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Toggle Theme settings Jewelry care
Cleaning silver
Caring for opals
DIY brush finish on jewelry
Proper care of gold
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The 4 Cs
Loose or already set?
How to buy a diamond
Fluorescence
Toggle Theme settings DIY
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DIY silver cleaning
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Yogo sapphire geology
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Cleaning silver

Aesthetics, simply put, is the "science and math" of beauty. There are certain inarguable rules of proportion, which if stretched or compressed too greatly, will produce objects that few people will appreciate on a gut level. And the gut is exactly where one responds to art.

It's very easy to design a piece of jewelry that is odd--simply completely ignore every aesthetic guideline. Unfortunately, "odd" might be all that would be said about such a piece by most people. It takes far more thought and effort to design jewelry that is mindful of the thousands of years of design that came before, without plagiarizing those previous efforts, or just defaulting to "dumbed-down" or derivative design, than it does to just make something that is not only weird for weird’s sake, but that fails to evoke positive response.

There is a reason why people with no artistic experience or training whatsoever respond strongly to the designs found in our gallery. They are looking at the pieces that are a refreshing take on aesthetics. Not downright weird, not predictably boring, not a regurgitation of something that was interesting in the 80s, and worse than anything, not a trend-of-the-moment that will only become passé and dated-looking in the not-so-distant future.

When studying for her Master’s in Design, Babs chose Aesthetics as her academic concentration. She was surprised to find out that was not a popular choice. But she actually enjoyed the mathematical approach to the very human, visceral responses to objects possessing physical beauty. And those gut-level responses can be traced back down through the ages.

At the bottom of this page you will find a [translated] excerpt from one of Babs' papers during her study of aesthetics (1992), in the event that you want to explore the basis of some of her jewelry design approach. But otherwise, we thought this more current rambling would be a little less, well...academic. Sort of.

From Babs, on how she evaluates new work being considered for adding to our curated collection:

The great bulk of what the ancients’ evaluated for proportion was large in scale: buildings, gardens, compounds, etc. And because of their great size and the materials used to construct them, proportion options were automatically somewhat limited by what would actually render a sturdy building, for example. And in addition to being sturdy, the building would need to properly interact with the human form: door sizes need to make sense, steps need to be the right height, ceiling heights needed to work with the “mood” of the building’s purpose, etc. Despite the limitations imposed by material and the human body, the ancients from many cultures produced a tremendous body of theory and practice of “mathematical harmony” (which is the original definition of the Greek word, symmetria). Things you’ve probably heard of at some point, like the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Ratio.

Well, when the art form you are wanting to balance is far, far smaller than a building, are these theories, ratios, and formulas even applicable?

Yes. But not super directly.

While it is completely possible to design a pendant, let’s say, with the Golden Ratio or a Fibonacci Ratio (or maybe one of their later relatives, the Silver Ratio or Plastic Number) governing it’s facing-forward shape, and have people be drawn to it because the shape is a naturally-pleasing one...that seems about as boring an approach to jewelry design as one could possibly have.

So, here’s where my brain heads: when the ancients came up with the ratios that governed all the details of column shape to the spacing of those columns, to the proportions of what was below and above the columns...they were basing that on the proportions of the human form. Literally.

I feel quite certain this is not unknown to you:

It’s Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of man, based on the human proportions defined in the treatise by Vitruvius on ancient Roman architecture. Because of that, it is called “Vitruvian Man.”  The ratios seen on Vitruvian Man were what ancient architects applied to building shapes, whether the perimeter or individual elevations. 

Well, fine jewelry is a “building” that you can see all in one go. You don’t have to walk to see all of it. The materials are vastly different from the ones used to construct buildings. And instead of dwarfing the human form, it resides on it, and decorates it.

So, while there is not a vast span of ancient architectural proportional theory that can be directly applied to jewelry design and have the resulting work exhibit a satisfying amount of “mathematical harmony,” I surmised, even back in design school, that there was something about all the classical proportion studies that was applicable, and could serve as a “beauty guide” for jewelry design. I just didn’t know specifically what.

Here’s how I went about it then, and it has served me well since. It has guided me through thousands of decisions regarding the purchase and design of many collections and individual pieces of jewelry over the span of 35+ years: since jewelry, in my mind, does not fulfill its aesthetic purpose if it is viewed separately from the neck, ear, wrist, finger, or other body part it is intended to embellish, I choose to evaluate, consider, and design jewelry when considered against the backdrop of the human form--not separate from it.

And, much like the materials used in the buildings designed in antiquity constrained the proportions that could even be considered for their “utility of beauty,” the materials used in fine jewelry provide different constraints that are imposed on jewelry design.

So, here’s the result of my studies those many years ago. This continues to be how I evaluate and informally “score” the classical aesthetic value of the jewelry collections we bring in to Alara:

  • Do the relative proportions of the various materials (metal/s, gem/s), seen from all pertinent angles, fall within one of the many classical ratios? 
  • If there is a gem or other motif that is a vital part of the piece’s “message,” does its visual “volume,” compared to the totality of the piece’s visual “volume,” fall within one of the many classical ratios?
  • Does the piece overall (both individually and on the human form) embody all six of the Vitruvian “Principles of Design"? This type of analysis sounds wonky, but it’s actually not, when put into practice. Proportion (eurythmia) is of primary importance, and the other five support and interrelate with it. The remaining five principles are:
    • order (ordinatio), which does not necessarily mean “orderly,” since fractal arrangements as seen in nature are still ordered, despite a sense of randomness;
    • arrangement (dispositio), which tends to elevate certain elements to more importance simply through their specific arrangement;
    • symmetry (symmetria), which is not according to our modern definition, but rather defined as “mathematical harmony;” 
    • propriety (decor), which involves the piece serving the purpose its design intends: a formal ring will have formal features, and to be a bit ridiculous about it: it will have a hole into which a finger will naturally fit;
    • economy (distributio), which is, surprisingly, probably what you’re guessing: that the design addresses economic sensibility (this is sometimes argued as really having nothing to do with design, but I disagree…if a beautiful ring is never worn on a finger, is it actually beautiful? After all, without a finger to be worn on, the ring is not fulfilling its artistic purpose, right?)
  • Is there enough negative space around a gem or motif? Or, conversely, does a design based on continuity truly continue...leaving as little negative space as possible?
  • While considering the part of the body on which the piece will be worn, evaluate the proportions and placement of the entire piece in relation to the body part, and also to the body as a whole. Does the piece, compared to the body part, result in a classically-pleasing proportion?
  • Finally, will this piece still offer aesthetically-pleasing dimensions when worn on bodies or body parts of differing sizes? (Specifically, can this pendant still strike a balance against a larger torso, provided a longer chain is used? Can this ring find a good home on a number of different hands? 

By considering that final point when we decide on new collections, we can serve many customers with the same piece of jewelry, as opposed to . 

Obviously, this is a lot to consider when Team Alara is considering bringing on a new designer’s work, or just filling-in our existing collections. Thankfully, while this approach is not readily enumerated in written word, it is actually a holistic process when put into practice. 

But it is the most important aspect of our buying process in terms of keeping McJewelry out of Alara.

All in all, it’s very easy to buy McJewelry--it accounts for the great majority of fine jewelry available. Finding compelling, aesthetically-sound fine jewelry is a labor of love for us...because we love for you to get the benefit of our labor.

We say it loud and proud: No McJewelry Here.

***********************************

Excerpt from: "Visual Viscerality: Embracing Our Natural Response to Objects Designed with the Human Body in Mind" (1990, B. Noelle)

"While the concept of 'feng shui' is not familiar to many in the West, it crosses over into the realm of aesthetic philosophy, specifically because both concepts can be viscerally sensed. For example: we have all encountered walking into a room, that regardless of any details (and perhaps even despite them), has a shape that just 'feels right,' even if we cannot explain the 'why' of that feeling. Almost undoubtedly, this room embodies classical rules of proportion. One need not know about the proportions themselves in order to experience the feeling. This feeling brings about immediate comfort.

"And so, much like a room's basic shape can 'hug' humans passing through it, an artwork to be worn on the human form can only truly serve that purpose if its form brings comfort, working synergistically with the body, rather than separately from it. Fine jewelry is not fine art--it is craft--and therefore it is not fulfilling its artistic destiny unless it finds a comfortable spot on the human form."

Caring for opals

June 12 2020 UPDATE on ear piercing services

Hi, I’m Babs...the one who wrote the blog post “Guns Don’t Pierce Ears--People Pierce Ears.” [Thanks for making it so popular, y'all!] 

I strive to make ear piercing fun and safe, all while performing it with great professional care. Part of my service is that I wholeheartedly focus on the best placement of the piercings, through the use of both magnification and measurement. The point of differentiation between my piercing services and most others is this care and precision, all of which is done with tight physical closeness.

COVID-19 has made me have to think this service through in a new light. I am having to take my personal situation into serious consideration, in order to feel comfortable offering this service at all. I apologize if you made promises to your child that I am unable to help you fulfill. 

My 92-year-old mother is in memory care. She is among our community's most vulnerable. I simply must do everything possible to not transmit the virus to her, so that she will neither become sick herself, nor become a viral nexus in her long-term care facility.

As many of you may know, I have asked that all visitors to Alara wear some form of face covering, in order to protect my team. [As we are likewise doing for our guests.] There is simply no way to properly and professionally serve you as jewelers without breaking social distance, so the masks are to mitigate against that. 

Well, the only way I am able to pierce ears the way that I always have is to not only break social distance, but be very, very close for an extended period of time. Basically, my face is within four inches of the piercee’s face for about 5 minutes in most cases...up to 10 minutes for someone (generally a younger child) who is nervous and/or “squirmy.” 

I am mitigating the latter problem by limiting appointments to adults and children 10 or more years of age. That will keep the “ultra-closeness” interval down to 5 minutes total. 

For now, no more “parties” or “family celebrations” during piercing appointments. Just 1 person in addition to the person being pierced, please. If you want the Alara team to photograph or video so you can be involved with your child while memorializing this event, we are happy to do so--just let us know immediately after you set your appointment.

To protect my mom and her community, I will be wearing an N95 mask. That means I will be protecting myself, NOT the person whose ears I’m piercing.

 

Ear Piercing Details | COVID-19:

  • In addition to e-initialing on-line liability release forms related to ear piercing and COVID-19 during the online scheduling process, the same consent and release forms must be signed in person the day of the service. These waivers must be signed either by the piercee, or by a parent or adult guardian in the case of a minor. You can view those liability waivers here, as well.
  • The piercee and one companion only may come to the appointment. If a minor’s ears are being pierced, the companion must be a parent or legal guardian. Please arrive on time, so that there is enough time to pick out your earrings (you can also do that in advance of your appointment).
  • All Alara guests must wear a face covering. If you forget yours, we will provide a comfy one you may borrow (soft washable cotton with ear loops).
  • Companion to wear face covering of their choice during the entire appointment--from entry to exit.
  • To protect my mom, I will be wearing an N95 mask. That means I will be protecting myself, NOT the person whose ears I’m piercing.
  • Face covering choices for piercee only during actual piercing service:
    • No face covering or mask
    • Mask or face covering of any kind (including an N95) that does not block access to the ears, and that ties/goes behind the head, not the ears. Masks that loop behind the ears tend to move ears enough that it can negatively affect piercing placement. You may use an after-market extender on ear loops to keep the loops from going around the back of the ears.

    Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.

     

    "OK, I'm ready to schedule!"

    bozeman-ear-piercing-children-under-10 bozeman-ear-piercing-adults 

     

     ORIGINAL POST

    Perhaps the thought of having someone in their teens pierce your ears makes you a wee bit tense. No worries, we are ready, willing, and able to pierce your ears.

    We use the only fully encapsulated sterile ear piercing products in the world. This means the earrings are completely enclosed and sterile during the entire ear piercing process.

    And, with so many completely hypoallergenic, pure titanium and nickel-free stainless steel earrings in stock to replace your original "piercing" earrings, you can be assured that the healing process on those new piercings will continue to be safe and without irritation.

    DIY brush finish on jewelry
    Proper care of gold
    Storing fine chains

    June 12 2020 UPDATE on ear piercing services

    Hi, I’m Babs...the one who wrote the blog post “Guns Don’t Pierce Ears--People Pierce Ears.” [Thanks for making it so popular, y'all!] 

    I strive to make ear piercing fun and safe, all while performing it with great professional care. Part of my service is that I wholeheartedly focus on the best placement of the piercings, through the use of both magnification and measurement. The point of differentiation between my piercing services and most others is this care and precision, all of which is done with tight physical closeness.

    COVID-19 has made me have to think this service through in a new light. I am having to take my personal situation into serious consideration, in order to feel comfortable offering this service at all. I apologize if you made promises to your child that I am unable to help you fulfill. 

    My 92-year-old mother is in memory care. She is among our community's most vulnerable. I simply must do everything possible to not transmit the virus to her, so that she will neither become sick herself, nor become a viral nexus in her long-term care facility.

    As many of you may know, I have asked that all visitors to Alara wear some form of face covering, in order to protect my team. [As we are likewise doing for our guests.] There is simply no way to properly and professionally serve you as jewelers without breaking social distance, so the masks are to mitigate against that. 

    Well, the only way I am able to pierce ears the way that I always have is to not only break social distance, but be very, very close for an extended period of time. Basically, my face is within four inches of the piercee’s face for about 5 minutes in most cases...up to 10 minutes for someone (generally a younger child) who is nervous and/or “squirmy.” 

    I am mitigating the latter problem by limiting appointments to adults and children 10 or more years of age. That will keep the “ultra-closeness” interval down to 5 minutes total. 

    For now, no more “parties” or “family celebrations” during piercing appointments. Just 1 person in addition to the person being pierced, please. If you want the Alara team to photograph or video so you can be involved with your child while memorializing this event, we are happy to do so--just let us know immediately after you set your appointment.

    To protect my mom and her community, I will be wearing an N95 mask. That means I will be protecting myself, NOT the person whose ears I’m piercing.

     

    Ear Piercing Details | COVID-19:

    • In addition to e-initialing on-line liability release forms related to ear piercing and COVID-19 during the online scheduling process, the same consent and release forms must be signed in person the day of the service. These waivers must be signed either by the piercee, or by a parent or adult guardian in the case of a minor. You can view those liability waivers here, as well.
    • The piercee and one companion only may come to the appointment. If a minor’s ears are being pierced, the companion must be a parent or legal guardian. Please arrive on time, so that there is enough time to pick out your earrings (you can also do that in advance of your appointment).
    • All Alara guests must wear a face covering. If you forget yours, we will provide a comfy one you may borrow (soft washable cotton with ear loops).
    • Companion to wear face covering of their choice during the entire appointment--from entry to exit.
    • To protect my mom, I will be wearing an N95 mask. That means I will be protecting myself, NOT the person whose ears I’m piercing.
    • Face covering choices for piercee only during actual piercing service:
      • No face covering or mask
      • Mask or face covering of any kind (including an N95) that does not block access to the ears, and that ties/goes behind the head, not the ears. Masks that loop behind the ears tend to move ears enough that it can negatively affect piercing placement. You may use an after-market extender on ear loops to keep the loops from going around the back of the ears.

      Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.

       

      "OK, I'm ready to schedule!"

      bozeman-ear-piercing-children-under-10 bozeman-ear-piercing-adults 

       

       ORIGINAL POST

      Perhaps the thought of having someone in their teens pierce your ears makes you a wee bit tense. No worries, we are ready, willing, and able to pierce your ears.

      We use the only fully encapsulated sterile ear piercing products in the world. This means the earrings are completely enclosed and sterile during the entire ear piercing process.

      And, with so many completely hypoallergenic, pure titanium and nickel-free stainless steel earrings in stock to replace your original "piercing" earrings, you can be assured that the healing process on those new piercings will continue to be safe and without irritation.

      The 4 Cs

      We firmly believe that an educated customer is our best customer. We love to share our knowledge! We have a full crew of DCA- and GIA-educated gemologists and diamontologists, ready to geek-out with you. 

      There are three different types of exploration that are available at no charge to you. These explorations are about learning--not selling or even suggesting. We intend to equip you with the knowledge you need to feel comfortable working with a jewelry professional anywhere on the topics offered.

      You may book any of these explorations using our online scheduler. Once you get there, scroll down to select "Exploration and Education."

       

      Professional Diamond Consultation

      You will learn all about your options for ethically-sourced diamonds, and learn not just the "4 Cs," but also the difference between conflict-free, fair trade, upcycled, enhanced, and lab-grown diamonds.

      We teach you how to use a loupe, how to read a wholesale pricing sheet, and we  will show you a diamond under a microscope, and familiarize you with what you are viewing.

       

      Professional Sapphire Consultation

      Montana is the only state in the union that commercially produces gem-quality sapphires. So, there's good reason to explore those wonderful Montana Fancy and Yogo sapphires!

      There's a lot of myth and hype on the internet, however, and we know you want the straight skinny.

      You will learn all about your options for Montana Fancy and Yogo sapphires, and learn about the legitimate ways their color and clarity should be represented to you, but also the differences between heated and unheated sapphires, how sapphires are mined, and how they are cut.

      We teach you how to use a loupe and we will show you a sapphire under a microscope.

       

      One-on-One No-Pressure Engagement Ring Discovery

      You do this once. We do this every day. Please let us help you learn what you need to know so you can make a solid and informed decision.

      A small sampling of the types of questions we are prepared to answer:

      • "How do I learn about styles?"
      • "Does the ring s/he wants require custom crafting?"
      • "Do the rings on her Pinterest page work with our lifestyle?"
      • "How is jewelry made? Can you use my gems and metal?"
      • "Can you make a reproduction of this old ring?"
      • "How do I make it a surprise if I don't know ring size?"
      • "Can a ring be made to fit around this family ring?"
      • "Can you make a ring using this birthstone from my grandmother?"
      Loose or already set?

      There's no doubt about it...jewelry covered by a maintenance warranty enjoys less breakage, a longer lifespan, and better sparkle and shine.

       

      Why would that be? 

      Firstly, because maintenance warranties require the jewelry wearer to have the pieces inspected and cleaned at regular intervals. It is the very nature of precious metals to wear away...but if a jeweler spots that wear before it becomes too severe, preventative maintenance can be performed. If jewelry maintenance is deferred for too long, it is possible that the pieces can literally reach a point where only major refurbishment will do the trick--which is far more expensive. And sometimes, pieces will reach the point of no return. 

      Secondly, our maintenance warranties are offered through Preferred Jewelers International. Why should you care about that? Well, Preferred Jewelers vets jewelers before granting them inclusion in their warranty program. So, as a peer-reviewing organization, PJI considers the quality of the jewelry sold by its included jewelers. Therefore, the jewelry covered by PJI maintenance warranties enjoys less breakage and longer lifespans because Preferred Jewelers makes sure that customers are starting with jewelry the quality of which won't over-burden the warranty program in the first place.

       

      Preferred Jewelers Maintenance Warranty

      We offer this warranty at no charge on applicable items valued at $2,500 or more.

      You may purchase this warranty for $89.99 on any applicable items valued at $500 to $2,499. You are required to have us clean and inspect your ring quarterly--we will send you the reminders so you don't miss one.

      Includes:

      • two lifetime sizings (when possible, excludes eternity rings)
      • re-tipping of prongs
      • inspection of channel-work
      • inspection of all settings
      • tightening of stones
      • refinishing
      • polishing
      • loose earring backs
      • replacement of diamonds up to 0.20 ct apiece (excluding fancy color diamonds)
      • automatic email reminders

         

        Preferred Jewelers Platinum Jewelry Care Plan

        Do you like to know "everything is covered?" Then this is the plan for you! In fact, between this plan and all-perils jewelry insurance, you won't have a care in the world about your jewelry. The pricing varies with the value of the item. Click here for a pop-up showing the pricing, which covers the piece for your lifetime.

        We will not allow you to purchase this plan if your piece will not garner benefit from having it. (As an example, if you purchase a heavy gold necklace that does not contain gems, the only thing covered by this warranty would be the clasp. We will not sell you the warranty in this case.)

        Includes:

        • one-time ring re-sizing (when possible, excludes eternity rings)
        • re-tipping of prongs
        • inspection of channel-work
        • inspection of all settings
        • tightening of stones
        • refinishing
        • polishing
        • loose earring backs
        • replacement of diamonds up to 0.20 ct apiece (excluding fancy color diamonds)
        • cracked or thinning shank
        • replacement of broken prongs
        • broken earring posts
        • broken clasps on bracelets or chains
        • once-annual  rhodium plating
        • repair of cracked or chipped stones (including center stone)
        • replacement of missing side or accent stones
        • ring re-soldering to another ring
        • loss of gemstones due to defective setting (including center stone)
        • loss of diamonds due to defective setting (including center diamond)
        • automatic email reminders

        Shucks, can I buy one of those warranties for other jewelry?

        Why yes. Yes, you can!

        Here's how that works: since Preferred Jewelers will only cover pieces that are new or like-new in terms of structural integrity, they rely on us to inspect your piece. 

        There are three possible outcomes to this inspection:

        • Your piece is already in like-new condition, and does not need any work done in order to bring it up to warrantable condition.
          • You may purchase a Preferred Jewelers Maintenance warranty for $89.99 for any piece valued at $501 to $5,000.
          • Or, you may purchase a Preferred Jewelers Platinum Jewelry Care Plan, according to the pricing shown on this pop-up.
        • Your piece requires work to bring it up to like-new condition.
          • We will propose the work required, and we will perform the work with your approval of the costs.
          • After the work is completed, you may purchase a Preferred Jewelers Maintenance warranty for $89.99 for any piece valued at $501 to $5,000.
          • Or, after the work is completed, you may purchase a Preferred Jewelers Platinum Jewelry Care Plan, according to the pricing shown on this pop-up.
        • Your piece truly cannot be brought up to like-new condition.
          • You may want to ask yourself, "should I continue wearing this?"
          • We can provide you with a quote to reproduce the piece, with or without changes from the original. 
          • The reproduction will automatically be awarded a Preferred Jewelers Maintenance warranty.
          • Or, you may purchase the Platinum Jewelry Care Plan as an add-on.

         

        How to buy a diamond
        Fluorescence
        DIY finger sizing
        So, for first-time ring wearers, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of proper ring fit...
        As professional jewelers, we insist that proper ring fit isn't about comfort--it's about loss prevention. 
        That's right. Your ring isn't meant to be "comfy," in the strictest sense of the word. Comfy is for your slippers or PJs--easy on, easy off. As far as rings go, though, we size folks' fingers based on whichever size requires the wearer to exert some effort to remove it. Not so that you pop a sweat or scrape the skin on your knuckle--but some effort, nonetheless.
        From there, everything is details, and there's a lot of those: finger shape, knuckle prominence, finger web depth, tendency to fluctuate, current water table, etc. Hence, we consider finger sizing to be part science and part art. While some fingers are shaped so our general instructions make everything perfectly clear, most fingers aren't quite so easy to properly size. 
        And that's why string and paper and other DIY sizing methods really set you up for failure. So, we put on our thinking caps and have come up with a safe and sanitized way to size your finger.
        We have two different scheduling options, please choose the one that applies to your situation, and you will land at the correct scheduler. And by the by, we will only confirm your schedule request after gathering some additional info from you first. We look forward to getting this right for you the first time!
        DIY silver cleaning
        DIY brush finish on jewelry
        Yogo sapphire geology
        Yogo sapphire history
        Yogo sapphire gulch
        Yogo sapphire gemology
        Yogo sapphire myths
        Yogo sapphire facts


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