From Mine to Store: The Story Behind Daniela Villegas’ Stunning Black Opal Ring

Jewelry designer Daniela Villegas wasn’t looking for a black opal when her gem buyer showed her the colossal dark gem at the center of this whimsical scarab ring. “I saw it and said, ‘Okay, I don’t care about the other stones you have—I need this one,’?” recalls the Mexican-born, Los Angeles–based designer. The stone’s rare proportions and gorgeous iridescent coloration prompted ­Villegas to name the finished ring after Heracles, the divine hero in Greek mythology, whom Villegas first learned about when reading ­Homer’s Odyssey. “It was one of the first books my dad gave me,” says the designer. “And Heracles was the greatest of the Greek heroes; he was the gatekeeper of heaven and the god of strength.” Before designing the ring, Villegas had a dream about the stone. “I dream about all my pieces,” she says, “and in this case, I woke up thinking Heracles.”

Old Favorites

“Opal is my favorite stone,” says the designer. “The colors of an opal are as [varied] as human emotions. I feel like a rainbow is trapped in them; you always see different colors. They can also be bluish, more black and greenish.… I find them so beautiful.” The scarab, a recurring motif in the designer’s repertoire, “is about protection and good luck.”

Bugged Out

The ring, which sold for $36,000 at a recent trade show, is part of Villegas’ Backyard collection of one-of-a-kinds, featuring centipedes, flies, and other bejeweled creepy-crawlies. When fabricating her bugs, she often uses actual pieces, such as heads or wings, from deceased creatures. “Some of those parts are super strong,” she says, “so I don’t even have to do anything to them to set them into a piece.”

What’s Inside

The 18k rose gold ring features a 4.88 ct. black opal, 0.5 ct. t.w. blue sapphires, 1.98 cts. t.w. color-change garnets, a 0.68 ct. tourmaline (the green stone on the scarab’s neck), and rhodium pieces placed in the eyes. From sketch to final product, it took two months and five craftspeople to craft the critter, whose feet are visible under the shank. “The opal was dark, but I didn’t want to make the ring dark and edgy,” Villegas adds. “I wanted to make it edgy but feminine. I like color.”

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