Written by Peggy Jo Donahue and originally published by the Manufacturing Jewelers and Silversmiths Association – December 13, 2011
When custom jeweler Cynthia Renée’s client, Mary, first came to visit her in 2003, she had a hunch that a lot of retailers might write Mary off as “a Mom who was ‘just looking’” — because she often shopped with her two young children in tow. As well, Mary was confident enough not to need labels on her clothes or accessories. But she was passionate about colored gemstones and jewelry—well-designed and unique jewelry that is. Mary told Renée that she was ready to start building a personal collection.
Mary’s eye landed on a gem grouping called “the Orchid Suite,” an unusually purplish Rhodolite garnet and Pakistani peridot collection, with a center peridot of 12 carats. The stones were loose—but it was a gorgeous color combination for a necklace. Mary was smitten. The two women began serious design work on the necklace. Renée sketched about six versions. “We started thinking she wanted a fleur de lys influence. Once she saw those, she realized she wanted something simpler and with just the scroll curve seen in many fleur de lys styles,” says the custom jeweler. Renée also showed Mary how she could make the necklace versatile, using adaptable elements that allowed the full necklace to appear round or with a detachable rhodolite pendant dangling from it.
The dangle included a scroll flourish that could be attached to the specially constructed center peridot setting. When Mary wanted a simpler look, the rhodolite pendant could be worn on a thin gold chain. The center peridot was removable as well, so it could be attached to a rubber cord and worn for more casual occasions.
The Kids are OK
The new jewelry collector would often bring her children, Brendan and Kate, with her. “I’d show them gemstones, let them examine their inner properties with a loupe, and then they’d join their mother in reviewing the wax,” says Renée. “I wanted to help inspire her kids with the wonder of colored gemstones and build great memories for them of these times with their mother and the jewelry pieces. In this way, when the jewelry was handed down to them, the power of the pieces would be even greater with the memories.”
At one point, Brendan was so inspired by the process that he sketched an idea for a Garden Patch necklace for his mother, including plants the family was growing together. Renée refined it, and the piece was made. In the final design, she added a sunflower from the garden, using a buff-top citrine; and included Brendan’s eggplant, incorporating an amethyst smooth briolette; and his tomato, made from a rhodolite garnet. “Both mother and son felt proud and attached to the piece,” says the designer.