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A Gem Dealer’s Journal: Taking a Glimpse at Northern Jewellery with Rita - Livia Erikson

A Gem dealers journal Asia Lounges blog color creations Estonia Estonian Academy of Arts garnet gem gems gemstome Gemstone gift gold hand made jewellery interview jewellery jewelry Lapidary lotus gemology Natural Gems one of a kind Rita Livia - Erikson rough Simon Dussart Spinel tourmaline treatment Tucson

Hey Loungers,

Today we are lucky enough to get the visit of our pal the jeweller and entrepreneur Rita - Livia Erikson from Estonia.

Rita is a leading figure of the gem and jewellery trade in Estonia and a good chunk of Northern Europe.

Rita’s jewellery pieces can be seen here and her story can be read in this interview! So, if like us you want to know more, buckle up and read on!

Rita, the floor is yours!

 Rita Livia - Erikson in her forest :)

Discover Rita - Livia Erikson with us today! - Photo Credit:

Ester - Silva Erikson

 

AsiaLounges: Hi Rita and thank you very much for joining us in the lounges today. Let’s start this interview by the traditional introduction: Who are you?

Rita - Livia Erikson: Hi Simon! I'm a jewellery artist and gem cutter who grew up in a forest not far from Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. I'm someone who's always learning and sees every new challenge as a new opportunity to improve myself and put my skills to a test. Creating things with my hands has always been an important part of who I am and how I function.

Right after high school I got accepted to the Estonian Academy of Arts where I studied for 4 years in the Department of Jewellery and Blacksmithing. 3 years after my graduation I went to discover the world of jewellery art in the US. Instead, through several lucky coincidences, I ended up studying faceting under Meg Berry, a world renown gem cutter. This is when and how my love for gemstones really took a hold of me. During those months spent in USA I also went to the Tucson gem show for the first time in my life.

Before returning home in 2016, I bought a used faceting machine and brought it back with me. So, I continued cutting gems in Estonia.

Not long after all that, I was offered the opportunity to work as a gem cutter for a company that had just started mining rubies in Mozambique. I learned a lot through that experience. My thirst for knowledge has  kept me going to Tucson year after year, but also led me to pursue education in the field of gemmology. I started my gemological studies in 2018 at GIA Bangkok – in the city I consider to be the heart of the world of coloured stones.

What I've learned so far has added a lot to my comprehensions, and influences my decisions, as well as the ways I work.


AsiaLounges: What drove you to the path you have taken? How did you decided to study the jewellery arts?

Rita - Livia Erikson: Just like most girls, I always liked jewellery. But I found it extremely difficult to find jewellery from stores that I liked and would've wanted to wear. This is the main reason why I decided to go and study how to create jewellery myself. I just wanted to be able to do things that I'd like.

To me, jewellery is conceptual – it tells a story or speaks of a feeling, often even when it wasn't intended. People make assumptions about others based on how they interpret the adornments seen. It's one of the ways jewellery is never really silent, nor meaningless. I find it important that the person who's proudly wearing a piece of jewellery is the first one who should know about it. And not just how to take care of it.

Combining my passion, skills, and knowledge about gems and jewellery not just gives me the freedom to do what I love, but also the ability to understand that vast world on much deeper levels.

Rita's gold, Tanzanite and tourmaline ring 

Here is Rita's 18k Gold, Green Tourmaline and Tanzanite ring - Photo Credit:

Rita - Livia Erikson 

AsiaLounges: One question that always interest us, when interviewing designers such as yourself, is : How do you come up with your designs? By that I mean what inspires you to make these fairy like designs? They personally remind me of the Shakespearian world of Mind Summer Night’s Dream but perhaps your Titania comes from somewhere else. Tell us more please.

Rita - Livia Erikson: There are two different ways inspiration works for me. One is, when the material itself, like a beautiful gemstone is the inspiration. I design and build the piece of jewellery around that.

Then there are thoughts, observations, and emotions that I'm not able to put into words, so instead I  materialise them using precious metals and gemstones. I feel I've expressed something I needed to say. How it's understood is a matter of interpretation. Since jewellery is something very personal, the meanings vary, just like world views vary. When making bespoke jewellery, it's important to focus on the one who's going to own the piece: it has to match with their character.

I have definitely been influenced by mythology and many different books I've read. Images from them have stayed to live on inside my mind. Moments from my own experiences have also. And so have views from the nature, which tends to be one of the most important inspirations for artists all around the world.

I think how and why my designs look like they do is a show-through of my personality and state of mind. It's mostly a mix of my aesthetic preferences and “handwriting” that just happened to be like it is.

As if expecting Oberon to come out of the forest, here is Rita posing as Titania herself

As if expecting Oberon to come out of the forest, here is Rita posing as Titania herself - Photo Credit: Ettel Poobus


AsiaLounges: We noticed that the majority of your designs are made in Silver, is it out of a personal choice or business necessity?

Rita - Livia Erikson: I choose to use silver if the finish I want to achieve justifies that choice. Oxidising is something that can't be done with gold, and I prefer it to the shiny black rhodium plating. I like contrasting matte dark silver with bright polished surfaces. It's something I use quite a lot in my filigree jewellery. 

Silver is a good material for learning the craft because it's relatively cheap but at the same time more difficult to work with than gold. It makes you experiment more and learn a lot. And of course, silver jewellery is affordable to a much larger market. That's why the small jewellery series I make are almost all made in silver.

Oxidised silver earrings by Rita Livia - Erikson 

You never know what to expect with Rita's Expectation collection - Photo Credit: 

Rita - Livia Erikson

 

AsiaLounges: You make use of a fair few gem types in your creations and, that too, are you using these gems because of the demand of your market or is it due to personal tastes?

Rita - Livia Erikson: Using gems, especially more coloured stones, is definitely the result of my personal taste. As someone who places a lot of emphasis on gemstones I make an effort to educate customers about the possibilities gemstones have to offer. People who want custom jewellery want something they can't find in a regular jewellery store – something that they personally would feel a connection with. When gemstones are used, they usually get the main attention in a piece of jewellery. There are unlimited variations when it comes to gemstones: their color, cut, shape, brilliance, phenomenons. One of my goals is to show people exactly that.


AsiaLounges: Further to the previous question, we like to ask our interviewees what their favourite gems are. If you were free from any market constraint and could indulge in working mostly, if not exclusively, with your favourite gem and metal, which would they be?

Rita - Livia Erikson: I'm the kind of person who doesn't really focus on having favourites, in any category. There still are preferences. With gemstones, the first factor is color. What I happen to prefer depends on my mood. When deciding which rough gem to cut next, I go with the one that inspires me the most in that moment. It might be the glow of red in a garnet, the cold hue of a fancy sapphire, the watery blue-green of a tourmaline, or the grey undefinable allure of a spinel.

What I have been drawn to a lot in the past few years are spinels. I'm pleased to see that those fascinating gems are getting more and more attention and much deserved appreciation. But I'd never limit my work to only one or two gemstone species.

When we turn the focus on precious metals I probably also wouldn't choose to work exclusively with gold. Even though gold is much more enjoyable to work with and it would be tempting to choose to work only with 14K and 18K, I like some of the properties of silver.

Music Maestro! or so does this piece of jewellery seem to say

Music Maestro! or so does this piece of jewellery seem to say - Photo Credit:

Rita - Livia Erikson

 

AsiaLounges: Speaking about metals, we recently interviewed Jason Marchiafava who exposed his fully handcrafted jewellery making style. Are you “old school” too or are you casting your pieces?

Rita - Livia Erikson: I love creating jewelry from scratch with my own two hands, using simple metal smithing tools. That's also why I like making filigree so much.  That kind of work takes a lot more time and patience but it's very meditative to build something piece by piece, and finally, ending up with the finished jewellery is very satisfying. The most I enjoy creating jewellery for what I also facet or carve the gemstones.

Different designs and materials require different technologies and approaches. I try not to limit myself to what I think I am able, or just comfortable to do right now. For example, if a ring needs to be extremely precise in many details and therefore should be created in 3D, then cast and then finished by hand, then that's how I'm going to make it. Even though I'm very new to using that technology. What the finished piece should be and look like dictates more than I imagined when I first started out as a jeweler.

Every good jeweller has to be able to solve problems and invent on the fly, depending on each project. The design idea is just the first part of the creative work. It's a field where no one is ever really done: there's always so much more to learn.

The Filigree collection is one of Rita's trademarks

The Filigree collection is one of Rita's trademarks - Photo Credit:

Rita - Livia Erikson

 

AsiaLounges: You have probably seen that recently questions around ethical sourcing and pseudo ethical gems are all the rage. What is your stand on this? How do you work and does ethical sourcing as it is understood today plays a part in your gem and metal selection?

Rita - Livia Erikson: Ethical sourcing sounds like a very straightforward subject at first, to which everybody expects a very fast “right” answer. But it's not so easy to answer when we can't really even agree on what is ethical or unethical. Anything can be seen as unethical if the standpoint taken is radical enough. Jeffery Bergman reflected on that subject very wisely in his interview with you, and I have to say, I totally agree with his thoughts.

We rely a lot on disclosure. Honesty is one of the most important parts of this industry and we all have to make our decisions based on our own knowledge, experience, and intuition. Ethics should not be ignored and my choices about the materials I use are combinations of many different criteria. My sources are those I trust to fit my standards. I haven't used “ethical” as a marketing label, not because I couldn't, but because I feel that it hints then that everything not wearing this label can automatically assumed to be unethical. When talking about my work, I choose to put the emphasis elsewhere.


AsiaLounges: What is your stand on the rise of synthetic gems? Do you use them? And most importantly is it something that you see yourself using in the future?

Rita - Livia Erikson: I prefer not to use synthetic gems. Jewellery has such a deep history and meaning, and so do gemstones. How they came to be is a big part of their essence. In a natural gemstone most of the stories they tell are already there, before human hands have touched it or tried to combine it with their own ones. It's perfect as a material for a meaningful piece of jewellery that's made to last for generations. Gems that nature created are unique and rare wonders of our world. Knowing what the material is doesn't just change the value, it changes the meaning behind the sparkle. The world of natural gemstones is vast, never still and offers many options for all tastes. So, I don't really see a reason to use synthetic gems in the jewellery I create.

A fun underused material: Obsidian

A fun yet underused material: Obsidian is used for these Filigree earrings - Photo Credit:

Rita - Livia Erikson

 

AsiaLounges: We are reaching the end of this interview and it is now the time for our traditional last question: Could you please provide three books and/or advices to the Loungers that would like follow in your footsteps?

Rita - Livia Erikson: My main advice is: never think you're too small of a person and all the most interesting things and opportunities are reserved for more important and successful people.

Curiosity is a powerful driving Force. It's the seed for experiments and therefore new discoveries and skills. If you're curious about something find out more about the subject. We live in a time where information is easily accessible: there are so many articles available for free online. Books can also be ordered online. Learn and ask questions from people whose work you admire, and don't let modesty and fears keep you from evolving. We have more possibilities and freedom than ever before, so take advantage of it!

My recommendation for a book to read is “Ruby and Sapphire: A Gemologist's Guide” by Richard W. Hughes. People love and recommend that book a lot because it truly is a very well written masterpiece. Also, don't ignore the footnotes!


AsiaLounges: Thank you very much for your time with us today Rita, we hope that you enjoyed this interview as much as we did and, should you wish to add up anything further to this interview such as where can Loungers reach you or follow your work its the right moment.

Rita - Livia Erikson: Thank you for having me and giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts about gems and jewelry!

You can follow my work on Instagram (instagram.com/ritaliviajewelry), Facebook (facebook.com/ritaliviajewelry), and my website (ritaliviajewelry.com). I can be reached through any of those channels.


AsiaLounges: As for us, we will meet you all again soon in other articles and interviews or around the publications of our latest unique designs.

If you liked what you read, don’t forget to like and comment this article as well as to share it on your favourite social media platform in order to help share the love of gems and jewellery with family and friends.

Further to this last point, should you wish to read about a particular topic or person feel free to let us know by email at simon@asialounges.com or in the comments and we’ll endeavour to make it happen!

See you soon in the Lounges,



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