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Rainbow Garnets in White Gold- A Bracelet to Die For

Garnet Bracelet 2_edited-1

Rainbow gem suites are quite popular– we see them assembled from all the colors of sapphire or with various colored gems that will make a full spectrum of color, but rarely featuring garnet. Our unique custom bracelet of rainbow garnets was made to order for a very happy client as her 40th anniversary gift.

Since many of the new finds of garnet are in Africa along the Great Rift Valley, we worked with one of our AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) members who specialize in African materials. They were able to put together an stunning eleven color grouping of the garnet varieties that blends together beautifully.  Starting at number one (photo below), we have  Madagascar light Spessartite Garnet, Madagascar Hessonite Garnet, Marolambo Garnet, Mozambique Garnet, Madagascar Malaya Garnet, Madagascar Blue Color-Change Garnet, East African Rhodolite Garnet, East African (Kenyan or Tanzanian) Light Tsavorite Garnet, East African Dark Tsavorite Garnet, Madagascar Demantoid Garnet and Mali Grossular Garnet.

Garnet Bracelet 5 copy

Our client told us she had shopped for this bracelet for several years, just couldn’t find it until she found our website and saw that we take on the unique and difficult jobs. One jeweler had quoted $20,000 to do the job. Ours was less than 20% of that!

If you are looking and not finding, please give us a call or stop by the shop. We specialize in the services required to make unique and unusual jewelry and we’ll treat you right. Our family owned and operated enterprise has been serving our community since 1961.

Original Jewelry by Mardon- One-of-a-Kind Looks for Summer!

7.80 ct. Aqua in Rose Gold

I-22629- 7.80 ct. Aqua in Rose Gold

Just in time for summer, our newest original jewelry pieces include this beautiful pendant set with an excellent 7.80 ct Aquamarine, accented with diamonds. (Continued)

Emerald is in the House!

Fine Emeralds from Colom bia and Zambia

Fine Emeralds from Colombia and Zambia

The Emerald is truly coming into it’s own as this year’s spring season bursts forth. On the rise for several seasons, emerald green is fashion’s Color of the Year for 2013. Pantone traces the color’s current popularity back to Angelina Jolie, who wore striking emerald earrings and a gorgeous emerald ring to the 2009 Oscars. Besides Angelina, today’s emerald-loving stars and trendsetters include Sharon Stone, Charlize Theron, Salma Hayek and Beyonce’.

Lively. Radiant. Lush… A gem of elegance and beauty that enhances our sense of well-being, balance and harmony, the green stone has become one of the most sought after possessions of 2013.

Gem of love, fertility, and rebirth, emeralds have captivated the world for thousands of years. They were documented in ancient Egyptian records as early as 3500 B.C. In fact, Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, fell in love with the jewel and popularized it during her reign. Her emerald mine on the Red Sea is one of the earliest known gem sources in the history of humans.


Gemmy 5 ct. Emerald Crystal

The name is derived from the early Greek term smaragdos meaning green gem. The Romans dedicated the gem to Venus and considered the emerald to soothe the spirit, bring well being and bestow good luck.

The discovery of the New World in 1492 opened the way to the most famous source of emeralds, the fabled Muzo region of Colombia. Spanish conquistadores, quick to realize their value, imported many large emeralds to Europe where they quickly became sought after favorites of royalty. The top 20% were reserved for the Spanish court. Strict sumptuary laws forbade everyone but nobility from wearing the green beauty.


The Spanish Inquisition Necklace

Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Catherine the Great of Russia, and Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, were famous aficionados of this verdant green gem. A modern Who’s Who of emerald includes Marlene Dietrich, Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, and Queen Elizabeth II.

The good news is that you don’t have to rich or famous to own a beautiful emerald. While large fine stones can be very expensive, you can own a gem of good quality for an affordable price. Emeralds are being mined in Colombia, Zambia, Russia, Pakistan and other sources, so good natural stones are available.

Green Rocks! See the Rare Gem Specialists at Mardon Jewelers to learn about and see fine examples of the ultimate green gem, the Emerald.


Antique and Vintage Jewelry – Still Stylish!


Gold and Silver Cameo with Natural Rubies

We’ve recently added several fashionable vintage jewelry pieces to our Estate Department. This cameo was a real sleeper– it was literally so crusted over with years of accumulated crud (gemological term!) that we barely recognized it. Once we cleaned it, the real beauty shone forth. We had been attracted to the superb pierced work of the silver frame, but didn’t count on the karat gold bezel and gold flowers set with rubies. The grand cameo is exquisitely carved by a master. We’re not sure about its dating– guess would be late 1800’s– early 1900’s. Cameos are generally slow sellers, but we think this one is so dramatic, it won’t last long.

Victorian Onyx & Gold Pin- Great Goth!

Along with the cameo, we aquired this wonderful Victorian pin/pendant, 14K gold set with black onyx (dyed chalcedony). A truly striking gothic look!


Mid-century Modern Bracelet-Watch of 14K gold

From another client, we purchased this nifty Mid-Century Modern 14K gold bracelet/watch. The bracelet closes securely with a fold-over Calla Lily clasp decorated with diamonds.

The delightful gold tassel flips back to expose the watch, a high quality Swiss jeweled movement that keeps good time!


The nice thing is that the length of the bracelet is easily adjustable. It can be worn comfortably against the skin, or over a  long cuff as might be worn in the 40’s, ala Lauren Bacall.

We’re always looking for interesting vintage jewelry and are ready to purchase your inherited or unwanted jewelry. It can be in good repair or not. If you don’t know what you have, sit down with our gemologist appraisers for a consultation to sort out the valuable pieces from the others. If your pieces are something we are interested in purchasing, we’ll make a fair cash offer on the spot.

Padparadschas R Us – Rare Gems Are Our Specialty


Padparadscha Sapphire in Custom Rose and White Gold Ring

We’ve always loved the ultra rare variety of fancy sapphire known as the Padparadscha. Early in my career, working in the gem indentification labs of GIA, I had the opportunity to see a few good examples of the natural Padparadscha Sapphire and to learn the subtle distinctions that make this gem so desirable. Our informational blogs about this exotic beauty have become so well received that clients seek us out as experts to help them find the perfect “Pad”– and we love doing it!

Last week, we completed a three month Pad Quest that started with the Tucson Gem Show. Our client’s fiancé had decided on Padparadscha sapphire for her engagement ring. Her research had led to our blogs, so she asked him to contact us to find her stone. They didn’t make it easy. The stone had to be natural, unheated with documentation, about 2 -3 cts. Not only that, she particularly wanted a cushion shape- most Pads are oval!

To give you an idea of how rare the Padparadscha really is, in the process of our search at Tucson for a 2 -3 ct unheated Pad of quality, we passed by literally thousands of blue sapphires and hundreds of fine rubies to find one gem that would fit our call- we are particular!

So we had the one stone from Tucson and two others from our network of gem traders, all worthy choices within our client’s price range. The excited fiancé flew in from Dallas, Texas. We were gratified that they chose the best of the three- center stone below. In our photo, you can get an idea of the spectrum of color for Padparadscha which ranges from orangish pink to pinkish orange.  In our opinion, this particular stone exhibits the perfect color for Padparadscha, a blend of pink and orange, and is among the best we have seen.

Most of the Pads we see don’t have this intensity and balance of color. Much like what we see in some Pigeon’s Blood Red Rubies from Burma, the stone has a component of chrome which adds a vivid touch of fluorescent orange red to the color. Just yesterday, a gem trader offered us two unheated Pads, one of which didn’t hold it’s pinkish component in daylight, the other with a slightly brownish overtone that killed the color saturation. Because we see so few good unheated Padparadschas, we hated to decline the stones. Good but not great, they were just not quite right to our eye, so we said no thanks.

Pink Orange, Pinkish Orange, Orangy Pink

Pink Orange, Pinkish Orange, Orangy Pink

Our non-traditional bride-to-be wanted a simple solitaire, but we decided to do something out of the ordinary to enhance this gemmy stone. She was torn between white and yellow gold- we thought a two-tone approach might be best to show off her magnificent stone. When we showed her this image of her stone with rose and peach gold, she chose the rose gold- our choice as well.

Peach gold, Padparadscha, Rose gold

Peach gold, Padparadscha, Rose gold

Working from images of styles she emailed us, our CAD wizard Jenny developed this beautiful design which we call “The Lotus”– in perfect keeping with the name of Padaparadscha, which is derived from the Sanskrit phrase meaning “color of the lotus”

The Lotus

The Lotus

We were justifiably proud of this wonderful custom ring and our client was delighted– you can read his feedback at the top of our testimonials page– and most importantly, she loved it!

If you are interested in acquiring a rare gem, give us the opportunity to find your dream gemstone. Whether you’re a couple looking for an unique engagement ring or a serious collector looking for that uber special piece, we’ll find the best value for your requirements- as you can see, we go the extra mile and we network with some of the best gem traders in the business.




A Three Graces Ring– Custom Jewelry is Challenging

We just delivered this beautiful 14K gold ring to a delighted customer. A new client, she had seen one of our custom ring samples over the Christmas holidays and had an idea– she loved cameos and had a particular affinity for the Three Graces of Greek and Roman mythology, the goddesses of beauty, creativity, and nature. Rather than something set with the typical cameo carved from shell or stone, she wanted an all metal ring of sterling silver.

Our ArtCam CAD software can translate light and dark areas from a photo into a bas-relief, like the detail of a coin, so we worked from photos of carved cameos to begin the process.

Daughter Jenny, our resident CAD jewelry wizard developed this nice design as a first try.

Our customer thought the Graces looked too childlike for her taste. She asked us to work instead from Botticelli’s famous painting Primavera which features the Graces among other mythological figures. And, she decided to have us make the ring from 14K yellow gold- yay!

Much more difficult– Jenny tried hard to develop a design from an image of Botticelli’s work, but when we cast the ring, it just wasn’t quite right. The problem with bas-relief is that shrinking an image to ring size makes all the limbs of the ladie’s much too thin.

Our solution– working with a photo of an existing carved cameo based on Primavera, Jenny was able to create a design with the proper proportions. We think it was quite effective. In fact, this ring will become more beautiful as the piece mellows with wear.


As you can see, making custom jewelry can be very challenging because in essence, we create a prototype with every piece. In fact, in jewelry manufacturing, it often takes many tries to work out the wrinkles and perfect a design.

Even though we cast this ring twice– not great for the bottom line of our business, the most important thing is that our client was very pleased with her custom piece.  She’ll be a return customer.

At Mardon, we go the extra mile– custom work is one of our specialties. When we stamp our trademark on it, we make sure it’s right.

Tucson Gemstone Treasures

As usual, our annual pilgrimage to the Tucson Gem Shows in early February in search of the very best in colored gemstones was a fun mix of business and pleasure.

On the drive over, we stopped at Quartzite, home of the Pow Wow, licked a few agates and found some rough boulder opal, stalactite and geode slices. As always, the Quartzite scene is fascinating– it just blows my mind to see how the snowbirds drive all the way to the Arizona desert with their RV’s, trailers, and trucks crammed with barrels of rough stone, cartons of collectibles and their artwork.

During our first day at the AGTA show, we focused on red gemstones including spinels, rubies, and padparadscha sapphires, looking for specific stones for clients. One of the services we offer at Mardon is gem search and brokering— the Tucson shows are perfect for viewing lots and lots of gemstones, comparing prices and qualities so we can find the best values for our clients.

We had a call for a “chili pepper” red spinel and were able to find these three very gemmy Burma spinels at what we thought were good prices. Recent finds of superb spinels in Africa and central Asia have driven the market for red spinel to astronomical levels. The prices for these Burma gems seemed reasonable by comparison.

Lots of freshwater pearls everywhere.  Besides the big flat baroques (above), we bought this nice strand of “Kazumiga” style baroques.

My friend Paul showed us some really great zircons from Tanzania. Just killer bright, as you would expect from this gem of high refraction, in unique colors. This is a new source for zircon, offering really big stones at reasonable prices.

We met a number of the top Ethiopian opal importers and cutters and got really acquainted with that market– lots of truly great big stones, ultra bright and lively.  In a market where high quality gems are pricey because of rarity and great demand, we think these Ethiopian beauties are a sleeper value, at prices about 1/3 of what similar quality Australian stones sell for.

All in all, the mood at the shows seemed much more upbeat. In contrast to the gloom of the past few years, most of the dealers we talked to were having good sales and were optimistic- a good sign that perhaps the economy is recovering. Yay!

Art Deco Style Pendant– Custom Made!

We just delivered this lovely pendant, set with the diamonds from several treasured family pieces, to a very happy client. Her son had us make the pendant to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary, so it was a very nice occasion to deliver the new piece– both son and mother loved the new piece and she left our shop with tears of happiness in her eyes.

To begin the custom design process, we ask questions to get an idea of our client’s taste and preferences– she liked vintage jewelry, especially from the Art Deco period. We asked Mr. Google to show us some images and showed her a number of vintage Art Deco jewels on our handy dandy Ipad. From her responses, we were able to narrow the focus to an overall drop shape.

We drew up a few quick sketches to scale using her actual stone sizes. From her choice of the sketches, we developed the design in CAD. Our first CAD design didn’t quite work, so I did a rough revision in pencil from which our CAD wizard Jenny was able to create the perfect CAD design.

Jewelry like this custom piece is much more than just a collection of gems and metal– it represents personal relationships and commemorates the family. At Mardon, using the latest technology plus our inspiration and creativity, we work very hard to make sure your custom jewelry is memorable. Bring us your family pieces and we’ll create a treasure for you.

Designer Originals vs. One-of-a-Kind Jewelry- What’s the Difference

We’ve been working hard creating pieces based on our original designs and one-of-a-kind jewelry. So what’s the difference between a one-of-a-kind and a designer original?

You’ll never see another jewel like this reversible diamond halo pendant featuring a stunning 6.71 ct. Australian crystal opal. We’ve owned and admired this opal for a number of years and have never seen another with such a beautiful shape and size showing such brilliant colors in stunning patterns of rolling flash. We finally had to see what it could do in a finished piece of jewelry– and we are very happy with the result.

When we build a piece of jewelry around an unique gem, it is truly one-of-a-kind.  We’ve accented the bright purples, oranges and greens that flash thru this magnificent gem with repurposed diamonds and our favorite designer peach 14K gold from Harmony.

6.71 ct. Crystal Opal

If you don’t want to show the bling, just turn it around!

As an example of a designer original, this series of rings are based on a design created by myself several years back that features half bezel settings that accent the gem while making it easy to wear, low maintenance channel settings for the diamonds and our patented Mardon shank for comfort and balance. The basic design has been refined and improved over several versions– a common practice with good jewelry designs– we keep working on it til we get it just right. Here, each ring is slightly different because we wanted to show a variety of interesting colored stones.
1.31 ct. Ceylon Sapphire

This beautiful  cushion cut natural Ceylon Sapphire is highlighted with repurposed diamonds and 14K peach Harmony gold. The slighty orange gold is a complimentary color that emphasizes the rich blue of the sapphire.

.67 ct. Oregon Sunstone

This lovely Sunstone, a relative of the moonstone, was mined in Plush, Oregon. It glows in 14k yellow Harmony gold enhanced with repurposed diamonds. The half bezel setting protects this gem so the ring is eminently wearable.


.61 ct Alexandrite


The colors of this enchanting natural Alexandrite change from bluish green in daylight to reddish purple in incandescent light.  14K white gold and white diamonds are the perfect setting for this rare gem.

So whether you prefer one-of-a-kind or designer originals, our classic jewelry is affordable, unique and truly elegant!

We’ll show more new pieces in our next blog– watch for our black diamond pendant, men’s rings and more!

Stop by the shop to see these new pieces in person — we’re open Tuesday thru Saturday, 10 am – 5:30, Friday and Saturday, 10 am – 8 pm.


Topaz or Not Topaz? That is the Question!

Topaz and Citrine- Lookalikes

One of the missions Robert M. Shipley defined when he created the Gemological Institute of America was to rectify incorrect practices in the jewelry and gem business. One of the most common of these is the use of trade names and misnomers for gemstones.

Before the development of the gemological sciences, it was common for gem traders to give gem materials what I call “booster” names, especially if the stone had a more valuable  lookalike. Blue stones were called sapphire, red ones were called ruby, and yellow or orange gems were called topaz.

Usually the purpose was to give the gem a more romantic or exotic sounding name that was easier to market or that added perceived value to the stone.

Our photo shows two lookalikes- an Imperial Topaz and a Citrine Quartz. You can see how closely they resemble each other in general appearance, yet because of it’s beauty, rarity and durability, the Imperial Topaz is about 100 times as valuable as the Citrine. Which is which?– answer at the bottom!

The most obvious red flag for a  misnomer is the use of a geographical or locale name along with the gem name— usually, these locale names refer to where the gem material was produced, rather than what it actually is. Knowing this, you can easily spot impostors, as shown in the following list of common misnomers.

Madeira Topaz = Citrine Quartz

Rio Grande Topaz = Citrine Quartz

Smoky Topaz = Smoky Quartz

Balas Ruby = Spinel

Water Sapphire = Iolite/Cordierite

Herkimer Diamond =  colorless Quartz crystals (from Herkimer County, NY)

Black Onyx= dyed black Chalcedony

Alaska Black Diamond = Hematite

Bohemian Ruby = Garnet

Australian Jade = Chrysoprase

Swiss Lapis = dyed blue Jasper

In the United States, it’s a violation of the Federal Trade Commission guidelines to use names of gemstones which mislead buyers as to the identity of what they are buying. Even with these clear rules, we still see some dealers and businesses using these outdated and incorrect terminologies– it’s very hard to change old habits and practices.

As members of the American Gem Society, the Rare Gemstone Specialists at Mardon are dedicated to the best practices of using correct gemological names and to educate and inform the consumer as to the true identity and quality of the gemstones we sell, appraise, and buy.

Answer— Imperial Topaz is the top ring, Citrine Quartz the bottom. The Topaz is more valuable for a number of reasons– it is much more rare than quartz, it’s harder so it takes a better polish and is more durable, it’s more transparent and sparkly, and the color is richer.