Ten Gem-tastic Wonders of the World
Each piece of jewelry, and each gemstone, has a story. Gems have been found, extracted, cut and shaped. They have been through countless hands before becoming one’s favorite accessory. Here, we gathered ten of our favorite gem-tastic places, each unique for its contribution to the jewelry industry, to celebrate and learn about.
New York, NY
The New York Diamond District lies on 47th street between 5th and 6th Avenue (and a bit around it) and is hailed as the world’s largest diamond shopping district. The storefronts are filled with wholesalers, independent sellers and retail jewelers. As a customer, one can find everything from antique to vintage jewelry, custom pieces and yes, ready to wear. A diamond district shopping highlight is that the prices are often negotiable. Sellers have city grit, and are eager to secure a transaction for their luxury goods. This gives the everyday buyer a chance to talk down the price, and get the best bang for the buck.
Place Vendôme is a square in Paris built by Louis XIV. Today it is home to the world’s most luxurious brands, particularly for jewelry and timepieces. Some of the famous names lining the square include: Cartier, Tiffany & Co., and Boucheron, amongst others. Visiting Place Vendôme is like stepping into a different world. It is more than a retail jewelry buyer’s dream… it is delightfully extravagant. While shopping around this Parisian hotspot, you can imagine the luxuries that royalty experienced, too.
Coober Pedy, Australia
Following the first World War, soldiers began going to Coober Pedy to mine the land for the opal that lay underneath. The precious gems were there because the town used to be covered by ocean, and once the water dried up, stones were left to be unearthed. Once they began mining, they created giant crevices, or “dugouts” in the earth, which were left uncovered. To escape the Australian heat (up to 120 degrees), miners and their families began to make homes within these dugouts. Fast forward 100 years, and these homes still exist. The underground town has an estimated 2,500 residents, including entire homes with functioning kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. There is electricity, water and internet access in these underground abodes. Coober Pedy even has churches, bars and bookstores for visitors.
In London, there is never a shortage of options. Hatton Garden and Bond Street are the city’s jewelry hubs. Hatton Garden consists of many family owned businesses, and offers a wide variety of jewelry and jewelry services. There, you can find trade suppliers, jewelry workshops, top of the line diamonds, as well as antique jewelry traders and sellers. Across town on Bond Street, well-known luxury brands and their showrooms abound. There you can find jewelry from Cartier, Piaget, and Tiffany. So whether you want name brand or the family-owned experience, London offers it all.
Jaipur is home to some of the world’s most beautiful jewelry. The city focuses on cutting and manufacturing colored gemstones, and is known worldwide for its work with gold, ruby, and one of our favorites– emeralds. While the emeralds themselves may come from Zambia or Brazil, the factory workers in Jaipur have mastered the notoriously difficult to cut stone. They take into consideration the potential brittleness, weight, color and clarity to determine how it will be cut, in order to ensure the perfect final product. Jaipur’s dedication to exceptional manufacturing has resulted in some of the world’s most beautiful, and colorful, fine jewelry pieces.
Tahiti, French Polynesia
Black pearls are equally magical and fascinating, to the discerning eye of the jewelry lover. There is a myth in French Polynesia that the god of fertility, Oro, gave a black pearl to the princess of Bora Bora as a token of his love for her. Tahiti’s famed pearls shine brightly on their own, stand out from any other organic gemstones, with their luster and beauty. Valuable and sizable, the pearls are prized and beloved by designers, who set them within their work.
Tanzanite was discovered in 1967 in Tanzania, its namesake. It is often referred to as the “generation gemstone,” because Tanzania has a limited supply of the stone, making it inherently rare, as it only comes from one location. The gem is found at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. Part of what makes it so intriguing, is that it appears different colors, depending on the angle. Tanzanites can look violet, and different tones of blue. Tanzania capitalizes greatly on this gemstone, and is quickly going though their supply. There are many stores in the country that sell Tanzanite, where one can sometimes find it cheaper than abroad. Arusha is where many of these stones are cut, and bought.
In 1888, Japanese entrepreneur Mikimoto Kokichi, from Tokyo, Japan made it his mantra that every woman should own a strand of pearls. By 1893, the cultured pearl was realized, and his dream became a reality. Prior to this, only natural pearls were available on the market. Revolutionizing the pearl business, his pearl farming process eventually put pearl divers out of work, and to this day the cultured pearl dominates the market.
The world’s renowned home for diamond cutting, Antwerp’s identity is intertwined with the diamond business. Although international competition is often more cost effective, the cutters in Antwerp have a reputation for cutting that is second to none. Developing out, diamond cutters from Antwerp have invested largely into bringing their practice into other countries, such as India, Thailand and Vietnam.
Celuk is synonymous with sterling silver, as well as the mastery of two of the most difficult silversmithing techniques: filigree and repoussé. The former is made using silver (or gold) thread, which is then twisted and soldered it into place, making beautiful shapes. The repoussé technique is used when silver (or another malleable metal) is hammered from the reverse, to create a relief. Both of these techniques create beautiful, unique jewelry pieces. Often combined with repoussé is chasing, where the metal is hammered on the front. In Celuk, silversmiths display their mastery of the medium with massive filigree and repoussé sculptures, which have taken years to make amongst a group of master craftsmen. An invitation to a showroom to experience these displays is the ultimate treat.
These are just a few of our favorite “gemmy“ spots. Each has given a gift to the world, contributing to the trade. Once all are avidly traveling again, we recommend adding them to your list.