This is a new series I am working on, sharing the behind the scenes story of how a piece comes to life. I have been asked many times about my inspiration and design process, and how I go about sourcing and creating one of a kind pieces.  I hope you enjoy this developing series, and drop a line with any suggestions or thoughts...after all, this series came from your questions!

      Flushed cheeks.  Accelerated heart rate.  Mind racing with possibilities.  It's an unmistakable sequence of feelings that I have come to recognize when I see certain materials, specifically stones in their natural state that have been formed over millions and millions of years, deep in the layers of earth.  I can't quite describe the level of excitement that overcomes me, other than to say, it doesn't happen like this in any other part of my life (husband and sons excluded). I become completely arrested by the stones, and that's when I know this is going to be good.

      From the moment my gem dealer pulls the tray with the few lapis strands out of the safe, I knew this material was special.  Before I could fully see the pyrite details in each cube, I was hooked, and would just have to have it. For some time I held on to the idea of just keeping the strand in my safe, just for me.  I thought it was so striking and special that I wanted to keep it all to my self...
natural rough lapis strands with pyrite
      Now that my emotional side is obsessed with the stones, I like to find out some unknown or unusual facts about the material, to appease my cerebral side.  In the case of this particular material, it is Afghani lapis, with natural pyrite clusters. It is increasingly harder and more time/labor consuming to have these materials come out of Afghanistan, given the political climate.  Most mining work can be misconstrued for explosives work of another sort and as such delays and mining restrictions are bound to happen. 
As for this particular strand, it is actually cleaved from the earth, and remains unpolished.  It is completely au natural. The earliest sightings of material that specifically resembles this strand goes back to 2500 BC in antiquity jewelry.  As a matter of fact there are records of lapis jewelry widely used in ancient Mesopotamia. That was enough for my cerebral side.  
      In creating the design for the collar, I knew I wanted to allow the natural beauty of the stones to come though, so I opted to leave them untouched.  One of the things I find most inspiring and beautiful in this world is the idea of contrast, more specifically, complementary contrast.  In thinking about the materials, I played with various concepts, and settled on creating a contrasting scene of fancy cut multi-shape brilliant diamonds, set in high polished gold square spinners, which would have natural movement and the ability to spin.  All of my added components would be very geometric, and quite contrary to the organic nature of the lapis itself.  I typically work in satin finished gold, however for this project I chose to go with high polish - just for that extra bit of contrast to the pyrite.  
        Sometimes I can visualize a finished piece in my mind before I even begin, and other times it's a work in progress, as I feel the stones in my hand and my imagination reacts.  In this case, it was a combination of sorts.  In looking at the finished collar it makes my heart pine for it to be just mine, yet a sense of excitement fills me knowing that it will adorn the neck of a very special lady, and I can imagine the joy it will bring her.  It's a harmonious union of a happy heart and a longing mind, which are happily contrasting and complementary all at once.
     Stay tuned for a photo of the finished piece...

It's a common question, "what inspires your designs?" The truth is, I am inspired by many things, including the usual suspects, like nature.  Walking through the streets I usually find that inspiration is abundant, and today I came upon these tulips.  I am in Washington DC for the STEM festival, and was struck by their simplicity.  Quite the contrast from all the high tech I spent most of the day with.