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Cufflinks into jewelry

My grandfather, George Barrett, was an amateur gemologist. He mined, cut, polished, and precious and semi-precious stones as a hobby for most of his life.

Some of his most popular pieces used moss agate and Tiger’s eye, known for their intricate markings and smooth coloring. He set a few in cufflinks decades ago and gave them to my father, who’s kept and worn them proudly ever since.

We spent this past Christmas at my parents’ house, and one evening they came up in conversation. My mom rushed into the bedroom and came back with them, saying “They’re so pretty, but we barely even take them out any more. Ryan, you should take them!” Gina liked them too, so I happily accepted and brought them home.

Before long, I wondered if we could do more. I poked around and found Rafi Chabo, a jeweler known for his custom pieces. I brought the cufflinks in and asked if we could convert them into rings – nothing elaborate, just simple settings that would let the stones speak for themselves. Rafi listened, talked me through options, and had his assistant Luba send me more ideas. (Evidently she’s good with design, he’s good with craftsmanship.)

We emailed back and forth, compared pictures of existing pieces, and eventually settled on a final design: heavy, asymmetric yellow gold “bubbles” that cover large parts of the stones but still showcase them well.

We’d never commissioned jewelry before, much less using raw materials with so much sentimental value, so we were a little apprehensive. Rafi and Luba eased our fears by sending us 3D renderings in advance. They’re stunning. When we first saw them, we thought they’d finished already and sent us photographs!

The finished pieces turned out better than we could have hoped. Gina loves them, and my dad and grandmother are both overjoyed that we were able to breathe new life into the stones and enjoy them and their story for another couple generations.

Chalk up another adventure in custom design: dining table, car stereo, now jewelry!

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3 thoughts on “Cufflinks into jewelry

  1. The jewelry turned out wonderfully, guys–better than in the photos!

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