Gemmy Serenade

Jewelry designers like to use unique and unusual gem materials, including assembled stones, cubic zirconia, and “ornamental” stones, and they’re not shy about asking for more margin than you’ll ever make on a traditional diamond sale.

For example, see senior associate editor Bacilio Mendez’s “Style 360: Must Have” posts on and note his take on London designer Stephen Webster. For his hinged bracelet with quartz and turquoise with diamond borders, Webster made an assemblage of turquoise beneath rock crystal quartz. If you’re thinking “inexpensive gem materials,” you’re right. But designing and laser cutting quartz, and backing the design with turquoise—or red garnet, abalone, bull’s-eye (rust-color tiger’s-eye), or red coral in other designs—is neither easy nor inexpensive. Webster has created a unique look using odd combinations of gem materials. And so can you.

Bill Heher’s Rare Earth Mining Company (, for example, applies $2,000-an-ounce opal to the back of a split and polished “Herkimer diamond” (special rock crystal from Herkimer, N.Y.), and then applies black onyx to the back of the opal to enhance it. Heher also uses, among other materials, carved drusy with SiO2 coatings, gem dinosaur bone, high-end amethyst stalactites, and magnetite jade plated with gold. “It looks like Japanese lacquer,” Heher says. “A black field with gold brush strokes or birds in flight.”

And let’s not forget howlite and larimar. Frédéric Duclos, Huntington Beach, Calif. (, uses traditional gem materials but includes howlite, ebony, sponge coral, and coral branches in his designs. Marah Lago, Las Vegas (, uses larimar, a gem material found only in the Dominican Republic.

Watch for our Tucson report for other unusual gems and gem materials.

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