When I visit the gemstone trade shows our industry holds each February in Tuscon, I feel like the proverbial kid in the candy store. The shows are vast, and in every direction are precious gemstones from all over the world.
Over the years I collected a little “treasure trove” of gems, including Umbalite garnet from the Umba River region of Tanzania, green tsavorite from East Africa, and another wonderful garnet from Madagascar. I also purchased pretty pink, blue and mocha zircons, bright green peridot, and various amethysts, citrines, aquamarines, and a yellow sapphire.
My next step was to find the right designer to achieve the vision I had in my head for jewelry designed around the gems. At the Design Center, I was lucky to find Michael Jensen Designs. Owners Catherine and Michael Jensen have combined their individual talents – she as a graduate gemologist with a passion for art, history and archeology; he as a sculptor and metalsmith – to create a jewelry line where each piece is truly a wearable work of art. I knew right away I’d found the right artists to set the gems I had amassed. I was looking for unique designs that had “edge” and could be worn daily.
From my archeological background, I’ve always loved the rich, high-karat gold aesthetic that you see in ancient jewelry. Those long-ago jewelers used a very pure form of gold, and I loved that Catherine and Michael incorporated 22k gold in their designs to achieve that ancient-inspired look, while using sterling silver and “ancient” finishes. The Jensens also incorporate little dots of gold on some of their jewels, an ancient technique known as granulation, and bezel set many of the gems, which enhanced their antique look.
The Jensens and I sat together for a very long time at that first meeting. First I looked at each of their collections, to understand the aesthetic of each. Then we began to talk about each of my gemstones: their beauty, luster, unique gemological properties (brilliance, diffraction, hue, durability, etc.). Based on each gem, we discussed how they could custom-design jewelry around them, using elements that we agreed fit my vision for these special jewels.
The Jensens returned to their studio, and soon sent through sketches and photos of their process, which fascinated me. After some back and forth, Michael got to work on the fabrication, which he does all by hand, just as ancient jewelers did.
I couldn’t wait to see the final pieces, and I wasn’t disappointed. They are truly beautiful and honor the gems I carefully selected. A few are shown here, and you can see the whole collection by visiting our Michael Jensen collection here. This is a collection that will make you feel like an exotic ancient goddess or queen, which is exactly what I was hoping for.