Gem News International Gems & Gemology, Spring 2018, Vol. 54, No. 1

Designs from Erica Courtney

Colored stone pendants designed by Erica Courtney
Figure 1. Left: Erica Courtney’s Victoria pendant showcases a 114.56 ct colorless topaz with a 2.76 ct Mahenge spinel set above it, surrounded by 86 Mahenge spinels, 20 rubellites, 10 Mandarin garnets, and 558 diamonds. Right: The Autumn pendant contains a 47.16 ct Malaya zircon accented with 3.91 carats of Tanzanian peach spinel, 7.00 carats of peach topaz, 1.31 carats of yellow sapphire, and 1.68 carats of diamond. Photos by Kevin Schumacher.

Erica Courtney has been adorning Hollywood stars for the red carpet for decades. Her eye for color and bringing out a stone’s beauty are immediately apparent. In talking to her at the AGTA show, we discovered that she is the only jeweler in her family. She was introduced to jewelry making at the age of 11 through a Catholic Youth Organization class. This multiple AGTA Spectrum Award winner has always done things her own way, not following trends when choosing stones or creating designs. In fact, she confided that she does not plan what stones she will purchase, but lets the gems pick her. She likened the jewelry design process to a movie going through her head—designs start forming and keep changing until she settles on the final one.

A Closer Look at Erica Courtney
Erica Courtney discusses her entry into the jewelry business and her design philosophy, and displays several notable pieces.

Courtney’s work pulls the viewer in to study meticulous details—the more you look, the more you see. Her attention to detail does not stop at the outward-facing front of her pieces. You need to turn the pieces around in all directions to appreciate the designs that spill over the edges and cover the sides and backs of her work. Returning to her point about the gems picking her, she stated that once a gem seduces you, “if you buy for love, you can’t make a mistake.” This is evident in the centerpiece stones in four of her creations. The Victoria pendant (figure 1, left) contains a 114.56 ct colorless topaz accented with a Tanzanian spinel from Mahenge and surrounded by more spinel plus rubellite, Mandarin garnets, and diamonds in an intricate gallery work. In the Autumn pendant (figure 1, right), a 47.16 ct Malaya zircon is surrounded by Tanzanian peach spinel, topaz, yellow sapphire, and diamonds. The Etoile ring’s green African Paraíba-type tourmaline is flanked by blue Brazilian Paraíba tourmalines and diamonds (figure 2, left), while the Imperial earrings (figure 2, right) contain perfectly color-matched Mandarin garnets flanked by pink spinel and diamonds. She confided that the electric orange and pink in the Imperial earrings was her favorite color combination of these four pieces.

Colored stone ring and earrings designed by Erica Courtney
Figure 2. Left: Courtney’s Etoile ring has a 7.71 ct Paraíba-type tourmaline accented with 12 Paraíba tourmalines and 370 diamonds, all set in 18K yellow gold. Right: The Imperial earrings feature a pair of Mandarin garnets (21.25 total carat weight) accented with 1.87 carats of pink spinel and 0.71 carats of diamond in 18K yellow gold. Photos by Kevin Schumacher.

Courtney’s desire to understand the entire gem cycle from unmined rough to polished stones set in finished jewelry has taken her backpacking across far-flung locations. She described the experience as giving her an appreciation of how difficult it is to find real gems. She also took notice of the passion of the miners, each wanting to be “the one to have found it.”

Jennifer Stone-Sundberg is a technical editor of Gems & Gemology. Andrew Lucas is manager of field gemology at GIA in Carlsbad, California.