From Mine to Store: Victor Velyan’s Fire Opal Baby Dragon

From the moment Victor Velyan saw the giant Mexican fire opal embedded in this jewel, he imagined it as the red-hot end of a gold-stemmed habanero pepper. “It was sitting on my desk for three years,” says the designer. “And one day I walked in and said, ‘That’s a little girl dragon.’?” Plans were quickly hatched in his Los Angeles studio for a baby dragon with a face that was “cute and sweet” but didn’t bely her true nature: “She’ll grow up and be mean,” he says. “You can just tell.” The pendant debuted at Las Vegas market week 2012, priced at $130,500. There were no takers, but “I didn’t make her thinking about whether she was sell-able,” says Velyan. “I made her because I wanted to.”

Delicate Balance

“We worked really hard to keep her somewhat wearable and not make her extremely heavy,” says Velyan. “We did that—but she’s nine ounces and when you wear her, you can definitely feel her.” Another nail-biter moment: “We had to get the opal in without breaking it. Opal is a soft stone. By the time we got to that point, we had thousands and thousands of dollars into her. If we had broken it, it would have been over.”

Bejeweled Bambino

On top of the 40.91 ct. fire opal belly, this mythical baby boasts platinum horns, an 18k gold body, and 4.49 cts. t.w. yellow diamonds, 1.81 cts. t.w. green diamonds, 0.28 ct. t.w. white diamonds, 0.14 ct. t.w. cat’s eye chrysoberyl (set into her eyes), and 1.08 cts. t.w. moonstones.

Fully Fashioned

Four artisans spent four months creating this enfant terrible. And she’s fully dimensional—without any hollowed-out sections. It took another month to assemble and “work out the bugs and place the opal,” says Velyan. Once the opal was set, the tiny wings were laser-welded onto her body.