Engagement Series Part 5: What a Men's Band Means

Ringin' your bell

Alright, it's time for some real talk about "men's issues" here. We get a lot of men exclaiming that they want the cheapest thing they can find for their wedding band. Make it out of beer tabs, whatever! Rubber gasket, why not? Now, when this exchange happens in the store, we can't help but cringe internally and seeing the subtle pained shifts in his partner's emotions is definitely awkward. It's the sexiest thing you'll ever wear, according to your #1. We've seen new wives lose it and literally start kissing their husbands hands at the wedding reception because it's such a meaningful object. Just to clear things up, a rubber gasket is much less sexy than a gold or platinum band--and that kind of talk is hurtful because it reflects on how invested you are in the relationship. 

Heirloom is a topic we discuss around here at least once a week. That word is our touchstone and how we make decisions about what we buy and make. It's the reason we don't offer wood wedding bands, hyper trendy items, or anything made out of a material that isn't proven to be something you couldn't pass onto a loved one when the time comes. We believe that the jewelry we provide here is significant and part of the larger human traditions of adornment, storytelling, and heritage. 

A wedding band can be made of any number of materials, but around here we focus on precious metals. We believe a wedding band needs to hold up to the rigors of realistic daily wear and tear, and we help you make the decision for material based on your day-to-day activities. We steer clear of materials that we know won't withstand the test of time--we've seen the concrete in a concrete/stainless steel band completely wash away, and we don't want that for you! 


Let's talk materials

Yellow Gold

Our all time bae, gold is our favorite material to work with but we understand some people just aren't into it. While it is one of the most expensive materials for bands, lower karat alloys can make it much more affordable while still maintaining integrity over years of wear. At a higher karat (20k to 24k), the gold will have a deep sunny hue and be more prone to denting and scratching, which is romantic to us--it's evidence of time and effort put into your marriage. Lower karat (10k to 14k) will be a paler tone and be more resistant to scratching. There is a common belief that you can't wear gold if you work with your hands, which is definitely a misconception. Regardless of the material, if your job description involves something that could involve injury to your hands, you should just take it off before you start for the day. That means you, welders, woodworkers, weight lifters, electricians, et al! 

 

White Gold

An alternative to platinum for those who want the silvery color without the expense. White gold is naturally a deep grey tone, so it is frequently plated with rhodium to make it appear brighter. We offer plated and non-plated options for white gold wedding bands. That being said, we generally prefer making white bands out of a palladium alloy because it cuts nickel out of the equation, which many people are allergic to.

 

Platinum & Palladium

Platinum is an extremely popular metal for men's wedding bands because of its neutral tone and durability. It is more resistant to scratching and denting than gold and its cost is similar to that of gold. Because the color of platinum is naturally bright silver, it does not have to be re-plated like white gold. Palladium is in the same metal family as platinum, but is less expensive and slightly less durable, but will still withstand a lifetime of wear. 

 

Things that exist out in the world, but not here

Tungsten & Titanium

While titanium and tungsten can make for what seems like an inexpensive alternative to gold and platinum, we're not the biggest fans around here. Neither titanium nor tungsten can be sized when your finger changes, which is a deal breaker for us. For something with the emotional and psychological weight of a wedding band, we don't jive with the idea of just replacing something that represents the moment you made such a significant choice in your life. Tungsten can shatter if it is dropped because while it is very strong, it is also extremely brittle. 

 

Wood

Just... no. We understand the desire to be eco-friendly and to show your connectedness to the Big Mother, but is cutting down a tree the best way? The metal we use is recycled and as green as jewelry can get. The maintenance that comes with wood rings can be unrealistic for many people. They must be removed any time you work with abrasives or chemicals, any time you wash your hands because wood swells, and they can't be resized. While we think wood can be a very chic material for occasional wear, we rest our case for wedding bands. 

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Kate Cosden
Engagement Series, Part 4: Natural Color Diamonds

Let's get fancy.

Today we wanted to take on a question that intrigues a lot of people: What are fancy color diamonds and how do they get that way? This article has to be a leeeeeeettle bit academic to explain this topic, so I'm going to arm you with some facts for our foray into colorful diamonds. Lucky, there are only two terms you have to know. 
Crystal Lattice: This is the internal structure/substructure of the diamond. Much like how humans are made of cells or how fabric is made out of many, many threads, a diamond has microscopic structures that define how it behaves and what it looks like.
Plastic Deformation: An irreversible change in shape (aka deformation) of a solid object because of a sustained force.

Now! Onward and upward to knowledge!

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Common Natural Color Diamonds

Black Diamonds
Until about 15 years ago, all black diamonds were sent away for industrial use. Clever marketing and the following fashion trends that emerged changed that--I'm sure you've seen black diamond jewelry floating around the world. These diamonds look the way they do because of microscopic black or grey inclusions of graphite or sulfides, and/or possibly microscopic fractures (don't worry, your stone will hold together just fine). What we call "salt and pepper" diamonds occur when these inclusions are spread further apart. Brown diamonds that don't have an appealing tone can be treated to look like an opaque black diamond, but natural black stones are more valuable.


Opaque/Opalescent Diamonds
When people talk about colorless diamonds they frequently call them "white diamonds," which is actually a misnomer! An true white diamond has microscopic inclusions that scatter and bend light, resulting in a milky or opalescent appearance.


Brown Diamonds
Brown diamonds are the color most commonly found in nature. Much like black diamonds, these were exclusively used for industry until very recently. The color family has been divided into many different trade names, depending on the saturation of the color. Champagne, cognac, and chocolate diamonds are all the result of someone seeing the beauty in the uncommonly used stone and then marketing the heck out of it. You can generally get a brown diamond for less than any other color because they are not as vibrant than other tones. The presence of nitrogen in the stone causes the range of colors. 


Grey Diamonds
Falling right between a clear diamond and a black diamond, we have the grey diamond. These are found both cloudy and clear, with the cloudy variety found more readily. We love the stormy and steely tones commonly found in this family. The combination of hydrogen and nitrogen causes this color-way. 

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Rare Natural Color Diamonds

Green Diamonds
The green diamond is definitely one of the most interesting varieties. This rare diamond forms when it is exposed to radioactive rock during its "formative" years. Most green diamonds are very pale because the green tint is purely superficial (just a thin layer on the surface of the stone), which causes stone cutters to try to work as close to the surface as possible to preserve the color. Rarely does the radiation penetrate the entire lattice of the diamond, but it can happen. Due to its natural rarity, green diamonds are regarded with suspicion by diamond graders. The green color can be easily forced in a lab and it's nearly impossible to tell if the color is natural or not. 


Yellow/Orange Diamonds
Technically, these babies are formed with the same elements as brown diamonds, but yellow/oranges are much harder to find. Everything from a fancy canary colored diamond to a deep, dark chocolate diamond are formed by the presence of nitrogen. An orange diamond without any trace of yellow or brown tint is the rarest color to find.


Blue Diamonds 
A blue diamond might be the "purest" diamond in nature. The striking color comes from the presence of boron in the crystal lattice, with a higher concentration of the element lending a more intense color. The boron present is extremely sparse (we're talking 1 part per million or less) and for the diamond to stay blue there can't be other impurities (like pesky nitrogen) present in larger quantities in the stone. Even in a flawless, colorless diamond undetectable impurities will exist in higher quantities than the miniscule boron level in a blue diamond! In the event of a blue-green diamond, a combination of boron and naturally occurring radiation caused the color.


Pink Diamonds
When diamonds encounter even more pressure than normal while they were pushed through layers of earth, they end up with "graining." Graining is a deformation of the crystal structure of the diamond, creating different planes of color within the stone. Under a microscope a pink diamond will look like Zebra stripe gum, except with alternating pink and clear stripes. As of yet it's impossible to fake a pink diamond with the same grained structure, making fakes easy to spot. 


Pure Violet Diamond
These are extremely rare, most people will never see one of these. This elusive color is derived from the presence of hydrogen in the stone and as well as lattice change. The extreme pressure from the earth causes the diamond to rearrange itself rather than break, causing violet, pink, and red hues.


Red Diamonds
The all time rarest color, it is speculated that this breathtaking color is caused by plastic deformation of the stone. Between 1957 and 1987 the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) has no record of a diamond report with "red" as the sole description of color--that's 30 years that no one found one! Until the Argyle Mine opened in Australia, which has a deposit of red and pink diamonds, red diamonds only hit the market a handful of times. Even now, only a handful are found a year. It's so rare in fact, that we couldn't find an image of a rough red diamond to show you!

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Kate Cosden
Engagement Series, Part 3: Stone Shapes

The Princess and the Pear

Feeling overwhelmed with jewelry knowledge yet? Yes? Perfect, here's some more! Now that you know about diamond quality standards, let's talk about the shapes diamonds can take.

Left to right: Cushion, Asscher, Emerald, Radiant, Oval, Marquise, and Pear. Courtesy Lazare Kaplan Diamonds, via GIA

Left to right: Cushion, Asscher, Emerald, Radiant, Oval, Marquise, and Pear.
Courtesy Lazare Kaplan Diamonds, via GIA


Round

Timeless & classic. 

Soooooooo sparkly. 

Soooooooo sparkly. 

A round cut, also known as a brilliant cut, is by far the most popular choice for rings. More than 60% of brides choose this shape, which speaks to its appeal. Most jewelry stores will have the largest selection of round stones to choose from, but remember that the setting can totally change the feeling of the stone. Just because it's a round stone doesn't make it less unique, especially if you're getting a custom ring.

Bro tip: If you have no idea what shape she wants, this is a solid choice. 


Princess

Versatile & contemporary.

Princess cut diamond.

Princess cut diamond.

The second most popular choice, claiming an estimated 30% of the market. Interestingly, this shape for diamonds didn't officially enter the market until the 1970s (seriously, that's not a typo), so the world still has lots of exploring to do in terms of designing for it. This shape is as flexible to design for as a round, so it will look just as well suited in a slick modern piece as an ornate, vintage setting. The picture for the round diamond above will make every subsequent diamond look inferior, but the princess beats the round for their brilliance and fire.

Bro tip: Is she really into sparkle but a little less traditional? This is a good one for her.


Oval

Round, except squished.

The Pink Star exploded auction records when it sold for $71.2 million (!!!) in April 2017. The 59.60 ct (!!!) Internally Flawless (!!!), Fancy Vivid (!!!!!!!) pink diamond is an outrageous, albeit gorgeous, example of an oval shaped diamond. Courtesy: Sotheby’s

The Pink Star exploded auction records when it sold for $71.2 million (!!!) in April 2017. The 59.60 ct (!!!) Internally Flawless (!!!), Fancy Vivid (!!!!!!!) pink diamond is an outrageous, albeit gorgeous, example of an oval shaped diamond. Courtesy: Sotheby’s

Let's be real, there is a 99.99999999999% chance that you can't afford the ring above, but if you can, please shop here. If you are like the rest of us, we can hook you up with this shape. The oval is a great alternative to the classic round, but with the added bonus of magical visual finger elongating effects.

Bro tip: Princess Di had one (a sapphire, but still)! 


Cushion

Old & new.

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This is literally the oldest cut of diamond in the world, dating centuries back. In ye olden times, diamond cutting was extremely challenging because of limitations in tooling, so this shape gave the stones their signature sparkle but with less labor. Granted, the cutting techniques and faceting have been updated extensively since then, but the appeal remains. In recent years, it's become one of the top diamond choices.

Bro tip: With it's surge in popularity recently, we would say this is another safe pick if you're trying to keep it a surprise.


Asscher

It's getting glammy up in here.

8.06 carat vintage Cartier ring with Asscher cut diamond. Courtesy: 1stdibs.com

8.06 carat vintage Cartier ring with Asscher cut diamond. Courtesy: 1stdibs.com

We know, we know, the temptation is strong to make a joke about the name, but this cut has amazing qualities. The shape harkens back to Old Hollywood and Art Deco styling, so if your lady has an attraction to straight up glam, this is a good fit. For this shape, it's important to get a very clear stone because the nature of the cut and limited number of facets will make imperfections obvious.

Bro tip: You probably don't want to get this one unless you're sure she loves it, this cut can be polarizing.


Marquise

Vintage & unusual.

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This stone has a royal and romantic history. Louis XV commissioned a jeweler to make a diamond the shape of his mistress' lips, then it was adopted by the marquise class of French aristocracy to show off their social standing. So really, this cut is more princess-y than a princess cut, right? Not many people choose this stone, so it will definitely make you stand out in a crowd.

Bro tip: If your lady is fashion forward and loves the beauty of antiquity, this is a good choice. 


Emerald

Regal af.

Fit for a queen. 7.71ct emerald cut from Harry Winston. Courtesy of 1stdibs.com

Fit for a queen.
7.71ct emerald cut from Harry Winston. Courtesy of 1stdibs.com

Less than 5% of diamonds cut in the world are emerald shape. As you probably inferred from the name, this shape has its origin in the preferred shape for cutting emeralds. Because of the nature of the faceting, this stone doesn't sparkle the same way a round or princess cut diamond will. That's not to say they can't be spectacular--they will cast flashes of light across the room and a well cut stone will sparkle along the intersections of the facets.

Bro tip: Best for a lady who lives for classic glamour and isn't bothered going against the flow.


Radiant

The beautiful bastard.

Radiant cut. Photo courtesy 1stdibs.com

Radiant cut. Photo courtesy 1stdibs.com

If a round diamond got busy with an emerald cut diamond, this would be their diamond baby. This shape combines the best of both, with its regal shape and structure but with the radiance of a round cut.

Bro tip: Good pick if you know she likes the brilliance and fire of a round stone, but wants something a little off the beaten path.


Pear

No tears here.

You've come so far since 2000. @parishilton Instagram

You've come so far since 2000. @parishilton Instagram

Shaped like a droplet of falling water or, you know, a pear, this shape is another uncommon choice. For us, this cut evokes a certain nostalgia and romanticism. This shape lends itself very well to stacking, and we think it creates a good composition on the hand.

Bro tip: Be sure the pointy end is well protected in the setting, because that area is prone to chipping. 


If that felt overwhelming, just remember to trust your gut in this situation. If you think you love round brilliants but you fall for an Asscher, go for it! Every stone will speak to you differently and no matter how much research and planning you do, life has a way of throwing tiny, shiny wrenches into the works. See you soon!

Kate Cosden
Make it last forever

And ever and ever...

One of our most recent crusades is against the commonly held belief that you should never take your most precious jewelry off. We have a theory around here that it happened by watching our mothers' behavior around their diamond/emerald/sapphire/ruby rings and earrings (always blame your parents, right?). Admittedly, we've all had that recurring nightmarish vision of a diamond stud washed down the drain or an heirloom emerald lost to the nether reaches of the heating vents, but we have a scarier ghost story to tell here. 

Diamonds should be forever, but sometimes they aren't.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Image courtesy of Serge Ouachée

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Image courtesy of Serge Ouachée

Things that will pack your ring full of unspeakable horrors and dull the stone:
Gardening. Dirt, rocks, worm bits, whatever! If it's not getting stuffed under your stone, it's softening the facets or putting gouges in the ring or stone.
Washing dishes/Cleaning. Bang, clang, crash. The soap, detergent, food particles, and the abrasiveness of the sponge can all pull a number on your rock and setting. 
Cooking. Unless you're a Puritan, you probably use some form of oil or fat when you cook. Those can build up as deposits in the crevices of your ring and dull the sparkle. Plus, who wants meatloaf hiding under their diamond? (Insert blood diamond joke here).
Lotion and makeup. Make removing your ring part of the ritual of getting ready. When you apply lotion, take your ring off and allow yourself to dry before putting it back on. Why? I'm sure you've guessed by now, but cosmetics build up. We've seen some scary Cucumber Melon scented rings in our time.

More things that will wreck your shit:
Exercise. This is by no means a valid excuse to skip the gym today, but to avoid any undue crushing, twisting, or sweating affecting your setting, we would absolutely recommend ditching the ring. Carrying anything heavy can stretch the ring or damage the prongs.
Swimming. Bare is beautiful! The ocean eats jewelry all the time, so unless you want to leave gifts for the mermaids, leave your jewels at home. Chlorine in pools is also extremely corrosive and will chew at metal and stones. 
Babies. We love babies, but they tug and pull and wiggle. Chains can snap, earrings can pop, or diamonds can appear later in a diaper. 

To be direct as possible, if you wear your ring every second of every day you will destroy it. Diamonds are the favorite for engagement jewelry specifically because they can take a beating, but you should treat them well. Stones like sapphires, emeralds, and rubies are also durable, but they're not invincible. In a later post, we'll talk about other popular (but scarier and softer) stones like pearls, opals, and turquoise. And with gold, much like how the river will wear down rocks over time, daily activities will wear down your gold. 

Also, if you got your ring from us we will always clean it for free and look it over for any damage that may have happened along the way. We love our people!

Kate Cosden
Meet the Maker: Melissa Joy Manning

California royalty.

Next weekend our store is hosting a total case takeover of Melissa Joy Manning's work, so we figured it would be a good time for y'all to get to know her! 

This is Melissa: 

<3.

<3.

And this is some of Melissa's work:

Do you think you're ready for this jelly (opal)?

Do you think you're ready for this jelly (opal)?

I'm pretty sure that rock is compressed unicorn.

I'm pretty sure that rock is compressed unicorn.

Psychedelic sunset, maaaaan.

Psychedelic sunset, maaaaan.


Ethos.

Every piece of Melissa's line is hand made in their New York or California studio by people who make a living wage and will actually be able to retire. We love her sincere respect for artisans and craftspeople who make work like this possible.
From her website: 

Domestic handmade production eliminates the heavy waste and pollution that can come from high volume and machine made jewelry, and it reduces the carbon imprint that massive international import and export leaves on the earth. Crafting each piece by hand imbues our creations with a sense of spirit and energy that cannot be replicated in mass market production, and it increases the demand for artisan job opportunities in our own community.

Everything is made to last a lifetime and works counter to the culture of disposable fashion we live in now. In addition to that, all of the gold they use is recycled, which in its small way helps limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury that are dumped into the soil during the mining process.

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The Woman.

Melissa started her company in 1997 with $1000 and a whole lot of willpower. She visited local stores she liked and asked if they were interested in carrying her jewelry (different times, huh?). By continually reinvesting in herself, she built the company into what it it today: a bicoastal operation with a cult following.

As an avid traveller and nature lover, she gleans her inspiration from the world around her and from the natural beauty of Northern California. You can just see it in the stones she chooses, right? 

Melissa is the co-chair of the CFDA Sustainability Committee, and as an advisory board member to Lexus/CFDA Fashion Positive and Nest, where she challenges the perceptions of preciousness and also those of manufacturing processes in the fashion and jewelry worlds.  

How look glamorous holding an artichoke (yeah, i know it's not an artichoke but I have no idea what tf that is). Take notes.

How look glamorous holding an artichoke (yeah, i know it's not an artichoke but I have no idea what tf that is). Take notes.


Why we chose her.

To us, MJM's line represents everything we want to carry in our store. We love that she eschews traditional white diamond jewelry and asks you to think about what makes something precious and irreplaceable. All of her work is either one of a kind or limited run, which makes anything you buy from her line extra special. We love the chunky stones and bold colors, that it's all "green" gold (if you look into gold mining practices, this would become important to you too), and that everything is made by respected craftsmen in the United States. 

Kate Cosden
Engagement Series, Part 2: Diamond Basics

All that glitters...

Alright, so now that you have an idea of what her style might be, let's talk about picking a stone. We know this is probably one of the more intimidating aspects of ring purchasing because the De Beers branding from days of yore has pressured us into thinking we should spend three month's salary on a ring. Granted, if you want to do that, please do it here! But ultimately, we want to help you make the best choice. We believe the best customers are educated customers, so let's break down diamonds today! Let's start with the basics.

Brilliant diamond, left. Diamond in the rough, right. Images courtesy of GIA.


The 4C's

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Clarity

Sizes up the number of inclusions, blemishes, and other whoopsie-daisies.

Image courtesy of GIA. Photo by Gary Roskin GG, FGA

Very few things in life are perfect, and the same goes for diamonds. There is a grading scale for diamonds that ranges from I/Included (most diamonds fall into this category) to F/Flawless (many jewelers will go their whole careers without seeing one of these babies). Diamonds on the upper end of the scale are going to have the signature diamond glitter, but they aren't for everyone. We sell and love heavily included diamonds for engagement rings, because the inclusions really set your diamond apart from everyone else's (and has the potential to save you a ton of cash).


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Color

For white diamonds, we take a look at the tint to determine value.

Image courtesy of GIA & Tino Hammid

For white diamonds, they are graded on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (light color). Colored diamonds (think blue, pink, red, etc)  are valued completely differently, so we'll address that in a separate post. Truly colorless diamonds are very rare, so yes, they are hella expensive. Don't fret though, it's almost impossible to tell a D from a G unless you're trained, so if it's a white diamond you seek, we can find one that matches your budget. 


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Cut

The cut of a diamond can elevate it from "meh" to "DANG, GIRL."

The whole reason we love diamonds so much is because of the way they play with light, i.e. how goddamn sparkly they are. There are three factors at play when it comes to diamonds that thrill you: the white light is called brightness, the color flashes are called fire, and the contrast between light and dark in a stone is called scintillation. 


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Carat Weight

'Nuff said.

Something important to note that a carat is a measurement of weight, not of diamond diameter or optical size. Diamonds of the same carat weight can look dramatically different sizes because of the depth or shallowness of the stone. Generally speaking, the larger the stone the larger the cost, but diamond pricing can seem convoluted. Double the size doesn't mean double the cost. A one carat diamond is easier for the gem cutter to find in raw material than a three carat diamond, and the price increases exponentially to reflect that rarity.


We farmed the GIA site like crazy for the great images and info for this post and we highly recommend them as an educational resource. We like this one for an intro and this one if you want to go all in

Kate Cosden
Fall Freshness

Transitions and change

Fall evokes many different feelings for people who live in places with seasons (giving serious side eye to you, Southern California and Hawaii). We're all fall babies at Nine Roses (two Scorpios and a Libra, look out), so it's birthday season as well as the slow and steady shift into hibernation. Fall is change, crunchy leaves, spooky holidays, and believe it or not, the beginning of engagement season (no really, that's a thing, ask any other jeweler), so we want to show you what we've changed around here.

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Great bowls of diamonds!

Lower left and center by us, top right Yasuko Azuma.


We need to talk about color

Coming from Upstate New York, fall was always a brief and anxiety filled affair. "WINTER IS COMING," people would cry on the streets, knowing that soon everything would be grey and cold for six months. I don't think I ever truly appreciated color until I spent a winter up there, so these luminous beauties really speak to me. 

1: Nine Roses. Grey diamonds, sapphires, 18k yellow gold.
2: Nine Roses. Paraiba tourmaline, diamonds, 18k white gold. 
3. Nvit Blanche. Lemon diamond, white diamonds, 18k white gold.


Witchy Vibes

Halloween is without a doubt one of the best holidays and while you won't find us in a sexy bumblebee costume anytime soon, we embrace the freedom it gives us to be someone or something else just for a moment. We love that Halloween gives you the chance to transform yourself before winter comes and honestly, just to let your freak flag fly in general. So in addition to colors and sparkles, we're also thinking about the uncanny, the esoteric, the odd, and the "other."

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Momento Mori

#2spoopy4u

Both rings by Nvit Blanche. 18k yellow, diamonds, and enamel. We love how the enamel gives the skull a ghostly cast.

Both pieces Nvit Blanche. Necklace is 18k rose gold and shows the Scorpio constellation (hellooooo birthday present!). Bracelets are 18k yellow and show Perseus galaxy. You can read more about this series here.


Hope you've enjoyed this little peek into our cabinet of curiosities! Next week we're getting a really exciting shipment from a designer we've never represented before, so we will show you that as soon as we have it in our hands. 

xoxo kate

Kate Cosden