Friday, September 2, 2011
Love at first sight? Nah. When painter/illlustrator Tracey Atkinson first met new-media artist/designer (and my former People.com colleague) Paul Notzold at The Brooklyn Inn in January 2007, romantic lightning didn’t strike. But Paul walked Tracey home in the rain, so she agreed to see him again. Then she gave him a broken umbrella and sent him back to his own place! He showed up for their first proper date with a new umbrella for her. “It took a while before I saw ‘the diamond in the rough,’” Tracey told me in an email. But “once we started transporting my cat back and forth between our apartments, it became clear that we were always together and liked it that way.” Flash forward four years and Tracey and Paul are happily married with a bouncing baby boy. No wonder songs are written about umbrellas!
After Paul proposed on a bridge over the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, they were married at City Hall in August 2010.
A few months later, Paul asked me to design an engagement ring that would complement Tracey’s Tiffany wedding band. Getting the engagement ring second happens more often than you might think! As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter when you get the ring … as long as you get the ring.
Tracey wanted to redesign her late grandmother’s ring. “My grandmother was a very strong woman that raised 8 kids with my grandfather, and I grew up writing letters back and forth with her,” Tracey said. “When she passed away it was decided in the family that she would have wanted me to have her ring. I wanted to be reminded of her when I wear the ring, but have it redesigned to reflect my style. A style that is timeless, simple, and tasteful.”
The original ring was extraordinary. A wedding band and engagement ring had apparently been soldered together.
On the side of the wedding band part of the ring, there were cut-out hearts, hugs and kisses.
The side of the engagement ring was smooth.
Finally, the ring opened with a (very well-made) hinge.
I took the diamonds out and looked at them with my gem-setter. The center stone of the engagement ring was in good shape. The stones around it were single-cut diamonds, which only have 17 or 18 facets, compared to the 57 or 58 facets on the more commonly used brilliant cut. Light doesn’t travel through single-cut stones the way it does through brilliant-cut stones, so single-cut stones aren’t as shiny as brilliant cuts. But it’s a fine cut for smaller accent stones, like these. However, the small diamonds in the wedding band part of the original ring had so many inclusions that they appeared cloudy to the naked eye. Take another look at the picture and you’ll see it. So I told Tracey that I would work with the center stone and the single-cut stones, but that I recommended discarding the cloudy stones, which would look even cloudier when juxtaposed with the bright, clear diamonds in Tracey’s Tiffany wedding band.
I also wanted to keep the single-cut stones away from the Tiffany stones, so they wouldn’t suffer in comparison, which ruled out setting them in the band of the engagement ring. Instead, I stuck to the idea of the center stone surrounded by the single-cut stones, as in the original ring. To modernize the look, I did a cut-down setting that minimized the amount of metal seen between the stones. Here is the result, which is September’s Jewel of the Month.
The shank (band) of the ring is 18K yellow gold, while the setting is 18K white gold. Diamonds are often set in white gold because white metal makes the stones look whiter and brighter.
It was very important to Tracey that the ring fit snugly with her wedding band. She was worried about the engagement ring stone pushing the rings apart. I had to abscond with Tracey’s wedding band for a while to get the measurements just right. Sorry about that, Tracey! But as you can see, the results were worth it. The rings are perfectly stacked.
The engagement ring’s stones overlap the wedding band so that the two rings sit right next to each other.
The engagement ring wound up doing double-duty as a push present, since Tracey received it after the birth of baby Smith in February. Tracey explained, “Smith is named after the street in Brooklyn where we had our first date, smiths that make things (silversmith, blacksmith), and after my grandmother that passed this ring down to me (Smith was her maiden name).”
Tracey added, “We are filled with wonder and happiness every time he smiles or giggles. He is sitting up, rolling over, and eating solid foods!”
Personally, I can’t wait till Smith gets to the finger-painting stage so we can see if he takes after his artistic parents. You can check out Tracey’s work at her website, Darkly Vibrant, and Paul’s work at notzold.com and TXTual Healing.
Thanks to Paul for choosing me to make this important piece of jewelry. It was especially fun because I love redesigning old rings and other jewelry. If any of y’all want to discuss a redesign, you can reach me via this form or by emailing me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com.