By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief
While all of Jeffrey Bilgore’s AGTA Spectrum AwardsTM are memorable, one from this year’s competition has an extra-special backstory–it’s inspired by the Lord of the Rings (LOTR).
Bilgore’s Platinum Light of Eärendil pendant took Evening Wear – Platinum Honors (a distinction sponsored by Platinum Guild International, or PGI) in the Spectrum division of the 2022 awards. The piece is made in platinum and has a 16.30 ct. natural white briolette Sapphire, 204 round Diamonds (.96 ctw.), and 4 pear-shape Diamonds (.47 ctw.).
LOTR Super Fan
Long a LOTR fan, Bilgore explains that in the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring, elf queen Lady Galadriel gives a glass vial to hobbit Frodo Baggins. She does so to protect him on a journey to Mordor. The vial contains water from her magical fountain, which holds the power of the elves’ cherished star Eärendil, which the elves believe offers hope and strength.
“I read it in high school,” says Bilgore of the beloved books. “I read it again in college. Then I read it to my son when he was little, and when he was older, he read it to me. The Star of Eärendil is the North Star at night and the star you see in the dawn. It gives you hope in the darkness and brings you strength.”
Genesis of the Design
Bilgore’s passion for the books took a literal turn after he left a 16-year tenure at Oscar Heyman to set up his own business. The year was 2004, and after purchasing a sizable Diamond briolette—a significant stone for the new sole proprietor—he started sketching out the pendant’s design.
“I purchased a 5.91 ct. E-color, VVS-clarity, perfectly cut Diamond briolette,” he says. “She was the inspiration, that it would be amazing to design a pendant of the Phial of Galadriel with the diamond representing the Light of Eärendil.”
But Bilgore ended up selling the Diamond and the piece was never made, though he continued to refine the design. “For 10–15 years, I worked on it and always kept an eye open for another Diamond. None came to me.”
Eventually he acquired some unheated Sri Lankan Sapphire briolettes, thinking he would try to sell them loose. That is, until he realized that both would be great pendants. This time, he developed finished pieces with a jeweler. One—with a 19.30 ct. unheated light blue Sri Lankan Sapphire briolette—sold to a Tolkien fan and collector of fine jewelry earlier in 2022, and the other is this winning Spectrum piece.
“This [necklace] being recognized by PGI is truly what the piece deserves,” he says. “The fabrication was a collaboration with a true master jeweler, Antonio Severino.”
But the style’s story doesn’t end, as Bilgore is now making two more Light of Eärendil necklaces. One will feature a pink conch Pearl weighing more than 6 carats, and another will have a 3.3 ct. Diamond briolette—bringing Bilgore’s story full circle. “The Diamond one is finally coming to life,” he notes.
“The bottom line is that this piece was inspired by an important and treasured item in one of the most successful stories ever written,” says Bilgore. “Lord of the Rings is a story about the value of all, the struggle of good versus evil, a story that shows everyone and anyone does make a difference by their actions. The Phial of Galadriel and the Light of Eärendil, as a piece of fine jewelry, brings a hopeful and powerful message from the story to life.”
“She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she
moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her
hand. ‘In this phial’, she said, ‘is caught the light of
Eärendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It
will shine still brighter when night is about you. May
it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights
The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
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