One of my all-time favorite designs is my onyx and tsavorite skull ring …
… with diamonds hidden inside.
I’ve wanted to do a variation on this design for years — one that would be different enough for the onyx skull to keep its “one of a kind” status, but special in its own right. This spring, I decided that the special element would be vibrant color, and I put aside time to tackle the project.
I started early in April by asking a German gem carver to create a skull from “Sleeping Beauty” turquoise. I received the finished product at the end of May, loved it, spent about two weeks studying it … aaaand then I sent it back to the carver for some touch-ups. Neither the carver nor I were thrilled about the extra labor and shipping costs, but I couldn’t go forward with the ring knowing that my center stone need a few subtle tweaks to be perfect. This is the kind of thing that can happen when a jeweler is working on one-of-a-kind pieces, whether those are for inventory or specific customers. There is no factory stamping uniform parts out of molds. Each one-off element is in the hands of an individual artisan. For me, there’s no such thing as trying to pass off a piece that’s merely “good enough” to a customer down the line. I keep striving for perfection.
When the revised skull arrived in the summer, I brought it to my favorite goldsmith for the next steps. First, a wax model was made of the twisty, vine-y setting that’s become a signature of mine. Even though I’ve used this kind of setting before, one had to be specially made to fit the dimensions of the turquoise skull.
Using the lost-wax casting technique, the wax model was used to create a mold, into which molten gold was poured to create the setting. Then came the rest of the color in the form of rubies.
Ultimately, 192 rubies, totaling 1.84 carats, went into this piece — December’s Jewel of the Month. These pictures were taken by Ed Parrinello of SquareMoose Photography.
Here is the front view.
I like it when a piece inspires my photographer to send an extra photo. Unlike the onyx ring, this skull didn’t need an inside shot because it doesn’t have hidden diamonds, so Ed gave me a version with a black background.
The black background is fabulous, isn’t it? Makes me wish I could shoot all my jewelry on black, but retailers and press always require white backgrounds, so I stick to the basics. One person who requested a white-background shot was jewelry expert Cheryl Kremkow. I was honored when she included my ring on her Halloween list of “The Thirteen Best Skull Jewels.” I was blown away by the other pieces on the list, particularly the last one.
It turned out that that one is part of a 16th-century German rosary that’s owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Look at the amazing detail! This is the kind of artifact that’s on my mind when I’m creating one of my skull pieces. When people say skulls are trendy or not trendy … well, I just don’t care either way. To me, skulls are a motif for the ages, as I indicated in this post from 2007.
For my turquoise skull, as with many of my ultra-luxurious pieces, the price is available upon request. (What does that mean? Click here to find out.) If you do buy this as a holiday gift for someone you love or yourself — hey, who can buy you a better gift than you? — rest assured I’ll never make another one exactly like it. Your ring will always be unique. It is size 6. To inquire, email me at wbjewelry at hotmail dot com.