Ion Ionescu’s AGTA Spectrum Award–Winning Labradorite Pillow Ring

Ion Ionescu finds inspiration everywhere, including comfort objects. Take, for example, his Pillow rings: carved stone “pillows” in amethyst, jade, chrysoprase, ruby, and more, accented with a variety of precious stones, including diamonds. The Santa Fe, N.M.–based jewelry designer started making them last spring, thinking they would be the “ultimate comfortable and wearable piece,” he told JCK in a recent phone interview. “I thought it would be a very pleasing shape.”

To get the right silhouette, he whittled different pillows—puffy like overstuffed feather sacks, flat models à la polyester fill, and elongated versions (not quite a pregnancy pillow, but lengthy nonetheless)—in wax until he created just the right form: a short, square-shape powdery-fill–looking headrest with an indentation in the center where a noggin would lay.

Then he started carving (he doesn’t outsource most lapidary work) a paperweight-size chunk of rough with a diamond-tipped stone-carving burr, trying not to cleave it in the process. After he outlined the shape, he polished it into a soft-looking pillow with a subtle shine. In all, it took Ionescu five hours to make.

Other rings were amethyst with sapphire pavé, black jade with champagne and grey diamond melee, and moonstone with more sultry-hued diamonds. But it was a labradorite pillow with Paraiba tourmaline accents that Ionescu liked best, and that friends persuaded him to enter into the 2012 AGTA Spectrum Awards Competition. “That spoke the most to my sensibility,” he recollects.

He sent three options—labradorite, amethyst, and chrysoprase—to judges, who awarded the feldspar, with its lustrous metallic blue and green schiller, first place in the Evening Wear division. The ring has a retail price of $10,000.

The artist has sold about 16 Pillow rings in the past year, and has since added earrings, cufflinks, and tuxedo studs to the collection. And though he’s sold similar labradorite Pillow rings, the award winner is still for sale in Paragone Gems in Santa Fe. Next up for the series: turquoise. “It’s tough to find material that’s not too heavily included,” says Ionescu.

Ion Ionescu's Pillow ring

Pillow for Dreaming ring in palladium and black rhodium with a 36 ct. carved labradorite and 1.50 cts. t.w. Paraiba tourmaline took first place in Evening Wear in the 2012 AGTA Spectrum Awards; $10,000; Ionescu Design;


Chunk of labradorite that Ionescu starts out with to make a pillow; he buys these semi-finished pieces at the AGTA GemFair Tucson

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