Arts and Entertainment

Gemstone party coming to Gallery Gemma at Alton Mill

May 25, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Anne-Marie Warburton, owner of Gallery Gemma at the Alton Mill Arts Centre, invites you to a Gem Party on June 2 and 3 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

“I like to say we have a great dinner party where the main course are gemstones,” Ms. Warburton said by way of explanation, adding, “It’s a wonderful way if you need to find a gem stone. The gemcutter is Lisa Elser.”

She told the Citizen that a lot of times, people think they are coming for one kind of gem, but a few people cannot imagine the wide range of coloured gemstones there are.

“People get to hold them,” she said, “see how the light shows in the gems; match them with their skin tone.”

A combination of emailing and speaking to people coming into the gallery, maybe for the first time, and explaining that this is a two-hour event are efficient ways of marketing the event for the best response.

During these parties, when light refreshments and beverages are offered, Ms. Warburton made the remarkable statement, “We can pass hundreds of gems around and see what we like. There is security to keep track of them but, at the same time, it’s really relaxed. People come alone or with friends.”

It is free to attend, but people need to reserve their spot because seating is limited.

The balance between the number of gems to be viewed, yet with a relaxed approach, means no one is pressured to purchase. Everyone should be able to find something for their budget.

“Some people come not understanding what they are coming to but then, come again with a better idea of what to expect,” Ms. Warburton observed.

The idea of the parties is to meet the gem cutter, ask questions, and learn more about the business of gems. In this case, Lisa Elser goes directly to the mines to buy rough stones. During the parties, it is fascinating to see how cut gemstones change colour.

Ms. Elser has been working in IT in Switzerland for some years. Once she moved to managing consultants, she took a course on how to cut gems as a hobby. She realized that was what she wanted to do. She went on to get trained in gem cutting in Montreux, Switzerland, followed by her Graduate Gemologist degree with the Gemological Insitute of America in Carlsbad, CA. After some years of cutting as a hobby, she retired to begin cutting full-time.

It was Ms. Elser’s mathematician husband who helped her to design exceptional patterns. From her website: “[Ms. Elser’s] Spectrum Award winning Tourmaline is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Museum.”

Their travels specifically to Tanzania persuaded them to invest in the local economies by creating grants to support women in business with their crops and in artisanal mines worked by local people; they established a school for pregnant women, as pregnant women are not allowed to attend school. They have given grants for wells to be dug for safe water.

Bringing her gems to Gallery Gemma, Lisa Elser could reasonably boast of their background being sustainably mined and the local people supported.

Said Ms. Warburton, “If you’ve thought of having a piece of custom jewellery, you are invited to come to us on Saturday June 2, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. or Sunday, June 3, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. We start on time,” she cautioned.

The idea is to appeal to everyone’s budget with gems ranging in price from $100 to north of $1,000 per stone. Some people just collect gemstones.

She commented on one gentleman who came to her show, “I could tell by his questions he knew a little more than most about gems. He’s coming to the show this time.”

Firstly, to discover and fall in love with the sparkle, depth and colour, then to purchase. Later, when ready, customers can start the process of designing with Ms. Warburton to create the perfect piece of jewellery.

Only Lisa Elser comes to this table and these parties with her gems once a year in the spring. In the fall Gallery Gemma hosts cultured pearls presented by Betty-Sue King of San Francisco. King’s Ransom is her business.

“Lisa travels the world,” Ms. Warburton told us. “She has a strong reputation for high quality.” Elaborating, “A lot of cutters are good; she is excellent. She is living, breathing, thinking about gems all the time. When she married, he had a family already. She was American and 15 years ago, she and her husband came to Vancouver and became Canadian citizens.”

Gallery Gemma has been located in the beautiful Alton Mill Arts Centre for 17 years, one of the very first tenants in the building, even while it was still being renovated. The business is about designer jewellery and one-of-a-kind pieces. About half of Anne-Marie Warburton’s business is creating custom pieces and re-designing customers’ old jewellery. She has been staging gem parties for 15 years.

Of the gem party, her remark was, “People don’t even have to know what they want but they know when they love the gem. One of the things I love is the jewellery can be passed on and kept or be re-designed.”

That last is when she actually creates a whole new piece from the material of the old.

“It is an ongoing thing to become better and better at what I do,” said she. “During Covid we still did classes, on Zoom. It was better than not doing them. Everybody started with the same tools yet, everything is different and the mistakes are something from which to learn.”

There is tremendous camaraderie amongst the people engaged in these workshops. Ms. Warburton commented about the many times she has reached out to learn and been gratified with the return of information and new contacts.

At the gem parties, she assured us people “have a wonderful time seeing such wonderful gem stones.”

For details and to register:

To read more about Lisa Elser:

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