Who doesn’t love diamonds? We are biologically programmed to be drawn to shiny things, and you don’t get much more dazzling than diamonds. Held in such high societal esteem, these stones tend to be the ones we invest in or receive first – perhaps for graduation, a first pay check or an engagement ring. Once we have a stylish capsule of diamond jewelry, however, it can be daunting to know which of the more exotic, colorful gemstones to add to your collection first.
“Diamonds are undeniably fascinating and powerful – they are, after all, pure carbon, which is found in all living beings – and the story of their creation lies deep in the earth,” says Pippa Small, perhaps the most gemstone-savvy designer in the fine-jewelry world. “Semi-precious stones are equally filled with myth and meaning, though; their rainbow of colors brings myriad emotional and very personal responses,” she explains. “Every individual stone has its own uniqueness and inner world – a lightness and joy that perhaps the diamond, imbued with status and wealth, does not.” Small has an entire kaleidoscope of vibrant stones at her fingertips, but often works with unexpected heroes, such as rutilated quartz, which is enchantingly clear yet showcases natural flashes of glistening gold strands encased within its depths.
“It’s all about mixing unusual combinations together for me,” says Irene Neuwirth, who founded her LA-based brand in 2003 and is now synonymous with unequivocally joyful and juicy gems. “The more unexpected, the better – what some people call imperfections are usually what I think are the most beautiful details on a stone. It’s amazing to see how certain colors come to life on different people, too,” she adds. From her turquoise and pink ‘Gumball’ designs, which are defined by their spherical opal stones, to her ‘Tropical Flowers’ creations, where oversized blooms are carved from vivid amazonite and emeralds – or her ‘Gemmy Gem’ pieces, which serve as a stage for her most unusual gemstone finds, such as bi-color tourmalines – Neuwirth celebrates unique stones with contemporary panache.
“We have grown to love diamonds,” muses Liza Urla, founder of Gemologue.com, referring to how diamonds garnered their ubiquitous reputation as a status symbol as recently as the 1950s; whereas our fascination with colorful gemstones has existed since around the 4th century BC. “From Cleopatra’s emerald mines to our love of lapis lazuli throughout ancient civilizations, colorful gems have always been revered because of their energy and rarity,” she explains. A trained gemologist, Urla says she will always choose a colored jewel over a white diamond, explaining how her own yellow-diamond engagement ring was selected so that she could always wake up to rays of sunshine.
Urla’s advice for those struggling to select a colorful companion? Take a moment to connect to your emotions and let the stone reveal itself to you. “I’ll often stop to admire a colorful gem and find myself transported to a sunset beach in Brazil, or the incredible tourmaline blues of the Maldives,” she explains. “Green gems make me feel in tune with nature, like being in the mountains without ever leaving London,” she adds. “Gems can transport you to a magical place and evoke lasting memories – that’s the power of gemstones.”