The Third C - Using Color in Design

The Third C - Using Color in Design

Finally, let’s get back to talking about color. In this final entry in our discussion about color and gemstones, I want to focus on how I like to use color in design.

First, a little background. When I first started making jewelry, I was using beads. I initially strung up glass beads and Swarovski crystals with base metal spacers but I very quickly graduated up to gemstone beads and wire wrapping. Since natural gemstone beads don’t come in just any pantone color, I realized that combining colors for a pleasing result could be challenging.

What helped me was mixing color “themes” either on tissue paper or a white plate. I pulled some beads off the strands, mixing until I had the right colors, the right proportions of those colors, and the right metal for spacers. (I used to have a LOT of beads). 

I still work this way. As we carry a lot of melee gems, I can lay them out together until I have a combination I like, and I can use the little sticky boxes from Stuller to make gems face right side up. But given that I’ve done this for over a decade, I can offer some shortcuts:

    1. Start with the gem you really want to use. This does not have to be the focal gem, it might be a single accent stone or a few melee. In many of my designs, the center stone is the complement and the side stones the attraction. This makes particular sense when the bigger stones are too expensive.
      Mexican Fire Opal and Ruby Ring
      Mexican Fire Opal and Ruby Ring
      Malaya Garnet and Paraiba Tourmaline Ring
      Malaya Garnet and Paraiba Tourmaline Ring
    2. Once you have your main focus, you work on complementing it. I personally like working tone in tone, meaning ombres or gems of the same variety because they always seem like they belong together. But availability doesn’t always allow for that, so another way to go is contrastive: pinks and greens, purples and blues, peach and teal, pink and orange, yellow and purple. Always keeping in mind which color should be dominant.
Pink Sapphire and Emerald Ring (Camellia Ring)
Our Camellia Ring Featuring Pink Sapphire and Emerald
Malaya Garnet, Ruby and Diamond (Camellia Ring)
Our Camellia Ring Featuring Malaya Garnet, Ruby and Diamond
Malaya garnet and Kornerupine (large Cocktail Ring)
Large Cocktail Ring Featuring Malaya Garnet and Kornerupine


All Sapphire (Kite Style Pendant)
Kite Style Pendant Pendant Featuring Multi-Colored Sapphires


Diamond, Paraiba and Hauyne (Juliette Ring)
Our Juliette Ring Featuring Diamond, Paraiba and Hauyne


Zircon and Red Spinel (Rosette Ring)
Our Rosette Ring Featuring Zircon and Red Spinel
Gatsby Malaya Garnet Kornerupine
Our Gatsby Pendant Featuring Malaya Garnet and Kornerupine


    1. Metal is a color. Here’s a link to the blog I did on metals. Rose gold blends the most with other colors, yellow gold is a totally independent color, white gold cools the temperature but can look like too much metal if the side stone gems are not diamonds.
      zircon mint garnet Camellia
      Our Camellia Pendant Featuring Zircon and Mint Garnet


  1. Don’t forget that gemstones have other properties besides color, and they matter. Gems can be transparent (aquamarine) or satiny (emerald), and it’s often easier to combine just transparent and just satiny stones, unless again you are trying to complement. Gems also range from very brilliant (diamond) to almost not brilliant at all (Paraiba Tourmaline). Combining these will be more contrastive, less complementary.
    Paraiba and Diamond (Cleo Ring)
    Our Cleo Ring, Featuring Paraiba Tourmaline and Diamond
    Paraiba and Hauyne Ring
    Paraiba Tourmaline and Hauyne Ring


  2. Natural gemstones also have hues, bi-color effects, color change, di- and tri-chroism, all of which have to be considered in the overall color scheme. For example, purple-pink sapphires often have a bi-color effect that is due to zoning in the gem. Sphene, kornerupine and unheated tanzanite often exhibit some degree of di or tri-chroism, and some garnet, sapphire and alexandrite exhibit color change. For gems like this, it’s best to complement the colors that are already there, as opposed to trying to introduce an entirely new color.
    Purple Garnet, Mahenge Spinel, Tanzanite, & Cobalt Spinel
    Purple Garnet, Mahenge Spinel, Tanzanite, and Cobalt Spinel


    Purple Garnet and color change garnet (Edwardian ring)
    Our Edwardian Ring Featuring Purple Garnet and Color Change Garnet


    Purple Garnet, Hauyne and Mahenge Spinel (Tudor Pendant)
    Our Tudor Pendant, Featuring Purple Garnet, Hauyne and Mahenge Spinel


    Elizabeth Ring with Sphene
    Elizabeth Ring Featuring Sphene

One final tip. When I first learned how to use a real camera, back in 1982, my dad’s simple advice was this: if you don’t like the way it looks through the camera, don’t take the picture. In other words, trust what you see, not what you want to see. If you don’t like a combo, don’t try to like it, it won’t work. I often used to make pieces where after an initial ever so brilliant idea, my reaction to the actual combination was “meh.” Most of those pieces had to be sold at discount. That’s not a mistake you need to repeat. ☺️

Continue reading

The Three C’s of CRD: Color, Color, and Color

The Three C’s of CRD: Color, Color, and Color

What is the one thing, the main thing, that draws people to my shop? I think it’s color.  Any aspect of it really.  I get questions about gem color combinations, about how to work with different gold colors, questions about the color of gems from specific locations as well as gemstone pricing and value based on color.  My best-selling gems and jewels sell because of their colors.

When I look for gems to curate in the shop, I care about cut, treatment origin, rarity, but most of all, I care about color.  Color is my big C, the three other c’s (clarity, cut, carat) are secondary.  Cecile, my middle name, is C for Color (ok, I just made that up)!

It only makes sense, therefore, to talk more about color.  I’ve written many such blogs before, so for those of you who read everything I write, this is in part review.  This blog focuses on metal colors, the next two blogs will discuss the importance of color in selecting gemstones, and how to combine gem colors in jewelry design.

How Metal colors affect design:

Yellow Gold

Yellow gold has a very traditional but also timeless look, and it is a color enhancer for most gemstone combinations.  When designing with it, you should treat it as an additional color, so you need to work it in and think of it as adding yellow tones or warmth to your layout. Yellow gold can be combined with warm and cooler gemstone combos. In higher carats it’s great for working with soft stones. This is one reason why so much emerald jewelry is made in yellow gold.



Rose Gold

Rose gold blends well with most designs and skin tones; it enhances pinks, it contrasts with blues and greens, and all in all provides a softer contrast to color designs than yellow gold.  It’s a go to for me because it runs no interference with my color layouts, but I have heard from clients that it doesn’t work well on yellowish skin. So you should try it first before you splurge. For setting purposes, it’s as hard as white gold.


rose gold earrings with tsavorite and pink tourmaline
rose gold earrings with tsavorite and pink tourmaline


rose gold bracelet with rubies
rose gold bracelet with rubies


pendant with zircon, color change garnet, purple garnet
pendant with zircon, color change garnet, purple garnet


White Gold

While slightly contrastive, white gold can wash out softer colors, so it’s best used with very vibrant tones that hold their own. I personally love white gold with neon red, for instance, but also with strong greens like Colombian emerald from Muzo. White gold is a “go to” metal for white diamonds because the diamonds blend with the white metal and make them look bigger. But for this reason, you have to consider that colored stone halos can have a sort of “metal” look when you use halo gems that are too small (you don’t face this problem with white diamonds). I find that with white gold the “metal look” can be stronger than with yellow or rose gold (the same is true for platinum). On the practical side, white gold needs to be rhodium plated on occasion, as rhodium rubs off over time, especially in rings.


white gold pendant with zircon, mint garnet, tsavorite and pink tourmaline
white gold pendant with zircon, mint garnet, tsavorite and pink tourmaline


Other gold colors: there’s green gold, peach gold, and a kind of grey gold on the market.  I rarely use any, but here are some pointers. 


Platinum mostly works like white gold but it is actually a little bit colder in tone. To some people it looks greyish actually. However, in the current market it has the same price as 18kt gold so you might consider it as it ups the value of your piece at little extra cost – don’t forget that platinum is heavier than white gold (so if you have a metal weight in gold you need to convert it before you calculate the cost).  Secondly, it is very easy for a setter to work with, especially when you are dealing with soft stones like Paraiba tourmaline. Nevertheless it lasts very well.


Other Metals

There are actually several other colors of gold available on the market today.

Green gold is really a cooler tone of yellow gold (sometimes described as olive). It is often cast in 18 kt because it looks too faint in 14.  Green gold tones are in style so you may well have 18k gold jewelry that is officially yellow but has a cooler tone (so it’s closer to green gold than to yellow). If you like the more yellow look, then you might consider using 18 kt Royal gold (my casting service offers this, but only in 18, not in 14).


Peach gold is half way between rose gold and yellow gold. It’s not a loud color, softer than either rose or yellow in fact. You can use it to bring out yellow and peach or orange tones, or use it contrastively.  I made a peach gold ring with a lavender halo and a pad-like orange sapphire that looked great and sold quickly.



14 Kt Peach Gold Spinel and Paraiba Ring
14K Peach Gold Spinel and Paraiba Ring


Cocoa gold, as my casting service calls it, can be used in lieu of black rhodium and it won’t come off. It’s not as dark as black rhodium but rather has a hint of brown or grey depending on the light. I have not experimented with it to be honest, as it doesn’t work with my style. I think it would look great with white diamond or spinel, or with cooler blues. My mind’s eye envisions it set with hauyne and diamond.

A quick note on silver

Silver is a cheap metal, and great to work with for setting, but: (a) if you don’t like the oxidized look, that’s a problem because unless you submerge it in silver cleaner, it will not completely come off, and of course it will reappear. And (b), it IS soft. Silver prongs will break off easily, and a dainty ring can bend. If you have a nice stone to set, just save up for gold! Also, while we can in principle cast in yellow and pink silver, we strongly recommend against it as it oxidizes strongly and then looks quite ugly. 


silver sunflower pendant with kyanite
silver sunflower pendant with kyanite


There’s such a thing as platinum silver too, which is 92.5% silver and 3-6% platinum.  It will oxidize, albeit more slowly, and it is a little heavier. It will generally last better than silver, but not as well as gold.

At CRD, our go to metals are 18 and 14 kt yellow gold, 14 kt white and rose gold, and platinum. On special request, we can design in any other metal listed here, as well as 18K Palladium.



18K Rose Gold Emerald hauyne flower ring
18K Rose Gold Emerald hauyne flower ring


For more information, have a look at the website of our casting service here

Continue reading