I’ve been a fan of Becky Thatcher Designs since the first day I walked into her Glen Arbor studio and saw her jewelry displayed in cases filled with birch, sand and stones collected from the nearby Lake Michigan shoreline. A pale purple and blue landscape was painted on the walls, and I felt as though I’d never left the beach. From her petoskey stone watches, to freshwater pearls and signature rings that blend gold, silver and gemstones, Becky has a gift for crafting exceptional jewelry. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge as well. I thought it would be fun to share a piece of her world with you.
I asked Becky if I could get a behind-the-scenes look at the world of jewelry design for the Traverse Traveler blog, and Becky had the perfect solution.
Invitation to a Gemstone Roundtable
Earlier this summer I had the privilege of joining a gemstone roundtable hosted by Becky Thatcher and gemstone dealers from Mayer & Watt. Twice each year Becky Thatcher welcomes a handful of guests to join her in experiencing what it’s like to purchase gems directly from dealers who travel the world in search of beautiful stones. This was to be my glimpse behind the scenes of the gem buying process.
Our presenters, Simon & Laurie Watt, of Mayer & Watt, are accomplished gem dealers with whom Becky has worked for many years. Simon has served on the board of the American Gem Trade Association for more than 9 years, and Laurie was one of the first three women in the gem business.
We met at the Becky Thatcher Designs store in downtown Traverse City. A lovely light dinner and refreshments awaited while guests mingled and met our hosts. We sat at a long narrow table carefully prepared for the process of examining stones for purchase.
For over 30 years Mayer & Watt have developed relationships with a network of cutters and miners in every corner of the gem world, to bring stones to jewelers like Becky. Fair trade and fair labor are of utmost concern to be sure their products do not fund terror. They specialize in rare and unusual stones, many of which we had the chance to see and to hold.
Guests were seated around a long table with Simon at the head. He held a box with dozens of simple paper envelopes inside. We were asked to pass the envelopes around the table one by one. The outside was labeled with the name of the stone, the cut, the carat weight and the price. Since all stones were available for purchase we employed a special process for laying claim to a certain stone.
As the envelopes passed round the table each guest carefully opened the paper folds to reveal the loose stone(s) inside. Some were single stones and others were cut and sold as a pair. If one of the stones caught our eye and warranted a second look we called “dibs” along with our name and the number on the envelope, then passed it along. Dibs wasn’t a commitment to buy, “just a flirtation,” said Simon. A chance to see the stone again, handle it, and perhaps compare it to another stone that came along.
I saw amazing gems that evening. Stones I’d never heard of. From Spinel, Chrysoberyl, Nephrite and Alexandrite to the familar Opal, Amethyst, Sapphire and Ruby. But the most unusual name and the most amazing story go hand-in-hand. We waited for the Rhodocrosite. Simon came across this award-winning stone 16 years ago. He offered to buy it and was told to “get in line.” Years went by and he never forgot the beauty of that stone. Just weeks before coming to Michigan he received a call about a special stone for sale. Lo and behold it was one in the same. The stunning Rhodocrosite (shown above) was finally his. You’d think this one would be marked “not for sale” but in the gem business that’s not how it works. The stones are always for sale. “It’s like getting to fall in love all over again,” said Simon. And he hopes someone will fall in love with this beauty.
It took hours to make our way through the entire box of stones. We all had fun calling “dibs” to see some of the stones up close. We marveled at the beauty of these treasures and imagined what Becky could do with them in her capable hands.
Attending a gemstone roundtable was a fascinating experience. If you’d be interested in seeing this first hand I’d suggest you pay a visit to Becky Thatcher Designs in Glen Arbor, Leland, Harbor Springs or Traverse City and inquire. Becky will be hosting another roundtable yet this year. It could be a great place to start shopping for Christmas!
But wait, there’s more! Have you heard about Becky’s Tuesday Tea & Talk series? Throughout the summer she hosts a formal tea in her private garden behind the Glen Arbor store where Becky’s husband David shares a lecture on gemstones. The topic changes each week. Click here for the Tuesday Tea & Talk schedule and stop by for high tea in the garden and a glimpse into the world I found fascinating.