Marilyn Monroe has us convinced that diamonds were a girl’s best friend but now after meeting Eva Meijer I’m not so sure! With a wide range of colors and values gems are entering the game of engagement rings and special occasions almost as much as diamonds. Learn more about Eva, founder of Eva Gems & Jewels and why they are catching the eye of the rich and the famous.
1. Eva, you went from an international lawyer to the queen of the gems! What inspired you to make the transition from law to gemstones?
[As Queens tend to have some fine gemstones in their wardrobe, I sure love the compliment;))!]
To answer your question, although I loved my job as in-house counsel working for this American multinational commodity trader & agribusiness company in Switzerland (and my native Holland)… I’d arrived at a crossroads where my bosses (whom I’d regarded as my mentors) left the company.
Plus, a major project I’d worked on had been finalized, so I felt that I was ready for another adventure in another country!
And so, the adventure began.
I’d always loved Italian and French fashion and their gemstone jewelry, as inspired by my mum and the fact that I’d come to both countries since I was a child.
I love the ease of style of the Italians and French, and how they use accessories to up a simple outfit into a head-turning look. And I sensed how this creative part was missing in my life. I literally wanted to add more color to my life!
So, one evening, while putting on my own gemstone earrings, I recalled how I’d always been fascinated by gemstones, and had even given a presentation on minerals in primary school. That’s something I’d completely forgotten, but suddenly resurfaced!
And so, realizing that I didn’t know much about gemstones or their origins; off I went… looking for the best gemology course I could find in color stones.
And this happens to be in Bangkok, Thailand, the world’s trading hub for colored gemstones where I lived for a small year.
That’s where I fell in love with colored gemstones and their stories; so much so that I wanted to share this knowledge with people in the West, who often don’t know much about these rare and exquisite gemstones.
2. Diamonds have done a great job as being the traditional ring for engagements — can you tell us what the difference is between a diamond and gem and why diamonds should watch their backs?
Well, diamonds are also ‘gemstones’ in the gemological sense of the word.
To give you some background info:
A ‘gem’ or ‘gemstone’ is a substance that possesses beauty, durability and rarity. These are the three main attributes of a high value stone.
Sometimes ‘fashion’ and ‘portability’ are added, but those first three are the main characteristics.
And what ‘substance’ are we talking about more specifically you may wonder?
Most gemstones are mineral substances that:
– occur naturally,
– are inorganic,
– have a defined chemical composition and
– have a clear atomic structure.
They may be cut and polished, or remain in their natural form. And… they may or may not be set in a piece of jewelry.
In short, the right distinction is not between diamonds and gemstones – as diamonds are also gemstones – but, between color(ed) (gem)stones and diamonds.
So, a colored stone simply refers to any gem other than diamonds which are typically white.
(Of course, some diamonds can also be colored but they will never be considered nor called ‘colored (gem)stones’ but will be called ‘color(ed) diamonds’).
What most people don’t realize (me included before studying gemology) is that most diamonds up to 3 – 4 carat are not rare at all! There are actually more than enough diamonds held in stock to satisfy the demand in the market. They’ve just been given this aura of rarity and perfection through a fantastic marketing campaign dating back as far as the 1940s, with its award-winning advertising slogan ‘A Diamond Is Forever’ (if you’re interested to read more about this, please check out my blogpost ‘New World Beauty: Why Colored Gemstones Are Better Than Diamonds’).
Since then, every woman on the planet feels she needs a diamond as engagement ring (if you’d like some inspiration about chic color stone alternatives to the diamond engagement ring, please see my latest blogpost ‘Skip Diamonds For Your Engagement: The Top 3 Chic Blue Gemstones For Your Engagement Ring’.
Though I’m not saying that diamonds cannot be beautiful, one should never forget that diamonds can also have their imperfections or flaws like other gemstones.
Or, to turn it around… that there are also colored stones that easily can compete with – and even surpass – the beauty and quality of diamonds.
‘Fine quality’ gemstones are often far more rare than most diamonds, and come in all colors of the rainbow which allow for a very personal expression of the wearer.
For instance, royalty has always known that blue sapphires are far more rare than the average diamond and that’s why they regularly use blue sapphires as engagement ring instead of diamonds (Lady Di’s famous engagement ring is one example, which is now worn by princess Kate…) or colored gemstones are set into sumptuous crown jewels (as the dazzling blue sapphires worn by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands at the inauguration).
I’d love to show women (and their men) that there are gorgeous and expressive fine quality colored stones out there for them to consider. I educate and give them access to these rare stones that are often kept under wraps by the big jewelry brands simply because the supply is so minimal or inconsistent.
(Picture above: yellow stone: Heliodore gemstone that belongs to the same family as emeralds and is set in a ring of matte 18K pink gold. The blue stone: Paraiba Tourmaline with diamonds set in a ring of 18K matte white gold).
That’s why we haven’t heard of many of these fantastic and high quality gemstones such as, hot pink spinels and sapphires, grass green tsavorite garnets, electric blue paraiba tourmalines, tangy yellow mali garnets, pastel colored spinels, and several other unknown stones.
But, it’s about time we lifted this secretive veil and let them shine in the open!
3. What are the most important qualities of a stone we should pay attention to when buying gems?
As with diamonds, you should consider 4 characteristics when buying a gem: color, clarity, cut and carat size, whereby with color stones the most important quality is – by far – color!
(Picture above: light blue Aquamarine, pink and mint green Tourmaline, all in excellent cut. The ring has a lilac Spinel as centre stone and smaller neon pink Spinels on the sides, set in 18K matte pink gold)
Color is what will determine the price of the stone above anything else. The more intense the red of a ruby or red tourmaline, the greener the green of a tsavorite garnet, the bluer the blue of a blue sapphire, the more expensive the stone will be – simply because these intense colors are so incredibly rare to find in nature.
So, even if a color stone has some ‘inclusions’ (impurities inside the stone, such as small crystals that grew within) or its cut is not excellent – it can still fetch a very high price in the market when its color is beautiful.
Now when you want a fine quality color stone that has it all: so, one with a beautiful color, great clarity (i.e. small or no inclusions inside the stone), excellent cut AND in a large size, you need to expect to pay a premium as they’re very hard to find.
Besides this, try to understand the concept of ‘hardness’ of a gemstone which means a gemstones’ resistance to scratching.
There is a scale we use called “Mohs scale of mineral hardness” that goes from 1 – 10; 1 being the softest material such as talc, and 10 being the hardest material – diamond.
And you should know that the best gemstones to be worn in rings should be of a hardness 7 or higher.
When you want gemstones for earrings or a necklace they can be a bit lower than that as earrings have less blows to absorb than rings.
And if this is all a bit too technical for you, I can only say simply go for beauty when comparing different stones next to each other. These stones have been a tool of adornment forever throughout history for one most important reason, their beauty.
And – when different stones are placed next to each other for comparison – even an amateur will often pick out a beautiful stone; though you may not know exactly why.
You’ll simply find that a certain color or its particular brilliance, or cut or just the whole package together will appeal to you the most; then I’d say go with that one.
After all, this is a highly subjective, emotional and intimate purchase that you should feel wonderful about!
4. Do you have a favorite gem? And what’s your birthday gemstone?
Such a difficult choice! As I know their special backgrounds… but – like most women;) – I can love a different color and stone depending on the clothing style, the occasion, and the effect I want to create that day or night. They are so versatile.
But if you force me to make a choice, one of my secret top stones is definitely a ‘spinel’. A stone very few people know of. It grows often in the same mine as rubies, is even rarer and usually of better quality than rubies!
(Picture above: ice-blue and lilac Spinels that could make for a sparkling engagement ring)
It’s the favorite color stone of many gemdealers and gem connoisseurs, and a historic stone that can be found in many Crown jewels across the world; such as in the Crown Jewels of Queen Elizabeth or in the old Russian Imperial Crown Jewels where big red spinels can be found.
I love this stone because of the beautiful colors it comes in; ranging from traffic light red to ice blue or sexy grey and light pastel pinks. Also, because of its great ‘hardness‘ (so, it won’t scratch easily), fantastic inherent brilliance, and the fact it’s not ‘treated’ (something I can explain another time;)).
Another favorite of mine is the blue sapphire (or the ‘high and mighty blue sapphire’ as I’d like to call it!).
(Picture above: 3 exquisite blue Sapphires I came across during my last trip to Bangkok a few weeks ago. Very, very hard to find these quality stones, esp. the middle ‘Cornflower’ and the right ‘Royal Blue’ Sapphires. The left one is a 5 carat+ stone for a customer; it took me 6 months to find this color, size and excellent cut)
This is another historic stone whose intense blue color has been the benchmark to measure all other blue gemstones against. I actually just purchased a stunning 5ct+ blue sapphire in Bangkok for a client and its sparkling blue is breath-taking. It took me 6 months to find this color, size and excellent cut!
This is a much coveted stone and color that is loved by many, cherished by royalty and often found at auctions of Sotheby’s and Christies…
As for birthday gemstones… we don’t actually know that concept in Holland or northern Europe as much as in the USA.
So, I had to look this one up and saw that it’s the aquamarine and bloodstone. Aquamarine belongs to the family of ‘beryl’, to which also emeralds belongs, and I love its famous light blue color that reminds of the sea and summer, so not a bad birthstone I’d say;)).
5. When shopping for gems do you have any tips on where they should be purchased?
I’d advise you to go to a quality jeweller and see if they can help you with this: they may either offer you some stones themselves – or may direct you to a renowned gem dealer. Try to purchase only from a certified dealer or jeweller, preferably one who is a certified gemologist too or who has a gemologist on staff!
And it’s also great to try to see the stones for yourself, this way, you can be sure that you love the color, the carat size and everything else about it. This will minimise your risks of disappointment.
Of course, you can also contact me to help you find the perfect loose (i.e. unset) color stone to be set in a custom jewelry piece for you or to help you find a ready-to-wear jewelry piece that has been set with color stones (you can find my website here).
I travel a lot worldwide to source and select only the best quality colored stones.
And I hope you’ll enjoy this colorful adventure just as much as I do!