AJ + Vanessa

I know I’ve been bragging a lot about my clients lately. But can you blame me? Don’t you just love their stories?? My next incredible couple hails from my hometown of Detroit.

Vanessa and AJ are my favorite example of Detroit youth and the city I know and love. Aside from being a stellar photographer who’s painstakingly chronicled her years of life in the city, Vanessa is also a teacher and an inspiring activist. Visit her blog to see how she brings the Make it Happen mantra to life on the daily. She’s founding member of CAMP Detroit: a program that gives Detroit artists, makers, and thinkers the opportunity to create inspired objects for display at DEMF and placement back into Detroit neighborhoods, and Detroit Soup: a monthly dinner that micro-funds creative projects within the city. AJ is one of the founders of OMNICORP Detroit, a hackerspace which provides the space, tools, and community for exploration and invention.

Together they are a true tour de force of the impact an individual (or dare I say power-couple) can have on a city. Our actions and attitude can and do propel good ideas forward. Since leaving Detroit a few years ago I have been following the growth of my beloved city through this couple and their incredible actions. It’s an honor that I could give something back.

AJ came to me with a very special and personal mission in mind for his ring for Vanessa. They already had an existing, extravagant engagement ring that Vanessa could wear on special occasions.  What they needed was a very personal piece she would be comfortable wearing every day. After all, the author of this article on how to properly wrap your DSLR camera within your Chrome bag so you don’t crush it when you fall off your bike is a rough and tumble gorgeous gal who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. The solution: A shiny gold band with hand carved shape, delicate engraving, and a subtle, special sparkle from two tiny diamonds on the side. One for him, one for her.

And now here comes the part where I swoon over the photo taken by Vanessa when they finally shared their engagement with the world. As the jeweler I know these things are coming but once that ring is on, I’m always amazed at what my couples continue to do. Together. 

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My Engagement Story

The months of October and November were a jewelry-making blur. In preparation for the holidays I stocked my galleries to the brim with their favorite new items. There were custom engagement rings underway. Custom holiday gifts were springing up left and right. Its a tiring but rewarding time of year for any jeweler.

When I was able to emerge from the studio around the end of November, things at the gallery were in full holiday swing. My retail duties kicked into overdrive, and I was so thankful when Ryan announced that he would be whisking me away on Christmas Eve. It was the perfect escape from retail madness: We’d slip away and savor the only two consecutive days off in December. If there was an opportunity to even think about working, it had become Ryan’s mission to thwart it. It was Christmas, and I was finally on holiday.

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I was able to leave the gallery at 4pm on Christmas Eve, and Ryan scooped me up in a mini cooper zip-car named Moonwalker. We raced down into the peninsula in time to catch the sunset in Pacifica, where I shook off the last of the city stress and continuing on our voyage south. Ryan had arranged for us to stay at the Hyatt Highlands Inn in Carmel, an exquisite resort with an amazing ocean view that we wouldn’t discover until daylight the following morning. We made quick use of the wood burning fireplace, unloaded the gifts our families sent from back east, and toasted with a glass of champagne before calling it a night.

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The aforementioned ocean view took our breath away as the sun came up Christmas morning. We awoke early, excited to video chat with our families and head out to explore Big Sur. There was just so much love in the air that day. We drank coffee and visited with our loved ones for hours over a room service breakfast. It was overwhelming just how many things we had to be thankful for. We waved goodbye to our families around noon and emerged from the hotel room ready to explore.

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Christmas afternoon was spent driving down into Big Sur, our breath was taken away each time we rounded the high cliffs that looked out over a churning teal ocean. The cliffs were ablaze with succulents turning red on the tips, the beaches consisted of rocky outcrops juxtaposed with superfine white sand. Green hills and mountains rolled inland. Even in December, everything seemed lush and alive. We found ourselves stopping off at every opportunity to take photos, to eat a late lunch on the beach, and savor the scent of salty air.

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As the sun was about to set, we decided it was time to turn back. We began to weave our way back up Route 1 when Ryan spotted a whale out off the coast. He flipped the car around at a turnoff a few feet away and I scanned the ocean surface with scrutiny. Just then, a tail emerged from the water and splashed down. I was out of the car and running with camera in hand, so excited that I left my jacket behind. Ryan grabbed it, along with his camera bag and followed close behind.

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We had happened upon a pod of whales swimming south. We eagerly attempted to snap more photos while working our way down the path towards the rocky waters edge. They were elusive, but I was persistent. Ryan directed me to the perfect vantage point upon which we could watch and wait for them to show themselves again. I knelt down to  wait, and Ryan stepped back to take my picture.

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Then he asked me to turn around.

He was kneeling, holding the only ring that ever made my heart skip a beat, and asked if we could share our adventures together for the rest of our lives.

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He’d done the unthinkable. He’d surprised the girl who’s livelihood revolves around engagement. I didn’t sense what was brewing around me. We sat together with his arms wrapped around me on the edge of that cliff, overlooking the ocean as our whale family swam away. He’d managed to capture the exact moment he’d been waiting for: special, spontaneous, and serendipitous. And the ring? Well, that alone is an article for another day. But it’s the only ring known to make my stomach flip, and this gal has seen a lot of jewels.

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Sam + Christine

You wouldn’t necessarily think of Craigslist as the origin of long-lasting friendship. But sometimes when you put yourself out there into the digital ether, someone great is on the other end. I, for one, couldn’t have been luckier to have met Christine.

When I learned rather abruptly that my first roommate in San Francisco was ending his lease, I braced myself for another round of apartment hunting on a super tight time frame.  I took to craigslist and created a posting that laid it all out on the table. I had few belongings, couldn’t afford much, and I had 2 cats. It was December, and room listings were slim pickings. I knew it was going to be difficult to find  Even more of a longshot: I wanted space to resume creating jewelry. The Glen Park abode was simple and cozy, but didn’t lend itself to the noise and dirt produced when fabricating. And studios in San Francisco… they aren’t cheap. I’d rented entire one-bedroom apartments in Michigan for less.

I was so fortunate that on the other end of my search was Christine. She happened across my posting, and carefully crafted the first of many eloquent letters exchanged during our friendship. She too was an artist, with an MFA from California College of the Arts. She creates complex works involving drawing, painting, collage and sculpture. [Read more about her work and upcoming shows on her website] She had an apartment just off the panhandle of Golden Gate park, with a modest studio which I could share. She loved animals, and welcomed my cats with open arms. After a few meet and greets I moved in with Christine and her charming retriever Hank on New Years day 2010.

It seems fitting to be sharing Christine and Sam’s love story with you all this New Years day, 2 years later.

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Sam had met Christine while attending a wedding in Fairfax, CA in 2008. Both were in graduate school; Sam in Virginia and Christine in California. While a transcontinental relationship would have been challenging in its own right, Sam was leaving the following day for Marseille, France, where he’d spend the entire summer studying the housing designs of Le Corbusier and sending an occasional postcard to Christine in San Francisco.  She’d see a long unrecognizable phone number pop up on her cell, every once in a while during that summer, and pick it up to talk to Sam for hours as she carried on her daily business in the city.

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Their relationship continued once Sam returned to the states. Over the course of the following year they arranged vacation visits and graduated from their respective schools, both mystified at what to do next. Despite a failing stock market, expensive degrees in fields not immune to economic failure, and enough emotional risk to make most folks throw in the towel, Sam and Christine decided to take the plunge: They wanted to live and date in the same city. Sam relocated to San Francisco in August of 2009.

Two years later, Sam approached me about creating the perfect engagement ring for Christine. The two had now been living together in San Francisco’s Mission District for nearly a year, and it was clear that the initial risk of moving cross country had more than paid off. I was honored that he would choose me to help design a ring that symbolized their love and their journey.

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As an architect, Sam has strong design sensibilities and an appreciation of craftsmanship.  He was also very interested in the history and traditions behind specific metals and gems.The design we agreed on found its equilibrium between modern and traditional. It would be crafted from Palladium, with 4 diamond accents around a center ceylon blue sapphire. The gem’s rich color would be complimented by the warm tone of the precious metal. The soft brushed finish and softly sparkling diamonds were reminiscent of the night sky.

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The couple traveled in October 2011 to Joshua Tree National Forest. One day they hiked to the top of a mountain, and sat down on a rock overlooking the desert from above. Sam pulled the ring from his pocket and slipped it onto her finger, and asked her to grow old with him. Christine said yes.
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Photos of the happy couple by Klea McKenna
And if you missed my previous posting regarding Christine’s feature on ‘In The Make’ be sure to check it out here.

Classic Solitaire

I’m so pleased to finally share the first of many top secret projects that have kept me busy these past few months. John was beginning his ring search for Carolina when a mutual friend brought us together. He was friendly and enthusiastic from the moment we met. John came to visit me during CAPSULE, where we talked about his thoughts and he got a feel for my work. We quickly began corresponding through email to hash out all the details. We learned that his design style is clean and sophisticated, and wanted a ring that reflected that. Together our goal was to find him the best quality we could that stayed true to his aesthetics.

John’s dream ring consisted of a beautiful diamond that was also conflict free. We were fortunate to find him a stunning round hearts and arrows diamond with all the certificates. We then selected a sleek 4 prong mounting that fit the style and proportions John desired. The completed ring is timeless. A classic piece of jewelry with their own personal touch.

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Now all that was left was for John to ask Carolina that very important question! The two set off on a vacation together this past October. Sailing through the Bahamas with friends left John no shortage of scenic places to choose from. With turquoise waters and remote beaches all around, every spot seemed quite beautiful, but John wanted to find a place that was perfect. He shared with me afterward the only tricky part in planning this dream proposal:

“There were of course, some logistical concerns with carrying a ring around on a sailboat for 10 days.  I became a little nervous because well, rings sink, and I found myself surrounded by ocean every day, so I bought a foam floating keychain and kept it chained around the ring at all times.  Finding a good spot to propose wasn’t difficult because each day had beautiful scenery, but finding that “right” spot took a few days of scouting while carrying the ring in my the pocket of my swim trunks.”

Finally the spot was selected, the moment came, and friends were waiting in the wings with cameras. Carolina and John were so kind to share the photos below with me, as the special moment unfolded.

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Many thanks to the happy couple for including me in their love story.