Saturday, March 5, 2011


It’s all around us, this major trend – the green movements that affect the lives of all of us — but jewelry?

I was recently asked if the jewelry I produced was “green”. I do know a bit about pearls, since I took and passed the Gemological Institute of America’s (GIA) course on Pearls, so I gave it some thought and answered that pearls certainly are green, being that they’re natural and must be grown in an environmentally clean atmosphere. While semi-precious colored stones are natural and organic, there is nothing green about the mining, cutting and faceting practices used to obtain them.

In Tucson the first week of February, I made a bee-line to my pearl supplier of choice, Betty Sue King, official Pearl Goddess, and owner of King’s Ransom. Not only is she a lovely, patient person to her customers, she is an expert in this field, and an officer of the Gemological Institute of America.

So, I asked her if pearls were “green.” She smiled her sweet smile and said she had written an article on the subject, “How Green Are Your Pearls?” that had been published in Modern Jeweler, in the January 2009 issue.

In the article, Betty Sue notes that the sound environmental conditions are required for saltwater pearls grown in Australia, Tahiti, Philippines, Japan and New Zealand. This is because the saltwater oysters there will only tolerate clean environments. So these oysters are grown in sheltered bays and lagoons rich with nutrients to keep them healthy. The governments of these countries all monitor conditions because they and the pearl farmers know that “. . . the health of the pearl is an indicator of the environment.”

Did you know that pearls are also grown in the U.S.? Well, freshwater pearls are grown in rivers in Mississippi and Tennessee and growers there consider “monitoring the environment as an essential part of their responsibilities.”

The mussels used to produce freshwater pearls from China, the most common and accessible of all pearls on the market, are more tolerant of conditions they need in order to produce pearls. So these mussels, while fed with organic mixtures, have been over-farmed in inland lakes in China, a government with a more laissez-faire attitude toward freshwater pearl cultivation. The recession has curtailed pearl cultivation so that now overused waterways have GABRINERPHOTO 2096time to regenerate.

So, yes, pearls are green and my jewelry incorporating them likewise is “green.” As Betty Sue points out, there are no “blood pearls”!

delighted hi resHere are some of my designs in which I used pearls bought from Betty Sue King – big or small, can you see how lustrous they are?

Saturday, February 12, 2011


While the winter of 2011 has been difficult for most of the United States, no one can deny the pristine beauty of fresh-fallen snow. It gleams in the sun, sparkling from stark tree limbs denuded of summer’s leaves.

Nowhere has it snowed quite as much as in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. Gazing out the windows of our house in the forest there, the sparkle of new snow was nearly blinding. It reminded me of Swarovski Elements crystals that are specifically faceted to flash brilliant light from each bead or stone.

When Artbeads issued a Winter Inspiration challenge, I knew immediately what to make – a lariat of Swarovski Elements. I began by choosing three types of Crystal Yarn ( cream mohair woven with 4mm bicone Elements in crystal; white cashmere with 3mm bicone Elements in crystal, and black cotton studded with 3mm crystal pearl Elements in the mystic black shade. To me, these represented the different shades of tree branches during the course of a day in their various coverings of snow -- sometimes bare and black, sometimes fluffily coated with new snow, and sometimes crystal hard with icy snow – but always with the crystalline sparkle of winter.

Then I selected a variety of Elements to embellish the lariat:

• A 14mm Ceramic Cosmic Ring in Marbled Black ( to collect the strands in the front; and a selection of crystal pearls and pendants to drip from the ends of the Crystal Yarn. The ring is cut with small facets angled to catch the light and create a soft reflection.

• The Elements that I felt were the most appropriate to grace the ends of the lariat are the 20mm Column Pendants in Crystal ( These beautifully faceted columns remind me of the huge icicles that hang from our eaves, shimmering in the light, as do the 18mm Aquiline Pendant in Crystal ( )

• My impression was that the 24mm Silver-Plated Graduated Drop in Crystal AB flashed the look of sunlight off new snow (

• For a contrast in color, finish and feel, I included some 10mm Baroque Pearls in Platinum. Swarovski Elements Crystal Pearls are designed to imitate the irregular shape found in naturally occurring baroque pearls. With their leaded crystal core, Swarovski Crystal Pearls have a heavier, more realistic feel than faux glass pearls and are resistant to perspiration, UV rays, perfumes, and scratches. (

• Lastly I chose several 6mm Silver-Plated Channel Drop in Jet and in Black Diamond to represent the end of the cycle, here in the Northeast: the old snow becoming sprinkled with dirt as it awaits either melting temperatures or a fresh coating of snow. (

What Elements would inspire you to design a necklace representing winter?