I started work on July’s Jewel of the Month in January, shortly after Alyssa Brownell — one of my gorgeous jewelry designer friends — got engaged. Alyssa, who has always had adventurous taste in jewelry, initially asked if my Cleves swan earrings in 18K yellow gold and onyx could be her “something borrowed.” She’s worn them before.
I said sure, but that I wanted her to have a “something borrowed that’s something new” too. I explained it to her in an email:
“I have FOR YEARS envisioned a darkly romantic 18K yellow tiara … Not one of the giant, almost-crown type of bridal pieces, but something beautiful and noticeable yet still subtle, involving expert, hand-done work.”
This isn’t the first time Alyssa got me to move a simmering idea off the back burner. In June’s Jewel of the Month post, I wrote that she was one of reasons I finally got to work on my Queen of Scots snake ring:
“I moved this long-planned design (I mean, I wanted to make it for 10 years!) to the top of my to-do list because so many jewelry peeps I know wear (relatively) petite, vintage snake rings. My gorgeous friend Alyssa Brownell has an impressive collection of those, including ones that are for sale.”
As you can see, my snake ring isn’t delicate like the ones in Alyssa’s personal collection, but it’s the inspiration that counts! Alyssa still gets credit for ending my procrastination.
The newest jewel from my friend @wendybrandesjewelry is of my most favorite subject matter, A Snake! This hand carved magnificent beast has the most buttery gold satin finish diamond speckled scales and marvelous marquise diamond eyes. But the details that really get me are his arched nostrils and four sharpened fangs. #jewelrywithaface has never looked or felt better! Brava babes! Seen @metalandsmith
Taking into account Alyssa’s love of snakes — including my Scots ring — and her daring attitude towards jewelry, I suggested a golden Queen of Scots snake tiara for her July 15 wedding. I envisioned the piece with a pearl or pearls in it, as a tribute to the pearl earrings that were among her very first jewelry designs, as well as rubies, which are July’s birthstone. This was a labor-intensive design, requiring two wax models followed by a brass model before I cast the piece in 18K yellow gold. I finished it just one week before the wedding. Props to Alyssa for being a very chill bride.
All told, I used 2.3 ounces of 18K gold in this design: blackened 18K yellow gold for the snakes, and blackened 18K rose gold for the headband. The irregularly shaped South Sea pearl in the center measures 12.8 x 14.3 millimeters.
Seventy-six tiny diamonds totaling 1/2 carat are set in the bodies of the snakes, while the four rubies (two in the front, two in the back) add up to 0.09 carats.
I’ve got more photos to share of the tiara as a work-in-progress, as well as photos of it adorning the beautiful bride. I’ll save those for another post, though, to give you some time to contemplate the finished work!