Twelve years ago a longtime client/friend who I will call Bill came into the store with an exciting custom design project- he wanted to create a ring for himself. There had been significant changes in his life and he wanted a piece that reminded him of his positive future and outlook. Together we created something he and I were both very happy with. The ring was so cool I actually asked his permission to make a version of it for myself and another for a friend of mine. As you can see it’s organic and unusual and does not resemble design trends from then or now. It was exactly what Bill and I were trying to accomplish.
Over the years mine has accumulated rare gemstones. I had several fancy pink diamonds left over from a different custom design project that I set into it. Then at our trade show in Las Vegas my friend Manos from Omi Prive showed me a package of tiny incredibly rare, Alexandrites. I purchased 6 of them with no specific project in mind at the time. They are also now in my ring too! I have always been fascinated with these phenomenal color changing stones. Mine are hard at work everyday making magic. As I write this they are a teal green color. At night, by candlelight, they transform into a deep reddish purple. It’s a trick I never tire of seeing, and my Alexandrites never stop performing.
Fast forward to a few months ago. Bill, the friend/client I collaborated with 12 years ago came in to the store to tell me he had lost 'our' ring along with his wedding ring. I felt terrible for him and even offered my version of the original project as a possible replacement. We had a cad rendering of his wedding ring and were able to replace his wedding ring pretty quickly. The exciting part was his new plan- to replace the ring we designed with another, updated symbolic ring.
Bill is again transitioning and wanted a new ring that spoke to a positive new life direction. Enter Phoenix Rising, the ultimate symbol of strength and renewal. He wanted the theme and design of his new ring to incorporate 2 things- the Phoenix and an Opal. I love challenging custom design almost as much as I love opals, so I was excited about the project. He wanted to use our original design as a basic template. It had to be organic, definitely asymmetrical and unlike anything else. We needed to feel the flames and envision the bird rising from them and the energy it portrayed. We also had to incorporate a really fine opal. This series of images shows the progression of our design ideas in wax. Like the first ring, this flowing style requires a master wax carver's talent to achieve the effect we were looking for. We work with CAD (Computer Assisted Design) almost daily, but this was a wax carver project if I ever saw one. This was to be a special, one of a kind piece and we all liked the idea of everything being done by hand. Our amazing jeweler Laureano was more than up to the task. We started with a basic idea (wax #1) which then morphed into one that included adding an opal to the birds eye (wax #3). After seeing how much larger we had to make the head to get even a small opal in the eye we scrapped that idea.
Wax #4 - Final Product
Then came “The Opal.” This photo only shows a fraction of its color and intensity. There was no question we had to use this stone and it had to be featured prominently in our design. So back to Laureano we went. This time the result made us all very happy. With the final wax shown here (wax #4) we knew we had our design. I was given the ‘go ahead’ to send the wax to casting which adds another level of excitement, because soon our Phoenix project would be a reality.
Opals are nature’s Impressionist artwork. Each stone is different, colors vary and although I have spent countless hours looking at thousands of them I am always interested in seeing more. I am a huge fan. There is a slight downside that we who love them gladly accept as a slight inconvenience that’s well worth the joy they bring- they are one of the softer gemstones we work with. All gem varieties are rated for their hardness on the Mohs Scale. Diamonds are the hardest at 10 on the scale while opal falls between 5.5 and 6 (out of 10). Given this, the first order of business is to make sure the client is aware of the durability and is willing to live with the risk. This client actually used an opal center in his wife’s engagement ring so he already knew the risk. He promised it would not be worn when he was doing anything that might damage his opal.
Next we asked Laureano to try to protect the opal from inadvertent contact by providing a deep setting area and protective surround at the edges. You can see this accommodation in the wax and it is even more obvious in the actual ring.
And now… The Phoenix Rising Opal Ring! Wow. The result is amazing and most importantly exactly what our client was hoping for. The symbolism of coming from the ashes, rebirth, transformation all tied in with his favorite stone – the fiery Australian opal.
Now I have to decide which version of the Phoenix Ring I am going to make. The waxes pictured above are all very viable and interesting. I will never find another opal exactly the shape and depth of the one in the final version, so I'll likely choose one of the first 3 waxes Laureano did.
The story ends in a bittersweet and ultimately happy place. Well into this project Bill called to say he had found his original ring hiding embarrassingly enough in plain sight. He now has his original custom ring back which he can wear daily and his Phoenix Rising opal ring which can be saved for special occasions. This is the perfect plan for opal longevity.
What I do for a living involves more fun than work. Our clients are generally in a good place in their lives and come to us for something significant of that. Once in a while something like The Phoenix Ring comes along and reminds me how much I love what I do and how lucky I am to be doing it.