The ancient Australian landscape is a rich & diverse one… succumbed to Mother Nature’s unforgiving powers, a potent fusion of elemental magic & fate birth wildly mysterious and undiscovered spoils. Beneath the arid desertscape, precious sapphires & opals await to be uncovered… dug up from the red earth, dancing under the blistering Australian sunlight, illuminated against dusty soils. A seemingly entire universe wrapped into one intricate stone, a kaleidoscope of color reflecting and refracting the land’s palette… each a new discovery with no stone like another.
Endlessly seeking out these unique, quality stones, Melbourne duo James & Irisa are bound by their passion for Australian opals and sapphires, creating eclectic, locally made fine jewelry. Each ring a celebration of their handpicked edit of stones discovered across vast corners of the country, meticulously crafted and delicately adorned using unique, custom techniques that honor the nuances and natural beauty of each jewel. Here, we exclusively take a first look at their newly launched bridal collection, ‘Harmony‘, and dive deep into their unique handmade and local approach to design.
You’ve excitingly just launched your new bridal collection, Harmony. Tell us about the story behind this new range?
We see this new Harmony collection as a harmonious integration between nature and humanities… it combines and refines two of our previous collections, the aesthetic mystique of the Meteorites collection and the Art Deco elements of the Jazz collection. We believe harmony is a balance between differences and a commonness out of uniqueness. This is how we live as one of many creatures in our nature and also the way relationships and marriage lasts.
“Every gemstone we use is different, each have their own moods & characters, & so each ring we design adapts to the differences to get the best result for the gemstone.”
Where do you source your Australian gemstones from?
All of our opals and sapphires are ethically mined natural gemstones sourced from local miners and cutters. Our sapphires are mainly sourced from the miners in the gemfields of central Queensland along with local lapidaries we’ve discovered for unique artisan cuts. Our opals are sourced from the local miners of Lightning Ridge in New South Wales, and parts of South Australia.
All of our major suppliers are local family businesses who have been in the industry for generations and built a great reputation, which we believe is one of the fundamental aspects to guarantee the quality of gemstones that we source and the ethical and sustainable route they follow.
What do you look for in terms of features and quality indicators when selecting the precious gemstones you work with?
As a gemologist (FGAA member), James plays an important role in selecting the gemstones used in our designs. In terms of the quality of the gemstones we select to work with, we have slightly different perspectives for opals and sapphires. For sapphires, we mainly focus on the indistinct appeal of parti colors and teal color in Australian sapphires. Equally essential is the cut – we handpick each and every sapphire one by one under a 10 x magnifier to check their cut is up to standard.
For opals, color and pattern are most important to us. We tend to choose Australian opals that have a certain interesting play of color distribution and pattern across the whole piece. In our bridal collection, we mostly use the high quality to gem-quality Australian opals, which are not only aesthetically appealing but also obtain a certain level of value over long term.
There are such intricate nuances in color between every sapphire & opal. How do you honor the uniqueness of each stone when designing your pieces?
Every gemstone we use is different, each have their own moods and characters, and so each ring we design needs to adapt to the differences to get the best result for the gemstone. All of our rings are individually made from wax carving to compliment and honor the stone and produce a truly one of a kind feeling.
What is your design process as a duo in creating each piece?
We always work together in different roles to create our designs from an initial idea to the final jewelry as we both bring unique elements to the process. We work closely together on selecting gemstones and brainstorming initial design concepts. We always have some back and forth discussions at this stage until the design is finalised, which we feel is the most interesting part of the whole process.
With an initial design direction, we list out a few criteria for sapphires and opals that will be used in the design, like shapes, colors, patterns etc. From there, we match the gemstones to the designs accordingly. Each ring is sketched out and the design details refined… many minor adjustments happen at this stage to make sure the design and each stone fit together fluidly. Then we’re ready to begin making by starting with carving out the ring from wax. Once complete, we use the traditional lost wax casting technique, creating each final design from precious metals. All of our pieces are then hand-wrought one by one to create each unique final piece. Our signature meteorite texture we use with our wedding bands is created by carving them in wax, we have painstakingly modified and customised our tools to produce these unique textures.
“We work with local family suppliers who have been in the industry for generations… we believe this is fundamental to guarantee the quality, ethical & sustainable practices used with the gemstones we source.”
What advice do you have for couples to consider when selecting Australian opal and sapphire jewelry? How do you best care for these precious stones?
The color is the most important factor to consider when choosing an opal or sapphire ring. The colors are so varied so be true to yourself and your aesthetic.
Mindfulness and ongoing care is essential to maintain the quality of these gems. While sapphire is very durable and outlast generations (it is considered the second hardest stone on the Mosh scale), there is still a chance it can break with everyday wear. Although, this is very rare with proper caring and keeping your sapphire away from any chemical compounds. If contact does happen then washing it in clean water is best.
Opals are softer than sapphires so extra caution is required to keep them in good condition. Direct crash on the opal surface and dramatic temperature change are two major situations that can damage opals. Avoid chemical compounds for opals too, and rinse in clean water if the contact happens. Do not clean opal jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner. If your opal jewelry is opal doublets, other than the care tips above, keeping them away from water is another factor to keep in mind.
For either sapphire or opal jewelry, we recommend checking the setting and prongs at least once a year to make sure they are in shape and hold the stone securely.
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