Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy Holidays from 18Karat

Just in time for the Holidays -
18Karat is excited to introduce a Canadian designer new to our shop - Keith Jack!
All of his items are handmade from sterling silver, 18k yellow gold, and 24k gold gilding - every item possess a lovely attention to detail both back and front.
Here are a few of our favorite pieces:

From the Tree of Life Collection - a beautiful sterling silver and 18k yellow gold accented framed tree pendant with an 18 inch sterling silver chain.
From the Tree of Life Collection - sterling silver and 18k yellow gold accented tree-shaped drop earrings.
From the Window to the Soul Collection - a sterling silver and 24k gilded pierced pendant on an 18 inch sterling silver chain.
From the Window to the Soul Collection - sterling silver and 24k gilded pierced drop earrings with french-back closures.
From the Tree of Life Collection - a striking sterling silver and 18k yellow gold accented framed tree pendant with an 18 inch sterling silver chain.

Handmade jewellery from a Canadian artist couldn't make for a more perfect gift this Holiday Season - from now until December 23rd all Keith Jack jewellery is 25% off!

Monday, August 1, 2011


You have heard us say it before - jewellery is special in the way that it carries our stories and shares our history. It commemorates our past and our future and some of our most major milestones. It reminds us of important people and places.

But sometime the best gifts are the ones we give ourselves.

That is why this August, 18Karat will be giving away a $150 Gift Card to one lucky winner of our Facebook Giveaway.

Use this gift card to purchase a beautiful ring, pendent, bracelet, or earrings handcrafted by our Master Goldsmith Dino Giannetti.

Visit our Facebook page and view the gift card terms and conditions here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ammolite Amulets

Ammolite is undeniably the Canadian gemstone and one of the rarest gemstones on the planet. As rare as red diamonds, ammolite is only found along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains.

Ammolite has characteristics similar to opals, but they are actually the fossilized shells of Ammonites - extinct marine invertebrates closely related to present day octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish. The stones themselves are composed of aragonite, the same mineral that makes up a pearls nacre.

Ammolite is a very fragile material, prone to flaking and disintegrating. To prevent this, ammolite is impregnated with a clear epoxy or synthetic resin that coats the stone, protecting it from damage - similar to the treatment opals undergo.

We just picked up these stunning, and very large ammolites - now we have to figure out what to do with them!

Monday, June 6, 2011

1980's - a mini-fashion history

(the cast of season 6 of Dynasty)

Love it or hate it - the 80's was a decade that aimed at discovering, promoting, and setting apart the individual. Soap operas such as Dynasty and Dallas made conspicuous consumption fashionable - bulky gold necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings along with flashy diamonds and pearls became acceptable accessories both during the day as well as at night.

Perhaps the most iconic trend of the 80's was the angular and tailored silhouette of the power suit - thanks in large part rise of shoulder pads. Where as in the 1970's close fitting tops were paired with flared and wide-legged jeans and trousers, the 80's was the exact opposite - skinny legs with wide and often shimmering tops.

This trend gave rise to the much reviled Yuppie movement - as younger people began to rise the corporate ladder their need to demonstrate their new found success became front and center. Designer fashions and fine gold jewellery were an important way to tell the world that you had arrived and that everything - wealth, success, and power - were all at your fingertips.(Large gemstones and even bigger hair)

For the first time in over a decade 'dressing up' and occasion-wear became fashionable again - with those who could not afford diamond and gemstone brooches, earrings, necklaces, and rings pushing a resurgence in costume jewellery - complete with all the diamante jeweller's glue could hold.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was the punk movement which had by 80's more or less reached the mainstream. Born in the 1970's early punk was motivated by anti-materialism and a revolt againts the perceived excess and pretension of mainstream society, especially mainstream music. Dirty, torn, second-hand clothing were punks' answer to the glam-rock that dotted the 70's music scene. By the 1980's fashion designers like Vivian Westwood and Malcom McLaren were producing punk-inspired styles, featuring ripped fishnet stockings, offensive t-shirts, spikes, and BDSM-inspired collars. It wasn't long before punk trends were found in glamorous fashion magazines and other media.

(Adam Ant - voted one of the sexiest men of the 80's by MTV)

But the trend that begs the title for most unique of 1980 must be the New Romantics - epitomized by characters like Adam Ant and Boy George. The New Romantics adopted fictional and factual themes from history and Hollywood - including billowing silken fabric and lace - to create a look that epitomized the dramatic, the flamboyant, and the ever-so-slightly narcissistic. The New Romantics movement peaked in the mid-80's with new-wave bands such as Duran Duran spreading the trend through MTV.
1980's Crystalline Ring by Dino Giannetti - available in sterling silver with a square-cut blue topaz at 18Karat.

This ring immediately reminded me of the geometric-trapezoidal forms that were so popular in the 1980's - for me it recalls the magical landscapes found in those fantastical 80's movies like The Dark Crystal or The Labyrinth. David Bowie!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

1970's - a mini-fashion history

Just like the 1960's - the decade to follow was an amalgamation of contrasting styles and aesthetics. The androgynous hippie born in the late 60's, with their bell-bottoms and long hair, continued throughout the 70's.

Nature themes and ethnic influences were at the forefront, with fashion and jewellery heavily influenced by Indian, Egyptian, Asian, and Native American styles. Wood, leather, pukka shells, turquoise, and opals were popular for their rough, raw, and organic forms.

The 70's also gave rise to the glam rock and punk movements that would only gain strength throughout the 80's - including ripped jeans, torn shirts, and safety-pin jewellery. But my favorite movement from the 70's would have to be the art nouveau revival that seemed to sweep across the decade almost unconsciously. It was not so much a movement that cherished the past as being a better time (as we so eagerly do today) but a revolt against the often grim and soul-less modular expressions of 60's art and architecture. Flat geometric shapes gave rise to a wave of the 'psychadellic' that was popular with graphic artists and designers - particularly when it came to album covers, band posters, advertisements and film.

(poster by Bonnie MacLean for The Yardbirds)

I love the contrast between the rigid and controlled aesthetic of the 1960's and the "oddly disturbing, writhing forms, and almost erotic character" of art nouveau, (check out this great article from Time Magazine about the revival, when it was just beginning).

(Art Nouveau ring by Dino Giannetti - available in sterling silver at 18Karat)

This ring was hand-carved out of wax by Dino in the 1970's - it's remarkable the amount of detail that remains from the casting. The band consists of a woman and a small child lost in a wave of billowing silk - to form of the woman's body creates the band itself.
(Woodgrain Ring by Dino Giannetti - available in sterling silver at 18Karat)

After finding this wax, I couldn't help but to have it cast. Being a child of the 80's, wood-paneling was a ghost from the past that only reared its head when visiting your grandparents basement. But somehow, as a piece of jewellery, I find it to be very compelling - especially the contrast between the rings grain and smooth skin.

Monday, May 16, 2011

1960's - a mini-fashion history

(Twiggy - doe eyes and pink mini-dress)

The 1960's was the decade of 'anything goes' - a decade of rapid and unprecedented change both politically and culturally. The miniskirts, platforms, and PVC of the Mods mixed with the crushed velvet, brocade waste coats, and long hair of the Edwardian resurgence.
(Mick Jagger - photo by Colin Jones)

One of the most prominent movements, centered in London, was youthquake - a movement that recognized for the first time the power of youth to influence fashion and culture. The youthquake movement marked the moment teenage spending had reached never before seen levels - teenagers for the first time had money to burn.

Super models Jean Shrimpton
and Twiggy became the fashion icons of the 1960's with designers Mary Quant (inventor of both the mini-skirt and hot pants) and Betsey Johnson at the helm of the youthquake movement.

In jewellery, over-sized and abstract forms were the foundation of every good collection. Every piece was to be a statement piece, using extra large gemstones - mainly quartz and cabochons resting in bulky, organically inspired settings. Big earrings, big beads, bangles, and cocktail rings were fundamental.
(1960's Sea Shell Ring - by Dino Giannetti. Available in sterling silver at 18Karat)

This rings is one of my favorites - cast from a wax Dino originally created in 1968 - this ring successfully partners a substantial volume with graceful design. The ring seems to effortlessly bellow - like sheets hung out to dry, blowing in the wind.
A classic.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

BOLDLY - updates.

Our charity event is now only 9 days away and we have some exciting updates.

Not only have some wonderfully talented musicians joined the event - Philippe Escayola, Melissa Azore and the Midburns.

We also have some wonderful prizes to be raffled - including a 5ct. cushion cut Zultanite stone cut by the Wobito brothers (remember our field trip?)

If you haven't bought your ticket yet, what are you waiting for?
Join us for beautiful jewellery, hors d'oeuvres, an open bar and fundraising this April 28th from 6 - 9 pm at the SHAMBA foundation, #1200-48 Yonge Street, Toronto.

Monday, April 11, 2011

BOLDLY - a charity event.

BOLDLY started as a small charity auction that grew into an evening event that is now growing to be a bit of an entertainment hot-spot!

Some incredibly talented musicians have now joined the BOLDLY lineup - come enjoy the musical stylings of Phillipe Escayola and Melissa Azore alongside The Midburns featuring Jamen Dunnings, Kyle Laurin, and Yash Presswalla.

Come out and support Toronto artists (and musicians!) and the Assaulted Women's Helpline at BOLDLY.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

FIELD TRIP - Wobito Custom Gem Cutting

Last Saturday I tagged along with Dino and his family to visit the world renowned Wobito Brothers in Stouffville, Ontario. The two brothers are third generation Master Gem Cutters, and Rudi generously spent a couple of hours showing us around the studio - demonstrating the many gem-cutting stages.

Not only are the Wobito brothers known for their unusual cuts (more on the Wobito Snowflake later) they are also the cutters the world turns to when exceptionally rare stones must be cut. As a matter of fact, they are the sole cutters of Zultanite, one of the rarest and most recently discovered gemstones.
(Zultanite rough)
All of the Zultanite rough mined exclusively in Turkey's Anatolian Mountains are shipped to the Wobito brothers - they must examine each piece and select the rough that will yield the largest and most beautiful stones. The rest are shipped to a cutting factory in India or Brazil.

(Rudi examines the rough)
Only a very small percentage of each piece of rough will ultimately be used to create a gemstone - much of the rough is riddled with inclusions and fractures that make it unusable. A Master Cutter like Rudi can look at a rough and map out the parts that will yield that largest and best stones. Some rough will only yield one stone while others will ultimately produce a couple.
(Rudi carefully saws a piece of Zultanite rough)
Using a diamond coated saw-blade, Rudi carefully separates the useable from the un-usable. In almost every gem-cutting process, water plays an integral roll – surrounding the saw is a wet cloth, this helps to prevent the stone from overheating and shattering.
(The rough must know be formed into a general shape.)
Using diamond coated grinding wheels with various grits, the Zultanite rough is shaped into a more recognizable form - be it a round, oval, square, etc. Again, notice the wet cloths.
(to be further shaped, faceted and polished the stone must be attached to a dop stick)
Using wax and heat, the stone is attached to a dop stick, allowing the stone to be more accurately handled during the extremely precise stages to follow. Notice how many of the cutting processes are done almost entirely by eye.
(Rudi continues to shape the stone.)
The stones final shape is now formed, meeting whatever size requirements a customer has requested. Here Rudi shapes the tablet of the stone and the foundation for facets is laid.
(Rudi facets the stone)
Most gemstones require many many facets, all cut into the stone to ensure its maximum sparkle. These facets must be ground into the stone individually and it happens quickly - there is no room for error if the facet is cut in the wrong place or the wrong size.
(Rudi polishes each individual facet)
After all of the facets are cut into the stone, they must now be individually polished. This is done by using a finer grit of diamond dust.
(Rudi describes the tools he uses)
You may think that a process as precise as gem-cutting would be more automated, but you will probably be even more surprised to learn that the majority of the tools and machines used by the Wobito brothers are actually of their own construction and design. Many of the grinding wheels like the one pictured above are cast, formed, and coated in diamond dust in their shop - as a matter of fact 1/4 of the studio is filled with equipment needed to make gem-cutting equipment.
(The final product, a cut and polished Zultanite)
My photos certainly don't do Zultanite justice - they barely capture Zultanite's main colour, and certainly don't hint at the stones lovely colour changes. For that, I turn to the Zultanite website.
Zultanite appears differently depending on what light it is viewed under - from a gold-green to a gold-pink and everywhere in between.

But, Zultanite is certainly not the only gemstone the Wobito brothers cut - they make gem-cutting a bona-fide art form.
(a gemstone sculpture)
(a gemstone perfume bottle)
(the trademarked Wobito Snowflake)

Now I ask you, who would ever lust after a round cut diamond after seeing what the Wobito brothers are capable of? Standard stones are just plain boring to me now - thanks Wobito Brothers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

BUYER BEWARE - Invisible Settings

Imagine a vast expanse of glittering diamonds...

Invisible settings have become very popular in the last decade and for obvious reasons - get the illusion of a much larger diamond using many smaller stones with a more affordable price tag.

Illusion settings are created using smaller stones, in the example to the right four smaller princess cut stones are set directly beside each other to give the impression of a large singular stone.

Except for the four corners of the setting, there are no claws or bezels holding the stones in place - they seem to just be floating in place.

But underneath the stone is a grid that supports the stones from beneath. What you can't see is that there are actually small grooves cut into the stones themselves - the metal slides into these grooves, effectively 'snapping' the stones in place.

Pretty ingenious if you ask me, but I had noticed a steady stream of these settings - always rings - coming into the shop. And more peculiar then that, I was surprised at how reluctant Dino, the goldsmith who loves a good challenge, was to work them.

"There is very little material holding these stones into place and any slight impact could disrupt the tension needed to keep everything together. Any slight shift could cause the stones to fall out or chip. The stones are essentially rubbing together and one whack could cause the diamonds to crack one and other."

"Replacing a stone that has fallen out or chipped not only means having a new stone cut with the v-groove needed to 'snap' the diamond in place - but there is no guarantee that this diamond or the other stones in the setting won't come loose during the repair or after the customer leaves the shop."

"Even the most basic repairs or maintenance of these pieces puts the whole setting at risk. The vibrations caused by the polishing wheel or ultra-sonic (used to clean the inside crevices) could cause stones to pop out".

"It is a beautiful look - but for everyday rings especia
lly - they truly are a goldsmiths nightmare. Anyone with one of these settings that are in need of repair or even a good cleaning will not only face an expensive repair but will have difficulty finding a goldsmith willing and more importantly able to do the job."

Knowing that we have and continue to repair these settings, I asked Dino to give me some insight into why these settings were so costly and time consuming to repair. He explained how in some cases, the entire setting would have to be rebuilt from scratch with a thin bezel being added to the top of the setting to hold the stones - that would need to also be reset - more securely. Reconstructing the setting in this was would cost several hundred dollars.

"Most people are shocked to find out how much repairs to these settings will cost, but since many of these settings are sold as engagement rings there is a big emotional connection to each piece. And this can put people in a painful predicament - having spent money on a ring that is so quickly in need of major repair."

I asked Dino why we had never used this setting in our own work - Dino obviously liked the look of the setting and had seemed to problem solve many of the settings flaws.

"It is not worth it. I almost did, especially when these rings first hit the ma
rket and some beautiful work was being produced in this style and they were in huge demand. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that we could not risk our integrity as goldsmiths to create something just because it would be an easy sell."

"The very nature of the beast means that there is only so much you can do
to bolster the strength of the setting and it will never be at a level that I would be comfortable with. Our business is based on a loyal client base - customers who come back again and again and refer their friends either for custom work or repairs and selling an item that I could not stand behind 100% could mean loosing a customer and jeopardizing our integrity as goldsmiths. I would always wonder if today is the day my customer is going to come back - dissatisfied with a piece I knew was potentially problematic."

I am no Master Goldsmith, but what I do know is that sometimes, no matter how much we know we shouldn't.. we do it anyways and that most certainly applies to jewellery. I have seen some invisible settings that are remarkable for the way they give the illusion of diamonds seamlessly spread across bands, along shanks and around bezels - as if the rings were carved out of a giant diamond itself. And because of the beauty of these rings, invisible settings are most definitely here to stay.

But most importantly - know the risks. Make sure you are educated about the jewellery you are about to purchase, not only because of the money you are spending but also because nothing hurts your heart more then having the jewellery pieces you saved for or were given by your sweetheart fall apart before your eyes.

This post is going to be first in a series - I learn something new everyday at 18Karat and I hope to share these little tidbits with our readers.

If you have a question, ask us and we will post our answers - combined, we have over 83 years experience! (Guess who makes up the 3, wink wink).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

BOLDLY - Celebrating Strength and Courage

A charity event in benefit of the Assaulted Women's Helpline.

18Karat has been working so so so so hard to put all the delicate pieces that make up BOLDLY and we can hardly believe that it is only weeks away!

Over a year in the making, BOLDLY has brought together local businesses and artists to create an fund-raising event like no other - one that brings together art, fashion, and music at no cost to the charity – all the funds raised at the event and the charity auction go directly to the Assaulted Women's Helpline.

Support BOLDLY - support local artists, businesses like ours, and the Assaulted Women's Helpline by visiting www.thinkboldly.ca, follow the event blog at www.thinkboldlyevent.blogspot.com, and become a Facebook Fan.

Did I mention there was beautiful jewellery to covet? Go check it out!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

24 hours till Love Letters Contest closes!!

24 hours and a diamond and a pair of luscious pearl earrings hang in the balance.

That's because 18Karat's Love Letters Contest comes to a close tomorrow at 5pm Toronto time.

Win it for your sweetheart.
Win it for yourself.

Send us your letters and and show Cupid who's boss.

Submit your letters here.

Check out our diamond winner!
Someone got a dazzling Valentine's Day gift!

Monday, January 31, 2011


Valentine's Day is just around the corner - and what better way to say Je t'adore then with a love letter.... and some dazzling gems!

Send 18Karat your love letters and you could win:
– a loose Canadian diamond (a retail value of $550)
– a pair of handmade silver and pearl earrings by Toronto artist Kathryn Rebecca (a retail value of $130)

Submit your letters here and you could win gems just in time for Valentine's day!
Contest ends February 11th.

Handmade silver and pearl earrings
by Kathryn Rebecca.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

18Karat's Featured Artist - Kathryn Rebecca

For two years now 18Karat has invited local jewellery artists into our shop - promoting and selling their work alongside our own. We have met many exciting and talented jewellers that we thought it was about time to introduce one to you.

Kathryn Rebecca is a new addition to our shop. We met her during last years RED show featuring the artists of Jewel Envy studio.

Here's my mini-interview with Kathryn:

Where do you come from and what brought you to the city?
I grew up in Bala, a quaint town in beautiful Muskoka, ON. I moved to Toronto in order to attend George Brown College for the Jewellery Arts program.
(right) Kathryn Rebecca

What got you started in jewellery?
I have always loved the excitement of creativity. Letting your imagination come up with a concept or idea and then using your hands to bring that idea to a reality is such a fun process. As I thought about what to do for post-secondary education, I looked at what I loved to do in my spare time and decided to pursue my passion. I strove to choose a career I loved and I'm thankful that thus far it has proven to be a successful strategy!

Do you prefer the designing or the constructing?
I don't prefer one to the other. Designing is a time of excitement and anticipation, which is amazing. Constructing is a time of bringing the designs to reality and coming up against issues that may not have been accounted for in the design process; you have to use your creativity and experience to come up with solutions along the way. The sense of satisfaction I receive from soldering a tricky seam keeps me passionate about constructing jewellery.

What inspires you?
My love for nature and for the city and the challenge of combining these two areas of inspiration.
In custom work, I am often inspired by the love a piece of jewellery can represent. I'm proud to create pieces that can help capture some of that love and mean something special to my client.
I am also very blessed to have amazing family and friends who inspire and encourage me daily!

Who are your favorite designers?
I have so many favorites!!! I love designers who have started small and worked hard to get to where they are. I have a lot of respect for goldsmiths with more experience than myself. A few examples of these are Anne Sportun, Shelly Purdy and Massimo and Dino Giannetti. Other designers I love are Jelena of Poppyseed living, who does beautiful refinished furniture, and Karen Carrillo of KooCoo, who does quality made clothes and accessories. It is so encouraging to get to know fellow entrepreneurs!

Like what you see? From now until February 11th, 18Karat will be giving away a pair of Kathryn Rebecca's silver and pearl handmade Poppy Earrings to one lucky letter writer in our Love Letters Contest.
Click here for more information.