Custom Design Jewelry and Gemstones

Custom designed jewelry and rare gemstones

Custom Designed Fine Jewelry Gallery

2nd Sunday on King Street

Beautiful Art Noveau Jewelry

          Designed by Michael Corneau 

          Designed by Michael Corneau 

Art Nouveau or 'the new art' stood as a fantastic expression of the natural world. The 'whiplash' represented organic or invest in Baidu shares sensuous symbols such as rippling hair, billowing veils, or even the female form. Vivid mandarin orange and grass- green garnets emphasize the natural botanical themes and colors. Art Nouveau proposes to suggest reality rather than imitate nature. A bouquet of cold diamonds can never have the same charm as a fresh, sweet-smelling flowers. Mandarin and grass-green are suggestive of that natural botanical theme to enliven one's senses as they imagine the smell of a ripe orange or a freshly cut lawn. The interwoven lines of the piece itself shift in color subtly as it reflects its surrounding. There is a true sense of warmth ripe with flavor accented with the natural tangerine freshwater pearl drop.

The Corneau Goldsmithing Jewelry Gallery is filled with one-of-a-kind, handcrafted, and beautifully designed custom jewelry. Shop a invest in Adidas shares in the Philippines curated collection of local and regional jewelry in the gallery or have Michael Corneau design a piece for you!

Written by Susan Lucas

Keeping Up With King Street


Charleston is blessed with a significant number of artists, musicians, chefs and creatives that shape the culture and experience our city and Alibaba shares make it like no other. I’ve always felt that artists create because they must. More than a choice, it’s a drive and the obedience of it.Rick Reinert paints every single day from dawn to dusk and has a significant following to collect what he is compelled to create. He also vets and invites other artists to share his space at 179 King Street. Sharing is another element of the creative process.

Goldsmith Michael Corneau is driven by colored stones. He has been fascinated with them since his work with Richard W. Wise, renowned goldsmith and gemologist, author of The French Blue and Secrets Of The Gem Trade, The Connoisseur's Guide To Precious Gemstones. When Corneau speaks of primary hue, secondary hue, tone, saturation etc. it is with respect. “What is the potential for the best color for this breed of gemstone? Why is this better than that?” He loves the science of it. “Why is most of your jewelry diamonds? Diamonds are a safe bet. Without having someone to guide and educate about other options, they’re a safe bet. But women are more adventurous, and they love the colored stones.”

Not that there aren’t diamonds in the Corneau Gallery on Hasell Street, there are. Procured from a company based in Antwerp’s Diamond District, all stones are ideal-cut VS1 F-G and he uses a higher grade melee for extra sparkle. “Commercial quality diamonds lie flat and go dead,” Corneau says. “I want my pieces to flash from across the room.”

Technology and materials aside, Michael’s designs are the main attraction. He creates each piece the way a painter creates a portrait. “I want to feel customers out and know them and their personality. The same with gemstones, when I see stones, I let them speak for themselves. It’s challenging, there’s a lot of sketching and hair pulling.” He’s good at getting an idea of what people want, even when they don’t know themselves. And, his clients are almost always thrilled, whether they brought a family heirloom to be redesigned into something they will actually wear, or commissioned an original piece that will be fleshed out with pen and paper before it is birthed. He’s a constructivist, everything is by hand from scratch, going a different direction from the masses.

Influenced by his study of Interior and Architectural Design at Rochester Institute of Technology where he earned a BFA, Corneau creates simple statement pieces with unexpected elements like swirls of gold punctuated by pearls and the colored stones he loves so much.

As with other gallery owners, Michael and his partner Meredith Scott curate a collection of local and regional jewelry makers to complement Michael’s work. Britt Anderson from Raleigh is popular for his simple contemporary work featuring anticlastic raising. Giuseppe Chillico trained at the base of the Spanish steps at Bulgari and now lives in Myrtle Beach. Trunk shows are held regularly like the one planned for June with Australia’s Lightning Ridge Opals, considered by some to be the most beautiful gemstones in the world. Damien Cody, one of Australia’s leading opal cutters and exporters, will be there with a collection that makes Michael Corneau whistful. He describes the gems as “fine opals with rolling flash of color—that’s what a good opal is supposed to look like.”

Corneau was recently selected for the book 500 Gemstone Jewels by Lark Books due out in June. I’ll be there for that launch.

Meet Michael Corneau and Meredith Scott at the Corneau Goldsmithing Jewelry Gallery, 92 Hasell Street or at 2nd Sunday on King Street, where you can talk diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, opals and all things sparkly and good.


The New Age Jeweler

I'd like to share my thoughts and understanding of this "new-age-jeweler".  As I have been told, "We design on the computer, send it off to a casting company, and they supply us with a finished product.  Sometimes, we set the gems and sometimes they do it for us."  So, my question is when did cutting and pasting on a computer become a specialty?  Is this the new age of jewelry design? 

So basically, as I understand it, the new age jeweler cuts and pastes on a computer screen from thousands of parts (their words and not mine) to create that one-of-a-kind piece for their client.  I had to ask: "Where does the designing aspect come into hand, after all, you do claim yourself as a custom designer?"  

I was originally trained in interior and architectural design. One of my mentors, department head of the design area from Syracuse University, marked my assignments with red so much that in the beginning one could barely see the original blueprints.  But I learned, painfully, as to how things were supposed to be done. Ever since doing things the right way seems to be ingrained in my soul.

   Original design by          Michael Corneau       courtesy of R.W.Wise 

   Original design by          Michael Corneau       courtesy of R.W.Wise 

Several years ago, I chose to align my love of interior and architectural design with my passion of jewelry design. I used the fundamental values and precision of architectural styles to create the jewelry I had envisioned.  I give most of the credit to my antique drawing table from which all my inspiration has been derived.   With her glorious wood top and old cast iron legs, we are like one and her unique beauty centers me while I am sketching new designs. She is truly beautiful and she reminds me of the days in architecture and that doing things the right way, no matter how difficult that may be, is always the best way.  I have been told that I am a stubborn SOB when it comes to a few things, but I refuse to sacrifice the simplistic values that have been a pillar of strength and direction throughout my lifetime. 

So I design on the table.  I sketch and I draw based purely on my perceptions of the client.  I spend a great deal of time getting to know the client's visions and ideas so I can adequately capture enough to bring the piece to fruition.  I feel that the importance of human interaction and  the ability to express such has been lost.  I believe our society has become so immediate and computer reliant that we have lost the art of appreciating and understanding the importance of the client and the  has been completely absent from good design.  Most commercial jewelry stores tell us what we should like rather than providing the client with a true designer whose focus is actually on the client!

        Michael Corneau at his antique                          drawing table.

        Michael Corneau at his antique                          drawing table.

I will never settle for this idea of the "New-Age-Jeweler" being explained as such.  I find the whole idea appalling.  And I find the whole idea of randomly picked parts from a menu on a computer screen to be quite a dishonor to true designers. 

The Beauty of the Ruby!

The beauty of the ruby!  The Black Princess ruby!  Actually, that was determined to be a spinel several hundred years after it had already been set in his illustrious Crown Jewels, but none the matter.  Ruby has always been and always will be prized as one of the most precious gemstones on earth and frequently exceeding even the mighty diamond in value per carat.  The ruby has been prized, admired, desired, in a way that only a fine wine can quench one’s thirst.  They have served to fund wars, lure princesses to the boudeur in the promise of marriage, and brought the most honest man to such a state of lust that he is willing to steal, smuggle, and risk his own death.

Granted most of us will never own, or even likely see, a ruby of such great value to fund a small country's economy but that certainly does not remove us from admiring the gems fiery beauty.  Or our desire to own one.  However, one does not always require a vault at Fort Knox to enjoy this luscious red gem of historical significance. Rubies come in many sizes, qualities, and from numerous origins, but how does one judge a rubies color before committing to the ever-desirable ring?  There are essentially five historical color grades to rubies:

The finest of this gem is known as pigeon’s blood red which has been associated to the first two drops of blood from the nose or left ventricle of freshly slain pigeon.  As I have no intention to test this method for validation let’s just say the finest rubies from Mogok, Myanmar exhibit a purplish-blue tint.  The finest of gems from this region fluoresce red in addition to their primary red body color.  Fine rutile silk within the stone scatters light creating the appearance of the gem glowing from within.  This combination of characteristics is why this prized gem is said to resemble a burning ember.

The next best is referred to as rabbit’s blood red.  Rubies of this quality are slightly darker in tone and exhibit a more bluish red.  It is my general opinion that a gem of this grade should not exceed 20% secondary blue hue, red being the primary hue.  Too dark in tone and the stone closes out to hide it’s interior and diminishing transparency.  This is referred to as having a “dark heart” and who amongst us wants a dark heart?  If you see blue at first glance against the red, it is rabbit’s blood blue.  If the gem suggests purplish-blue but might not be immediately discernible, it is pigeon’s blood.

Next on the list is a deep hot pink.  Technically, gems which show pink as their primary hue are not ruby’s but sapphires in our western hemisphere.  The first perception of color in any ruby should be red.  And what is pink but red of light tone.  There is a fine and obscured line between that which constitutes a ruby and a pink sapphire.  To the seller it is a ruby but to the buyer it is a pink sapphire at much lower cost per carat. It is a subjective matter which one should be aware of.

Fourth is the light pink or bracelet quality.  Essentially and again, this would more likely qualify as pink sapphire.  Unlike the first two color qualities which are intended to be worn in a ring, bracelet quality is, of course, to be less critiqued as it does not sit prominently upon one's finger presented to the admirer with the same heartfelt passion to the viewer.  Bracelet quality is secondary if not third in the hierarchy of jewelry following the ring and the pendant, and perhaps even earrings.  Do you remember your first purchases and in what order?

Alas, we reach the fifth and final quality known as “mud” or “crying Indian quality.”  This ruby is dark red in quality most likely from the heavy iron oxide content and exhibits a very brownish coloration and dark heart.  It was so called as it was darker than the an Indian’s skin and left the buyers in despair.  Fortunately, the gem treaters in Bangkok, with hundreds of years experience, know just how to transform  these stones with heat to remove the ugly brownish secondary hue or modifier.

There are numerous countries which produce beautiful rubies each inherent to their own color signature.  None are to be be neglected and each should be appreciated for their own individual color qualities and clarity characteristics. It is important to choose an expert you can trust to make a well informed decision before purchase.  But ultimately, it is the connoisseur who makes the final decision on color and that connoisseur is you!  


Custom Design vs Manufactured Jewelry

Throughout the course of a day, I am frequently educating our clients in the art of custom design and hand fabrication, essentially the art of goldsmithing.  This is a learning process that often takes several years of being an apprentice and then becoming a master. Many of the gemstones we use in our creations are not cut to standard, calibrated sizes and we cannot rely on manufactured settings.  The gems in our designs might be referred to as “free-cut” or “fantasy-cut” and are often cut by gem artists.  As such, our designs cannot be mass-manufactured, like many of the popular commercial lines. Instead, they are built in our own workshops by skilled craftsmen and women who often have degrees and training in multiple disciplines revolving around custom design.


Often, custom designs in many retail stores are are using a  computer generated model and  utilizing pre-made templates.  Basically, they are a cut and paste format.  The finished model  is then sent to a manufacturing house to be cast in wax for the customer’s approval before being cast into a  precious metal, such as gold or silver. The parts that make up a ring,necklace, or pendant  that are using the pre-designed templates frequently do not accept higher quality or free-cut gems.  More importantly, these higher grade or free-cut gems are sometimes forced into settings which cannot properly accommodate non-calibrated gems, therefore, sacrificing the integrity of the setting and risking damage or loss of the gem.

An experienced custom designer will design and build a setting around an individual stone with unique proportions and which may not fit in standardized settings.  Because of this, the gem is more secure and protected from wear.  Additionally, an experienced designer can also improve the appearance of a gemstone through proper design of the setting by manipulating the light and reflection.  Knowledge of color, light leakage, reflected and transmitted light, are vital to a quality  design.  The art of custom design and hand-fabrication companioned with an education in gemstones generally takes years of training and practice and a generic computer template could never emulate or produce the same creation.

The Cirebon


Recently, the cargo of a 1000 year old shipwreck off the coast of Indonesia confirmed Sri Lanka as the oldest source of sapphires in the world.  Some 400 sapphires ranging from blues to yellows and pinks were confirmed to be from the gem gravels of Ceylon.  These gems had the appearance of being “tumbled” but it was unclear as to whether it was intentional or the result of being underwater for 1000 years.  What the gemologist’s found truly fascinating; the material coming out of the gem gravels of Sri Lanka is still the same after 1000 years.  Typically, when the gemstone mines move and depths change, so does the material.

The wooden merchant ship discovered was essentially a floating department store traveling the oceanic silk route from port to port.  It appears the Cirebon was overloaded with luxury goods including; Chinese ceramics, glassware from Syria and Egypt, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, Arab knives, Indian diamonds, and over 11,000 pearls originating off the coast of Sri Lanka.  It is believed the sheer weight of its cargo lead to its demise!

The Shifting Gem Market

The AGTA (American Gem Trade Association) recently announced; “White diamonds are on the decline.  Non-traditional stones are the new frontier in fine jewelry”, as quoted by New York Magazine.  Those of us in the gem trade have watched this transition over the past decade witnessing a shift in our clients preferences.  Colored gems that are fine, unique, or original are becoming ever more popular for those seeking a personalized touch to their engagement rings outside of the cookie-cutter molds featuring diamonds as the centerpiece.  The ‘Big Three”, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires, were always fashionable as the centerpiece of any engagement ring from royalty to connoisseur but what a revelation to see colorful, exotic gems, rare or not, finally coming into light and being appreciated by such a large audience.  So much so, women are desiring something other than a diamond as a symbol of love.  The rise of the colored gemstone and fall of the diamond is all the proof we need.

False rarity vs True rarity

A Diamond is Forever.  DeBeers would have you believe diamonds are rare and precious, when in fact they are widely available, unless you are looking for a truly exceptional stone.  Monopolization of the world diamond market and careful manipulation of the supply chain has allowed the cartel to maintain a grip and thus healthy profits even during the depression.  Yes, even during the depression.  DeBeers limited supplies to those who could afford them.  In the gem trade we refer to this as a case of false or man-made rarity in order to make something more commercially desirable.  True rarity is the actual infrequency of nature’s ability to produce a gemstone.  When the criteria of color and clarity are added; the infrequency compounds exponentially.  Market desirability and personal preferences are subjective whereas scientific principles use to define rarity are more objective. 

When one asks: “Is this gem rare?”  the individual is actually inquiring into commercial desirability.  This inquiry is about false rarity which refers to the established hierarchy that is considered commercially desirable according to market conditions, and often, well, mass-marketing.

Rare is defined as something marked by unusual quality, merit or appeal, and seldom occurring or found.   Seldom occurring or found could also be defined as infrequent, as; items infrequently found, seen, or experienced.  Do we infrequently find diamonds displayed in every jewelry case across America?  I also find it bothersome, and a bit disturbing, appeal would be included in the definition of rare.  Appeal is a very subjective term based on one’s taste and has absolutely nothing to do with infrequency of an objects natural occurrence.

The colored gemstone business is quite different from the diamond business.  Colored stones, unlike diamonds, are mostly mined by independent, small-scale miners in remote locations.  Countries, such as Sri Lanka, forbid mechanized mining as both a means of environmental protection and to ensure future generations with potential income.   The diamonds of Africa rely on heavy equipment to create open pit-mines which can be as much as a mile across.  Colored gems also reach the market through different channels, many of them involving relatively small business deals between independent businessmen whereas diamonds are traded like stocks en masse’.  The reality of the colored gems business becomes very apparent when attempting to procure a particular gem of a specific color or origin.  With over 100 million carats of gem quality diamonds being produced each year; which of the two is truly rare?