Being part of a special occasion

It’s a sunny summer day, we’re allowed to have (very limited) numbers of clients in the studio again, and graduation is hovering around the corner for a lot of people! I was reminded of a special commission that I took on awhile ago, and thought I’d share that with you this month.

Doing a PhD is a big thing. I’m not sure about other disciplines, but in biology, it’s 4-7 years of your life, hundreds of hours of lab experiments, successes, duds and, at times, frantic nail biting. Not to mention all the writing, reading, trying to network , coming up with new research ideas, wondering what you’re going to do with your future career…..well, you get the idea. So, when you successfully finish and defend your thesis, it’s definitely a milestone to be celebrated. I felt pretty honoured to be commissioned to make a special PhD completion/leaving gift.

Sterling silver, blue needled felt, and a fluorescence microscopy image that served as some inspiration.

You can read a little bit about it here. Basically, the brief was to make a stem cell pendant, as understanding some of the mechanisms and regulation of stem cells (self-replenishing cells that have the ability to differentiate into other cells types-see more here if you are interested!) was part of the research in question.

I wanted it to have some depth, I wanted to incorporate coloured felt, and I wanted it to have some texture. I specifically wanted to incorporate blue, you see, because when you image cells, you frequently use a fluorescent dye called DAPI which stains the nucleus (the repository of your DNA, among other things! :), and looks blue when you look at the cells down the fluorescent microscope.

I started with some small discs that I punched out to make space for the felt “nuclei”, textured with a subtle line texture to vaguely represent microstructure in the “cells”, and then domed them.

Next was the fun of trying to fit them all together and attach them. An actual ball was a bit too much, but I still wanted the impression of a ball of cells. This was what I ended up with!

Next, I attached a simple jump ring bail so it would go on a chain, and inserted the felt, to get the final piece!

Like I said, it was so nice to be involved in helping celebrate a woman’s achievement in STEM research! Looking for a special gift for that graduand in your life? Or for yourself? Visit or contact the studio, and see what we can do for you!

In the meantime, enjoy your sunny Saturday, and stay safe!


House of Cassady

The Deal with Real

“Is this real or fake?” is a big question in jewellery.  There are a number of answers, and without a little knowledge about how gemstones are made and sold, you can feel like you are being taken for a ride.   Jewellers use terms like Genuine, Mined, Imitation, Simulated, Synthetic, and Lab-grown, Enhanced.  Once you have a general understanding of the choices available for gems in the market, you will be able to make the best choice for yourself.

I have been thinking about this a lot, and have decided to break down the terminology using popstars. 

Imagine one of the biggest stars of all time is called “Sapphire”.   They’ve also had success as “Ruby”, but their real name, given at birth, is “Corundum”.  So, it’s Corundum on their driver’s license, but Sapphire on some albums, and Ruby on other albums.  Same popstar.  People cannot get enough, so Sapphire/Ruby is EVERYWHERE.  Concerts sell out, streams are prolific, and even impersonators make a good living at tribute shows.  In fact, this star is SO popular and versatile, that scientists find a way to use Corundum’s dna to make clones, so all of Corundum’s original talents can come through in Sapphire and Ruby shows all over the world at the same time.  Billions of people are happy, and anyone wanting to go to a show has some decisions to make.

Genuine or Mined – The real thing, made in nature.  This would be the original artist, rocking out for fans who paid top price for the thrill of saying they were there.  They bought a ticket for genuine, they get genuine.

Imitation or Simulated – Not the real thing, but looks close to it.  These are the impersonators, the tributes, who might be a spitting image, but do not share dna with the original artist, so cannot claim to be the original artist.  The shows are billed as imitation, so there is no trickery here.  This is a great option for people who want to enjoy the talent, but do not have the cash or desire for a big-budget show.   

Synthetic or Lab-grown – The real thing, made in a lab.  Basically the clones, with all of the same genetic make-up as the original artist.  The obvious choice for Corundum clones is to perform as Sapphire or Ruby, doing a fantastic, maybe even better show, but at lower ticket prices than a show with the genuine artist.  Are they real? Yes.  Are they genuine? No.  As long concert-goers know they are watching genetic clones, and the quality is same or better, they are thrilled.  In fact, the clones are so talented and versatile and available, that they also work as imitators in completely different tribute shows.  You might find a synthetic Corundum working as an Alexandrite impersonator, or a synthetic Spinel working as a Ruby impersonator.  This is where the answer to “is it real or fake” can get complicated, but as long as the person buying the ticket understands what they are getting, everyone has a great time.

Enhanced – A treatment that has been applied to improve quality.  This is like autotune, and can be used on any of the above, in a subtle way to add value, or in an over-the-top way for a specific effect.

In the jewellery world, designers think about all of these options when making a piece.  We use aesthetic, budget, and availability to choose the best gem for the job, so the piece you see is the piece we meant it to be, in all its beauty.  If you would like to know more about any of our pieces, just ask!

“Hey Poppy!” pendant with synthetic sapphire as
Alexandrite, the birthstone for June.
Handmade by Frekkel Designs

In Studio COVID 19 Pin Competition!

Each of these pins was designed to represent the pride we feel in getting the COVID 19 vaccine. These pins are meant to inspire those who are able to get vaccinated to do so and show that badge of pride for helping your local community and the world get this devastating virus under control.

Jewel Envy goldsmiths were invited to design a clutch style pin and one will be chosen by our customers to be put into production. Please vote on your favourite design. The design that receives the most votes will be announced on June 16th and then available for pre-order while being made and then for sale through the Jewel Envy website and in the shop. Orders will be fulfilled in the order in which they are received!

Voting will take place from June 1st- 15th. The winner will be announced on June 16th.


Please vote here:

You can order before the winner is announced and it will be a surprise for you; you can wait until the 16th and pre-order while the pin is in production; or you can wait until it is in the shop (the picture will be updated at the various stages). Pre-order your pin here:

Thanks for shopping local!

Iron Identity Sneak Preview by Alex Kinsley

‘Iron Identity’ is a solo exhibition of work by Toronto-based contemporary jeweller Alex Kinsley Vey.

“Hamilton, my hometown on the shore of Lake Ontario, has traditionally been a steel producing centre. Despite the industry having died down in recent decades, its industrial activity is still apparent. ‘Iron Identity’ references my time growing up there, and the impact this place had on me.

Brooches, rings and neck-pieces evoke and commemorate this identity through the use of oxides, coarse finishing, and sturdy construction. I use colours associated with industrial machinery and abandoned sites – bright colours that contrast signs of rust and deterioration. Transporting this aesthetic to the body allows it to be worn close, displayed with pride, and given reverence as a jewellery object.

The places and structures I reference directly influenced the culture of Hamilton. These former steel mills, manufacturing facilities, and factories provided good, working class jobs, and were once economic symbols announcing the prosperity of the city. Now that we have moved into a post-industrial economy, these places look dirty and out of place. I grew up around the last of these industrial sites when the flame of industry was already diminished. I feel compelled to record the physical and emotional identity of this city in order to come to a better understanding of my own identity.”

– Alex Kinsley Vey

On June 3rd my first solo exhibition will be opening at Craft Ontario Gallery here in Toronto! Check out some of the work which will be in the show until August 14th.

Private Beauty

Jewellery is often with us during special moments, experiences, and milestones.  Sometimes it is given to us by a special person, or in a special way, or at a special time.  Our jewellery pieces carry these memories for us, even when we didn’t mean them to.  Sometimes there are experiences so personal, and so common, that we keep them in our own special way, and only share them with certain people, when we feel the time is right.  It might be through a song, a poem, sculpture, or painting, and this is often the way that artists touch us in the deepest way – by channeling, sharing and expressing our stories.  As goldsmiths, our poetry and sculpture is precious and portable.  We are acutely aware we are always creating vessels that may carry memories and emotions which haven’t happened yet, but sometimes, we also get to design pieces that can carry an emotion someone has been holding alone.  This is a special connection we have, and always have had, to the human experience.

The flower pendant with an empty petal, pictured here, is a piece designed by our own @frekkeldesigns for those who would like a subtle, sweet expression of a personal memory or loss.  As the warm weather arrives, and new life is on display, we can enjoy it all, and quietly remember.

In the blood-by House of Cassady

It’s another sunny Saturday, and I’m in the studio. Apple weather lied to me and said it was going to be rainy, I feel a bit deceived!

Anyway, I’m digressing. I thought I’d tell you about a new piece that I just completed (it really is hot off the bench!!). For me, it’s a major new work, and is part of the ongoing series of pieces that I have been making exploring the cell shapes of the immune system and the positive and negative aspects of their activities.

I’ve called it “in the blood”, and it’s composed of sterling silver with a slightly sub-mirror polish, with green cabochon (that means flat back, smooth top) tourmalines and my signature needled felt insert with forest green felt.

The metal components, connecting jump rings, and larger ring connectors are evocative of blood vessels, and the circulatory system that blood and other immune cells can use to move through the body, with the kinetic motion referencing the dynamic nature of blood flow. In fact, one interesting property of the immune cell is that it can move in and out of blood vessels and tissues via a process called extravasation or diapedesis. The discs with the tourmalines are representative of red blood cells, and the large abstract hollow form cutout is evocative of the macrophage.

In the blood

The chain and pendant are so long, I had a hard time getting it all in the photo!!

Here’s a close up view of the central pendant, with a better look at those yummy tourmalines (I love tourmalines) and the detail in the macrophage with its dark forest green needled felt!

I’ve included some of my process photos below, so you can see how it started to come together over time. At the end, I had to slightly modify the design, as it is meant to slide over the head with no clasp, but it was a smidge too small, so I cut the straight side arms and inserted an additional ring on each side to lengthen it to a more manageable length.

Beginning of the idea for the central pendant.

I love the kinetic flow, but the more substantial look of the all metal necklace that I had made previously, so this one is a variation on that. Here’s my initial layout.

Here we are at a bit of a more advanced stage-almost ready to add the connecting jump rings, and set the stones.

I hope you love it as much as I do! If you interested in seeing more of my work with these shapes, you can visit IG, or book a virtual shopping tour.

Hope you’re enjoying the sunny Saturday, and as usual, stay safe, and we hope to see you more again soon, when we’re able to.

-Robin Cassady-Cain

House of Cassady

Sunny Saturday, sunny news

I had some exciting news this week, that I’m so happy to share with you—I’ve just found out that I’ve been accepted to participate in the Toronto Outdoor Artfair this year (I will be joined by a couple of my colleagues, but that’s not my story to tell!).  You may or may not know about these things, but as a relatively junior goldsmith (in terms of length of career so far!), it’s a pretty big deal for me to get into a juried show.  Honestly, I think even when I’m old and grey(er), I’ll still get a big charge out of it, that’s just kind of the way I am!

Me, looking excited, you just can’t tell, because I’m wearing a mask :). Actually, it’s from a few weeks ago, but I was very excited the day I found out!

What’s a juried show? you say.  Well, a juried show means that the show/sale/exhibition is curated, and there is a competitive process involved in being accepted to participate.  You have to tell them who you are and what you’re about, you need to submit professional looking images of your work and say what you will be exhibiting/selling.  Then a panel of people looks at all the applicants and judges you (eek!). I find it a bit nerve wracking, even though it’s not (usually) an in-person process.  You just have to wait for the answer about whether you’ve been accepted or not to eventually pop up in your email. (To be honest, this is shorter than in science—I’ve written research grants that take up to a year to get an answer about, art/craft shows are usually a couple or a few months—thankfully for my finger nails!!)

Anyway, I hope that you will check the show out between July 2nd and 11th (there will be more info in the future from the Blue House about this in the appropriate newsletter).  Sadly this year will be virtual again, but I always enjoy attending (even if it’s from my armchair) as a browser/buyer, and hope you will too!

It’s a beautiful, sunny day in Roncy this Saturday, so I hope you’re able to take advantage of it!  Good luck getting your covid vaccination, and stay safe, as ever.  We are looking forward to welcoming you back into the studio in person sometime (hopefully) soon, but in the meantime, keep in touch-send us an email, comment on something you’ve seen on Instagram, or facebook, let us know how you’re doing, we love hearing from you!


House of Cassady

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