How to Turn World Travel Treasures Into Lasting Art

In the past year, I’ve had a string of random custom jewelry requests from a few of my customers. Oddly enough, each of these customers had purchased an opal on their travels abroad and wanted to turn their world travel treasures into lasting art. I don’t typically work with opals in my collections so it was exciting to have a new material to play with and design around. Opals come in many different colors and varieties: black, white, boulder, dendritic, and fire.

On the left: the final designed custom opal necklace. On the right: the full lifecycle of the necklace from initial sketch on the top, to the workbench in-progress photo in the middle, to completed piece at the bottom. 

On the left: the final designed custom opal necklace. On the right: the full lifecycle of the necklace from initial sketch on the top, to the workbench in-progress photo in the middle, to completed piece at the bottom. 

My customers were thrilled with the resulting pieces—not only because of the statement these pieces make, but because the jewelry serves as a lasting reminder of their trip abroad.

So, if you’re headed out to explore new horizons, you may want to keep the following locations in mind. These countries are producers of some of the most beautiful gems in the world—all of which would make wonderful keepsakes to hold onto (and turn into unique jewelry pieces) long after the trip ends.  

Colombia

The South American country of Colombia is known for the incredible emeralds they produce. There’s no better way to see these beautiful gems and learn about the industry then to sign up for an emerald tour during your stay. You may even have the opportunity to purchase a gem of your own. 

Burma (Myanmar)

This country mines and produces stunning rubies, sapphires, pearls, jade. If you happen to be visiting the area, the Myanmar Gems Museum is a wonderful place to visit and explore the stones this country has to offer. The giant jades they have on display are a must see.

Australia

Here’s a fun fact: Australian mines produce nearly 90% of the world's precious opals. In fact, this is where one of my customers found the opal she asked me to set. You can even visit a working opal mine in South Australia’s Coober Pedy. Keep your eyes peeled as you may spot an opal you’d want to take home.

Tanzania

One of my personal favorite gemstones, Astrophyllite, used in the Fireworks necklace

One of my personal favorite gemstones, Astrophyllite, used in the Fireworks necklace

Another one of my customers got her opal in Tanzania. This country is also the home of the lovely purple gemstone, Tanzanite, and produces sapphires, rubies, emeralds, spinels, tourmalines, aquamarines, tsavorites, spessartites, rhodalites and demantoid garnets. So, yes, go on a safari in Tanzania, but do not miss the opportunity to look for gems, as well as animals!

Sri Lanka

If you’re looking for a promising lead in your gemstone hunting expedition, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better location than Ratnapura, Sri Lanka—aka The City of Gems. Located in the south-western part of the country, this city holds is a long-established player in the mining of precious gemstones—often producing rubies, sapphires, and other gems.

Russia

Another vast country, Russia is home to many areas of rich mineral deposits--the most famous of which is the Ural mountains in Siberia. Russian gemstones include diamonds,  Siberian jade, Alexandrites, eudialytes, emeralds, and my personal favorite, Astrophyllite, among others. Also, some great meteor discoveries can be made in Russia and meteors do make beautiful jewelry (see the work of Jacob Albee).

If you have a gem you found on a recent expedition and want to transform it into a lasting piece of art, let’s talk. Together we can create a piece that’s fashionable and reminiscent of your time spent exploring. 

Lori Gottlieb