7,754 stones. 338 parcels. That’s how many precious stones Brooklyn-based designer Judy Geib sorted through on her latest trip to Colombia to source the vibrant emeralds synonymous with her striking namesake jewelry line.
“Every time I go the offerings are different and unexpected,” says the Pennsylvania native, who started as an artist and graphic designer before transitioning to jewelry design, launching her first collection in 2002. “I look for that feeling that something is special. It might be a very light stone, or a deep, deep clear stone. I love cabochons. I go for anything that gives me that shiver of feeling that I must have it.”
The designer’s love affair with emeralds dates back to 2001 when she bought ten stones from a Colombian couple at the Tucson Gem Show; Geib went on to form up a lifelong business relationship and friendship with the pair during their periodic selling trips to New York, backpacks brimming with emeralds.
Fast-forward several years later, when Geib started making her own trips to the capital of Bogotá, so she could make her selections from everything in the marketplace. (No stranger to South America, Geib also spent two years of high school in Brazil, where she was “exposed to gemstones and millions of other fabulous things at every turn,” she says)
“Emeralds have been the cornerstone of my collection ever since,” says the designer, who now makes annual stone-buying pilgrimages to Bogotá—most recently with friend and fellow August-loved designer Gabriella Kiss. “My favorite memory was standing on a cobblestone street corner in the midst of the colonial district, our dresses blowing in the brisk wind as we shared a giant avocado from a street cart for lunch, in between rounds of looking at thousands of stones,” recalls Geib.
“I love the smells on the street, the sound of horse drawn carts passing by, the wild weather, the exotic fruits for sale everywhere,” notes Geib, who works with a dealer and an adviser to secure her emeralds. “But it is not just a pleasure trip; I am seriously looking for lots of gorgeous material that I can use to make my work, and I do make lots of work. My goal is to be thrilled with every stone I purchase. I sometimes get fixated on a particularly gorgeous parcel that is elusive and playing hard to get,” she says, citing a treasure trove of light-colored emerald stones that make an appearance in her latest curation of pieces carried by August.
Sometimes Geib knows immediately what to make with a particular stone; other times she starts creating at her bench, and watches the design come to life in her hands. Take, for example, the two large light-colored pear-shaped emeralds sitting on the table in her studio currently. “They’re ready to become something,” she confesses. “I like to make jewels that are wearable in most circumstances, and make you feel wonderful. With my fabulous source for emeralds, I was and am able to have a continually consistent, and extraordinary, offering of this beautiful stone.”
Is it ever hard to part with a design? “Sometimes I keep a piece for a while, hesitant to give it up and wanting to keep it. But what I really love is making things, and to make things you have to sell things—you can't accumulate too much. So mostly, I love to see them go out into the world and be worn and adored.”