Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

10 Extraordinary Emerald Facts

By Katie McMath


If you’ve celebrated your birthday recently, or will soon, you may have settled for something simpler than usual. Maybe you cozied up on the couch with a loved one and watched your favorite movie or ordered some delicious takeout. To make your special day a little more special we’ve compiled a list of exciting facts about May’s birthstone.

1: Emeralds Are Part of the ‘Big Four’ Gemstones

Diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds: they’re stones everyone has heard of, even if they aren’t big jewelry fans. These four are the only “precious” gemstones, meaning May’s birthstone is up there with the best.

2: They Are Quite Rare

Emeralds are even less abundant than diamonds. Less than 4 million carats worth of emeralds were mined in 2015, compared to diamonds’ 11 million. Even with these statistics, it’s possible to find a good emerald if you keep your eyes peeled. One of Eve’s gallery staff found a raw, natural emerald on the beach this year!

3: Just Like Your Coffee, Most of them Come from Colombia

Colombia’s lush geography isn’t just good for growing coffee beans. It is also the point of origin for 50% or more of the world’s emeralds. Long ago Inca people used this supply to decorate their jewelry and precious vessels. If you have an emerald, there’s a half and half chance you can guess where it came from. 

4: They’ve Been Used as Writing Tablets

Green is a scared Islamic color, symbolizing paradise. The Mogul Empire, home to a thriving stone carving industry, is responsible for this beautiful dual-sided emerald. Carved in the late 16th century, with sacred text on the front and flora on the back, this emerald weighs around 218 carats. It is one example of how large emeralds can grow! 

5: Emeralds Soothe the Eyes

Emeralds are a beautiful, earthy color. Looking on them is like looking at a rich green landscape. In fact Ireland and Seattle, WA have both been nicknamed after the stone because of their greenery. Many believe the soothing color of an emerald relieves eye stress. Stone cutters once kept the gem handy to relieve their eyes after hours of hard work. 

6: They’ve Been Around a Long Time

The oldest emeralds are nearly 3 billion years old. Considering the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, emeralds have been around for most of our planet’s history! If only they could tell us their stories. 

7: Emeralds Were Cleopatra’s Favorite

Egypt is the oldest known site of emerald mining. Cleopatra took ownership of this ancient mine from the Greeks, and collected a bounty of emeralds for her palace and jewelry. Her cache included a massive emerald named after her. It is a whopping 97 carats, and rumored to be cursed. 

8: Aquamarine is Cut From the Same Cloth

Both greenish gems are made of the mineral beryl, though this was not known until the 19th century. Beryl comes in a variety of colors. It is called heliodor when bright yellow and morganite when soft pink. 

9: More Bang for Your Buck

One carat emeralds are larger than one carat diamonds. How is this possible? Carats measure weight, not size. A stone’s density, material, and cut all affect its carat total. Since emeralds are less dense and lighter than diamonds their beauty comes in bigger packages. 

 10: It Tastes Sweet, but Please Don’t Lick Your Emeralds

A few hundred years ago chemists would use all their senses to collect data, even taste. They found that beryl had a sweet taste, and nearly named it ‘glyceynum’ after glucose (or sugar.) We now know that beryllium is toxic when ingested. Don’t follow these scientists’ lead. 

Bonus Fact: Eve Has Designed Many Emerald Pieces

A lover of green, Eve has crafted many gorgeous articles honoring the emerald. Her “Mistress of the House” earrings come with removable emerald drops, and give the feeling of Italian royalty. Their rich 18 karat gold plays off the emerald’s warmth. 

The “Emerald Amulet” makes a beautiful, delicate gift for someone with a May birthday. Also set in 18  karat gold, featuring graceful leaf designs, this pendant may be worn on different chains to customize the look. Perhaps it could make up for the unusual circumstances eclipsing this year’s spring celebrations.

Now is a great time to get in touch with Eve’s Gallery and order a custom piece, or browse tantalizing creations on our website and Instagram. Eve hasn’t stopped creating, and continues to gain joy from passing on her one-of-a-kind treasures. Why not treat yourself?

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

A Rainbow of Diamonds

By Katie McMath

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Did you know that diamonds occur naturally in a rainbow of colors? White diamonds are the best known, as they are more common than their colorful siblings. The Gemological Institute of America estimates that only 1 in 10,000 diamonds has enough tint to be considered colored. These special stones are gaining more attention in recent years as collectors and shoppers learn more about them.

Mines like Argyle in Australia harvest and sell incredible gems in all shades. This mine in particular is known for red and pink diamonds, the rarest of all colored diamonds. Most red diamonds are small, but that doesn’t make them less valuable or beautiful. Other factors like vividness, cut, and clarity come into play. So how do red diamonds form? Their color comes not from additional minerals, but their unusual atomic structure which reflects back red light rather than white.

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The Argyle mine is also responsible for the popularity of brown diamonds in the 1990s, likening them to champagne and cognac. Before this, they were little known. Today their rich, powerful tones are highly coveted. Jewelry brand LeVian has trademarked the term “chocolate diamond,” advertising them with luscious confectionary metaphors.

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In general, brown diamonds with green hues are prized above those with orange. However, with so much natural variety, there is room for each person to pick their favorite. If you don’t mind small sizes,naturally colored diamonds in brown, yellow, and black are within reach.

Yellow diamonds also have an enticing nickname which has elevated their glamorous reputation. When they are pure yellow, with no tints of other colors, they are called canary diamonds. One of the most famous colored diamonds is a canary yellow diamond found in 1877, long before colored diamonds became popular.

The Tiffany Yellow Diamond is a massive stone just under 300 carats. Once Tiffany bought the stone, they trusted its cutting to new gemologist George Frederick Kunz, only twenty three years old at the time. He proved his talent by cutting 90 beautiful facets in a modified square brilliant cut. Audrey Hepburn wore this incredible gem on a collar as she promoted Breakfast at Tiffany’s. At the 2019 Oscars, Lady Gaga wore the historical diamond in a new setting as a pendant.

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A large number of all diamonds have yellow or brown tints. In the past they have been color corrected in the hopes of being sold as white diamonds. Ironically, white diamonds are more valuable the closer they are to colorless. Colored diamonds are valued for their intensity and saturation. Today the GIA grades colored diamonds from Faint to Fancy Deep, with Fancy Intense and Fancy Vivid being the most valuable.

Unlike brown and red diamonds which get their color from the arrangement of their atoms (also known as the stone’s “crystal lattice,”) yellow and orange diamonds are colored by nitrogen. Orange diamonds are more rare and desirable than yellow. One of the largest and most colorful orange diamonds was bought by American jeweler Harry Winston the day before Halloween. It was amusingly nicknamed the Pumpkin Diamond. 

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Two of the most famous colored diamonds come in cooler shades. Also once owned by Harry Winston, The Dresden Green comes from Southern India and dates back to at least the early 1700s. It was bought by the King of Poland and Prince of German Saxony, who stored it in his museum collection in the Dresden palace. This famous collection of artifacts and natural wonders is called the Green Vaults. Its walls, like the Dresden diamond, were once a lovely green color.

The Dresden Green is a pear-shaped stone, weighing about 40 carats. It is a beautiful apple colored green, especially spectacular as green diamonds are very rare. An average of less than ten are sold each year. This means less green diamonds have been studied. Still cloaked in mystery, the green diamond’s makeup is uncertain to gemologists.

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It is possible their color comes from radiation in rocks nearby, as the diamond forms. Irradiation is used in labs to make artificially colored green diamonds, usually a deeper color than natural ones, and more consistent in shade throughout. When natural green diamonds are cut, they lose some of their vibrancy, which seems to concentrate on the gem’s outermost layer.

Another unusual phenomenon, some green diamonds change to yellow depending on light and heat. These mystifying gems are called Chameleon Diamonds. Even less is known about them, having just been discovered in 1943. Storing them in the dark, or heating them to about 400 degrees, will change their color temporarily. In a way, they are similar to Alexandrite, the color changing birth stone of June which you can read about on Eve’s blog.

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Probably the most famous colored diamond of all is the coveted Hope Diamond. This steely blue gem, known in French as “The King’s Jewel,” was once owned by French royalty. It was made even more famous by its theft two hundred years ago. Today it rests safely in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. In 2000, the Dresden Green and the Hope Diamond were displayed there side by side as two of the most striking and historically rich colored gems.

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While the Hope Diamond and the Dresden Green were mined in India, many other blue diamonds come from South Africa. This is a popular location for sourcing yellow diamonds as well. Natural blue diamonds have the unique property of conducting electricity. The reasoning behind this is still unclear, but most likely has to do with the stone’s structure.

Colored diamonds contain a wealth of information, which we have so far only been able to glimpse. Like all diamonds, they come from deep within the Earth, and carry stories upward from this place no human eyes have seen. Colored diamonds are beautiful natural wonders, economic heavyweights, and scientific contributors.

It’s likely that colored diamonds will continue to grow in popularity over the years, as they branch out of obscurity, and are picked up by clever marketers and celebrities. Their abundant, complex range of shades is a reminder of nature’s incredible capacity for surprise. Which color is your favorite?

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Behind the Scenes: How Eve’s Jewelry is Made

By Katie McMath

Since Eve opened the gallery in 1988, she and her staff have hand-made each incredible piece of jewelry the old fashioned way. In fact our process is so old fashioned it’s 6,000 years old! It’s called the Lost Wax method. Perhaps you’ve read about it in an art history class. Ancient cultures from just about every continent used this technique to make some of their most precious items. Among these are the Aztecs, Ancient Egyptians, Greek, Chinese, and West African people to name a few. 

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Left: Mounted Ruler 18th century, Edo people of Benin Kingdom Nigeria, bronze;

Right: Ceremonial knife (tumi) AD 900-1100, Aztec people of Peru, gold, silver, turquoise

No one region can be credited for discovering the Lost Wax method. Rather it dawned on many groups around the same time period. This might seem mysterious, but likely has to do with the evolution of the human brain. As our species gained language, currency, agriculture, and the use of tools, we changed dramatically in our abilities. These sophisticated skills were the result of long physical evolution, including gene mutations and changes to our mouth shape. Along with these changes came complex thought processing. Many of the world’s first art historical artifacts come from this era. This was a global advancement, not insulated to just one community at a time. 

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Xin Dynasty coin mold, circa 45 B.C. – A.D. 23

The Lost Wax method has changed very little over six millennia. Today we use wax derived from petroleum, rather than natural beeswax. Much like today, ancient cultures produced jewelry, and artwork. They also made armor. We use mostly the same metals as people did long ago: copper, silver, and gold. Today we use Lost Wax in jewelry making and the arts, but not as much in other industries. 3D printing is a less laborious, more mechanical alternative. Both allow for copies to be made, but not all cultures took advantage of this. Ancient Aztecs would ruin their molds after use, to ensure each piece was entirely unique. This makes the remaining artifacts even more precious. 

So what is this time-honored technique? It begins with a carved wax model of the desired shape. In our case we sculpt rings, chain links, and a variety of decorative elements. These are fragile and must be handled carefully. With tools and heat, we make fine adjustments. This may mean adding space for precious stones, or changing the size of a ring’s band. Skilled wax workers carve intricate patterns and illustrations into the surface. The wax must be malleable yet maintain its shape. During this stage it may be shown to the customer so they can offer input before the process is too far along. 

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Two wax elements, one set with a sapphire

After the wax is finished, it is invested. This is why the Lost Wax Method is sometimes called the Investment Method. In other words plaster (or investment) is poured around the wax to make a mould of its shape. We do this by gathering each wax and attaching them to a “tree.” Organic lines link the pieces so metal may flow easily from one to another. Once the tree is placed inside a cylindrical sheath, we carefully mix and pour the right amount of plaster inside. Next we wait for it to dry. 

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Five invested molds, ready to be cast with metal

Once hard, the plaster mold goes into a kiln and is gradually heated to 1350 degrees Fahrenheit. This way, over a generous thirteen hours, the wax melts and leaves a hollow space behind. The name Lost Wax refers to this dissipation. Once the wax has left, the metal cylinder is quickly removed, and placed into a cradle. Eve pours molten metal, torch-melted, inside. The cylinder is spun rapidly, which projects the metal into the hollow space, forming the final shape in gold or silver. This step of the process Eve and Maurice complete in their home studio. 

Once cool the plaster is broken away, and each trinket may be retrieved. These are finally polished, set with stones, and inscribed by hand with your special message. The extra metal is reused in an effort to conserve. Customers may also contribute their own metal.

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One ring shown in the wax, casting, and final stage with set stones. Titled “Peaceful Coexistence”, it is from the “Undercurrents” series

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A finished sapphire and white gold pendant

I hope this article leaves you with a deeper understanding of Eve’s process. From conception to creation, there is humanity and hard work at each step. This gives the end result an added character as opposed to more commercially produced jewelry. Eve has curated a staff not commercially trained, but sharp and creative. Our jewelry is persistently made by hand, not machine. Each piece is a unique result of labor and love.

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Amethyst: The Peaceful Purple Stone

By Katie McMath

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It’s February which means it’s amethyst season! This lovely purple variety of quartz was once counted among the most valuable gems, along with diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires. Today we know it is relatively common. Quartz is actually one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. It flows through streams of water in the ground, which eventually dry out, leaving crystals behind. This also means amethyst is usually easier to afford!

It’s not unusual to find large glimmering clusters of this stone. They fill up the hollow spaces that form as lava cools into rock. One amethyst cave in Byron Bay, Australia is large enough to seat four people. Groups can schedule meditation and relaxation sessions inside the magical crystal cave. Nearby stand two of the world’s tallest geodes, full of smoky quartz and splashes of amethyst.

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Scientists hypothesize that amethyst’s purple color comes from iron or other trace minerals which find their way into quartz. When heated, amethyst lightens in color, and may turn pale yellow. The resulting stone is known as citrine, November’s birthstone. Citrine also occurs naturally. When a hybrid of the two forms it’s known as ametrine.

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While amethyst may have a more modest reputation than other stones like diamonds or sapphires, this hasn’t always been the case. Before the 1700s it was prized around the world as one of the most valuable gems. Egyptian and Greek elite adorned themselves with amethyst ornaments. The Catholic Church prized amethyst as the Bishop’s stone, due to its purple color. It symbolized closeness to Christ. Today the Catholic Church favors the humility of plain white, though rich reds and purples may still be seen in churches and ceremonies.

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Intaglio Carved Amethyst Bishop’s Ring

The name amethyst dates all the way back to Ancient Greek myth. One particular story told of a beautiful, honorable young woman named Amethyst. She was traveling to pay her respects to the Goddess Diana when she became the unsuspecting victim of an angry Dionysus, the god of wine and celebration. Dionysus, having been spurned by a human, took out his rage on Amethyst, and threatened to unleash his tigers on her. Fortunately Diana came to her aid, turning the girl into a sparkling white crystal. Dionysus was moved to the point of tears, which spilled into his glass of wine and tumbled onto the crystal, turning it a vivid purple.

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In the Ancient Greek language amethyst meant “sober” or “not drunk.” They believed those wearing the stone could avoid the wrath of Dionysus. Instead the purple gem would allow its carrier to remain pure and clear-minded like the beautiful young woman Amethyst. If sobriety and peace are difficult for you to achieve, it’s possible an amethyst crystal could help.

The Greeks were not the only ones to recognize amethyst’s ability to cool the mind and offer a greater sense of concentration. Buddhist monks in India and Tibet use amethyst prayer beads during meditation, to channel their focus. Ancient Egyptians wore carved amethyst amulets for protection against evil magic and negative mind-states like anxiety or guilt. King Tut was even buried with a carved amethyst bracelet in his tomb.

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Large deposits of amethyst have been found in South America in the past few centuries. This has brought the crystal’s price down significantly. It is especially abundant in Brazil and Uruguay. One geode known as the Empress of Uruguay weighs 2.5 tons and stands at nearly 11 feet tall! It travels around the world on display.

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Not only is amethyst more wallet friendly, it is also resilient, ranking at a 7 out of 10 on the Moh’s hardness scale. This makes it suitable for everyday wear, even in rings. It is beautiful in its raw, natural form, but may also be cut and faceted to sparkle like a brilliant diamond.

At Eve’s Gallery we have a number of lovely treasures incorporating amethyst. Perhaps you’d prefer a custom piece set with specimens from our gem room. Either way there are plenty of ways to enjoy February’s mythical birthstone. May this gem grant the February babies extra peace and clarity this month!

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

“Ringing in the New Year”

by Ann Covode

Medieval society celebrated the grandest feast during the dreariest time of year. The two-week period from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Day (January 6) transformed into the longest vacation for workers. The Lord of the manor or castle often gave bonuses of food, clothing, drink and firewood to servants. Houses were decked with holly and ivy, and giant Yule logs were brought in and burned throughout the two-week celebration. New Year’s took place during this time and added to the festivities, and “First Gifts” were often exchanged on this day.

rng20939px600dkmedievalEve’s beautiful “First Gift” ring from her “Medieval” series sparkles with a large sapphire totaling 2.87carats, two square sapphires totaling 1.29 carats and 10 diamonds in 18 karat gold.

New year’s is always filled with festivities, music and merry making. For centuries people have been ringing in the new year in this way. The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days. In addition to the new year, Atiku celebrated the mythical victory of the Babylonian sky god Marduk over the evil sea goddess Tiamat and served an important political purpose: It was during this time that a new king was crowned or that the current ruler’s divine mandate was symbolically renewed.

Panpipe ringEnchantingly irresistible like the songs that emanated from Pan’s fabled pipe! Three fancy diamonds gleam on this “Panpipe” ring from Eve’s “Antiquities” series, one at the end of each 18 karat peach gold pipe; an irradiated 0.35 carat yellow diamond, a 0.20 carat yellow-orange diamond and an 0.76 carat champagne diamond. Set in the richly detailed carvings are a multitude of magically colored diamonds; 11 diamonds totaling 0.05 carats, 11 champagne diamonds total 0.12 carats and 6 pale yellow diamonds total 0.04 cts. This fanciful ring is a Gallery favorite – come in and see for yourself!

Throughout antiquity, civilizations around the world developed increasingly sophisticated calendars, typically pinning the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event. In Egypt, for instance, the year began with the annual flooding of the Nile, which coincided with the rising of the star Sirius. The first day of the Chinese new year, meanwhile, occurred with the second new moon after the winter solstice. The early Roman calendar consisted of 10 months and 304 days, with each new year beginning at the vernal equinox; according to tradition, it was created by Romulus, the founder of Rome, in the eighth century B.C. A later king, Numa Pompilius, is credited with adding the months of Januarius and Februarius.

Over the centuries, the calendar fell out of sync with the sun, and in 46 B.C. the emperor Julius Caesar decided to solve the problem by consulting with the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of his time. He introduced the Julian calendar, which closely resembles the more modern Gregorian calendar that most countries around the world use today. As part of his reform, Caesar instituted January 1 as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. Romans celebrated by offering sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts with one another, decorating their homes with laurel branches and attending raucous parties. In medieval Europe, Christian leaders temporarily replaced January 1 as the first of the year with days carrying more religious significance, such as December 25 (the anniversary of Jesus’ birth) and March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation); Pope Gregory XIII reestablished January 1 as New Year’s Day in 1582.

New Year’s Traditions:  In many countries, New Year’s celebrations begin on the evening of December 31—New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1. Revelers often enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead-right before midnight.

In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States. Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, round out the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and elsewhere.

In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune. Other customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular “Auld Lang Syne” in many English-speaking countries.

The practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. (They would reportedly vow to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.) At this time of year many of us take stock of the last year and make plans for the New Year with goals and resolutions. We often meditate on what is most important to us and what we want to change in the coming year.

Eve saw something meditative in this “Hidden Dream” sunstone ring. She envisioned a roman courtyard with millgrain arches letting the sunshine in. Perhaps the nuns were walking around and saying their daily prayers in this beautiful space? HiddenDream.pngMagnificent Andesine sunstone ring from Eve’s “No Forwarding Address” series is completely hand fabricated in platinum with exquisite details like millgrained edges on the soaring arched gallery. Fabulous rare gemstone ring has fifty-four sparkling diamonds totaling 0.50 carats to highlight the sumptuous sunstone.

In the United States, the most iconic New Year’s tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City’s Times Square at the stroke of midnight. Millions of people around the world watch the event, which has taken place almost every year since 1907. Over time, the ball itself has ballooned from a 700-pound iron-and-wood orb to a brightly patterned sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds. Various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual, organizing public drops of items ranging from pickles (Dillsburg, Pennsylvania) to possums (Tallapoosa, Georgia) at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

No New Year’s is complete without confetti and champagne to ring in the coming year. Confetti RingEve’s bold “Confetti” ring  from Eve’s “Antiquities” sereies dazzles in a wide band of 18 karat gold! A festive mix of 35 glistening diamonds sparkle in 3 shapes: round-brilliants, square-cuts & baguettes totaling 1.14 carats. This is a great ring for your right hand!

We wish you a very happy New Year from Eve’s Gallery & Studio! Thank you for all of your interest and support in 2019.