Colored Stones / Designers / Industry

A Tale of Two Spinels


For years, a pair of perfectly matched oval gray spinels totaling 7.64 carats sat atop my dresser.

They were a gift from the gem dealer Vlad Yavorskyy, who handed them to me (apropos of nothing) five or six years ago, when I swung by his booth at the GJX show in Tucson.

I’d met Vlad (via phone call) in 2011, when I interviewed him for a New York Times story called “Restoring the Luster to a Once-Loved Gem.” It was my first deep dive into spinel, an enchanting stone beloved by connoisseurs but still largely unknown to the public. After reporting that story, I fell in love with spinel. In the article, I even noted that the gem came in a shade of “metallic gray.”

Loose gray spinels
The matching pair of gray spinels I received as a gift from Vlad Yavorskyy

Vlad’s spontaneous gift felt predestined. But it took until this past January for me to figure out what to do with my matched stones. That’s when I spoke to Jillian Sassone, founder of Marrow Fine Jewelry, for a Robb Report story about jewelers who specialize in re-setting family heirlooms. I thought about my 50th birthday, looming at the end of June, as well as that of my twin sister, Julia.

We’re fraternal twins, but in a riddle-me-this twist, we don’t share a birthday nor even a birth month. I was born 10 minutes before midnight on June 30, and Jul was born 10 minutes after midnight, on July 1.

I also thought about my dad, Leonard, who passed away in April 2022 at the age of 76. His eyes were a steely shade of blue-gray. As Jillian and I spoke, I suddenly realized what I wanted to do with the stones.

For the first time in my 23-year career as a jewelry editor, I commissioned a custom project. I asked Marrow to make two matching 18k yellow gold pinky rings for me and Jul featuring the spinels in modern, minimalist bezel settings. To distinguish the rings, I asked Jillian to add our birthstones to the inside of the shanks: a tiny moonstone for my ring, and a tiny ruby for Jul’s.

From the moment I reached out to Jillian in April, the process was smooth, simple, and straightforward. Sophia Lococo, Marrow Fine’s marketing coordinator, sent me a FedEx label, and I shipped off the stones. At the same time, I emailed Jillian an image of a ring style I liked. Within a month, she sent me a few CAD designs to choose from. I was nervous about the project, but Jillian’s kind, helpful, and encouraging words, not to mention the responsiveness and professionalism of her entire team, allayed my fears.

In mid-June, before I could even ask when to expect the rings, a package containing two thoughtfully wrapped boxes, complete with their own gift bags and note cards, arrived at my home. I couldn’t believe that was it. It all seemed too easy.

I quickly tore my box open and tried the ring on for size. Not only did it fit me perfectly, it fit my vision of what I had hoped it would be. Contemporary yet timeless, the ring has a warm matte gold finish that beautifully contrasts with the metallic gray spinel. When I hold the ring in the sunlight, the gem flashes purple and lavender. I have caught myself staring at it, mesmerized by its seductive multihued brilliance.

Spinel rings in pool
Jul and I proudly wearing our Marrow Fine custom-designed rings in the pool at the Skyview Los Alamos

Finally, the time for the big reveal arrived. Jul and I spent our 50th birthday weekend with friends at the Skyview in the winemaking town of Los Alamos, about two hours north of L.A. just off Highway 101. It’s a former roadside motel that was transformed a few years back into a deluxe boutique property with lovely hillside views and a great bar/restaurant called Norman.

On the morning of July 1, I knocked on the door of Jul’s room with her gift box in hand. I had slipped my own ring on my pinky finger so I could show her the matching details. When she opened the box and saw her ring, she cried.

“The gray spinels reminded me of Papa’s eyes,” I explained.

Jul nodded in understanding. There was so much to say, and yet I had no words. The rings said it all.

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By: Victoria Gomelsky

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