Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ruby Red: July Birthstone

The gem of passion and smoldering desire, Ruby is believed to burn with inextinguishable internal fire.  This fiery gem is believed to attract and maintain love, making it a popular choice for brides who desire to express their unique personality. Courage and power are also associated with Ruby.  Ruby is recognized as a talisman to ensure harmony, guard against sorrow, inspire confidence and bring success.  It was believed that wearing a red ruby brought good fortune to it's owner, although the owners must have already had good fortune to own such a rare and precious gem! Ruby is traditionally the July birthstone and the 15th and 40th anniversary gifts.

Throughout most of recorded history Ruby's have been one of the most valuable gems.  They are the second hardest gem, after Diamonds, making them great for all types of jewelry.  This jewel gets it's name from the Latin word ruber meaning red.  Part of the corundum family, Ruby is the sister of Sapphire and only comes in one color, red.  The shades of red vary from purplish and bluish red to orange red in medium and dark tones.  Color is a key element when considering value, the pure red void of brown or blue overtones claiming the highest prices.  Ruby's in sizes over 2 carats are difficult to come by.  They are routinely enhanced by traditional heating methods to produce, intensify, or lighten color and/or improve clarity. 

There are several Ruby designs in our current Barbara Heinrich trunk show.  They will only be here during the month of July so make sure you come by to see her stunning designs!

Another stunning example of Ruby jewelry is Susan Drakes raw ruby necklace with an ancient Roman arrowhead.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

South Sea's "The Queen of Pearls"

South Sea pearls are produced by the Pinctada maxima mollusk native to the seas between the northern coast of Australia and the southern coast of China. Currently cultured in areas throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, primarily in Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines and Myanmar. Because they grow up to 12 inches in Diameter they can be nucleated with a much larger bead than other salt water oysters such as the akoya.  They range in size from 9mm to 20mm with the average size being 13mm, the largest on record being 24mm.  They are among the largest commercially harvested pearls in the world.

Golden South Sea Pearl on 
Leather Cord with Gold Beads
by Susan Drake
The color of the pearls vary depending on which oyster the pearl comes from.  They are distinguished by the distinct coloration of the outer edge of the interior.   Also known as mother-of-pearl, these shells are responsible for the coloration of the pearls they produce.  There are two varieties of the Pinctada maxima mollusk: the silver-lipped from Northern Australia which tends to produce white pearls with silver overtones and the gold-lipped which is commonly found in the sea area of south-east Asia which produces golden or creamy colored pearls.

Golden South Sea Pearls 
with Sapphires by Susan Drake

There are four reasons that the South Sea pearls grow to such large sizes: the large size Pinctada maxima mollusk, the size of the implanted bead, the length of time the pearl is left to grow in the oyster and the pyster's environment.  Due to the size of the oyster it can accept a larger bead, the gonad of the Pinctada maxima is larger enabling the oyster to deposit nacre around the nucleus at a much quicker rate, especially in warmer water which speeds the oysters metabolism.  South Sea's are extremely clean, filled with plankton - the Pinctada maxima's favorite food source.  The clean waters and abundant food supply also speeds nacre production.  South Sea pearls are harvested for a minimum of two years.  The nacre is unusually thick from 2-6mm, compared to the 0.35-0.7mm of an akoya pearl.  Their unique, satiny luster comes from the rapidly deposited nacre and warm waters of the South Seas.  They come in a subtle array of colors; typically white, silver and golden, that are rare in other pearl types. 

White South Sea Pearls

Culturing a good pearl is a difficult and ambivalent process.  If the pearl stays in the oyster too long it will grow to be irregular, but if the pearl doesn't stay in long enough the nacre will be too thin compromising the quality of the pearl.  Because South Seas pearls stay in the oyster for a long time the shape is not always perfectly round.  There are few South Sea Pearls without any blemish.  This makes a strand of round South Sea's pearls without blemish and with thick nacre and good luster very expensive. 

Perfectly graduated round South Sea Pearl 
Strand at Spectrum Art & Jewelry

Monday, June 4, 2012

June's Birthstone: Not Your Mother's Pearls

For all you June babies and pearl lovers I have a new take on an old classic...

Along with Alexandrite and Moonstone, Pearl is the June birthstone.  It is also the recognized wedding gift for the 3rd and 30th wedding anniversary.  

I once heard that pearls, one of the most beautiful and precious creations in nature, are born out of pain and frustration.  To me pearls are a reminder that the harder experiences in life are what most often produces things of true value, things that are worth treasuring, that if we embrace hardship and grow from it the result can be beautiful.  I have never looked at pearls or life the same way since.
Conni Mainne Diamond 
and Freshwater Pearl Earrings, 18k

According to ancient Chinese legend, the moon holds the power to create pearls, instilling them with its celestial glow and mystery.  Pearls have long been treasured for their lustrous, creamy texture and subtle iridescent reflections. Historically, they have were believed to possess mystical and healing powers.  Roman women slept with them under their pillows to sweeten their dreams.  Ancient Asian cultures used them for medicinal purposes.  The early Hindu's revered them as a symbol of purity in marriage. 

Tana Acton Coin Pearl Bracelet, SS
Pearls are most commonly thought of as round and white but they come in many shapes (baroque, oval, teardrop, etc.) and colors (pink, gold, peach, yellow, lavender, gray, black, etc.).  Pearls are available in both saltwater and freshwater varieties.  Five factors determine the value of a pearl: luster, orient, surface-cleanliness, shape and size (as well as availability with saltwater production being far less than freshwater).  Pearls are often bleached to achieve uniform color. 

 Round White Akoya Pearls

You probably have a strand that was given to you for your 16th birthday or your confirmation at church.  Maybe a coveted strand is tucked away in your jewelry box that has been passed down through your family for years.  It's something that most of us have, but few of us really seem to wear them regularly. 
Susan Drake Gold South Sea Pearl 
and Sapphire Pendant

We LOVE pearls at Spectrum, in all colors and price ranges.  Our inventory ranges from round white freshwater, to funky baroque, to luscious Tahitians and golden south seas.  Pearls can always be found  at Spectrum sprinkled throughout our cases and beaded gemstone Starsong collection. 

For some, pearls have developed a stigma, appropriate only for work and special occasions.  This couldn't be farther from the truth!  At Spectrum pearls are in abundance, but you won't find your "mother's pearls" here.

One of Susan Drake's latest designs incorporating a Tahitian Pearl is a perfect example (pictured below). 

Tahitian Pearl, Black Coral, Peridot, 
Fire Opal and Diamond, 18k

For those of you who know and love us, you know that we strive to create versatile and unique jewelry. One necklace can be perfect for throwing on with shorts to head to lunch and a cocktail dress later that evening.  
Susan Drake Gold South Sea Pearl 
with 18k Beads

Pearls become especially versatile because we live at the beach.  As a product of the ocean we love so much, pearls can easily have a nautical and laid back feel.  There smooth cool surface and lightweight feel make them comfortable to wear year round, even in our warm and humid climate. 

At Spectrum in addition to our Starsong collection, we restring pearl jewelry and can put a contemporary new twist on old pieces.
Susan Drake Tahitian Pearl 
and Diamond Earrings, 18k


Do you have questions about the care of your pearl jewelry? Call the gallery at 910-256-2323 or email us at

Spectrum Art & Jewelry

Custom Designs by Spectrum

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Birthstone: Emerald

Emerald, May's birthstone and the chosen gift of 20th and 35th wedding anniversary's, has been prized for its vivid rich green color since the time of Pharaohs in ancient Egypt.  Known as the queen of gems and the gem of most queens.  If you read my March blog post then you know about aquamarines; emerald is aqua's green sister.  Both are members of the Beryl family. 

In reference to emerald Pliny the Elder (23 A.D. to 79 A.D.) declared: "We delight in feasting our eyes on the pleasant green grasses and leaves, but the enjoyment of beholding an emerald is incomparably greater, for its green is most soothing." Pliny was one of the first to classify gemstones, including emeralds, but appreciation for emeralds was evident long before him.  Emeralds boast a long and royal history, as a jewel fit for kings and queens.  It is thought that emeralds were first used as gemstones circa 3500 B.C., during the first dynastic reigns of Egypt's kings and so, for thousands of years, Egypt was the world's main emerald source.  Actress Elizabeth Taylor, who played Queen Cleopatra on film, was equally enamored of emeralds as the Egyptian she portrayed, wearing magnificent emerald jewelry throughout her life.

It is revered as a talisman of good fortune and believed to bring health and wealth to it's owner.  Upheld as a symbol of devotion, contentment and undying love, emerald traditionally has been thought to protect and renew relationships.  A calming influence that clarifies insights, emerald enlightens the aura of those who wear it.  The ancients believed emeralds empowered their owner with foresight into the future.  To many it symbolizes rebirth and abundance of life force.  The rich green hue brings to mind the regeneration of life in spring and the hope of new possibilities. Emeralds have long been thought to be capable of soothing ones eyes.  For this reason Roman Emperor Nero is said to have watched gladiators fight through emerald slices.  

Emerald is a popular choice for brides who want to express their individuality.  In fact, Jackie Kennedy received an emerald ring from JFK.

Although known for it's distinctive color, the shades of green in which emerald is found can vary from light to dark, sometimes revealing a cool blue-green or warm yellowish-green hue.  The more vivid the color the more valuable the stone.  Another value factor is size, with emeralds over 2 carats being rare.  Perfection in emerald is among the most rare of natures treasures.  Almost all emeralds when mined from the earth have unique birthmarks that distinguish them as truly natural gemstones.  

Traditional enhancements include oil and resin, which help fill natural fractures and inclusions, thereby stabilizing the stone and making the surface fissures less visible to the eye.  Although emerald is quite durable (7.5 to 8 on Mohs Hardness Scale) and nearly as hard as sapphire and ruby, the garden of inclusions may make individual gems vulnerable to damage if handled roughly.  The enhancements are not permanent so this gemstone requires special care when wearing and cleaning.  Avoid impacts and contact with harsh chemicals, and cleanse with warm water and a soft brush or soft damp cloth.  Contact us for more information regarding special enhancements and care.

Looking for emerald jewelry?  Email us, call us at 910-256-2323 or stop by the gallery 1125- H Military Cutoff Rd., Wilmington, NC 28405.


Monday, April 2, 2012

April Birthstone: Diamond

The name Diamond is derived from the Latin word diamas meaning the unconquerable and this dazzling stone has proven it's right to the name time and time again.

In addition to being April's birthstone, Diamonds are also the favored gift of the 10th and 60th wedding anniversary (ladies you deserve another diamond if you have been married to him for 60 years...very impressive)! Throughout history it has maintained its position as the icon of marriage. It symbolizes lasting love and friendship in a way that few other things can. Diamonds were believed to inspire loyalty, arouse romance and encourage a joyful life. As the gem of character and spirit, diamonds radiate the dazzling personality of those who wear it.

Unique in the world of gemstones, diamond is the hardest of all materials (10 on the Mohs scale), which is one of the reasons they are treasured as a symbol of lasting devotion. This also makes them a practical choice for engagement rings and bridal sets because they are safe for everyday wear.

Diamonds are mined in over 20 countries around the world, however, main production comes from Botswana, Russia, South Africa, Canada and Australia. In general terms, only about 20% of the volumes of all diamonds mined are good enough quality to be used in jewelry. Every pipe in the world produces different qualities and quantities but generally even a profitable mine removes over a tonne of host rock to produce one carat of gem quality diamond.

Diamond values are based on 4 C's: Carat, Color, Clarity and Cut.

Diamonds and other gemstones are weighed using metric carats with one carat weighing 0.2 grams (about the weight of a paperclip). Just as a dollar is divided into 100 pennies, a carat is divided into 100 points which means a diamond of 50 points weighs 0.50 carats. A 0.50ct diamond would be called a "fifty pointer". Diamond weights greater than one carat are expressed in carats and decimals. For
instance, a 1.08ct diamond would be described as "one point oh eight carats" or "one oh eight". Carat is the most intuitive of the 4C's - you expect a larger diamond to be worth more when assigning diamond values. But two different diamonds of equal weight can have very different values depending on the other three characteristic (clarity, color and cut).

Cool fact about carats:
The modern carat system started with the carob seed. Early gem traders used the small, uniform seeds as counterweights in their balance scales. The carat is the same gram weight in every corner of the world.

This may surprise you, but the color of the diamond is all about what you can't see. Diamonds are valued by how closely they approach colorlessness - the less color the higher value. Most diamonds found
in jewelry stores run from colorless to near-colorless with slight hints of yellow or brown. The only exceptions are the fancy-color diamonds that lie outside of this range. GIA's (Gemological Institute of America) diamond color grading scale is the most widely accepted grading system in the industry. The scale begins with the letter D, representing colorless, and continues with increasing presence of color, to the letter Z. Many of these color distinctions are so subtle that they are invisible to the untrained eye. But these slight color differences make a very big difference in diamond quality and price.

Why does the GIA color grading system start with a D?

Before GIA universalized the D-Z Color Grading Scale, a variety of other systems were used loosely, from A, B and C (used without clear definition), to Arabic (0, 1, 2, 3) and Roman (I, II, III) numbers, to descriptive terms like "gem blue" or "blue white," which are notorious for misinterpretations. So
the creators of the GIA color scale wanted to start fresh, without any association to earlier systems. Thus the GIA scale starts with D. Very few people cling to the other grading systems and no other system has the clarity and universal acceptance of the GIA scale.

A note about fancy-color diamonds:
Although colorless Diamonds are the most common, diamonds actually come in a variety of colorful hues. Some Diamonds are heated and/or irradiated to induce fancy colors. Others may undergo high-pressure, high-temperature, enhancement to improve color and brilliance. Fancy yellow and pink diamond
s have become popular choices for bridal rings commanding high prices for vivid hues in fine quality. Naturally occurring fancy colored diamonds are typically more rare than colorless varieties, with red being the most uncommon, and therefore most expensive, followed by blue and then green. Value is not only based on the availability but on all 4 C's.

Diamond clarity refers to the absence of internal inclusions or external blemishes. Diamonds are celebrated for their purity of brilliance. Yet because diamonds are created de
ep within the earth most diamonds contain imperfections called inclusions (internal) and blemishes (external). These imperfections deflect light, distracting our eye from the radiance we so value. Every diamond is unique. Diamonds with very few birthmarks are rare and, of course, rarity affects a diamond's value. The diamonds that come close to perfect under 10x magnification, known as flawless diamonds, are exceptionally rare, most jewelers have never even seen one. Using the International Diamond Grading System, created by GIA, diamonds are given a clarity grade that ranges from flawless (FL) to diamonds with more prominent inclusions (I3). There are 11 grades on the GIA clarity scale. Most readily available diamonds fall into the VS (very slightly included) or SI (slightly included) categories.

Cut fuels the diamond's fire, sparkle and brilliance. Without a doubt, the allure of a particular diamond depends more on cut than anything else. Diamonds traditionally have 58 tin
y facets, each is precisely cut and sharply defined. Although they are extremely difficult to analyze, the cut of a diamond has three attributes: brightness (the total light reflected from the diamond), fire (the dispersion of light into the colors of the spectrum), and scintillation (the light flashes - or sparkle - when a diamond moves). An understanding of diamond cut begins with the shape of a diamond, with the standard brilliant dominating the majority of diamond jewelry. All other diamond shapes are known as fancy shapes or fancy cuts and include marquise, pearl, oval and emerald cuts. Hearts, cushions, triangles and a variety of other new shapes are also gaining popularity. As a value factor, cut refers to a diamonds proportions, symmetry and polish.

In case you didn't know, because we are members of the IJO (Independent Jewelers Organization) Spectrum gets exclusive access to diamond buying trips to Antwerp, the diamond cutting capital of the world. Star goes to Antwerp where she handpicks diamonds from the cutters themselves! This ensures that we get the highest quality diamonds at the best price. We can take care of all of your Diamond and colored stone needs!

We have a wide range of diamond jewelry including colored diamonds along with loose diamonds.

Check out the diamond jewelry from a few of our artists:

LinkMichael Sugarman
Barbara Heinrich
Conni Mainne
Susan Barlow


Friday, March 23, 2012

"Taylor's Take" on Boho Chic

If you liked the bohemian influences that we saw in 2011, you're in luck because their popularity has continued into 2012 fashion. Boho-chic draws on various Bohemian and "hippie" influences.
One of the most important elements of the boho-chic look? Accessorizing! Layered pieces, lots of bracelets, bold tribal-like necklaces...

This carnelian Starsong necklace and matching earrings are a perfect fit for Spring fashion. The carnelians are a vibrant tangerine color, which is the color of the year. Pairing the orange with it's complementary color blue makes the necklace pop. It's also a nice complement to an analogous color like yellow. To read more about pairing colors read last weeks post. The style and color of this necklace would be a perfect blend with the African and Native American prints that are in fashion this spring too.

This Starsong piece has the feel of the bib necklace and evokes the feeling of tribal plates and knife edges that are so popular in the boho-chic/ethnic styles.

It is bold, fun and eye-catching, yet surprisingly comfortable. I love the earrings because they actually show up against my long hair but they are so light weight I forgot that I was wearing earrings!

There are so many reasons why we love this Starsong set. Come in and try this one-of-a-kind piece for yourself.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Spectrum of Color: Kristin Gibson

Last Friday was featured artist Kristin Gibson's painting demo and open house!

It was my first time to watch Kristin at work and I was just one of a captive audience gathered to witness her artistic genius. I own one of Kristin's paintings and it is one of my most cherished pieces of art! Her unique and vibrant paintings can bring everyday objects to life and make an onion an object of inspiration and awe. Now I truly understand what she means when she says "Truth is, I paint the way I cook - not afraid to mix a little of this, with a little of that."

I am truly sorry if you missed her demo but luckily I do have a few pictures to share with you!

The finished painting "Spectrum of Vegetables" at

Nancy Noel May, our resident scarf tying expert, also did a scarf tying demo with the gorgeous new silk scarves Kristin brought in. Come in anytime and we will show you endless ways to transform any outfit with one of Kristin's stunning silk scarves (which by the way are hand-washable, perfect for all year round, fit easily in any purse and are absolute necessities for all vacations!)
They were all so beautiful, I couldn't make up my mind, so I just decided to wear all of them!

Come in this month to see the special collection of her new work in all sizes and price ranges. You can check out her work on our

At Spectrum it is our mission to make life more beautiful, and Kristin is a major contributor in achieving our goal. We are so lucky to have Kristin as a friend and fellow artist.

Thanks Kristin!


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