The initial brief

Last July I received a lovely email from Jason asking me to make a custom firefly necklace:

“Love your work, I bought a necklace for my wife a couple of years ago and intend to make another purchase for the holidays this year. I wonder if you've ever thought about making fireflies? I ask because my youngest son is obsessed with them, so we have to say "goodnight" to the fireflies in our backyard every night before bed. It would be pretty special for us, though I know that might be something you've not done before.”

I got really excited to work on a new bespoke piece of jewelry because by experience I know that my customers come up with the best ideas. You may not know this, but almost half of the designs you can find on my eshop actually started as a custom request: the kite, the geometric rose, the Bowie inspired lightning bolts, the aerialists are just a few examples among the bespoke requests I got over the years that made it to my permanent collection by popular request.

The idea of making a firefly necklace was very interesting to me because I already had an enameled butterfly jewelry collection but since fireflies have this magic glow in the dark abdomen, I thought it made them even more compelling and creatively inspiring. Two ideas immediately came to mind: I could either use glow in the dark enamel or sparkly yellow gemstones to portray their unique luminous power. By the way if you're interested in understanding the phenomenon behind the fireflies bioluminescence, check out this great article.

The gemstone selection

I proceeded with some glow in the dark enamel tests but I wasn’t convinced with the color the enamel had under natural light conditions and since the firefly necklace was going to be an anniversary gift I thought a beautiful bright yellow gem would be more appropriate anyway. I went to my trusted gemstone dealers in NYC Diamond district and selected a few good candidates: yellow beryl, citrine, yellow diamond or sapphire were considered. Jason and I agreed that the color of the yellow sapphire was the most striking and closest to the color the glowing fireflies were projecting.

The design phase

I proceeded with submitting some rough idea sketches to Jason with options for the yellow sapphires to be cut either in a pear shape or in a half moon. We decided on the half moon custom cut and I brought the vibrant oval yellow sapphire I had purchased to my lapidarist so he could make a beautiful half moon cut for our firefly abdomen. Now that I had the exact dimensions of the cut gemstone we were going to use I further refined the sketches, leaving Jason options for the shape and placement of the wings and the overall shape of the abdomen.

Here is the oval yellow sapphire cut into a half moon shape

The CAD design

Once the final iteration of the drawing was approved, I briefed my CAD designer and got the 3D renderings that enabled us to get a good idea of how the actual firefly necklace would look like. In order to give the polishing tools easy access to the abdomen, we designed the wings as a separate item to be soldered after they had both been fully cleaned and polished. Little pins were added under the wings and holes to the abdomen to leave all guessing out when would be time to solder the wings onto the abdomen, just like perfectly fitting puzzle pieces. The renderings of the firefly necklace being approved, the actual manufacturing process began.

The manufacturing

First, the abdomen and the wings parts were printed in castable wax. This is what you see in purple in the pictures here:

The waxes were then cast in 14K yellow gold and here is how they came out: you can see the sprues aka little parts of metal attaching the pieces to the trunk of the casting tree in the lost wax casting process. Now is it me or do you also see a funny duck face on the abdomen?

I then sawed off the sprues from the rough castings, used finishing bits on my hand piece and gave them a good run in the tumblr. Here is the look before proper polishing:

I wanted to bring out some details of the intricate designs on the firefly wings so the recessed areas defining the different cell sections were left rough while the surface was polished to a shiny finish. Then the 3 parts were assembled according to the plan we made at the CAD stage and soldered together. The half moon cut yellow sapphire nested into its custom designed alcove sitting at the bottom of the abdomen as a beautiful finishing touch. Lastly, the 14k yellow gold chain was soldered from underneath the wings to let the firefly elegantly fly off it with no visible attaching anchor.

Here is the finished firefly necklace in its jewelry box

The delivery

I carefully packaged the finished bespoke firefly necklace and sent it on its way to Jason, hoping it would be just like he had envisioned it. The firefly was a gift from Jason to his beloved wife Chelsea to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their first date. I was so happy when he told me how much he loved how the firefly necklace came out and that he just couldn’t wait for the official date to give it to Chelsea: he did so almost right away!

Chelsea was extremely moved by Jason’s gesture and adopted the firefly immediately. Here is what she shared:

Virginie Dyvorne