“The sense of excitement was almost overwhelming. I just had to hold the mysterious gem, sparkling blue-green in the gem dealer’s hand. It was cool to touch, its oval form as big as a small egg. My nervous fingers held it gingerly while I admired its magnificent sparkle and flashes of colour,” Lizunova Fine Jewels founder, jewellery designer Maria Lizunova recalls. “I fell in love with it almost instantly.”
What could it possibly be? At 109 carats, it was way too big to be an indicolite tourmaline, which are as rare as hen’s teeth in sizes above 1 carat. Matthew, Lizunova’s trusted Sydney gem dealer, finally broke the suspense, “It’s a London topaz, but this colour – it’s a miracle, in all my years of travelling the world and scouring gem fairs, I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Natural blue topaz can vary in colour from very pale to inky blue, called London Blue, the most valuable of this spectrum. Topaz also naturally occurs in white and amber colours, the latter, Imperial topaz, is highly prized. Blue topaz never crosses into the green spectrum, and this teal-coloured wonder is a true freak, or gift, of nature.
A cherished possession in Matthew’s mother’s personal collection, it was bought over 20 years ago on a whim – she simply could not resist its highly unusual colour. This enigmatic gem would emerge from time to time to be shown off at gem fairs and trade shows as a showpiece, on the condition it would not be sold. Finally, after years of pleading by her son, she agreed to part with it on one condition, that it would be sold to a jeweller who would set the gem into a design worthy of it.
Lizunova decided to change the gem from its original cut, a commercial oval with a typical diamond checkerboard, to something much more contemporary and crisp. Cue Doug Menadue, a renowned Sydney gem cutter - a true gem connoisseur and a master of his craft. He was beyond excited at the opportunity to transform this rare gem.
“I was as thrilled about the opportunity to work with Doug as I was about buying the stone. I have admired Doug’s work for years, and all the gems he cuts bear his unmistakable signature – they’re crisp, contemporary and very beautiful,” says Lizunova.
For Menadue gems and gem cutting are a true passion. Taking a leap to pursue his passion for gemmology and stone cutting, Menadue ended a 20-year career in IT to explore and hone his knowledge in the gem field. His craftsmanship is second to none and every gem he cuts often surpasses expectations, highlighting the beauty of each gem he touches. After much deliberation, Menadue designed a cut especially for this remarkable gem, to optimize light and accentuate the vibrant colour. The new, crisp rectangular octagonal cut, named Rhapsody Lizunova Variation, brings out the best of this magnificent gem, with strong flashes of teal throughout its beautiful, 68.6 carat form. The definition of rhapsody is an ecstatic or enthusiastic expression of emotion, and the newly recut gem truly lives up to its name, inspiring awe and emotion in all who see it.
“We are so excited to hold this beauty in our gem collection,” says Lizunova. “The minute I had it back from Doug, I was sketching ideas for setting it. I would love it to be a cocktail ring, as topaz is 8 on a Mohs hardness scale. Imagine it in platinum or white gold and diamonds! It would take one brave lady to wear such a large cocktail ring though, so I also sketched ideas for a pendant necklace. The bespoke designs respond to the lines of the Rhapsody cut and would make a truly magnificent, one of a kind jewel.”
Lizunova has a true appreciation for design, with a career in graphic design and art direction spanning over 15 years. For her, just like for Menadue, gemstones and jewellery design are a true passion, worth a radical career change later in life. Similarly to Menadue, Lizunova is self taught, with a truly fresh, contemporary approach to jewellery design. The home of her eponymous fine jewellery label founded in 2012 was relocated in late 2017 from its original Potts Point location to the elegant, Art Deco inspired Chifley Plaza. The brand is fiercely loyal to local, ethical craftsmanship, and uses Australian-made gold, silver and platinum in its designs, with hand-picked gemstones, ethically sourced from local, Sydney gem dealers, front and centre.
“We invite you to view Rhapsody in our boutique. It is a true masterpiece, where natural providence meets craftsmanship.”