Complimenting gemstones

I have not had a lot of time to sit and play with the different
gemstones to see which ones I truly like together. The only ones
that I have come up with that make my heart dance is 1) mabe’ pearl
with a rich Oregon sunstone and 2) Tahitian Pearl with blue

I will be taking gemology this semester at TIJT, so I know I will be
opened up to a whole new world and I am so excited to be able to
take this class. I surely will know more once I complete it.

I thought that maybe I could get some members here to tell me their
favorite mixes that they have used or plan to use in their craft.

Thanks so much for sharing.
Angela Hampton
Hampton House Jewelry

Hi Angela, I had a customer bring in a Fire agate she bought and
wanted a smokey quartz and orange citrine set with it. Weren’t my
favorite stones to work with, but it really turned out wonderful. A
free form Fire agate, a marquise smokey quartz, and oval citrine. I
might do a combination of those again.

Janine, in Redding CA

diamonds diamonds diamonds. almost every stone looks better with
some diamonds nearby.

at times one can mix colored stones, but its usually individual
preference (onyx and sapphire is a miss, onyx and ruby a bulls eye,
imho. black goes with everything doesn’t it? or does it?). if the
point of the piece is a certain color(or combo of colors) a dash of
diamonds is like a dash of salt. it brings out the flavor. Most
particularly in the case of subtle colors…aqua etc.

What I like to do is to just start laying stones next to each other.
Sometimes what I think is going to be great just doesn’t turn the
old crank, but another stone pulls out subtle highlights or secondary
colors in the larger stone that you can’t see until the right accent
stone is right next to it. This works especially well with opals and
stones that are doubly refractive or have other color phenomenon,
like stones displaying slightly different colors or saturation along
different axes or flashes of different colors. Blue zircon, Tahitian
pearls and some sapphires and tourmalines fall into this category.
Try cool colors with cool colors and warm with warm to start, but
don’t stop there unless you make a “Wow, That’s it!” kind of

Blue, pink and white stones are examples of cool colors - aquamarine
and moonstone work great together, as do pink sapphire and white
druzy quartz. Red, brown, yellow and green are warmer colors - dark
Tahitian pearls and rubelite or tsavorite garnet can be very nice
together, the vivid color can make the orient of the pearl really
pop. I like to set warm stones in yellow gold and cool stones in
white metal whenever possible. When contrast is the objective, using
different colors of metal really enhances the effect, especially when
using diamonds, but be careful not to over-do it.

There is also the color wheel, a ring on which the full spectrum of
color is laid out, kind of like the cross section of a rainbow bent
into a circle. The color wheel is used primarily for determining the
appropriate color for shadows in painting among other things. The use
of opposite sides of the wheel will sometimes give an idea of what
might work well when contrast is the goal, but sometimes the opposite
color won’t work as well as something a quarter or a third of the way
around. The color wheel is best used for finding contrasting colors,
and is not as great for determining complimenting colors. It is of
limited use in jewelry design, but it is sometimes worth pulling it
out and playing around with it. It’s always fun in any event.

Neil says diamonds go with just about everything, and as usual, he’s
dead-on right. When in doubt, a few small diamonds will dress up
almost anything, especially if they are of high quality. I like
Neil’s analogy of the “dash of salt”, but I prefer to call it a
"sprinkling of sugar". Sugar coated Raspberry tourmaline served up in
platinum and 18K Royal Yellow is one of my favorite dishes.

I find black used as an accent color adds a degree of formality and
sophistication, but I seldom use it as anything other than the
primary color or center stone. Just about any color works as an
accent with black, but black as an accent for another color can be a
little too dramatic for my taste.

When all else fails, look to nature. Look at sunsets, variegated
flowers, stream beds, rainbow trout, bugs, forests in any season but
particularly autumn, pretty much everything Mother Nature makes is
color coordinated. She has this complimentary color thing down.

Dave Phelps

Hi Angela, An informative class is great, but go ahead and just get
your feet wet and try what appeals to your eye. Color combinations
are based on fashion standards currently in vogue, since I want my
pieces to be worn. Go to the Pantone color guide for 2010; look at
the forecast and have a blast matching stones to those colors. Mother
nature is generous in giving an amazing pallette to work with:) Also
try looking to historical images; what a wealth of public information
just a click away. There is also an artist color wheel purchased at
any craft store. This really is a simple but invaluable tool that can
be used to great effect. Now, to answer your question, I like pink
opal with chrysophrase together, turquoise and pearl, whisky topaz,
yellow citrine, and mexican opal, ameythst-tanznaite-titanium
druzy,orange carnelian with green serpentine, and tourmaline with
slate and diamond. If this is redundant sorry, if it
spurs you on, then I am glad it is not wasted.

be obssessed and have fun;)

Denise Jenkins

Could you post a picture of that piece? I’m really intrigued.


Sorry, but the header on this ongoing message is making me crazy.

“Complimenting” means making “nice” or “complimentary” comments. I
think the original poster meant “Complementary colored” gemstones.
Complement with an “e”. not compliment with an “i”.

I mean, please.

Wayne Emery

Hi Dave, and all my other Orchid-Land Friends,

I wanted to comment about your statement “The color wheel is best
used for finding contrasting colors, and is not as great for
determining complimenting colors.”

I disagree to some extent. The complimentary colors sit directly
across the color wheel from their compliment. The reason they are
called “complimentary” isn’t just because they might look good
together. It has tons to do with their action on each other. The
spectrums of light that a color gives off when combined in the right
proportions with its compliment actually cause them to mix and create
a neutral in either white or grey. I believe this is why the eye
likes the mix; because of that neutral, the eye is allowed to rest a
bit and it is soothing to the perception of the viewer in their
brainwaves. There is a huge explanation about color theory on
Wikipedia, some of it very accurate & scientific, some not so much,
but I guess the point I am really trying to make is that there are
definitive scientific reasons that they are called “complimentary” in
the first place.

I took 2 1/2 years of Interior Design before making Fine Art my full
time major. I find that I use my color theory training as much as or
more so now in my metalsmithing and jewelry work than I did when
designing rooms. The reason being is that it helps me a TON to find
what stones, pearls, beads, etc., or enamels, paints, wood tones and
so forth may look good when used with others. Often, I will pull out
my color wheel (which actually hangs on my studio wall) to refer to
just to give me more ideas on what to try together. I also use my
color training a lot when mixing, blending or just choosing color
rods for glass beads or when blowing glass. One of my glass blowing
professors had only limited training in color, being a 3D artist and
not 2D. I gave him an older copy of one of my color wheels and
pamphlets (easily obtained at a paint store) and he finds it quite
helpful in putting together color packages for his glass blowing

Anyway, I am not being argumentative at all, just wanted to throw in
my two cents worth about the use of color theory and the color wheel.
Much of it is very scientific, which can be interesting, but I am
personally more interested in the way of blending, mixing, choosing
opposing colors, and so forth, with the use of color in a way that
can be soothing to the brain, or bring excitement or any other
emotion I try to elicit in a piece. I find that a good color wheel
can help me find what works best to bring about the emotional
response I am aiming for. Color is very tied to memory and emotion,
and if I use color in my work I try to use it very thoughtfully, just
as I would be very thoughtful of any other aspect of a design.

Great Topic!

Dear Dave and Denise,

I applaud you for your description of the colors combinations of the
Might I add that tonal qualities are very important here
as well when you are doing your gemstone combinations, as an example,
you will see wonderful jewelry combining garnets with opals which
works only if you are using an opal with lots of color to counter the
stronger color of the garnets. I have seen this done very well and
also done with a less than attractive outcome. One of my favorite
combinations has been working with soft peachy coral colored branches
with turquoise and white freshwater pearls. The color combination is
a classic and it looks fresh with summer outfits. I also take that
same combination with the reddish coral branches along with dark
green turquoise or Chrysocolla and occasionally small brown Tigerseye
for a fall combination. Each of these combinations offer a common
tonal quality so that they compliment each other rather than
competing and creating a chaotic visual palette.

Knowledge of your color wheel is also important in how you present
your finished pieces to your clientele. I find that we have to
suggest what colors that a piece can be worn with, ie: certain
golden colored stones with a grey suit. The more comfortable you are
with the color wheel as an artist, the better your work will look
and the more effective you will be when you advise your customers on
the versatility of your jewelry with their wardrobe.

As for diamonds go with everything, they are a girl’s best friend!!=
! But… I do believe that there are other stones that compliment s=
o much better. I am not really a fan of diamonds with Turquoise for
example, I would rather see coral, or pearls with it. The finish and
the opacity compliment each other. Another example is the Ametrine,
why add diamonds to enhance it when a yellow sapphire will do so
much more to accent the central stone. I also believe that the metal
surrounding and embracing the gemstone, should compliment the tones
in the stone. Again, I will use the Ametrine as an example, as the
white metals do not necessarily compliment the rich colors of gold
and purple as well as the yellow gold does. The warmth of the tones
of the metals is as important as the accompanying accent stones are
in a setting to complete the finished “look”. Experiment with
different combinations. Dare to try new things and listen to what
the stones are telling you. I agree that Mother Nature is a great
place to start with for inspiration and for guidance as you build
your jewelry. “She” is talking to you.

Sue Parish
Designer for "Designs by Suz"
Vicksburg Michigan, but now snowbirding in San Tan Valley, Az.!

Dear Sue, Dave and Denise,

Sue also touched on a color theory that the house paint people and
the fashion designers have worked with forever - determining if a
color is “warm” or “cool” and how that works with or against
lighting or skin tones.

You will find that warm tones - those colors that have any yellow in
their composition (yellow, green, brown beige and gold) are also
often called spring or autumn colors. Reds, blues and black, cool
tones, are called winter and summer colors. Winter colors being more
bold - summer colors being slightly softened or grayed. Wonderful
color combinations can be designed knowing that the strong, cool
blue lapis will be accented beautifully by the warmer golds of strong
citrine, for example. Design is just that. Color theory, proportion,
and lighting and lumine scence of a piece are some elements that
determine good design and are worthy of study. Those elements
combined with wonderful craftsmanship make exquisite jewelry.

It’s all so wonderful :-).


Winter colors being more bold - summer colors being slightly
softened or grayed.

This is a very interesting statement, and the exact opposite of what
I see in the stores in the south of the US where I live. In areas
with a hot summer climate, we tend to go for strong colors in the
summer - I guess to “hold up” against the sun. Then in the fall the
more subdued tones start hitting the stores.

In my jewelry, people buy bright colors from Christmas on through
August, then go into the darker earth tones for fall.

Summer wardrobes tend to be very colorful, or white, or a bright
pastel, but not muted.

Interesting that it apparently differs in different places. Never
knew that!

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

....the exact opposite of what I see in the stores in the south of
the US where I live. In areas with a hot summer climate, we tend
to go for strong colors in the summer. 

The reference to Softer Summer colors and Clear Winter colors is
based on a system of sorting colors based on their underlying tone. A
description of sorting colors by the season is in the book Color Me