Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend-Vainard Fine Jewellery

When Marilyn Monroe sang in the 1953 film ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes‘, “Men grow cold as girls grow old, and we all lose our charms in the end. But square-cut or pear-shaped, these rocks don’t lose their shape. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” she became a legend.
I could go on and sing: “Talk to me VAINARD! Tell me all about it!”

The Zurich-based fine jeweler, who is a leading supplier in the natural colored diamond segment, seemed to have heard my request and flew me to its own factory in Idar-Oberstein, the famous German gemstone center, which is also the birth place of Hollywood actor Bruce Willis. There I was able to see the different stages of crafting an exclusive diamond ring, from the sawing and cutting process to the stone setting.

Ring vainard Selfmade 1

Moreover, I could lend a hand and make my own diamond ring which was an unforgettable experience. It is very rare that a jeweler has a factory in which the diamond cutting workshop is done in-house as well as the design and the setting. Needless to say, this close cooperation between all different stages results in extremely high quality.

The word diamond drives from Greek origin and means “unbreakable“. In fact, a diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material.

Finding a diamond

Most natural diamonds are formed at high temperature and pressure at depths of 140 to 190 kilometers in the Earth’s mantle and are brought close to the surface through deep volcanic eruptions by magma, which cools into igneous rocks. The last volcanic activity to convey these valuable stones was almost over 100 million years ago. Carbon-containing minerals provide the carbon source of a diamond, and the growth occurs over periods from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years, which are 25% to 75% of the age of the Earth.

Dream ring 1

Speaking of which, the rarity of a diamond makes this precious stone a must-have among us ladies. There is no girl whose eyes don’t sparkle when gifted with this luxurious gemstone. Diamonds signify steadfast, enduring love because of their unmatched strength and beauty. They can be worn with any outfit, from an elegant cocktail dress to blue jeans.

Extremely important is the gemological characteristic of the stone which shows the value as a gem. Four characteristics, known informally as the four Cs, are today commonly used as the basic descriptors: these are carat (its weight), cut (quality of the cut is graded according to proportions, symmetry and polish), color (how close to white or colorless; for fancy diamonds how intense is its hue), and clarity (how free is it from inclusions).

Diamond ring yellow by Vainard Fine Jewellery

Because of its extremely rigid lattice, the stone can be contaminated by very few types of impurities. Nitrogen is by far the most common one found in gem diamonds and is responsible for the yellow color. Boron is responsible for the blue hue. Colored diamonds contain impurities or structural defects that cause the coloration, while pure or nearly pure diamonds are transparent and colorless. Their rarity and beauty makes some of the colored diamonds worth millions of dollars.

Sandra Bauknecht-Vainard Fine Jewellery-Making a diamond ring

Creating the final spectacle of a polished diamond jewelry piece can take years to master. Having an understanding of the construction of such a small object is in fact very fascinating. Let me show you what I observed and learned in Idar-Oberstein about the specific skills and techniques that are used to make such an object of desire.

Vainard FJ 37

It all starts with the sawing process of the raw diamond that takes several hours. The copper saw blade has to be coated with fine diamond powder to work with this extremely hard material. It takes many years to learn this skill to avoid damaging the stone.

Vainard FJ 36

The following multi-step process called “cutting” finally reveals the diamond’s outstanding beauty. This extremely delicate procedure also requires skills, scientific knowledge, tools and experience, as those gemstones can brittle and be split up by a single blow.

Diamond Shapes-VainardNine Stages of Diamond Cutting-Vainard

The most time-consuming part of the cutting is the preliminary analysis of the rough stone. It needs to address a large number of issues, bears much responsibility, and therefore can last years in case of unique diamonds.

Sandra Cutting 2

After initial sawing, the diamond is shaped in numerous stages of cutting. Unlike sawing, which is a responsible but quick operation, cutting removes material by gradual erosion and is extremely time consuming. Its final goal is to produce a faceted jewel where the specific angles between the facets would optimize the diamond luster.

Sandra Bauknecht at Vainard 1

Every facet in an ideal cut diamond must be placed at precise angles and contain precise proportions. This ensures the perfect balance between maximum brilliance and dispersion of light. Any discrepancy from these proportions will result in a loss of sparkle.

Ideal Diamonds

After the cutting of the stones is finished, the goldsmith will start his work according to the drawing the Vainard jewelry designer prepared beforehand.

Vainard 2

The stones depending on the shank need to go back to the diamond cutting workshop in order to achieve the perfect fit. Once this step is completed, the stone setter fits them into the setting.

Setting

I have to admit that I had a lot of fun making my own diamond ring. Needless to say, the Vainard team had prepared the most important steps and helped me with the execution.

Bright like a diamond-Vainard Fine Jewellery-Sandra BauknechtThe first step in soldering is to dip the piece of gold with the help of a brush into a solution of boric acid and alcohol before lighting it.

Vainard 9a

You have to be very careful as you work with temperatures above 3000 degrees Celsius.

Vainard 12a

For some work stages, you need to use a microscope to work as precisely as possible.

Sandra Bauknecht Vainard 6

The final step for me was to close the four claw prong setting with the help of a special working tool. What seems so easy is actually pretty difficult as you are looking through a magnifying glass for maximum precision which made me feel pretty uncoordinated.

Diamond Vainard Fine Jewellery-Final stp

Every Vainard Fine Jewellery piece undergoes a final inspection after its ensuing polishing. After having seen the craftsmanship, the expertise and love for detail, I truly appreciate the work of such a fine jeweler even more than I already did before.

Ring Vainard 11

When we went into the vault and I was able to indulge in the most beautiful pieces of jewelry, I fell in love with the emerald cut diamond ring and the bracelet you have been seen me a lot with recently. Those treasures make me happy every time I am wearing them and they are something that I will happily pass on one day to my daughter.

Sandra Bauknecht - Vainard 22

There is no doubt, diamonds are a girl’s best friend! If you are in Zurich, I truly recommend a visit to the Vainard Fine Jewellery shop at Schlüsselgasse 4, Phone +41 44 210 04 44.

Besides its large selection of  diamond jewelry, the renowned jeweler also works with colored gemstones and is happy to finalize your own designs as well as to remodel an existing piece.

LoL, Sandra

Vainard Fine Jewellery Ring 2

Photos: © Sandra Bauknecht
Photo of the shop in collage: © Vainard, Photo of Marilyn Monroe: Via Vanity Fair

Atelier Swarovski’s Launch of Fine Jewelry

Atelier Swarovski First Fine Jewelry

Great news: Atelier Swarovski launches its first fine jewelry collection, designed by Matthew Campbell Laurenza. Hand crafted with Swarovski gemstones, the JEWELED GARDEN collection consists of 15 one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces, which will be sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman from April 2014.

Swarovski began cutting rock crystal, garnets, agates and synthetic gemstones in 1965. By 1995 Swarovski launched a full line of machine-cut genuine, semi-precious gemstones and in 1997, through the development of advanced computer-aided technology Swarovski perfected the cutting of precious gemstones and added sapphires to the program. Topaz and Zirconia were added to the collection of Swarovski gems in 2004. Matthew was introduced to Swarovski Gems five years ago, and his fascination with the brand’s range of color-matched stones inspired him to create anatomically correct flower and insect sculptures drawn from a “parallel universe to our reality where flora and fauna rule the world”. These magical sculptures were transformed into wearable art to create the Atelier Swarovski by Matthew Campbell Laurenza jewelry collection.

Atelier Swarovski MCL 5

The exquisite collection comprised of eight rings, four bracelets and three necklaces is made with semi-precious and precious Swarovski gemstones including multi-colored sapphires, amethyst, rhodolite garnets, spinel and topaz. Each meticulously handmade piece is set in 18KT gold and highlights an element of beauty found in nature.

matthew-campbell-laurenza

ABOUT MATTHEW CAMPBELL LAURENZA

Matthew Campbell Laurenza is an American born, world-renowned fine jewelry designer who splits his time between Asia and the United States. He gathers inspiration for his collections from his frequent travels around the world. When Matthew travels, he makes time to see the sights and experience the culture. Matthew’s MCL jewelry collection is currently in Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Lane Crawford.

Enjoy this interview with Matthew Campbell Laurenza:

What inspired you to create the sculptures?
The concept took shape four years ago. The idea was to create sculptures that were not only intriguing but also showcased the technical proficiency of today’s metal craft. The garden pieces use 80,000 semi-precious gems to almost 200,000 gems and each one is hand-set by master craftsman. The assembly and casting alone for many of the pieces required more than 1,500 individual components which had to be carved in wax, cast, filed and then assembled together to make the final sculpture. On average, each piece took more than six months of a master goldsmith’s time.

Atelier Swarovski MCL 7

What was your process for creating the collection?
As with all my designs, the process starts with an idea that is translated into rough sketches. I then work on clay models to define the proportions and size so that master wax carvers can interpret the designs. Once in the hands of these masters, a piece will turn into an actual sculpture carved completely of wax. During the carving process, I review the prototypes on a weekly basis to allow for any changes and corrections. As an example, the scorpion took almost three months before its final wax was ready for the next stage. Once the waxes were approved, they had to be disassembled into small enough pieces to cast.

We used the lost wax casting method. Each part was labeled to identify its place in the puzzle and then we began filing. Assembly included relying on the original sketches and models. Each piece was laid out like a puzzle and then soldered together. We had to ensure the structural integrity of the sculptures as they needed to be reinforced internally while making sure that the exterior was kept pristine and free of any visual deformities. After reassembly, the sculptures were polished and each hole has to be counted, mapped, marked and measured so that the gems could be cut to size. To determine the colors needed for the gems, we made new sketches for each sculpture; mapping out exactly how each stone would be set.

The setting process involves dressing each mounting to carve a seat for the stone. This process was by far the most tedious since a professional stone setter can only set 400 to 500 stones per day and some sculptures have 200,000 stones. After each sculpture was set, it was sent for a final polishing and plated to add visual interest. Finally, the sculptures were set with rose cut pyrite, lapis and black onyx in special clays.

What is the story for this collection? What materials, color palettes etc. are you working with?
All of the sculptures were inspired by nature and classic works of art. We used Swarovski topaz, black spinel, rose cut pyrite, lapis, onyx and malachite. The color assortment allowed me to produce the designs as I had envisioned them. Colors that were near impossible to source were available in the topaz collections offered by Swarovski.

Atelier-Swarovski-Fine-Jewellery-by-Matthew-Campbell-Laurenza-364x390

Which is your favorite sculpture and why?
I like them all for different reasons. The giant sculptures to me are the most technical master pieces as they represent the most heartaches. The finished pieces are like my children and I love them equally jeweled GARDEN SCULPTURES.

What were some of your early influences when you first started designing jewelry?
I have always been intrigued with architecture and how it gives a city its soul. What’s amazing to me is what architects and craftsmen were able to accomplish in the past without all the technology that we have today. Notre Dame in Paris is a classic Gothic architecture and a truly inspiring structure. Other movements that continue to inspire me are the Orientalist, Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements of the late Victorian Era. I currently source many of my inspirations from architecture I see during my travels in Europe, Turkey and the United States. Travel is a limitless source of inspiration.

How do you feel you have evolved as a designer over your career?
As a result of experiencing so many different cultures, especially those in Asia, I appreciate color in a way that I did not at the beginning of my career and have moved into using color as a main aesthetic in my designs. My pieces are more playful now.

What are some key terms that describe the pieces in your collection?
Colorful, precious and complex.

Atelier Swarovski MCL 2a

The rings are quite colorful, what was the thought process behind the plating?
To me, anytime we can add color to a piece it adds interest and conversation. So when I learned of this new process of plating I immediately worked to incorporate it in my designs. I am pleased as it gives me new colors to compliment the vast colors of stones offered by Swarovski.

What type of woman do you think is the perfect fit for this jewelry?
A woman who is confident and looking for conversation. She knows that her power comes from her personal style. She finds her style from things that intrigue her in her day to day life. I am honored to be part of her life as she makes my designs fit into her universe.

Thank you, Matthew, for giving us such an interesting insight in your world!

LoL, Sandra

Photos: Atelier Swarovski by Matthew Campbell Laurenza, © Mister Fran

Fash Friday: Illegally Cute

FashFriday

I am already having enough of winter, especially now that all those fabulous new season pieces are arriving in store. Time to celebrate Fash Friday and to shop some of the next must-haves. Isn’t that print illegally cute?!

Floral jacquard jacket and matching pencil skirt , both by Stella McCartney,  polka-dot cotton blouse iconby MiH JeansLove Me heart-appliquéd leather and suede pumps by Charlotte Olympialeather clutch iconby Marni and Libra 18-karat white gold multistone earrings iconby Lydia Courteille.

Have a fabulous weekend and stay tuned for the photos of last night coming up soon…

LoL, Sandra