Review: Cecile Raley Designs (My “Relationship” Ring – Part 3)

Review continued from Part 2 – Center Stone: Tsavorite from Bruce Bridges of


Part 2 – Side Stones: Sapphires and Rhodolites from Yvonne Raley of Cecile Raley Designs


Why Yvonne?

 As I’ve mentioned, Yvonne was my introduction into the world of loose gemstones. A philosophy professor at her primary work, she is a role model of an independent busy woman – characteristics I admire and aspire to. I have purchased both loose stones and finished jewelry pieces from her (earrings, rings), and a lot of the aquamarine beads I use in my pieces were supplied by her as well.

If you are looking for quality precious stones in a small size, I would go to Yvonne. She has numerous connections in the NYC diamond district, and spends hours fishing out good affordable stuff from the parcels brought in by suppliers from all over the world. I do not think she stocks any gemstones of large sizes (a lot of material jumps in price over 1, 1.5, 2 ct), but I think that you can come to her with a request for a larger stone and she will be able to tell you an estimated cost, and can connect you to any available items.

In terms of jewelry, I can recommend Yvonne for simpler settings. Back when I was a frequent customer, Yvonne offered mostly mass-produced settings, of average to good setting quality. I purchased two bezeled rings from her, and a number of prong settings. In three of the prong settings, I had stones fall out – twice a prong was twisted in an earring pair (studs), and once in a marquis ring setting. The bezeled work I have seen in Yvonne’s shop is well above average, but reaches top quality only on calibrated stones. This is less of a problem, I think, because it is a rare craftsmen who is able to offer clean quality bezels – it seems to be a honed skill, and one that results in higher pricing. Yvonne, in contrast, is all about offering affordable jewelry.

In the last half a year, however, Yvonne has begun to offer both stones in the $200-$1000 range, as well as set stones in $200 – $700 range. In the latter case, the price implies costlier materials (gold instead of silver) and higher quality of setting (outsourced to a bench in NYC that specializes in them). It is also always possible to ask Yvonne to source a high quality setting for one of her stones – in this case, the result is pretty perfect. A thing to consider, however – that as a middleman, Yvonne cannot guarantee communicating your vision to the setter as well as you yourself could have. This is one of the reasons why I chose a custom setting vendor to work directly with for my current ring project.

Back to why Yvonne is terrific: her communication is superb. She is interested in jewelry design and gemstones, and is interested in sharing her knowledge. She will answer any of your questions, will provide you with additional info you didn’t consider, will help you brainstorm. She is open about her business practices, often explains her pricing and the market forces leading to it, and treats the customer with intelligence and consideration. In person, she is easy going, does not hover, and has a great sense of style. (I met her once when visiting the NYC diamond district with a friend  – and she wore a number of pieces of her own creation. They all looked excellently put together and had a light modern look to them).

All in all, I check back to see her listings at least thrice a week, always enjoy her blog, and contact her first if I’m delving into a gemstone type I haven’t worked with before.
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Sapphires and Rhodolites

Having picked the center stone for my ring project, I discovered that my original vision of a solitaire bezeled setting would be lost on my chubby fingers. I wanted to wear the ring on my middle instead of ring finger, and “chubby” is not some falsely modest exaggeration. I’ve thick bones or something – when I was a skinny teenager, my finger size was 8. Now that I’m an overweight gal of 25, my finger size is 10.5 on good (cold) days. Thus my vision expanded into multi-stone swoopy designs. I lazily brainstormed by stalking “flowery, elegant, delicate” settings on google and doodling:


Here you can see that from the very beginning, I couldn’t just have one center stone – my eyes begged for swoopy designs with accents.


At this point, I was already being tempted by side stones.

Meanwhile, I looked into color combinations. I was sure I didn’t want diamonds. This was a stubborn wish – diamonds look pretty damn awesome beside colored stones – but I thought, meh, that would be the easy way out. I don’t want simple green with popping side stone action. I wanted some super enhanced green, complemented and contrasted until I would appreciate the green all over again. I tried all the usual color combinations first:


Green & Light Blue
Tsavo with Apatite earrings from Yvonne (love the apatites, they’re like lazer beams)


Green and Orange
Tsavo with Spessartite from Yvonne


Green & Purple
Tsavo with Spinel Earrings from Yvonne

None of these made me want to eat the colors. I wrote to Yvonne about my design dilemma, and ended up with a couple of small (a little over 3mm diameter) sapphires.


Green & Dark Blue
Tsavo with sapphires from Yvonne – this combination called out to me.

tsavo with sapphires 02

Green & Yellow & Blue
Tsavo with Blue and Yellow sapphires, both sets from Yvonne
This is kind of all over the place, huh. Two problems: the yellows are amazing in cut, and shine like mad – both the tsavo and blue sapphires are calmed, darker. This stone combination distracted from each other.

And because I am sometimes a perfectionist and must try out everything, I came across a combination of green and burgundy – tsavorite and garnet. I had to try and replicate it with stones instead of beads.


Green and Burgundy/Purple
Tsavo and some garnet beads
In order to replicate this color combination in loose stones, I got this earring pair from Yvonne:
I would have kept it even if I didn’t use in the ring project – the color was magnificent.

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Next up… Part 4 – Personal Jewelry Insurance: Perfect Circle Insurance from Jewelers Mutual

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7 Responses to Review: Cecile Raley Designs (My “Relationship” Ring – Part 3)

  1. Anya says:

    I’m loving these entries!!


    • mimB says:

      😀 I’m enjoying writing these – feeling all helpful; it’s also nice to recap the whole process so close to finish 🙂

      Did you see Yvonne’s latest blog post (went up today) on recutting stones – very interesting. I was especially curious about the point regarding the weight in native cut for sapphires – that a lot of the color comes from that tip, the weight. I wonder how often that same tip is the result of a gigantic window.


  2. Pingback: Review: Jewelers Mutual (My “Relationship” Ring – Part 4) | OAK Crafts

  3. Pingback: Review: DanielM Jewelry (My “Relationship” Ring – Part 5) | OAK Crafts

  4. Pingback: Review: My “Relationship” Ring – Photos (Part 6) | OAK Crafts

  5. Pingback: Review: My “Relationship” Ring – Back Story (Part 1) | OAK Crafts

  6. Pingback: Review: Bruce Bridges (My “Relationship” Ring – Part 2) | OAK Crafts

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