Jewellery from Forbidden City

As a Chinese, I am really obsessed with traditional Chinese jewellery. Today, I am going to show some amazing pieces from The Palace Museum.

Beginning with a little background of Forbidden City 故宫. Forbidden City was the former Chinese imperial palace from Ming to Qing dynasty, between 1420 and 1924. Now it becomes a museum, which known as the Palace Museum. All the jewellery below are the collections from the Palace Museum. Most of them were belong to the empresses or imperial consorts. Jewellery from Ming and Qing dynasty, often made with gold or jade, combining with all kinds of precious and semi precious stones. Most of the jewellery has a pattern that related to happiness, auspicious, thriving, prosperous, etc., to represent the good wishes.

Gold Hairpin with Semi-precious Stones

This hairpin is from Qing dynasty (1644-1911). In the centre is the Chinese character for longevity. Gold filigree creates five fungi, together forms a plum blossom. Each fungus inlaid with red tourmaline. Blue kingfisher feathers were applied to add rich colour. This is a very typical Qing dynasty jewellery.

White Jade Hairpin with Openwork Fish Design and Gemstone Inlay

In this hairpin, it focus on details of the natural world. Lotus and fish are homophonous with the concept of successive years of abundance.

Gold Ring with Pearl and Gemstones

The pearl set in a six prong setting, in the middle of the gold ring. Ruby and jade carved in a bat shape. Bat is homophonous with endless happiness.

Agarwood with gold inlay bangles

Two bangles were made with agarwood, with gold inlay. The gold granulation forms in the Chinese character for longevity. The bangles could use to drive out the evil spirts.

Five-Phoenixes Coronet inlaid with Kingfisher Feathers and Jewels

This coronet is framed by iron wire and paperboard. Surface desin made by black silk threads with kingfisher feathers. Five gold filigree phoenixes inlaid with pearls. Tassels were made with pearl, coral, turquoise, lazurite, ruby and sapphire. This luxury ornament is for empresses, and only worn on festive occasions and traditional holidays.

Hope you enjoy these incredible pieces. All the informations and pictures are from the Palace Museum website (


Toronto, architecture and inspiration

I notice a lot of things, and I like looking at a lot of different sceneries.  One of my favourite (but not often enough exercised) things, is landscape photography.  In contrast, I’ve also always enjoyed looking at urban landscapes and appreciate intricate and interesting architecture.

As some of you may know, I lived in the UK for some time.  I had the privilege of doing a fair amount of traveling.  These are some of my favourites:

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, photo from wikimedia commons
Casa Batllo, Barcelona, photo from wikimedia commons
Musee D’Orsay, Paris,

I could show you a gazillion more, but I don’t have that kind of time to track down all my photos! But here’s just one more of a typical architectural feature that I used to constantly see around Scotland.

old church in Scotland

If you look at the upper left, you can notice a rather distinctive stepped gable edge. This is a Dutch architectural feature, sometimes called a crow-stepped gable or corbie gable, which occasionally you might notice if you wander Toronto looking at older houses and buildings.

When I first moved back to Toronto, I spent alot of time wandering the city getting to know it again. It was an incredible experience for me, and I spent alot of time just looking (and a little bit of capturing!). These are some of the things that have particularly caught my eye:

Now all of those shapes and features are rolling around somewhere in the back of my brain. Eventually, I’ll start sketching some new pieces based on all these features, and from there, develop them into new jewellery. Not sure when, but they’ll appear eventually. When they do, you can be sure that I’ll share them with you!

Intrigued? I know I am! I never quite know what my brain is going to come up with until it appears. Some things are like a bolt of lightning, others are like this–they need a certain amount of work before they become real designs!

Stay safe and healthy, and I look forward to seeing you all when the studio is open again. Want to connect sooner than that? Email the studio!

-Robin (House of Cassady)

” Social Distancing…..”

In the morning when I go into the kitchen, I try to make coffee without any success.  I used to buy my coffee from Tim Hortons in my way to Jewel Envy and now I stand in front of my window and I ask myself, what has happened?

Nothing is the same, I don’t go out, I can’t enjoy a bus ride and although has only been four weeks, it seems a life time!

Where are my friends, my neighbours? I live in a building and even when I go down to throw out my garbage, I rarely see any one. If I do, they generally turn away because no one wants to get to close.

I now stand in line to go inside the grocery store, I were a mask and a pair of gloves! What happened to us?

I miss my bench at the studio, my friends, my work, and my old life, I had a life before, a great life, I hugged a lot, I kissed a lot, I laughed a lot, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m not keen being on my own, I need people around me to feel like myself again, I miss my other life a lot!

But even in the incredible times that we are living now, my memories, my dreams, my loves, are intact. I’m very lucky.  I never missed the opportunity to count my blessings! Life has been difficult, with a lot of good and a lot of bad, but if I look back, I would change very few things. The good more than the bad has made of me the person I am and I like myself!

I don’t know if my life, our lives are going to be the same again, but hopefully, we all will be much more human than before, we know now many things that we didn’t know before.

This poem from Albert Camus seems to capture how I feel.

” In the midst of hatred it seemed to me that there was an invincible love within me, in the midst of the tears it seemed to me that there was an invincible smile within me, in the midst of the chaos it seemed to me that there was an invincible calm within me. I realized despite all that in the middle of winter there was an invincible summer inside me, and that makes me happy because no matter how hard the world pushes against me there is something better pushing back.” Albert Camus


What being a Goldsmith has taught me about life.

Being a Goldsmith has taught me a very important lesson about life – that all things created are never beautiful in the beginning. First there is a vision, a dream. Then come the unknowns, the molding, the mistakes, the re-dos, the things that don’t quite fit, the dirty hands, the frustrations, the ah-ha moments, the seeking of guidance, the patience, the staying the course, the polishing and refining, and the destination.

In process (before): Men’s rings by Jessica Rita Jewelry

The process looks rough 90% of the way through, and then…there comes something beautiful. And then we do it all over again, why?

Because it is our nature to KEEP CREATING.

Polished (after): Men’s Ring by Jessica Rita Jewelry

The lesson that is repeatedly taught for me through this profession is to always stay the course. To keep chipping away, because sometimes its not meant to all come together right away. Sometimes there are important lessons, people and gifts that await you along the journey toward your dreams.

#jewelenvy #bigbluehouse #roncysvillage #trust #vision #process #create #passions #reflections

Kinsley Vey Designs

Inspired by Alexis’ post explaining her business name, I thought i would explain mine. My actual name is Alex Kinsley, so the first part of my business name is pretty easily explained. However the Vey part is my mothers family name.

I used both of my parents family names as a way to honour them as they have been a huge driving force behind me in becoming a jeweller. Both of them were jewellers, although my mother has since become an elementary school teacher.

My father at the One of a Kind show in Toronto, 1980s
My mother in an article in The Free Press of London Ontario
Me at Joya Art Jewellery Fair, Barcelona, 2017

Water Casting

Hello Jewel Envy readers, 

Today I wanted to share a little bit about the process of water casting. This is a technique that I use quite frequently in my work for creating collections as well as one of a kind pieces. Water casting is a process where metal (I like to use my scrap silver from previous projects) is melted to its liquid state and then poured into a container of cold water. The quick change in temperature freezes the metal and creates really unique organic forms. One of the things I love about this process is that no two pours are ever the same, below you can see a few examples of the results of different pours. 

In this process, the water has the most control over the resulting forms, but the speed, height and way you pour the metal into the water will have some influence on the type of shapes you get. For example, slow pours from up high usually result in small round shapes while fast pours close to the surface of the water often create larger cup shaped pieces. In my droplets collection I take my favourite water cast pieces and make molds of them so I can recreate the same shapes again and again. When I get some of the really large cup shaped pieces I really enjoy turning them into one of a kind statement rings with pearls set inside. The cupped shape of the metal piece supports and protects the pearl. Below is a process picture from one such ring as well as the final result. 

I hope this post was interesting and informative. If you’re interested in a custom water cast piece you can always reach out to us via phone or email or message us on Facebook and Instagram. 


Artists of influence…

Anna Vlahos

One of the (many) artists who’s work I follow and admire, Anna Vlahos is an Australian jewellery artist, who currently lives, and works as a studio jeweller in Athens, Greece.

She has exhibited her work in Greece, China, Italy, the USA, Brazil, Lithuania, France, and Spain.

What I find interesting is that we both approach our work with similar elements at the fore, but with very different outcomes. We both primarily work with wax, casting these pieces using the lost wax casting method. As well, history, nature and natural processes, including degradation and decomposition, seem to play fairly large roles in the work.

“Here in Greece, jewellery and art objects come out of the ground as though they grow down there. I think about ancient artisans, and how they viewed the natural world around them, their inspiration, and how their work was swallowed up by the environment for thousands of years.
With the techniques they used, the metals and the application of thousands of years underground, the metal becomes something organic, reminiscent again of the natural object that inspired each piece. Nature and time have worn away and deteriorated the objects. This is what I work to recreate- pieces that might be part of a newly discovered horde, or something equally at home on the forest floor.”

All information is from

Images from, and Anna’s own website

You can also find her on Instagram @beautifully_sprued



glaciale goldsmith

Over the 14 years I have been a goldsmith I have only been asked once why glaciale? I wanted a name that alluded to the slow movement and change that I felt my ideas explored. I feel that every idea is an accumulation of things I have seen and observed over time and slowly is shaped into new pieces of jewellery. I haven’t documented every piece below, but you can see the evolution of my work over the years. I have explored different materials and techniques and continue to sell and make pieces from each group of work. All pieces can be customized, recreated or are available for sale just reach out through email to get in touch.

Hope everyone is staying safe and sane at home.



Landscape Rings.


Playing Cards.


Enamel Animals.

Enamel Gems.

Under the Sea.

Check out more:

Instagram: glaciale_goldsmith

Get in touch: / 416.666.6233

Diamond, From ash and slime to indestructible beauty.

Natural diamond in all its glory.

Times are stressful this spring, but as a silver lining that just allows us more time to stop and smell the spring flowers, I hope. Maybe this post can help distract you for a minute or two as we talk about something more… adamant… say a diamond?  

Like my pun? 

Here’s a fun fact, ‘adamant’ derives from that same Greek roots as the root word for diamond, “a” and “daman” which means “not” and “to tame”. Diamonds are the traditional birthstones of April and are the hardest natural materials known to man, hence they could never be tamed, until now. Their hardness is what made it difficult to use in jewellery prior to the turn of the century and thus kept it out of main fashion lines till the Industrial revolution.  

There are several reasons why a diamond is so hard. First, what is a diamond? 

Diamond is identified as:

  1. Cubic Crystal System (graphite is Hexagonal)
  2. Native Element (a pure element in natures found chemically ‘unbound’ with another element, like gold)
  3. Mineral = Diamond – C

Now there are varieties of diamonds called “fancy diamonds”, these are coloured diamonds as opposed to the original white/colourless we usually see. They can come in all the colours, with red and pink being the rarest colour and yellow being more common. There are also green, blue, orange, violet, chocolate and black varieties.   

The many colours of fancy diamonds: green, yellow, orange, red, pink, violet and blue.

Diamonds are actually a metastable, crystalline form of pure carbon. They are polymorphs of graphite, meaning the “lead” in your pencil and that engagement ring on your finder have the EXACT same chemical composition, just different crystal structures. The difference is how the atoms have arranged themselves. In graphite the carbon forms sheets that are weakly bound together, hence graphite is used as a lubricant in certain machinery, the atomic sheets just slide by each other. In diamond, the carbon atoms are arranged into tetrahedrons, triangular pyramids. This is what gives the diamond it’s strength, as pyramid after pyramid is stacked together, like trusses of a bridge, growing in all directions equally. 

The atomic structure of diamond and graphite displaying how carbon orients itself.

Interestingly, while diamonds are the hardest, they are not the toughest; Diamond & Diamond Lawyers didn’t do their research. First we need to establish the difference in terminology. Hardness, it the measure of resistance to scratching/indentation. Toughness is the resistance to withstand mechanical shock. Due to the tetrahedral structure of diamond, there are weak points, known as cleavage, that follow aligned atomic bonds. This makes diamond brittle, not fragile, but if you apply the right amount of force at the right angle you will cleave a diamond. This was how we originally cut diamond, by breaking it along cleavage plans using other diamonds and metals tools to create very crudely, unappealing, basic gemstones cuts. To top off this little factoid, jade is actually tougher gemstones than diamonds as they are composed of softer microcrystals that are interlocked/woven with each other. They don’t have a cleavage point thus resist impact better than diamond. Diamond lawyers should be saying there’s nothing HARDER than a diamond, but that’s no longer the case too. I’ll talk about that another time. 

Just how hard is a diamond? well is almost 4 times as hard as sapphire (corundum). Vickers hardness tests how much pressure it takes to make an indentation with another diamond into the surface.

Now for these crystals to form we need to go deep into the earth. For scale, the deepest mines are about 4km deep in South Africa and the deepest humans could ever drill was 12,262 metres (40,230 ft), in Russia. Diamonds form 150-200km below the surface of the Earth, and that’s not even deep on the Earth’s scale. Here, temperatures average 900 to 1,300 degrees Celsius and at a pressure of 45 to 60 kilobars (which is around 50,000 times that of atmospheric pressure at the Earth’s surface)! You find this kind of high pressure and low temperature (relative to the rest of the mantle at that depth) at the base of the continents, also known as a cratonic root. Cratons are ancient continents dating well over 4 billion years old, they are the first continents are formed long ago on the early earth and are characterized as the stable sections of a continent (no major earthquakes or volcanoes). The Canadian Shield you see up in cottage country north of us is such a craton, hence we have found diamonds in Canada. Now, ready for a little science that’s almost fiction? 

Geologists and chemists are able to analyst the inclusions in diamonds to help identify depth and pressure. See some of those inclusions in your ring, that people find undesirable, could actually be deep earth minerals Minerals that are only stable under extreme pressure and temperatures and would never be found on the earth’s surface. They are also able to analyze the stable isotope ratio of the carbon within a diamond, as in how much C12 there is to C13. Looking at this ratio, geologists discovered some diamonds carry ratios that are similar to modern life, algae. Life prefers to use C12 over C13, so it’s possible the diamond came from organic material or ancient algae and cyanobacteria slime that was pushed back deep into the earth along subduction zones (think Marianas Trench, like the band). That’s right, you could be wearing ancient crystalline slime dusted with rare minerals from deep within the Earth.    

Garnet inclusion within a diamond. This garnet while similar to surface garnets could very likely be a deep earth garnet, and only able to survive on the surface environment because it’s sealed within.

Another really cool interesting fact is how diamonds came to the surface. As we discussed above, diamonds need lower heat and extreme pressure from deep below the surface. If they are brought up too slowly, diamonds will transform into graphite as this structure is more stable on the Earth’s surface environment. Therefore, the diamonds we are mining today had to be brought up rapidly, so fast, in fact, they have evidence of these eruptions breaking sonic speeds. These eruptions are known as diatremes or maars

A simple diagram of a diatreme, magma forces itself along fractures and weak points in the crust thus forming dykes. When the pressure is released, a cone (like a carrot) is formed. Xenoliths are the pieces of deep crust brought up from the violent eruption, this is where the diamonds reside.

Diatremes are the result of deep magma plumes pushing to the surface and then violently reaching with groundwater to produce an eruption. This explosion is like popping a champagne cork as the released pressure allows all the built-up pressure from below to explode out. As the magma from below erupts it fractures, pulls and drags the surrounding rock to the surface. This magma produces a rock known as lamproites. If your magma happened to source below and flow through the old cratonic roots as we discussed above, there is a chance these deep eruptions can carry diamonds, creating the ore known as kimberlite, diamond-bearing lamproites. 

Kimberlite ore with a diamond in the rough.

Next time when you are showing off your diamond, and your friend points out a little black spot, let them know what that little black spot really is. 

Stay tuned for next month as we discuss jump back into beryls; the emeralds of May. 


Tree of Life – what can it teach us?

I have always loved the Tree of Life. Aside from its beautiful aesthetic appeal, I am so drawn to what it represents. I thought to myself, given the current state of the world, I can’t imagine a better time to discuss the meaning and significance behind this sacred symbol.

The tree’s roots reach deeply into the soil, absorbing from the Earth to sustain itself. It’s leaves and branches extend to the sky, drinking in the nourishment of the sun and oxygen. Without what is above and below, it simply cannot exist. It is connected to the Earth and it’s environment will impact its ability to grow, thrive, become strong, sustain the seasons, and bear fruit and seeds for future generations to enjoy. The Tree of Life is a symbol for our connectedness to each other and to our planet. The tree is us, one and all.

As the world has gone quiet, stores shut down, services reduced, it has become easier to see how much we are all dependant on one another. Our decisions, seemingly small, have an impact on the world. It has also become clear that when we work together, there can be real change on a global scale – should we choose it.

Tree of Life with Labradorite, Jessica Nehme

I made this Tree of Life to necklace to remind me of this. That I am connected to everyone and everything, and to remind myself that every action in life, big or small, has a reaction. It reminds me to be responsible, to be grateful for the good in the world, and to have faith that together we can do amazing things.

If you are interested in having your own Tree of Life, reach out to us at Jewel Envy and we would be happy to help. Even though our doors are closed, our owner Gillian is monitoring online orders from our website and we can ship orders within 1 to 2 days after payment. Please reach out to us through phone or email with any questions, we are here to help!

Stay safe and best wishes!


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