Can you believe September is almost over? That means it’s a good time for the official debut of my opal birthstone jewelry, now available by special order for October birthdays and beyond.
I’ve been working on this little suite of designs all year. You’ve had glimpses of the collection since March when I started wearing the opal studs, which are bezel-set in 18K yellow gold. They’re shown as a pair on my website, but you can order a single stud by emailing me at info at wendybrandes dot com.
A lone stud fits in nicely with a well-curated collection of ear piercings; I often wear one in my second lobe piercing, as shown below.
I followed up the studs with an 18K yellow gold opal ring, accented with 36 diamond rounds weighing a total of 30 points (there are 100 points in a carat of diamonds).
This looked fabulous with a vintage Ossie Clark dress that I wore in May.
I completed the opal set this summer with a diamond-accented Y-necklace (or lariat, whichever term you prefer). Here it is, layered with a platinum razor-blade choker, on my right-hand woman Eryn.
The necklace isn’t on my website yet because it still needs to have its professional portrait taken. I’ll get that done if and when I manage to snatch the chain from Eryn’s neck. She absconded with this design several weeks ago after identifying it as a potential “something borrowed” piece for her wedding. Even though she decided on another Wendy Brandes necklace for her big day (that will get a whole separate post!), she seems to have a lot of good reasons for needing to hold onto the opals. Hmm. At this point, I would normally let her apply her generous employee discount towards permanent ownership, but, as I mentioned at the beginning of this posts, these pieces are special-order only. I can’t sell the samples because all of the opals were originally part of my mother’s birthstone cocktail ring.
I’ve often written about redesigning old jewelry, but these new pieces take that to the next level: They’re redesigns of a previous redesign. In the late 1990s — years before I went into the jewelry business — my mother gave me an opal ring she no longer wore, and I asked a local jeweler to use the stones to create two necklaces for layering. That’s when I learned that not all jewelers are the same. The chains the guy used were too thick and the links too tight, making the opals stuck out stiffly, at weird angles. It was worse for Terri, my sister, who had received my mother’s ruby-and-diamond cocktail ring. I brought that to the same jeweler when I brought him the opal ring, and the necklace he created didn’t look like anything I remember sketching.
The questionable aesthetic was one thing — poor Terri was very gracious about it — but the fact that the simple “huggie” earrings (near the top of the photo above) were too uncomfortable to wear was a real problem. Those were supposed to be easy, everyday earrings. Instead, they sat in a jewelry box until I redesigned everything for Terri myself in 2011.
In 2014, I did another redesign of a redesign for my gorgeous customer Susan, who had gone to her local jeweler and asked for earrings incorporating pearls from earrings given to her by a friend in 1985; the diamonds from studs she bought during her first trip to Paris in 2005; and her birthstone, amethyst. The resulting design was wearable, but it just didn’t speak to her.
I wound up taking those apart and making a much bolder design with the same gems.
As for my opals, I haven’t been able to find photos of mom’s original ring or the first redesign. I took the redesigned necklaces apart years ago and recycled most of the gold, figuring I’d someday get around to making new pieces with the gems. Making jewelry for myself isn’t my top priority; I want to make designs for customers to wear! Even when I was making a series of chic birthstone studs, I used October’s back-up birthstone, tourmaline, rather than opal, because opal is soft and every jeweler I know dislikes working with it.
But then two jewelry trends came together in an inspiring way over the past few years. First, multiple ear piercings adorned with small studs became very hot. Secondly, after years of being very “out,” opals came roaring back into style. (They’re so popular now that I have to frequently warn people away from using such a delicate gem in engagement rings.) Studs … opals … wait a minute! I had opals that were ready to be turned into studs. I got those done quickly. It took me longer to decide on the ring and necklace styles in part because I wanted to be kind to my reluctant jewelry manufacturers (and my delicate opals) by leaving the gems in the bezel settings from the first redesign rather than prying them out to reset them. That’s why the ring and necklace are much less elaborate than, for instance, my Maneater rings with their hundreds of one-millimeter stones. But I think it works out well because the opal studs were my main concept, and it makes sense that the ring and necklace designs reflect the earring style.
What all of this means for my gorgeous customers is that if you want the necklace, earrings, or ring — or a combination thereof — you can order from my website as you normally would, and I’ll whip up new versions especially for you, as fast as I can. If you want to discuss altering the designs in some way, shoot me an email. When we’re starting from scratch, we might as well create whatever it is that your heart desires. For all of you new opal lovers — and I know you’re out there — I highly recommend earrings and necklaces as a way to wear the gem because those styles suffer fewer hard knocks in life than rings and bracelets. That said, a non-engagement ring with an opal clearly doesn’t trouble me, as long as you’re willing to treat it with some TLC. As for the old superstition about opals being “bad luck,” my hunch has always been that the story was spread by goldsmiths trying to avoid working with tricky gems. Ha! They’ll just have to get over it. As I told one of my jewelers, “You’ll be seeing a lot more of these!”
Finally, October babies who want to stick to the month’s other birthstone, tourmaline, don’t forget my ANZA Gems toi et moi is available for immediate delivery.
Contact ANZA Gems to inquire about price.
UPDATED TO ADD: Woot! A “before” photo of the opal pendant that became a ring. I forgot I put this on Instagram!
Planning a simple pendant-to-ring conversion. Original on the left, rendering of new ring on the right. This is a second redesign for this opal! It was originally the center stone of an old-fashioned cocktail ring. I can do a similar conversion for your unworn pendant. Email info at wendybrandes dot com to inquire. #redesign #jewelryredesign #necklace #ring #lovegold #lovegoldlive #opal #opals #birthstones #octoberbirthstone #birthstonering