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From Herkimer Diamonds to Multicultural Designs, This NYC Jeweler Is Thinking Beyond the Diamond Ring


While diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, New York City jeweler Melissa Joy Manning takes an interest in other gems.

I’m a total rock geek and I love learning about different stones,” she told Racked.com.

At Manning’s studio, located beneath her shop on Wooster Street, she explained her process of sorting the colorful stones she works with.

“I sort the stones by color, and then they go in boxes. When I want to combine them I lay them out and then, like a dork, I wait for the stones to tell me what they want to be and who they want to live with,” she said.

Some of Manning’s favorite jewels include trapiche emeralds, which have star-shaped patterns in them, and dendritic agates, which hold iron deposits in the shape of tiny trees.

Some of her most popular pieces are colorful, dangling earrings available in every color gem. One pair was worn by Sandra Bullock on a magazine cover in 1997, and they’ve experienced a resurgence in popularity lately, said Manning.

She creates the items in her workshop, which was once a sewing machine factory and is now decorated with animal skin rugs, a taxidermied ostrich and plenty of the industrial details that show the shop’s age.

Manning also uses a stone known as a Herkimer diamond, which is a type of crystal that can only be found in Upstate New York.

The stones “have a double-helix buy viagra online australia cheap interior formation that refracts light like a diamond so they’re super shiny, and that’s why they call them Herkimer diamonds,” said Manning.

And they’re fairly easy to work with. “You don’t cut them,” she said, “they come in the shapes that you see them in. You just pop them out of the rocks.”

Last year there was even a move to make Herkimer diamonds the official mineral of New York State. The garnet is New York’s official gemstone, but legislation is still pending to determine whether the mineral will be an official state symbol.

Yet despite Manning’s “rock geek” tastes, that’s not to say that she doesn’t create more traditional pieces with diamonds. With 86% of brides considering ring design the most important feature of a wedding or engagement ring, some women may prefer Manning’s more unconventional styles.

But Manning is more likely to slice diamonds and set them in hammered gold than create a traditional princess cut ring.

In addition to Herkimer diamonds, Manning also gets her inspiration from around the world.

“My latest collection is cross-cultural,” she said. “I have antique pieces from Mongolia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, Africa.”

Manning said that jewelry can show one’s culture and creed, and combining those pieces into one collection made sense. “I felt like it was resonant to bring all of those pieces out and make one big collection out of them.”