Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jade Hunting in Big Sur

Do you appreciate nature's treasures: sand dollars, serpentine, and nephrite jade?

Do you love sweeping vistas, majestic sea cliffs, and breathtaking ocean views?

Are you in search of the perfect California honeymoon destination?

Are you up for trail blazing, beach combing, and rock hounding?

If you said yes to any (or all) of these questions, then may we suggest a honeymoon getaway at Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur, California?

Ventana is situated on 243 acres of Highway 1's most spectacular countryside. With views of the majestic coastline, lush redwood forests, sweeping spring green meadows, and stunning canyons, Ventana offers breathtaking scenery for every taste.

To get there from Seattle, drive south until you reach the turnoff for California Highway 101. Continue south toward Los Angeles, turning off at Monterey to merge onto Highway 1, the West Coast's most spectacular seaside drive. Drive through Monterey, take in the sights at Carmel By the Sea, and hug the shoulders along the cliffs for another hour until you reach the resort.

Ventana Inn & Spa offers a boutique luxury experience to every guest, including a restaurant specializing in scrumptious fare made with locally sourced and sustainable ingredients from Central California; an in-house spa featuring swimming pools, Japanese hot baths, facials, massages, and more; and an in-house art gallery featuring the works of local artists. Shuttle service is also available to transport guests to nearby shops and restaurants.

Their luxurious guest rooms feature plush king-size beds with Egyptian cotton bedding, a private deck or patio, soaking tubs, binoculars, umbrellas, flashlights, and walking sticks. Everything you'll need to fully immerse yourself in the enchanting tranquility of Big Sur.

Once you are fully rested, you and your sweetheart will be ready to embark on a unique and exciting treasure hunt for the nephrite jade found on nearby beaches. Big Sur jade hunting is not for the faint of heart, so be prepared with sturdy hiking shoes, good maps, and some practice with spotting the sought-after green stone.

We recommend beginning at Sand Dollar Beach early in the morning, at the first low tide. Sand Dollar Beach is a day use area administered by the US Forest Service as part of the Los Padres National Forest. A small fee is required, and there are a few regulations for jade hunters, so look further into such details before heading out.

All of Big Sur's beaches lie far below the road, nestled at the base of amazing cliffs and bluffs. Sand Dollar Beach offers a 98-step stairway that leads to the public beach. In the early morning, you'll have the place mostly to yourself, offering you a first run at finding sand dollars and jade.

For jade, you'll want to search near the larger rock outcroppings, where the crashing of the surf has smashed the larger boulders into small enough bits for you to pick up. Dig down into the sand and gravel, and keep your eyes peeled for shimmering green or black stones. Carry a pocket knife with you to test your yield, as an abundance of green serpentine coexists onshore with the more precious and illusive jade.

Serpentine is a soft stone that is not coveted commercially, and unless you fall in love with its unique properties you will not want to expend your energy carrying much of it back up those 98 steps with you. Nephrite jade will shimmer when you hold it up to the sunlight. It has a translucent quality and is so hard that a knife blade will not scratch it. In fact, you may find that the nephrite actually scratches your knife.

If you're unsatisfied with your hunt, then you can take to the surf. Sand Dollar Beach is reported as being one of the best surfing beaches along Big Sur. According to the website California's Best Beaches, "The waves come in big and can break well out from shore or can be forgiving and gentle breaking close to the beach." If you'd rather, you can also take to the sky. Hang-gliders and para-gliders often land in the meadow to the south of the beach.

But if you want to take your jade hunting to the next level, then we suggest a short drive, another 0.6 miles south, to the unmarked turnoff for Jade Cove. Beware, this hike and beach are among the most rugged public access points on Big Sur. The trail can be treacherous, especially when wet. And the waves can be sneaky, swift, and fierce at any time of year.

If you choose to hunt Jade Cove, you'll be more likely to find worthwhile jade stone, and you'll be privileged to sea the California Coast at its most spectacular. However, be sure you do plenty of research ahead of time, and keep one eye on the waves at all times. You might also consider hiring a guide to take you to this most popular of jade hunting locales on the coast.

Be sure to give us a call when you come home with your cache. We'd love to help you find the perfect vintage or estate setting to best commemorate your honeymoon treasure.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Allure of Blue Sapphires

At EraGem, we love sapphires. The bigger and bluer, the better. This azure hue of corundum gets its color from an intrusion of titanium and iron in its elaborate crystal structure. Blue sapphires can range in color from pale sky blue, to royal blue, to deep sea blue.

We are partial to the deep sea blue colors here at EraGem. Like the one pictured here, a gorgeous deep blue Sri Lankan sapphire weighing nearly 8 carats! Nestled in a four-prong platinum setting, this magnificent sapphire is accented by four channel-set tapered baguette white diamonds. This sapphire would serve well as a right-hand finger ring, though we think it would shine even brighter as a stunning engagement ring for a woman who values romance, purity, wisdom, and divine favor.

Blue sapphires represent all that and more. In Persia, the ancients believed that the very color of the heavens was derived from the sapphire pedestal on which the earth rested. The minuscule (in comparison) raw sapphire stones found scattered across the land were thought to be chips off this grand foundation stone.

Blue sapphires have long been associated with religious leaders, worn by clergy to enhance their connection to divine wisdom and favor. Non-religious spiritualists have sought the help of sapphires to aid in the acquisition of prophetic knowledge and to increase their ability to channel powerful energies.

The ancients relied on sapphires to ensure fidelity, chastity, and temperance. Many Europeans during the middle ages believed that sapphire was the true blue gem, a gift of which symbolized the highest order of friendship, solidarity, honesty, and loyalty.

This long-held association with fidelity has made blue sapphires a popular choice for engagement rings, as has its association with royalty. Sapphires and rubies were once held in as high esteem for royalty as the diamond, and blue sapphires continue to be a favorite among modern royals.

Buddhists believed blue sapphires brought one closer to enlightenment and strengthened a postulate's devotion. Christians relied on sapphires to protect them from harm, particularly from poison, plague, black magic, treachery, and treason. They were also believed to provide wisdom, insight, and understanding to those who sought divine help.

Blue sapphires are associated with academia, as well. Believed by some to be the Stone of Wisdom, these gorgeous blue gems were thought to inspire curiosity and to increase mental acuity. They were believed to promote self-discipline, activating the ability to order one's steps and reach one's goals in a methodical and conscientious manner.

Today, they are associated with the psychology of the color blue. Blue is calming, bringing serenity in the midst of chaos and stress. The sense of peace blue brings can lead to the release of tension and clear the mind of negative thoughts that cloud creative approaches to problems. A blue sapphire, then, might open your mind to new thoughts, inspire contemplation of the beauty around you, and restore balance to your body and mind as you reflect on the mesmerizing rays of light emanating from within its faceted body.

We cannot more highly recommend encountering a blue sapphire in all its glory. To do so, please call to make an appointment with one of our associates. It would be our pleasure to share with you the beauty of our selection of blue sapphires.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Designer Spotlight: EFFY

This beautiful EFFY blue sapphire ring features a double diamond halo and is crafted of solid 14k white gold. The genuine blue sapphire is a deep, dark blue and weighs 1.65 carats. It is surrounded by 50 round single cut diamonds with color varying between G and H. This gorgeous ring is a testament to the craftsmanship of EFFY jewelers.

Effy Hamatian, founder of EFFY, oversees the design and craftsmanship of every one of the hundreds of pieces his house produces every year. Each EFFY jewel shines with the brilliance and luster of Effy's attention to detail and meticulous designs.

With EFFY, you're guaranteed precise and vibrant colors. All of their gemstones are selected and matched by hand to ensure perfection. Black rhodium, while not used in this piece, is often employed by EFFY to add depth and enhance the colored stones. Every piece of jewelry is comfortable for daily wear and smooth to the touch.

At EFFY, every piece goes through rigorous quality testing, in accordance with the founder's insistence that those who wear his jewels deserve the absolute best in quality. Mr. Hamatian entered into the jewelry business more than 30 years ago with an engineering background. He believes that his electronics experience affords him the ability to recognize the importance of the smallest of details. He sees things that others might miss.

Effy is always in search of new inspiration, drawing from nature, world travel, and anything that moves him and stirs his passion. His designs are intended to inspire a sense of adventure and to transport you to new places even if you're sitting at your desk or on your couch.

Effy works alongside his two sons, Benny and Bobby, in their West 46th Street studio in New York City. Benny Hamatian tells his children that their grandfather has truly realized the American dream. Thirty-five years ago, he arrived in New York with nothing except his strong devotion and faith in God and an outstanding work ethic. With these tools in hand, he established his leading jewelry design firm and inspired the next generation to take up the reigns beside him.

Effy's sons are as passionate about jewelry design and manufacture as he is. They love what they do, and they love working with their father. Bobby Hamatian believes that two things separate EFFY from the rest: (1) Endless opportunities to express your unique personality and interests, and (2) The highest quality in craftsmanship.

"To have the opportunity to put a smile on peoples' faces and be a part of their happy occasion is what drives me to build this brand and to come to work every day," he says.

For those in search of bold, stylish jewels to complement their every whim and mood, we cannot more highly recommend EFFY jewelry. We invite you to make an appointment to come in and meet with us to try on our selection of EFFY jewels.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Star Stones: The Allure of Asterism

This spectacular vintage star sapphire cocktail ring is centered with a massive 29.5-carat natural blue star sapphire. Cut en cabochon, this gorgeous stone has a complete, strong, 6-ray star that is slightly off center with excellent movement. Surrounding the beautiful center stone is a double halo of sapphires and diamonds. The inner circle is set with dark blue round faceted sapphires, while the outer circle is set with round brilliant white diamonds.

Asterism is a remarkable phenomenon in which a cabochon-cut gemstone reflects a 4- or 6-rayed star radiating out from the focal center of the stone. Asterism is most frequently seen in corundum, among members of the sapphire family. However, it is also found in varieties of quartz, moonstone, and garnet.{1}

Asterism occurs naturally when a stone contains rutile needle inclusions called silk. These intrusions in the crystal structure must occur in a specific pattern in order to reflect the star-like pattern on the polished surface of the stone.{2}

The most prized star sapphires have a star pattern which appears centered on the stone with long-reaching, crystal-clear rays.{3} In order to achieve this desired effect, skilled cutters must often cut a lower dome, leaving slightly bulging sides. In addition, they often leave more depth at the base of the stone than they might for other cabochon-cut stones. The bulging sides ensure better centering of the asterism, while the extra depth provides greater clarity of the star effect.{4} While these unusual parameters make it a little tricky for jewelers to mount a star sapphire, the results are worth far more than the little bit of trouble they might encounter.

When choosing a star gemstone, we recommend working closely with a reputable and knowledgeable jeweler. Asterism is a rare phenomenon, commanding a higher price per carat, and therefore requires specialized knowledge. Ask your jeweler to show you their selection under bright, direct light, since under diffused light the stone will not perform optimally.

Star stones are best examined with a single source of light, which allows you to move the light back and forth across the surface. This will demonstrate that the rays of the star are straight, nearly centered, and distributed evenly across the surface of the stone. Also, remember to include color, cut, and clarity in your assessment of a star stone.

The star will move across the surface of the stone, but it should appear somewhat static in its size, direction, and orientation. The highest quality star stones exhibit sharp and unwavering rays which stretch from girdle to girdle.{5}

At EraGem, we have a select number of star sapphires available. They range in color from light and bright pink (rubies) to pale and deep blue. It would be our pleasure to visit with you in our Seattle-area showroom to demonstrate the mesmerizing beauty of these phenomenal gemstones. Call today to make your appointment with one of our knowledgeable associates.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. Smigel, Barbara W., "Star Stones (Asterism)," accessed at on August 15, 2015.
  2., "About Star Gemstones," accessed August 15, 2015.
  3. The Star Ruby Shop, "Cutting Process of Asteriated Gemstones," accessed from on August 15, 2015.
  4. Smigel.
  5. Waters, Michelle, "Gemstones with Asterisms and Chatoyancy," Harriet Kelsal Jewelry Website, accessed on August 15, 2015.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Is Green Your Color?

Green is cool and collected, calm and soothing, refreshing and mysterious.

It is rustling leaves on a warm summer afternoon.

Lush vegetation on a tropical island.

Green is a deep forest, a still meadow, a tantalizing lagoon.

Green has been called "the most 'organic' of colors," a hue that artists once made from corroded metals but now squeeze from a paint tube or mix on a palette from primary blue and primary yellow.{1} It evokes both mystery and refreshment and is associated with the serenity of nature and the youthfulness of spring.

What We Know About Green
  • In Daoist lore green was associated with the mountains and symbolized the purity of nature and the potential for eternal life.{2}
  • Green, though classified as a cool color, is well-balanced, drawing from the warmth of yellow and the coolness of blue.{3}
  • Green eases the sense of sight, providing a time out for tired eyes.{4}
  • During the Middle Ages green was considered beautiful because it was "temperate, balanced, proper...."{5}
  • In the West green is the color of health and vitality, as well as the color of conservationists and ecologically minded groups and individuals.
  • Modern Islamic believers equate the color green with material and spiritual wealth.{6}
  • Green is a color of Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace.{7}
Shades of Green

Sage Green, Bottle Green, Jungle Green

Forest, Olive, Lime, Pistachio

Green Jade, Green Apple, Green Grass

Verdigris, Zangar, Tea Leaf, Cucumber

Green's Personality Traits

  • Cool
  • Collected
  • Soothing
  • Peacemaker
  • Contemplative
  • Blanaced
  • Temperate
  • Lighthearted

If you found yourself lulled by the images evoked by the color green, or if you recognize yourself in green's personality, then you might enjoy wearing a green gemstone in your engagement ring.

Which Green Stone Should I Choose?

Well, you can't go wrong with an emerald. Emeralds are the green variety of beryl. With a Mohs hardness of 7.5-8, they are an excellent choice for daily wear. Emeralds range in hue from bright grass green, to moss green, to spring green. They can have either a bluish or a yellowish undertone. Flawless emeralds are difficult to find, so when looking at clarity we recommend consulting a gemstone expert to ensure that the emerald you choose will look good to the eye with little or no enhancement.

If you prefer a stone other than the emerald, then may we suggest a peridot, tsavorite, demantoid garnet, or green sapphire? Each of these stones will weather daily wear well. 

If you think green might be your color, then we invite you to visit our showroom for a chance to put your color to the test. We would love to show you our selection of green emerald, green sapphire, and peridot engagement rings.

Click here to schedule a visit today.

  1. Finlay, Victoria, Color: A Natural History of the Palette, New York: Random House, 2004, p. 265.
  2. Ibid., p. 257.
  3. House Beautiful: Colors for Your Home, New York: Hearst Books, 2008.
  4. Pastoureau, Michael, Green: The History of a Color, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013.
  5. Pastoureau, p. 57.
  6. Gallienne, Amandine Guisez, Colorful World, London: Thames and Hudson, 2005.
  7. Pastoureau.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Are You An Op Art Bride?

What is Op Art?
Optical Art is precise and fascinating, sensory and psychological, jarring and enlightening. It emerged out of the modern art movement during the early 1950s. At first linked with kinetic art, the movement was launched with an exhibition called Le Mouvement in 1955 at Galerie Denise Rene.{1}

Both the kinesthetic and the Op Art movements were drawn to motion, with the kinesthetics harnessing physical/mechanical motion and the op artists experimenting with virtual/perceived motion. In a short time, the Op Artists began to establish their own platform on which to stand, reaching their peak with The Responsive Eye, a 1965 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. There, Victor Vasarely, Bridge Riley, Frank Stella, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Jesus-Rafael Soto, and Josef Albers, finally caught the attention of the world, and of the critics, of course.{2}

While the critics balked at what they perceived as gimmicks and tricks, the public flocked to the exhibit, drawn by the wonder and magic of illusions and afterimages. Unfortunately, the critics were unable to welcome Op Art into their circles, so the movement faded shortly after the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art ended. Though a blip on the broader screen of world art history, Optical Art continues to prevail as a movement in its own right, inspiring even today's most accomplished fashion designers.

Op Art Philosophy
When considering whether Op Art is your bridal style, you will first want to know what Op Art artists set out to explore and demonstrate in their work.

Op Artists were keenly invested in the exploration of perception, particularly of how the eye sees and responds to abstract geometrical forms and patterns.{3, 4} As a subset of the Modern Art movement, Op Art took many of its cues from the latest advances in technology while eschewing the common practice of referencing the past or recognizable shapes and forms.

Decidedly abstract yet carefully constructed with a foundation in mathematical and scientific principles, Op Art was the first art movement to marry art and science together intentionally.{5, 6} Op Artists set out to provoke immediate psychological and visual responses from their viewers. It was expected that this immersive perceptual experience would jar the viewer into recognizing the confounding nature of the human eye and its relationship with the brain and visual stimuli.

It was hoped that some of these viewers would realize that to some degree everything is relative to how we see what we see. While some people see movement in an image, others see static lines and patterns. While to some the color blue appears greenish, to others the same shade might appear to have violet undertones.{7}

Characteristics of Op Art
To achieve their ends, Op Artists employed a variety of forms to a number of basic principles. First, Op Artists focused on geometrical patterns and forms. While many of them kept their color palettes limited to black and white, some used color to enhance the visual responses of their viewers. More often than not, though, color was meant to further shock viewers by behaving outside of the norms typically associated with a particular hue.

Op Artists intended to evoke strong perceptual experiences in their viewers. To achieve this end they employed illusions, after effects, abstractions, and visual trickery.{8} Symmetry and mathematical precision was essential to the compositions, as well.{9, 10}

Are You an Op Art Bride?

Do you enjoy stark color contrasts and limited color palettes?

Are you fascinated by movement and illusion?

Are you precise and scientific in your approach to life?

Do you enjoy wonder and mystery of magic and optical illusions?

Do you want your wedding guests to walk away in wonder and awe?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then you might be an Op Art Bride.

An Op Art Bride Might:
  1. Choose a patterned dress over solid white.
  2. Carry black and white roses instead of a colorful bouquet.
  3. Wear one white shoe and one black shoe.
  4. Wear moonstone or opal jewelry, the play of colors providing constant movement around her face and neck.
  5. Wear makeup that accentuates an unusual part of her face.
  6. Choose to alter the punctuation in her vows in order to emphasize unusual patterns in the wording.
An Op Art Engagement Ring

An Op Art bride will choose an engagement ring that confounds the eye. Perhaps it will have alternating rings of geometric patterns, like the above vintage diamond cocktail ring. This ring features concentric circles of white diamonds surrounding a single 1.22-carat round brilliant diamond. The inner circle is composed of smaller round diamonds, and the outer circle is composed of baguette diamonds. The effect is mesmerizing and somewhat disorienting.

Rings with multiple halos are another fabulous option for the Op Art bride. You might also consider choosing from the vast geometrical styles of the Art Deco period. Or you could choose a piece by Isharya, whose Op Art rings are fantastically rendered in yellow gold with white and black enameling.

If The Style Fits
So, does the Op Art label fit you? If so, here are a list of other considerations to make as you plan for your big day:

  • Wedding Color Palette: Black and White; Black, White, and One More; Yellow, Blue, Red; Magenta, Yellow, Blue
  • Wedding Locations: Museum of Modern Art; Zilinskas Art Gallery in Kaunas City, Lithuania; Ronchamp, Paris; the Fondation Vasarely in Aix-en-Provence
  • Hairstyle: '60s Pixie Cut; '60s Beatles' Bob; '60s Cropped Cut
  • Dress Designer: Ossie Clark; Marc Jacobs; Dolce & Gabana
  • Shoes: Especially Melissa by Gareth Pugh; Adidas Op Art; Coach Op Art
  • Flowers: Origami flowers; Dahlias; Passion Flowers; Ranunculus
  • China Patterns/Designers: Vincenzo D'Alba for Kiasmo; B By Brandie; American Atelier; 

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. The Art Story, "Op Art," accessed from HERE on August 28, 2015.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Phillips, Sam, ...isms: Understanding Modern Art, New York: Universe, 2012.
  5. The Art Story.
  6. Parola, Rene, Optical Art: Theory and Practice, Courier Corporation, 1996, p.iii.
  7. Phillips.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Parola.
  10. Roza, Greg, An Optical Artist: Exploring Patterns and Symmetry, Rosen Classroom, 2005.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Designer Spotlight: Neda Behnam

Neda Behnam Flower Motif Cocktail Ring.
Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry

This exquisite cocktail ring features a six-petaled flower set with fancy brown faceted diamonds. Each petal is rhodium plated and edged (click here for detailed photo) in pavé white diamonds. A single leaf accents the ring, hugging the finger when worn. It is set with bright green tsavorite stones. A golden pistil emerges from the middle, centered by a bright white diamond.

This gorgeous ring captures perfectly the essence of Neda Behnam's signature design elements. First, it is inspired by nature, as are the majority of her pieces. Her collections include a number of lovely floral and animal designs. Many of her pieces feature her signature rhodium plating, which affords her work the depth and contrast that make her pieces come to life.

Every one of Ms. Behnam's jewels are intricately tooled by hand. Though she favors white diamonds and platinum or yellow gold, she often liberally sprinkles a dose of true-to-life colors, using precious and semi-precious stones.

Neda works closely with her husband, Samuel, who has created his own line of silver jewelry called Samuel B. Together they sell their wares through their SoHo Boutique label. With over 25 years of experience, Neda has developed a philosophy of design that encompasses the wonder of nature with an emphasis on intricate details.

"When a woman wears jewelry, it's a statement about who she is. She expects to be noticed and pays attention to the smallest of details when it comes to making a purchase," Ms. Behnam says.{1} Neda's attention to detail is most evident in the white diamond edging on the petals, the green tsavorite leaf, and the gold pistils on this floral cocktail ring.

As a breast cancer survivor, Ms. Behnam is deeply invested in committing herself and her craft to benefit the search for a cure for breast cancer. To that end, she created a line of jewelry featuring diamonds set in precious metal in art deco and vintage-inspired designs.{2} Ten percent of every online purchase of a Diamonds for a Cure® jewel is donated to Stand Up to Cancer®, an organization dedicated to researching innovation in cancer treatment.{3}

In addition to her high-end line and her jewels made for SoHo Boutique and the home shopping networks, Neda Behnam also pours herself into her foundation Diamonds for a Cure®. Neda believes that, "like life, diamonds are precious," and therefore represent best the search for a cure for the treatment and cure of breast cancer.{4}

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. Market Wired. "SoHo Boutique by Neda Behnam Taps Into Fall Art Jewelry Trends--Top 5 to Buy." November 7, 2008.
  2. Diamonds for a Cure. "About DFAC Mission Statement." Accessed August 25, 2015.
  3. Stand Up To Cancer. "Why We're Different." Accessed August 25, 2015.
  4. Overstock. "Neda Behnam, Inspired by Nature." Accessed from on August 25, 2015.