Each February, the gem and jewelry industry gathers in the Tucson desert for a gala dinner banquet sponsored by the American Gem Trade Association. It honors the winners of the AGTA Spectrum Awards, the industry’s most sought-after awards for designers of gemstone-intensive jewelry. It’s an evening to celebrate the best and brightest, and is attended by a virtual who’s who of industry leaders.
Among the few who won the coveted awards this year, designer Cynthia Renée was in even rarer company: She won not one, but two “Best of” AGTA Spectrum Awards! Here are her winning designs.
2013 AGTA Spectrum Award: Best Use of Palladium in a Classical Design:
Cynthia Renée “Bouquet” Ring
Cynthia’s “Bouquet” ring features a heart stopping trio of oval, vivid green, natural tsavorites, which weigh a total of 9.63 carats, and are set in 950 palladium, with a 14 karat rose gold accent. Cynthia journeyed to East Africa last May searching for fine gemstones when she found these magnificent three, which are a perfect match and of significant size.
Upon finding such a trio, most people would divide them for ring and earring use or make three identical rings. Instead, Cynthia knew the ring would someday be purchased by a savvy collector who would appreciate her bold placement of these three rarities side-by-side in one ring.
Tsavorite is found in the East-African bushland, along the border between Kenya and Tanzania. It comes in a range of glorious greens, and is particularly valued for its spectacular brilliance. All garnets have a high refractive index and when they reach the surface of the earth, they are often able to be seen from long distances—because they glitter so much!
The few mines for this gem lie in a forbiddingly beautiful landscape of arid grassland and bare, dry hills. The area is famous for Mt. Kilimanjaro and its vast skies. Tsavorite was only recently discovered (in 1967) and was given its name by Tiffany & Co., in honor of the world-famous Tsavo National Park and Tsavo River nearby.
And by the way: Cynthia’s adventures in East Africa—and the many sublime gemstones she discovered—were the subject of two of her previous blog posts, which you can click to read below.
2013 AGTA Spectrum Award: Best Use of Palladium and Color:
Cynthia Renée “The Owl Queen”
For “The Owl Queen”, Cynthia selected an owl hand-carved from petrified palm by a talented gem cutter. To animate the owl and give her life, tiger’s-eye was used for her eyes. Then the designer placed her bird atop a 42.57 carat natural green tourmaline crystal, festooned with a hand-made stainless steel “barbed wire” accent. “I grew up in wide open spaces with owls on fence posts,” says Cynthia, “and this last detail was very important to me!”
The positioning of the owl’s palladium and diamond crown involved a lot of patient work, too: the feathered tufts had to be ruffled just as the owl would do so in nature. Her crown was difficult to make, says Cynthia, and the designer chose palladium, a gorgeous platinum group metal, for its lighter weight. “The Queen needed a crown that was airy, and would not weigh her down—palladium is perfect for that.”
As readers of this blog will recall, Cynthia wrote earlier about her inspiration for The Owl Queen, a passage from the poet Mary Oliver: “But the great horned [owl] … if one of those should touch me, it would touch to the center of my life, and I must fall.” You can see that earlier blog post, with more about the inspiration and detail that went into the crafting of this design, here: Owl Queen blog post.