Cutting our teeth on week three…

This week’s post is brought to you by Karyn, from deep inside her safe bubble of self-isolation!

I hope everyone is staying healthy, sane, and centred amidst this pandemic.

While the retail store remains closed, Gillian is monitoring phone, email, and social media, so if you are interested in purchasing a piece of jewellery, commissioning a custom piece, or just want more information about beginning the process, please get in touch.  You can visit our online shop here, where you can peruse the work of our artists, and buy gift certificates for custom work, as well as for future workshops and classes.

Keep in mind everything in our shop is available for online purchase. We are currently working on the listings, which, as you can imagine, is a time consuming process. We’ll get there!

These are strange times, and if you have the means, please consider supporting your local shops, and the artists represented within.  Community is so evidently crucial in times like these.

Today I thought I would post about one of the ways that I have been keeping a creative practice going in isolation.


Before the shops closed I was able to stock up on some art supplies, and have gotten back into the process of painting, which is something I have enjoyed throughout my life, but haven’t revisited for … nearly a decade… wow, it’s been a while.

For those of us who have been told to stay home and have the luxury of ample free time, this is a perfect time to get creative and play around.  To engage with our imaginations and see what happens, without any specific aim or outcome in mind.

Have you guessed colour is an important element in this work?

The process I’ve developed usually starts with a broad splash of one or two base colours, then I layer up loose strokes of complimentary colours, incorporating patterns, and I finish off the detail with oil pastels or ink drawings. I play around with these sequences, building up the layers. Eventually it becomes an exercise in rhythm and restraint.

I’m sorry, did you say “restraint”?

I would consider these last two a successful example of my “restraint”…

It’s been fun to try something new, not be too precious about it and see what emerges. Ultimately, you never know how these exercises might work their way into your primary practice, so I’m intrigued to see how this will influence my jewellery aesthetic. Maybe they’ll take on a life of their own and I’ll make my first million in painting sales!

Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I wish everyone

health and sanity

Take care of yourselves,


March 26, 2020 COVID 19 Announcement

To our valued customers we will be temporarily closed to do our part to flatten the curve. We are following all WHO recommendations as well as provincial and federal requirements. This means no one from the public is allowed into the store at this time.

We can however continue to consult on custom work through phone, email, Skype meetings with the individual goldsmiths from the comfort of their homes so feel free to get in touch to set up those meetings.

If you would like to support us during this difficult time remember we have an online shop through our website but you can also purchase pieces you see on our Instagram. We will ship orders within 1-2 days of payment. You can also like our posts, share our content, and leave us reviews so that when we are able to open our doors again we will have an influx of new and returning customers!



Windows, COVID-19, immunity and jewellery

If you wander down Roncevalles past the Big Blue House (also known as Jewel Envy!), you’ll see a new window display by……me (House of Cassady)!  Little did I know when I agreed to do the display that it would be relevant to our current situation, so I thought I’d talk today a bit about the genesis of my collection, and a bit about where you can find some information that might better help you understand how your body fights infections, like COVID-19.

As you may know (or not), I have a PhD in immunology, the very important part of physiology that protects the body (or “host”) against infection, and some diseases.  As I’m sure you’ll agree, in our current crisis, it’s particularly relevant to the concerns on everyone’s mind about COVID-19.  I’m not going to go into a huge amount of detail about information about the immune system here, there are a lot of good pages like this webpage that will give you give information. Or the British Society for Immunology has this great series of pages called “Bite sized Immunology” which breaks a lot of different concepts into understandable sections with some colourful graphics to help make things more comprehensible.

Basically, the immune system is your own personal army that protects the body (to the best of its ability!) against infection (among other things).  At its most basic, you can think of it being composed of two parts, the initial, less specific response that is immediate and a delayed response that is much more specific for an individual infectious agent, but it takes a while to kick in.

One of the interesting things about cells in general, and immune cells in particular, is that you can stain them with coloured dyes that make the smaller structures in the cell more visible.  This allows visibility, and identification:

A blood smear stained with two dyes, the light red cells are, not surprisingly, red blood cells. The violet and purple cells are cells of the immune system.

Your blood contains alot of different kinds of blood cells that are involved in immunity.

Different kinds of immune cells

I’ve always been fascinated by the shapes of stained blood cells, I find them visually interesting, as well as artistically inspiring. About 10 years ago, I first had my inspiration for the current collection of different jewellery pieces. I was at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, working as a Research Fellow, and the Veterinary School wanted to put on an art show. I wanted to participate, since it combined my two passions (art and science!), and after alot of sketching, I had a whole host of ideas. Ultimately, the exhibition didn’t happen, but the ideas never went away!

View of miniquilts on display, made to complement the jewellery collection.

Fast forward to last year, and I started seriously working on new pieces combining my love of immune cells and my love of textiles! During March adn April, you can wander by the windows at the Big Blue House, and see a selection of pieces on display (and practice your social distancing while getting some fresh air, and enjoying some art!). Here’s a preview, but I promise that they should be seen in person to fully appreciate them!

Window with “M” series jewellery

Window with “L” series jewellery

Centre piece: “Defense of Life” combines both “M” and “L” units. Made out of sterling silver with a central 10kt yellow gold ring with rubies and an orange sapphire, and orange and red needle felt, this piece was originally designed to be an exhibition piece. Many of my other pieces are composed of elements that make up this special showpiece.

Although the studio is formally closed, we’re still around, you can contact us by email, and arrange consultations, etc. either by appointment, or by skype/video conferencing. In this difficult time, we really appreciate your support, and here are a few things that you can do to support us:

a) we have work available for purchase through the website

b)  You can leave us reviews so that when regular life continues people will return to the store and discover the magic of Jewel Envy!

c) If you were thinking about having a custom piece made call us and let’s see if we can start the consultation process over the phone and through email.

We’re all trying to do our part and support our community, too. For example, you can visit the little library outside the Big Blue House!

Of course, I’m not a Public Health person, but I can help with questions about immunology in general, or point you in the direction of where to find good, reliable information about the pandemic, you just need to ask! I always find that information helps to lessen panic and fear, which we could all do with less of in this situation (panic and fear, not information!).

So, stay safe, stay healthy, and we hope to see you soon, and to hear from you even sooner!




To our valued customers in an effort to keep our community safe we are closing for a minimum of 2 weeks with our goal to reopen in April. We will still be happy to consult over the phone, Skype, email and for (distanced) in person appointments provided both parties are healthy. We have taken extra precautions for sterilizing shared tools and equipment and have asked that anyone experiencing any symptoms please stay home.

As Jewel Envy is made up of smaller independent businesses some of us do not have the option of stopping work on orders already in progress as we rely on that income to survive. None of us are eligible for EI. If you have placed an order and a deposit has been paid rest assured we are still working on your pieces although in some circumstances the work may take a little longer if we don’t have access to the supplies we need for the work to continue.

If you would like to support us in this difficult time:

1. You can purchase a small selection of work through our online shop

2. You can leave us reviews so that when regular life continues people will return to the store and discover the magic of Jewel Envy!

3. If you were thinking about having a custom piece made call us and let’s see if we can start the consultation process over the phone and through email.

Strange times call for compassion and kindness to all so let’s support each other the best we can as we all wait to see what happens next.



Founder, Goldsmith, Community Member

Aquamarine, The stone of the Seven Seas.

A new month, a new stone, and again we have a well known ‘variety’. Aquamarine is known to be the traditional birthstone for March and is light blue-green to cyan variety of the mineral beryl. Beryl got its name from the beryllium within its crystal composition and today is still a major source of beryllium metal. Now that doesn’t mean we are crushing up beautiful crystals of aquamarine for beryllium. In fact only a small percentage of gemstone minerals are gemstone grade, the majority looks like stones you find on the beach. Beryl is also a tough stone with a Mohs hardness of 7.5-8, making it harder than amethyst and garnet. 

To get a little nerdy and continue the theme of the other blog posts. Aquamarine is identified as:

  1. Hexagon Crystal System, not to be confused with crystal habit. (Note, habit is how the mineral crystallizes)
  2. Silicate Composition, 
    • Cyclosilicate Sub-class
  3. Silicate Family
  4. Mineral = Beryl – Be3Al2Si6O18
  5. Variety = Aquamarine.   

Other varieties of beryl aside from aquamarine that you may know well are: emeralds (deep vivid green), morganite (light pink/peach), and heliodor (golden yellow). However, there are other kinds as well such as goshenite (colourless), red beryl (deep red/crimson), green beryl (light lime to mint green) and mixixe (deep blue colour but fades to brown in daylight due to UV). 

All of these varieties, aside from goshenite, get their colour from additive elements locked into the crystal lattice or structure during crystallization. Aquamarine, (aqua marina) latin for “sea water”, which is a fitting name if you ask me, gets it colour from small traces of iron in the crystal structure. For those that remember their chemistry class on valence electrons, in deeper detail the blue tones come from Fe2+ while the green tones come from trace amounts of Fe3+. Hold on, but iron also colours amethyst purple and garnets red? That’s true too, but it all comes down to chemistry and light, how the iron electrons interact with the other elements in the crystal. This won’t be the last of iron as we get into detail about the other birthstones. 

Degrees of heat treatment and corresponding colours for aquamarine.

How can you tell if your aquamarine is an actual aquamarine? Well for starters the supply and demand of aquamarine doesn’t motivate the darker side of the trade unlike the regal rubys, sapphire, diamonds, and aquamarines sibling, emerald. However, there are those that will try to sell “aquamarine” coloured cubic zirconia and synthetic quartz. One quick method to tell these apart is to look for inclusions within the crystal. Cubic zirconia and synthetic quartz is virtually flawless and will look the same from all angels. Aquamarine is known for its flawless crystals but if you have a loupe (small 10x power microscopic lense used by many in the rock and gem trade) you can see smaller inclusions, such as, silk-like threads or small clear blebs or even other minerals within the aquamarine. As for the colour, beryl is anisotriopic, meaning light behaves differently depending on the direction it travels through the crystal. This appears weakly in aquamarine as it will look colourless to blue depending on how you look at it. A polarized lens can help you see this better. Meanwhile CZ looks the same from any angle. The best option is getting a certified gemmologist to look at the stone as they can give you a definite answer, they are professionals after all.  

Now for some interesting facts about aquamarine for you. One thing many people don’t know is the colour can be heat treated. In North American markets we tend to desire the bluer variety over the more seafoam green colour. Through heat treatment, the green is lost and the blue enhanced. This kind of treatment is almost undetectable even to gemmologists and thus we actually assume all blue aquamarines are heat treated (especially the really vivid ones) unless certified 100% not treated. Even then, buyers beware. Due to its sea-like colour, many ancients associated aquamarine with the sea and sailors of ancient Rome believed it helped protect them during voyages. The largest aquamarine ever extracted was uncovered in Marambaia, Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 1910 and weighed over 110 kg (243 lb), and its dimensions were 48.5 cm (19 in) long and 42 cm (1612 in) in diameter. That oughta bring a bunch of luck for the sailor who has that one on board. 

Nigerian aquamarine from a new find in Nasarawa State. The faceted stones range from 1.55 to 2.63 ct.

Stay tuned for next month as we discuss diamonds. 


International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. 

International Women’s Day celebrates women’s  achievements worldwide. 1909 The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.

International Women’s Day means different things to different people, but the global focus on equality and celebration is clear. Throughout ancient and modern history, women have collaborated and lead purposeful action to redress inequality in the hope of a better future for their communities, children and themselves.

Commemoration of International Women’s Day today ranges from being a public holiday in some countries to being largely ignored elsewhere. In some places, it is a day of protest; in others, it is a day that celebrates womanhood.

Jewel Envy team congratulated all the grandmothers, mothers, daughter, nieces, sisters, aunts, cousin, an granddaughter for this important celebration. You are the light of this land and today we rejoice together, working hard to reach all our dreams.

Have a nice Sunday.



Pearls are natural and cultured.

Natural pearls are nearly 100% calcium carbonate and conchiolin.  Natural pearls form under a set of accidental conditions when a microscopic intruder or parasite enters a bivalve mollusk and settles inside the shell. The mollusk, irritated by the intruder, forms a pearl sac of external mantle tissue cells and secretes the calcium carbonate and conchiolin to cover the irritant. This secretion process is repeated many times, thus producing a pearl. Natural pearls come in many shapes, with perfectly round ones being comparatively rare. 

Pearl earrings, Sterling Silver. Hyewon Jang

Cultured pearls are the response of the shell to a tissue implant. A tiny piece of mantle tissue (called a graft) from a donor shell is transplanted into a recipient shell, causing a pearl sac to form into which the tissue precipitates calcium carbonate. There are a number of methods for producing cultured pearls: using freshwater or seawater shells, transplanting the graft into the mantle or into the gonad, and adding a spherical bead as a nucleus. Most saltwater cultured pearls are grown with beads. Trade names of cultured pearls are Akoya (阿古屋), white or golden South sea, and black Tahitian. Most beadless cultured pearls are mantle-grown in freshwater shells in China, and are known as freshwater cultured pearls.

Pink pearls, blue topaz, Sterling Silver ring.

Fine quality natural pearls are very rare jewels. Their values are determined similarly to those of other precious gems, according to size, shape, color, quality of surface, orient and luster.

Single natural pearls are often sold as collectors’ items, or set as centerpieces in unique jewelry. Very few matched strands of natural pearls exist, and those that do often sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. (In 1917, jeweler Pierre Cartier purchased the Fifth Avenue mansion that is now the New York Cartier store in exchange for a matched double strand of natural pearls Cartier had been collecting for years; at the time, it was valued at US$1 million.)

Pink Perls, Gold ans silver earrings.

You can bring to Jewel Envy your strand’s pearls for a new look or a repair, we can short your strands and make a gorgeous pair of earrings to go with your lovely necklace, we can make too a lovely clasp to give a brand new look to an old strand.

Have a nice Sunday


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