I’m extra excited to share June’s Jewel of the Month here, albeit at the last possible minute, because this is the first significant new gold design that I’ve created since 2019. Last year was a washout for jewelry design, but the pandemic wasn’t to blame. My manufacturers actually masked up and went back to work in the summer of 2020, so there were people to do the job. And I make most of my sales online or privately, not in brick-and-mortar stores, so I wasn’t affected by a lack of foot traffic. It was a matter of priorities. I couldn’t give any thought to jewelry when I knew I had to devote all of my time to fighting white supremacy and fascism ahead of the crucial 2020 presidential election.
The political and social emergency isn’t over, and I’m still on the streets several times a week, in addition to campaigning for progressive campaigns and causes, and calling and writing my elected officials. The top legislative priority right now is getting rid of the Senate’s Jim Crow filibuster, which Republicans plan to use to block the Democratic majority from passing legislation to protect voting rights at the federal level. That’s why this Monday I joined other activists outside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Brooklyn home (AGAIN!) to remind him — and his neighbors — that he has the power to get this job done and we expect him to use it. The video below shows a particularly great moment; click here to get more information about the event and organizers.
That said, I’ve had the mental space to again squeeze in my jewelry work, so without further ado, I present my brand-new Queen Min earrings.
If you’re an OG blog reader or jewelry buyer, these might look familiar to you, because I first made two Queen Min rings in 2008. Those were both set with a lemon quartz that was engraved with the image of a crane. In 2012, I added two more Queen Min rings to my collection. One was set with an amethyst with a koi carved into it. The other had a lemon citrine that had been engraved with a dragon.
When I bought the koi and dragon stones from one of many talented gem carvers based in Idar-Oberstein, Germany, I bought them both as pairs. The carver had made them for earrings. Even though I was only interested in making rings at the time of the purchase, I figured I’d use the extra stones eventually. It took almost 10 years, but “eventually” arrived after the election last November. Hoping that I’d be able to get back to business, I reviewed the loose gems I had on hand, and it hit me that the purple amethyst and yellow citrine looked beautiful together. Plus, I’ve loved asymmetrical earrings since the 1980s, when I started wearing single earrings. Deliberately mismatched earrings give me the same vibe — they’re usually much more interesting to me than a regular pair of earrings.
Jewelry is best appreciated in person. Photos and videos are a great preview, but jewelry is meant to be worn and to continuously catch the light in different ways. And that’s especially true of my Queen Min designs. All of the gems are carved on the back — on just one side. As you turn the stones this way and that, a reflection of the etching appears in the opposite facet. So from some angles, you see two dragons or two fish (as you do in the photos here) in a single gem, but from other angles, you see just one creature.
I chose these optical-illusion gems to represent the story of Queen Min, the tragic last empress of Korea, because even though she lived in the 1800s (after photography was invented) and she was a person of significance, no one is 100% sure what she looked like. (Some images and drawings have been tentatively identified as her, but there’s reasonable doubt.)
This one-of-a-kind pair is available on 1stdibs.com, where you can see more photos from all angles and get information about carat weight, diamond quality, and dimensions.