Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

A Diamondiferous Discovery

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Even Kim Kardashain and Elizabeth Taylor would have a hard time wearing this new find around! The world’s second-largest gem-quality diamond ever found was unearthed in Botswana last week, weighing in at a seemingly perfect 1,111 carats. The value of the stone remains unknown, as it was too large to fit into the onsite scanner, and will have to be flown to Antwerp for proper measurement.

 

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“Dawn Over Vesuvius” by Eve Alfillé features 196 tantalizing diamonds and elements of  20 and 22 karat gold. Photo credit: Matt Arden. 

Just unearthed last week by the relatively minor diamond company, the Lucara Diamond firm, this unnamed stone has already been shattering records! It now comes in second only to the Cullinan diamonds of British crown jewel fame. In fact, Lucara may not remain minor for long: with this discovery, followed a mere 24 hours later by the discovery of two more strikingly sizeable diamonds in the same area, the company’s stock immediately inflated by 37 percent upon public revelation of the find.

The stone, though still un-scanned to verify its exact color and clarity, had been judged to be a Type II diamond, meaning that its brilliance is of a near-perfect quality which makes this stone look as if it was carved from the very heart of a glacier. No wonder diamonds are called “ice!”
Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

The Ever-Ethical Eve Alfillé

We know that you love Eve already, but did you know that she also uses a wide variety of materials in her jewelry that conform to the same high moral standards that you do? 
Read Eve’s answers to questions regarding where her materials come from, and how they are each ethically-sourced, conflict-free, green, and gorgeous. For anybody who’s ever sought diamonds both for clarity AND for conscience, for any responsible brides seeking a humanitarian, globally-mindful companion for life other than her spouse, or even anybody seeking an extra-thoughtful anniversary gift.
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A selection of rings by Eve Alfillé. Photo by Matt Arden.


Where do the Eve Alfille Gallery & Studio metals come from? 

We get our metals from a company called “Harmony Metals,” and they are virtually 100% ethically-sourced and recycled.

Where does Harmony Metals procure these metals? 

In this country, recycled gold comes from people who sell gold that they no longer want, and then the refiners will buy it. It used to be that there wasn’t much emphasis on this…people had their own gold, and it just stayed in drawers. Companies would go tear the earth up and mine new gold to satisfy the demand.

Now, with more interest in reusing, adapting, and saving the environment, they discovered that there is quite a resource right here! Refiners take this gold and refine it, removing any impurities, and return it to a form where it can be reshaped into entirely new pieces. And this is, in a way, the circle of life as applied  to metals.

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A selection of rings by Eve Alfillé. Photo by Matt Arden.

Where do the beautiful diamonds in my Eve ring come from?

When it comes to diamonds, it’s important to know that the sources have changed tremendously in the last 20 years. It used to be that most diamonds came from South Africa, and that provoked a lot of conscience-searching, because you have apartheid, and political reasons, so a lot of people felt badly about that.

Some diamonds come from countries where there is a lot of conflict, like Sierra Leone in Africa, but those diamonds are not traded in the market generally. Dealers have gotten together internationally, and are very careful to not purchase diamonds from those sources. Everyone wants to stay away from it…There was a big meeting some years back, and a document called the “Kimberly Agreement” resulted in those diamonds being banished from the trade (kind of).

Now, the big change is that today, a little more than one third of all diamonds actually come from Russia. It turns out that Siberia/Russia has wonderful diamonds, and large mines that are very well-run. They pay the people that they employ, they cut the diamonds very well, and a lot of the diamonds that are on the market now (one third, as I said) are from Russia.

Another 25% come from the Arctic Circle, or close to it, in Canada. In 1996, I was at a big reception at the Gemological Institute in California where they introduced the people who actually discovered those diamonds. They were prospectors who were flying, and noticed that the terrain looked a little different. They had a hunch. So, ever since, a quarter of the world’s diamonds of high quality come from Canada.
Small diamonds that you see are usually cut in India, but India doesn’t really have that many diamonds. So if they are champagne, or pink, then they probably come from Australia. If they are small and white, and well-cut, they probably come from Russia.

Earth_Eastern_HemisphereSome countries off the coast of Africa, like Angola, mine in th ocean! They found some diamonds on the beach, and so there are now ships that are anchored offshore. They drag up some of the water, find diamonds in the water, and then they just send the water back out. So, interestingly enough, some diamonds actually come from the ocean.

Can you repurpose a family diamond if I already have one?

Yes, and we often do!

This is rather nice; to know that the diamond that you are using is such a family symbol…a symbol of belonging, that actually comes from either one of your families, and I think it’s especially wonderful. We encourage people to ask family members if they have stones that they would wish to donate, and if they’re willing to do that, we’re very happy to work with them!

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Of Opals and Ostriches

Like recognizing an old friend on the street, Eve Alfillé recognized a familiar face when flipping through the Life & Style section of the Chicago Tribune just recently. A profile on “Remarkable Woman” Kathryn Gamble featured an impressive photograph of the current head vet of the Lincoln Park Zoo, with her arms around one of her animal charges. Gamble was also sporting–you guessed it–a ‘remarkable’ Eve ring!
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The marquise-cut opal, set within an impressive halo of diamonds, was a pleasant surprise to Eve when she exclaimed;
“…just to think that this ring I made has been inside giraffes and tigers!
Throughout the article, William Hageman of the Chicago Tribune asks a wide variety of questions to get a feel for what it’s like to be the head veterinarian of such a busy zoo…according to Gamble,
“we know who is friends with whom, who is pregnant. Sixty or seventy percent of what we do is preventative medicine. Zoo bunnies to primates, we make sure everyone gets their vaccines.”
And despite the wide array of her patients, Gamble is as confident in her choice now as she was when she first discovered her love of animals.
“People would walk in (to the family home) and find a box of kittens. Or the time my father found five baby opossums in the shower…I got to do a lot of things. Spiders, snakes. I don’t know if my parents knew what to do with me. But I knew what to do with me.”
To read the whole interview (and catch more glimpses of her eye-catching adornment) click over to the full Tribune article!
Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Pliny the ‘Jeweler’

IMG_9596Over the course of human history, many famous and illustrious minds have been drawn in by the hypnotic allure of diamonds. Something in the sparkle of this April birthstone just casts an irreversible spell over the imagination, regardless of social station or place in time…But before Kim and Kanye ever showed off their 15 carats of commitment, before Elizabeth Taylor decided “big girls need big diamonds,” and before they were Marilyn’s best friend, there was Pliny the Elder.

Though perhaps not as flashy as some of today’s divas this ancient Roman scholar was not shy when it came to demanding some diamonds. A man of stunning intellect, his nephew, Pliny the Younger, wrote of him:

“The only time he took from his work was for his bath, and by bath I mean his actual immersion, for while he was being rubbed down and dried he had a book read to him or dictated notes.”

sheila-terry-pliny-the-elder-roman-naturalistIn fact, during his lifetime, the elder Pliny set about the task of describing no less than the entire known natural universe. His writings, known as the “Naturalis Historia,” were the first model for the modern encyclopedia.

Fortunately for us, is not necessary to leaf through all 37 volumes of his epically-proportioned tome to see that, just like the fashionistas of today, the diamond’s mischievous sparkle was just as potent to the mind of this erudite scholar. In his 37th and final volume, he introduced diamonds as the Jupiter of all gemstones:

“Diamond is the most valuable, not only of precious stones, but of all things in this world.”

In a glowing, and even overexaggerated account, Pliny goes on to proclaim that:

“All these stones can be tested upon the anvil and they repel blows so that an iron hammer head may be split into two and even the anvil unseated. Indeed the hardness of the diamond is not able to be described.”

Pompei EarringsFollowing all this praise of diamond, it comes as almost a surprise that he went on to heap disdain on those who dared to dress themselves in what he considered too many gems. Whether intentional or not, his contempt for the Roman “excess” in fashion can even border on the humorous, in such accounts as that of his description of the affect pearls had on the ladies of the empire:

“Our ladies quite glory in having these suspended from their fingers, or two or three of them dangling from their ears. For the purpose of ministering to these luxurious tastes, there are various names and wearisome refinements which have been devised by profuseness and prodigality; for after inventing these ear-rings, they have given them the name of ‘crotalia,’ or castanet pendants, as though quite delighted even with the rattling of the pearls as they knock against each other!”

Unfortunately, in the great eruption of Mount Vesuvius of Pompeii, this great mind met his untimely end. There the younger Pliny took up the torch of historian, and is the only remaining source today of the great tragedy which struck Pompeii. He described the characteristic virtue and boldness of his uncle in this final description, in which Pliny decided to rush into danger’s way to respond to the plea of a friend:

“He changed his plans, and what he had begun in a spirit of inquiry he completed as a hero…Happy are they, in my opinion, to whom it is given either to do something worth writing about, or to write something worth reading; most happy, of course, those who do both. With his own books and yours, my uncle will be counted among the latter.” (Pliny, to Tacitus)

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Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Eve’s Guide to Ring-Buying: Pt. II

…The awaited continuation of Eve’s wise words on how to best select the perfect ring for your loved one.

d. Private pleasures

I am very happy to add a romantic inscription within each ring: something to make one or both of you feel cherished, or perhaps some words that have a special meaning to just the two of you (in any language). I can hand-write your message on the inside of the band, and the inscription length would depend simply on how wide the ring is. There is no charge for this.

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I like to know that for decades to come, the top of the ring with all of its diamonds will still proudly indicate: “Stay away! This woman is taken!” And maybe in 100 years, the next generation can still enjoy your little piece of history: an heirloom with a story inside! But, in addition to that, I think that there should also be something private: something that only the two of you know. This can be in the form of a small gem, perhaps your birthstone, hidden somewhere on the ring where she will be seeing it every day. Depending on how hard she works or plays physically, we can even have the palm-facing side of the ring carry tiny stones as well (which, by the way, aren’t very costly since they are small!) And certainly, decorative details and designs can always either follow around the ring, or remain just in the front. I have even created rings with a special symbol on the back only: totally private!

e. Some considerations on diamond choice

Regarding quality, I generally like for my diamonds to stay either at or above the VS clarity grade, as well as at or above the G color. While the D Flawless may seem exciting, their very inflated prices reflect their rarity…most of these diamonds end up in vaults rather than worn, anyway. The next grade, VVS (hardly any inclusions), is indeed attractive, but not inexpensive.

“Very Slight,” or VS, has a few miniscule inclusions; usually tiny pinpoints of carbon or small veils that still let brilliant light sparkle through. I think that these diamonds have the best cost/value aspect,Diamond_ClarityChart and will both hold and increase in value as long as you stay within the color grade of G or better (the highest grade being D).

Typically, I try to find a diamond with VS/G, sometimes VVS/G, or F/VS grade, or even E color if possible, and not too expensive. Color affects the price a bit more than clarity, since you can see color from across the room. Keep in mind that with clarity grades up to SI/1, any inclusions can only be seen with ten power magnification…beyond that, with SI/2 or I grades, they can be seen with the naked eye.

But very important also is how well-cut a diamond is: the difference is immediately seen when the artist who cut the facets has succeeded, as there are certain parameters to achieve, but he still has some leeway in the proportions. That is why a lot of the diamonds sold online are not very exciting: no one has paid attention to the cutting, and they often appear dull. They are not dancing with light, even though they hit all the points of the certification process, and are of the “correct” color and clarity. I work with a pair of cutters, a father and a son, and I can always recognize a diamond cut by the father– it dances!

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“Interchange 1” ring by Eve Alfillé, featuring a central 1.21 carat diamond (H/S12). Photo credit: Matt Arden.

When I know the diamond will be set in prongs, where its girdle will be exposed, I also look at how the diamond’s girdle (where top meets bottom) is cut. It should not be too thin, and I much prefer for the girdle itself to be faceted if at all possible. With other, more secure types of settings, where the edge is covered by gold (like a bezel setting) it of course is not as essential.

Also, the diamond market is always fluctuating to some extent: some weeks it is possible to get a diamond in the 1.25 range for the same price per carat as a diamond that is only 1.05 carat…other times, cost per carat will be similar to those in the 1.4-1.5 carat range. It mostly depends on Asia now, as they are increasingly buying larger diamonds, but also on the supply.  Most good diamonds now come from Siberia and Canada, with some retrieved from offshore operations (dredging) near the African coast…Keep in mind that a lot of men are looking for magic (round) numbers: exactly one carat, 1 1/4, 1 1/2, etc. So if you can accept, say, a 0.95 carat diamond, or 1.17, or 1.31, there is usually a price advantage.

With time and care, we can work together to select your durable gem, and set it safely so that it may be enjoyed by the pair of you for the rest of your shared lives.

The continuation of Eve’s wise words on how to best select for your love one the perfect ring. To revisit part one and browse such topics as “precautionary notes on metals, “regarding design,” and “making a comfortable ring,” click here.