942.  The ring her gave her was diamonds set in yellow gold.  During the war years of 1940-45, platinum was not available for use in jewellery.

Mae West donated her sizeable collection of platinum jewels for the war effort.  Platinum was used in making and repairing airplane parts.

Mae West donated her sizeable collection of platinum jewels for the war effort.  Platinum was used in making and repairing airplane parts.

Paulette Goddard was also a savvy little recycler!  She had her numerous charms soldered onto a bracelet and a compact.

Paulette Goddard was also a savvy little recycler!  She had her numerous charms soldered onto a bracelet and a compact.

That day I paid a visit to the Verdura salon in NYC.  That's me wearing Marlene's 18k yellow gold and diamond Verdura cuff.

That day I paid a visit to the Verdura salon in NYC.  That's me wearing Marlene's 18k yellow gold and diamond Verdura cuff.

Vicki IoannouComment

 

Friendship bracelets are very personal gift especially made for a friend.  Friendship bracelet are not your ordinary accessory. These bracelets, look simple but can symbolize a lot. A few years back, friendship bracelets were just made of colourful strings worn by schoolgirls. These days, the friendship bracelet is more than just a few cords knotted together. It has grown into a versatile accessory that more than stands on its own and can be stylishly worn next to expensive jewels.

Friendship bracelets are accessories made with love. The time, thought, and effort to make the bracelet for someone close to your heart is incomparable.  Many times the time and effort involved in making a friendship bracelet exceeds some people’s job skills!

Bottom line:  these bracelets represent your unique friendship.

There is no better time to give a friendship bracelet than right now. Give the gift of a friendship bracelet to any family member, work colleague or best friend when they least expect it. It is a sure way to show your appreciation of the friendship.  Giving a friendship bracelet is so perfect for any time of the year.

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If it glitters, it ain't necessarily gold ... or is it?

Vicki IoannouComment

Most of us may have come across the term “ gold-filled” in our jewellery travels. This is commonly misunderstood by many people and even some in the business. To be honest, gold-filled jewellery is higher in value than simply gold-plated jewellery. Gold-filled essentially means that the metal is made up of a thick sheet of gold applied to the base metal, 50 to 100,000 times thicker than gold plating. For something to be considered Gold Filled, the gold content must at least 1/20th the total weight of the item.

Gold filled jewellery was very common in the mid to late-Victorian age, due to the factors of economy and the start of manufacturing processes. Therefore, gold filled jewellery was manufactured in large numbers for customers that would ordinarily not be able to afford to buy solid gold items of jewellery. In addition, the scarcity of gold and the rise of commodities through the industrial revolution drove this demand. Gold filled jewellery is so durable that the gold can last anywhere from 5 – 30 years depending on the wear.

Antique gold filled jewellery contains the most generous amount of gold content, and compares most favourably to today’s 9k and 10k gold creations.

It is also identified by “Rolled Gold, GF, 1/20 12K GF” so commit these terms to memory!

 Just so you know:

  • Gold Filled: Solid gold is rolled out into a sheet and then applied to a base metal through heat – applying a thick plate of gold.

  • Electroplated Gold: A thin layer of solid gold added to a base metal through the use of electricity, slightly thicker than gold plate.

  • Gold Plate: A thin layer of solid gold added to jewelry, usually in 12K – can be rubbed off easily.

  • Gold Vermeil: A light gilt of gold on a piece of jewelry, usually done with 14k yellow gold on sterling silver.

 

We held a Workshop ...

Vicki IoannouComment

... and everyone came!  

Well …  not quite… we had a small group of four people who were actually very interested and focussed on the job at hand.  That job was to make a fabulous piece of micro-macrame jewellery in the allocated period of four hours.  Everyone chose bracelets.  

I hadn’t run a workshop for over a year and, I must admit, was a little concerned as to how it would all pan out.  It was OK, I need not have worried.  Everyone found their zone within the first twenty-five minutes and dived right into it.  Relief!  

Colours, cords, beads and designs were discussed and mulled over and before long, the industrious sounds of the little group could be heard.  When that happens, all I have to do is ensure that every piece that walks out with its maker is a winner!  No small feat, that.  

As workshop facilitator, I spend all my time standing over participants’ shoulders looking at where they can improve their knotting and tightening, and basically keeping an eye out for anything that would lessen the experience for each person.  I answer questions, give advice, fetch drinks and snacks and generally try to keep the pace moving along nicely.  After all, they pay good money for the experience and it is my job to deliver the goods.  

You may wonder why don’t people just buy a book and try to teach themselves?  Well, the workshop experience offers a new scene (sometimes an exotic one), new faces of like-minded people, the opportunity to make new friends, professional tutoring in learning something new in a warm and friendly environment.  Great snacks.  Quality materials.  It is not about making a career choice, it is about having fun.  Like a party. Only mostly seated and with minimal alcohol consumption.  We save that for the celebration after everyone surfaces with gorgeous new jewellery!

Apparently, happy people review their positive experience with an average of eleven fellow humans.  That is pretty good, in my book.  Then those people tell others and so on.  This has been proven scientifically, so please don’t email me about it - consult Google! 

All the attendees went home with some great new pieces of handcrafted jewellery.  They were so happy and so was I - Mission Accomplished!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yard Work is Hard Work

Vicki IoannouComment

No, I haven’t forgotten I’m actually a jewellery designer, because it always must look like I write about everything else, except jewellery… but, I have to say when it comes to yard work, I want that stuff done YESTERDAY!  

Did some heavy (hand) lifting moving those parts.

Did some heavy (hand) lifting moving those parts.

 

Hired help will always be available sometime next month at premium a price.  Household male won’t sully his hands, something about too much work to be done in the office and the best I can get from household cats is them acting as a surveying team.  So, I guess it is up to yours truly to step into the boots and gloves and hop to it.

 

The colder Autumn and Winter months here are the best for this outdoor work.  Plodding through high glass and picking up and moving large-ish rocks requires a fluidity of motion at a certain clip, so run-ins with spiders, snakes and swarms of blowflies, can be happily avoided.

Dusty surveying.

Dusty surveying.

 

The previous owners of this house had allowed the back yard to become a virtual rubbish dump, especially near the water tanks.  Over time, their neglect and laziness had resulted in a pile up of rocks, large and small, poles, assorted pieces of plastic and metal junk, high grass, self-seeded trees and a small collection of very heavy iron machine parts.  

What a dump!

What a dump!

 

Wishful thinking (that it all disappears by itself… yeah, right…) while happily manoeuvring the push mower over these areas has resulted in many bits of broken branches and small, sharp stones to hit me (at considerable speed) when I least expected it.  Not cool and potentially dangerous.

Two rows of trees... looks like a forest to me...

Two rows of trees... looks like a forest to me...

 

Well, this is actually Phase II of my yard work project.  Phase I had been clearing the double row of pine trees of excess growth and removing a ton of dead branches and rocks from between the two rows.  It was a thicket of sharp, stubby branches, long since dead.  I just borrowed a chainsaw and went nuts!  

Seeing the light!

Seeing the light!

 

Well, that was last season, before I headed to the Northern Summer.  Happily, the grass, that lay dormant all those years just waiting to break out from beneath the layers of rock and branch, has sprouted and finally seen the light of day.

 

Fair Trade.  What’s it all about?

Vicki IoannouComment

Fair trade jewellery is here to stay.  I take it seriously in my business.  So what does this mean?  Simply put, it means I buy from vendors that I know are ethical traders.  They pay a good price for their articles from sellers who, in turn, pay their workers (the rock-hounds and stonecutters) a living wage.  These are generally the small guys, the one or two man shows who source the material and have a handful of employees who cut and polish.  They love the material.  There are so many choices these days in the market place.  Let’s face it, not many are concerned with the minutiae of fair trade and fair dealing.  A great many people are only interested in making lots of money.  Making lots of money is great, but I believe there has to be a healthy way of doing business where everyone in the line walks away happy.  Fair trade, to me is one of those ways. 

Fair trade:  It's not always about you.  Think of others, too!  Artisan glass candle holders, handcrafted metal box from Oxfam. VIX Jewellery pieces made from ethically sourced beads and stones and recycled silver.  Hand cut Indian diamonds sourced from ethical dealers.

Fair trade:  It's not always about you.  Think of others, too!  Artisan glass candle holders, handcrafted metal box from Oxfam. VIX Jewellery pieces made from ethically sourced beads and stones and recycled silver.  Hand cut Indian diamonds sourced from ethical dealers.

 

 

Distressed and Faded, Pretty Things

Vicki IoannouComment

Well, I have always loved old stuff.  You know, the unique silk scarf that was last worn about fifty years ago.  Or the faded t-shirt, the vintage patchwork quilt or the well-worn, but still intact, silk kimono.  Don’t even get me started on the cloth-bound, vintage books with their distinctive organic perfume - described by an international team of chemists as a “combination of grassy notes with a tang of acids and a hint of vanilla over an underlying mustiness…”  Poetic.

Faded beauty: vintage cloth-bound books shown here with VIX Jewellery distressed signet ring and faded Sandalwood Bead Pave Diamond Bracelet  http://tinyurl.com/kg9ukc4

Faded beauty: vintage cloth-bound books shown here with VIX Jewellery distressed signet ring and faded Sandalwood Bead Pave Diamond Bracelet http://tinyurl.com/kg9ukc4

Remember the time you were hunting for the perfect pair of faded jeans?  You searched everywhere, high and low for what seemed the longest time?  Having done this myself, I discovered that this takes time but it is time spent well, as it is this well-worn and still beautiful article of clothing (or accessory) that will spruce up your mood and your look in seconds flat.  

I had been working on a line of jewellery which satisfied my desire for faded, vintage beauty.  The difference is that this jewellery is available in a time frame far quicker than the requisite decades of wear for me.  It is available right now in my shop, for you.  Depending on where you live, you can buy it now, wear it soon.  

My one true favourite of this line has to be the distressed signet ring.  Others seem to share this same love, as this ring has proved to be a best seller in my shop.  This ring looks amazing on both men and women, and with pretty much anything you care to throw on.  

Distressed Signet Rings by VIX, shown here on faded jeans and t-shirt.  

Distressed Signet Rings by VIX, shown here on faded jeans and t-shirt.  

Feel like shopping now?  Find it here:  http://tinyurl.com/n8ox9mp

When it rains ... it pours

Vicki IoannouComment

Wednesday:  So, I found it hard to sleep the other night and I decided that lying in bed, staring into the darkness wasn't going to work for me.  I got up, pondered what to do next (eat, watch a movie?) and decided to go make some new jewellery.  I traipsed into the workshop and set about making something (uncomplicated) for the shop.  My clarity of mind at that hour surprised me, to say the least...

Ok, this was not a planned blog post at all, but I thought it would be an interesting read for someone out there, who might be experiencing sleepless nights, for one reason or another.  If this humble blog entry helps just one soul out there achieve clarity in their life, then good for them!  The monumental solution, though, is not to lie there and stew.  Just get up and achieve something.  

In my case, I made a few necklaces to list in my shop.  In your case, it could be anything that will brighten your life a little more - be it sorting your underwear drawers, collating your tax receipts, cleaning out the pantry, whatever! 

Friday:  I am now experiencing what the sleeplessness could have been about... I have come down with a virus of some sort that has manifested itself as a sore throat, stuffy head and an unmistakable, all-over fatigue that wasn't there a week ago.  Seriously, I didn't hear anyone sniffle, sneeze or cough in my general vicinity at all the past week - how could this happen?  Add to this unpleasantness the fact that I have been waging a battle the past several days with an army of crickets that have invaded my house (cricket choirs all night long being the least offensive symptom of this ...); scanning social media and noticing local neanderthals selling undesexed kittens on the swap/sell; the rainstorm causing the waterfall on the front verandah, due to a blocked gutter that went unnoticed; did I mention my sore head (?); aching right shoulder, two sore knees and the news this morning heavily hinting at a recession coming our way.

Take the hint from Lulu (Ginger Ninja, the Macgyver of cats, never wastes her precious energy).  When in doubt, sleep.  If you can't sleep, get up and do something useful.  

Take the hint from Lulu (Ginger Ninja, the Macgyver of cats, never wastes her precious energy).  When in doubt, sleep.  If you can't sleep, get up and do something useful.  

Household Male brought me a hot lemon drink in bed ... I was up at 9:30am today, but who's keeping tabs, right?  He then braved the elements and came back with a jumbo soy flat white, fresh croissant and chocolate eclair (well, the bakery was open at that hour!)  

I mean, what reason do I have to complain, right?  I have shelter from the elements and my hair is looking good, despite all this chaos happening all around me.

Feeling somewhat fortified, I flushed out some more crickets from behind the fridge and dishwasher (in addition to seven glass marbles, one 3D fridge magnet and a single freshwater pearl).  I shared my unwavering disdain of the neanderthals with the animal rescue community; the waterfall reminds me of my Costa Rica trip not long ago (nice thoughts); the bodily soreness can be dealt with by my leftover supply of Contact (from the previous affliction of said flu in NYC, last year - I don't chuck anything away...).  I will have to think harder on how to deal with the oncoming recession... if anyone out there has any ideas, please make them known via the comments on this page!

If all this fails me at any point today, then there is always the quiet, dark room in the house... the home theatre ... Eat, Pray, Love beckons ...

I made these simple necklaces in the wee hours of Thursday morning.  They are now listed in my shop here:   http://tinyurl.com/jjral7g   and here:   http://tinyurl.com/zoa3fpo

I made these simple necklaces in the wee hours of Thursday morning.  They are now listed in my shop here:  http://tinyurl.com/jjral7g  and here:  http://tinyurl.com/zoa3fpo

 

 

 

 

 

Treasures of Israel

Vicki IoannouComment

There is no perfect time for travel.  I know this now.  As long as I possess the energy, a valid passport and have the appropriate transport, then travelling will always be something I will have to do.  My most recent trip abroad consisted of alternating cold and hot climates which resulted in my carrying two suitcases - albeit small ones - but that there is a lesson and quite possibly, another blog post.

I am a big fan or archaeology, and decided to add Israel on my itinerary this trip.  Having not been there before, I wasn't sure what to expect.  However, I have to admit, a couple of days in, I fell in love with it.  My stay in Israel was essentially two weeks of sun-soaked, peaceful days wandering and exploring flea markets, Old Cities, driving around the countryside and seeing stunning landscapes, ancient city ruins, eating delicious food and meeting lovely people.  

My favourite way to eat:  small plates of delicious food!

Among the ruins of Susita in the Golan Heights, Israel.

Among the ruins of Susita in the Golan Heights, Israel.

On golden stones.  Shot on location at Masada, near the Dead Sea, Israel.  For more information:   http://tinyurl.com/zjyebfp

On golden stones.  Shot on location at Masada, near the Dead Sea, Israel.  For more information:  http://tinyurl.com/zjyebfp

Mosaics, palace interior, Masada.

Mosaics, palace interior, Masada.

Stunning landscapes and historical sites have always held a fascination for me.  Since way back in the day, as a student of history and art to now, as an adult and a jewellery designer, they still have the same allure.  I made the trip out to the Dead Sea and Masada one day, on one of my driving jaunts.  Wheeling past banana farms, long stretches of desert roads, date plantations and even a pack of gazelles, I arrived at my destination around lunchtime.  Once there, I had to forego the pleasure of hiking up to the top (no appropriate attire, you see) so hopped aboard the waiting cablecar instead.  I was not disappointed.  Wandering around the ruins of the fortress reminded me just how fortunate I am to be able to do this. For me, this place is mysterious and stark.  Seriously, if I was asked to pitch a tent there and stay a while, I would have done so, no question (well, ok, maybe I would ask for a generator, a well stocked bar fridge plus some gorgeous cushions and pashminas!)   I observed the raptors that circled overhead and plummeted to some unsuspecting prey in the valley below.  More closely, small dark starlings flitted amongst the stony ruins at the Byzantine Gate and took off once I got too close.  I also took the opportunity to photograph some of my jewellery there.  The light was fantastic at that hour in the afternoon - gold on gold but with definition.  The Greco-Roman-inspired styles of my handcrafts lend themselves perfectly with the backdrop of the fortress ruins and ancient mosaics.  It wasn't at all difficult to imagine that these necklaces could have been worn in that era by ladies bedecked in flowing stola, elegant palas and ringleted up-dos. 

Handcrafted necklace inspired by ancient Rome.  Shot on location at Masada, near the Dead Sea, Israel.  Necklace inquiries:  http://tinyurl.com/hurw4af

Ancient styling in a modern made necklace.  Shot on location at Masada, near the Dead Sea, Israel.  For more information:   http://tinyurl.com/htuxtka

Ancient styling in a modern made necklace.  Shot on location at Masada, near the Dead Sea, Israel.  For more information:  http://tinyurl.com/htuxtka

Sweet, icy, nutty and fruity way to end a meal.

Sweet, icy, nutty and fruity way to end a meal.

 

 

We Call it Pounamu

GemstonesVicki IoannouComment
Pounamu and Gold Toki Pendant that I recently completed for my client.

Pounamu and Gold Toki Pendant that I recently completed for my client.

From the vault: a small pile of rough Greenstone that was given to me several years ago and my recently acquired pieces from the antique shop: a Matau and an oval cabochon.

From the vault: a small pile of rough Greenstone that was given to me several years ago and my recently acquired pieces from the antique shop: a Matau and an oval cabochon.

I recently had the pleasure of creating a pendant for a client, using New Zealand Greenstone and a gold Christening bracelet.  The resulting piece is intended as a gift for his grand-daughter.  A relatively simple task took me almost a month to complete, considering the obstacles that came my way.  My usual slow start combined with the unforeseen: pet illness and some minor eye surgery. I got the job completed, though, and the result was very well received by both my client and his grand-daughter.  

Via this experience, my appreciation for this material has grown.  I managed to pick up a few pieces of vintage greenstone at a local antique dealer.  These little finds have already started the creativity wheels turning in my mind.  I also started to research greenstone and found that it is a cornerstone in Maori culture.  They call this treasure, Pounamu, which is a term that encompasses a group of hard, durable and attractive jade, bowenite and serpentine stones that are found on the Southern Island of New Zealand.  Greenstone is the generic term for all these. 

Personal objects in greenstone are passed from one generation down to the next.  They hold their own mana (prestige) and were historically given as gifts to seal important deals.  The Victorians fashioned delightful jewellery and personal objects greenstone teamed with gold.  

Though many wonderful, creative forms are produced, Maori artisans also favour particular traditional shapes, these being, Koru (a symbol of Creation); Tiki (the primeval man figure); Manaia (a mythical sea creature); Toki (a blade or adze form); Matau (the ubiquitous fishing hook) and Kumara (an intertwined form, representational of loyalty).

 

A fried egg sandwich to Bite into

Vicki IoannouComment

Been staying in New York for several months, living like a local and taking in all the good stuff it has to offer. I love the manic tone of the city and one has to adapt to the beat there.  If one must eat and run, then my own humble favourite for that mood is the fried egg sandwich I got at Bite.  Bite is a tucked away, little nook on 14th Street.  Nothing much to see on the outside, or the inside for that matter, but the calibre of their fried egg sandwich (and their coffee) is second to none.  If you are vegetarian - and I lean heavily in that direction - it is a must. 

Super start to the day: Cappuccino and fried egg sandwich at Bite Cafe.