Best of Show Bestowed Upon Black Opal Ring in 2023 AGTA Spectrum Awards

The following appeared in the December 2023 issue of Professional Jeweler and is reprinted with permission. Article by Smitha Sadanandan.

The AGTA Spectrum & Cutting Edge Awards remains a benchmark for design excellence in the world of colored gemstones and cultured pearls. This year, the stage was once again set for jewelers to showcase their latest creations to jewelry connoisseurs and gem aficionados.

“This year’s awards are one of our best ever,” said CEO John W Ford Sr, who has now been at the helm of AGTA for over a year. “We had an additional 100 entries this year over last, and many of them had stunning green and blue-green gems. This year’s panel of judges consisted of Allan Koo, A Koo & Co; Brent Malgarin, Elegant Gems; Christina Gandia Gambale, Greenwich St Jewelers; Lika Behar, Lika Behar Jewelry; and Clayton Bromberg, Underwood’s Jewelers (Jacksonville, Fla).

These coveted AGTA Awards help entrants gain recognition, while cementing the craftsmanship of the established.

“Winning the AGTA Spectrum Awards Best of Show is an incredible honor,” said Niveet Nagpal, president and designer, Omi Privé. “I have been infatuated with gemstones since I was a child. I grew up in the gemstone business and followed my passion to create jewelry that honors these beautifully rare gemstones. To do something you love and are so passionate about every day is already a blessing, to receive the Best of Show is the ultimate validation. I am very happy and proud of my team who work hard every day to help turn my dreams into a reality and drive our love for colored gemstones forward,”

Nagpal shed some light on the Australian black opal ring that bagged Omi Privé 1st place in the Best of Show and Evening Wear categories. The ring highlighted a 15.22ct Australian black opal, accented with 30 round tsavorite garnets (0.40ctw), 68 round Brazilian Paraíba tourmalines (0.72ctw), and 256 round diamonds (1.56ctw). “I remember when I first saw this opal earlier this year, I was mesmerized by the depth of the color change and play-of-color within the stone. It really spoke to me and I immediately fell in love. There were some hints of an electric blue, a Caribbean blue undertone, which really caught my eye. I believe this opal is quite an old stone that was mined many years ago and it was very different from what I’ve seen in the market in a long time.” Nagpal originally thought of having a Paraíba tourmaline halo. However, there was just something about the brilliance of the tsavorite and the way it played with this stone: he decided that should be the first halo and the Paraíba and diamonds would be the accents for the outside halo and along the shank.

“This all came together extraordinarily well and we were very happy with the craftsmanship. The prongs and the way the diamonds are set on them was extremely difficult. We had the prongs set on the opal first and then we set the diamonds into the prongs; the diamonds were hand-set just a millimeter away from the center stone. Overall, the center stone, the design, the use of the colors, the craftsmanship; this is one ring where everything came together and I’m really proud that it has been named Best of Show.”

A platinum ring accented with black rhodium (pictured below) saw Nagpal walk away with 1st place in Men’s Wear. The chubby statement ring featured a 2.35 carat oval Brazilian alexandrite with accents in 206 round Brazilian Alexandrites (3.07ctw). “I love the color change of Alexandrites with the black rhodium. We had made a similar piece in the past with round alexandrite melee set in black rhodium and I loved how the color changed at different angles and different temperatures and it mixed all the different colors together. Because of this I wanted to find something unique and interesting for the center,” the designer said.

When Nagpal was shown this oval cabochon alexandrite from Brazil, he immediately knew that it would go really well with this design. “As I looked at the stone and shined light on it at different angles, I realized that the color change from the top and the color change from the bottom of the stone were very similar. I thought it would be interesting to set this stone upside down. The view you’re seeing when you look at the top of the ring is actually the bottom of the stone. This gives an illusion almost like a slice of an alexandrite in this ring, which is extremely unusual and blends well with this bold design,” he noted.

Omi Privé snapped up yet another top prize in the Bridal Wear category. The platinum and 18k yellow gold ring won 2nd Place. It is set with a gorgeous 3.02 carat oval ruby and accented by two epaulet-cut diamonds (0.46ctw) and 122 round diamonds (0.93ctw). Nagpal stated that when he first looked at the ruby, it was so red that he didn’t even think it was a ruby. He thought it might possibly be synthetic or a spinel. The brilliance in the red was unlike any ruby he had ever seen. “When I was designing around this ruby, I wanted to do something that was very classic and really focused on the ruby. The quality, the color, and the brilliance of the vivid red ‘Pigeon’s blood’ ruby had to be the star. We accented with side epaulet diamonds surrounded by round diamonds. However, I still wanted to put some extra details — so, we hand-set a knife edge shank with two rows of diamonds and scallops on the sides. To keep the warmth on that central ruby, we used 18k yellow gold claw prongs and crafted the remainder in platinum,” he explained.

The award winning pieces will be on display at the AGTA GemFair 2024 in Tucson, Arizona.