Sometimes when a designer sets out to create a piece of jewelry, he has a plan laid out in his mind, knowing each and every step he’ll take in its creation. And sometimes, he doesn't. Sometimes he has a gorgeous stone that needs to be showcased and he just dives right in without a game plan. That was the case with Leon Megé of Leon Megé Inc. in New York City.
From the moment he acquired it, the color of the 14.65-carat moonstone captivated Megé. “It is a true blue moonstone,” he says. “There is no trace of any red or yellow in the color, which is rare.” In order to best showcase the stone, he wanted to create a design that would emphasize the stone’s color. Beyond that, Megé didn’t have a plan. “I had a beautiful blue moonstone, and no idea what to do with it.”
The first thing he decided was to surround the stone with micro-pavé, using single-cut diamonds to help highlight the color of the moonstone. “I used single-cut diamonds because they are whiter and brighter,” he says. “Full-cut diamonds would create a rainbow of colors, and I wanted the background to be almost pure white.”
To help maintain that white look, Megé fabricated the ring’s barrel-shaped halo and shank in platinum. He also cut a palladium cup that would sit under the stone inside the halo. “When palladium is gently heated, it turns slightly blue,” he explains, which would help to highlight the color of the moonstone. In addition, the cup allows light to be reflected from underneath the stone and doesn’t allow the wearer’s finger to be visible through the stone. “I wanted to prevent skin tones from affecting the color of the stone,” he says.
Megé soldered the palladium cup to the halo but then, as often happens in his design process, he had another inspiration: He decided to add blue sapphires to the back of the cup, further magnifying the moonstone’s color. He removed the cup from the halo and cut windows out of it for the stones. He then had sapphires hand cut to fit the windows.
Before he reattached the cup, Megé decided to add another touch to the back. He wanted to create a sense of ocean waves riding in, with the pavé-set diamonds as the foam at their crest. He wanted the waves to be distinct, so he considered making them a different colored metal.
“Yellow gold was too strong [a contrast],” he says. “I wanted something that would complement the blue.” Eventually he settled on 18k rose gold. He created the “waves” from curved strips of gold, laser welded them to the back of the palladium cup, and then set them with diamonds.
With the back of the cup complete, Megé created bead settings for the sapphires inside the cup, so they would not be visible from the outside. “If I had planned this from the beginning, I would have set them from the front,” he explains. “It wasn’t a bad decision as they look nicer [set from the inside], but it makes the ring less serviceable.”
He soldered the shank to the rose gold section, pavé-set the diamonds on the shank, and laser-welded the palladium cup to the halo. He then set the three rows of diamonds on the halo, and used the beads from the top row of micro-pavé to secure the moonstone in place.
While the lack of planning and forethought might make some designers break out in hives, it works for Megé. And clearly, with his first-place win in the Vision Awards, it can lead to beautiful creations. “It’s my favorite ring,” he says. “I didn’t think twice about it. It was just obvious.”
This ring is an MJSA Vision Award winner for 2014. Since 1990, the Vision Awards have recognized the best in jewelry making and design, showcasing the work of professionals and students alike, and that tradition still holds true today.
This article was written by Shawna Kulpa, and originally published in MJSA Journal.